Walt Disney World workers take a lot of abuse from tourists

Posted Wednesday, September 25, 2019 10:32 AM | Contributed by BrettV

Disney World employees are easy targets. Tourists scream at them, sexually harass them and in the most serious cases, physically attack them, according to law enforcement reports.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019 11:33 AM

I can relate to this article.

I work at the customer service desk at Walmart. Five out of six customers are really nice. We might have a short chat. We might catch up on a conversation we were having last time. It's nice.

But then there is that one out of six who is either already mad at something, or can't stand to be told no. They try to bully me, or get offended that I can't do what they expected I could do.

Here's a tip. If you want a $10 or $25 gift card, get really mad that I am following policy, argue with me for a few minutes, and then ask to speak to my manager. Wait 20 minutes for my manager to come, all that time yelling at me while I am trying to help other customers. Accuse me of being a racist or get me really nervous and then tell me that I don't know how to do my hob. When the manager comes, tell them that I am a smart ass, and that you are never shopping here again. Stare at me and smile when the manager comes to me and tells me to load a gift card for you. You get the added bonus of shouting eff you to me or flipping me off as you leave.

Just understand that me and my manager are going to go into the office afterwards to laugh at you.

So I get it.

Last edited by LostKause, Wednesday, September 25, 2019 1:08 PM
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Wednesday, September 25, 2019 11:54 AM

In my six years and change working at WDW, I'll agree that 98% of the guests were pleasant to work with, but that 2% still sticks out to me when I think back to those days. I witnessed guests punching/striking Cast Members 3 or 4 times, but the verbal abuse that includes profanity, slurs, and bullying language is daily. Unfortunately, Disney didn't do much to stop it and chances were the guest would walk away with extra Fastpasses, a comped meal, etc. That's where I always felt that Disney did it wrong. If an inconvenience occurs and the guest is polite and civil about it, I absolutely agree with taking care of them with a few extras. But too many guests knew what the trigger words were when speaking with a manager, and extremely poor and downright abusive behavior was rewarded far too often.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019 12:11 PM

Customer Service workers treated poorly by some members of the public.

More at 11.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019 12:18 PM

There are certainly guests/customers that are unreasonable, unbearable, flat out wrong or whatever.

But here's the rub - it's your job to deal with these people. A good customer service agent that's been empowered to do their job should be able to avoid or at least defuse the situation in most cases.

People can be jerks - especially when they're unhappy (rightly or not), but **** happens and that's why you employ workers to deal with your customers. If you're just throwing them out there to be punching bags, then that's on you. But if you've given them the tools to handle your customers, then there's no reason for things to get even remotely out of hand in a vast majority of interactions.

And if you're the type to take it personally, you're never gonna make it on the front lines.

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With all of that said, after reading the article, the story cites mostly exceptional cases that go well beyond the average disgruntled guest.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019 12:54 PM

Lord Gonchar said:

If you're just throwing them out there to be punching bags, then that's on you. But if you've given them the tools to handle your customers, then there's no reason for things to get even remotely out of hand in a vast majority of interactions.

This was the major issue I always encountered during my time at WDW. Front line Cast Members had no ability to handle any situation, and by the time the second or third person responded, the situation had escalated when it shouldn't have.

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Wednesday, September 25, 2019 1:21 PM

In reply to Gonch mentioning employers giving employees the tools to handle the customers...

A hundred years ago, I worked at IOA. They had a program called Empowerment. They allowed us to creatively solve any customer issues that might come up. It was amazing.

I recall specifically an incident where my manager told me to move a dozen or so strollers out from under the entrance building at Jurassic Park River Adventure because it was causing a fire hazard. Then it rained for a short period of time like it usually does.

A family returned, and was very unhappy, because their dry clothes got wet.

After getting screamed at for a few minutes, I apologized, and then was able to ask them what I could do to make up for it. I took them next door to the gift shop, filled out an easy short form, and they got some dry clothes at no charge. I threw in some ponchos as well.

They were happy. I was happy. Management was probably happy that they didn't have to stop what they were doing to deal with this.

That was amazing.

Not a lot of employers that I have worked at would actually trust their employees to take care of customer aggravations themselves.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019 1:41 AM

LostKause said:

Not a lot of employers that I have worked at would actually trust their employees to take care of customer aggravations themselves.

And it makes no sense.

In your example in the first post, all they did was let you take the punches and let the customer get more and more worked up until someone else got around to fixing the problem (in this case with a gift card). Had you been empowered to just apologize, offer a solution and send the customer away, then the customer would be happier, you'd be happier, and the problem would have been solved much quicker with less resources and personnel.

Just understand that me and my manager are going to go into the office afterwards to laugh at you.

1. With all due respect, no one gives a **** what the customer service desk people at Walmart think of them.

2. Maybe if instead of laughing, you guys discussed the issue and how to better diffuse and solve it, then a lot of this could be avoided. You don't achieve anything by sinking to the pissed off customer's level.

3. The fact that your manager's response is to let the customer's frustration escalate, offer no solution and hide in the back until they have no other choice, reluctantly deal with the problem and then laugh about it is...well, it's exactly why they're a Walmart employee. They're not going anywhere or achieving anything and as long as you're under them, that's where you're going to stay. Seriously, read the first half of this #3 point again. That's how your manager handles customers. I mean...seriously. Read it again and think about how absurd that is for a while.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019 4:23 AM

I totally agree with everything you said here.

Laughing at irrational, irate customers behind closed doors is one way to blow off steam, and not have a nervous breakdown. I'm sure Disney employees do it too. A few weeks ago, after an incident with a customer, I was so upset that the supervisor took my in the office, and after the short discussion, he told me to take a walk around the building and get some fresh air. That worked. This kind of thing doesn't get that crazy too often though.

When the the customer may have had a more legitimate argument, we do discuss it briefly and privately to try to improve the next time it might come up. We don't always laugh in the office. Sometimes it's more serious.

And if I were to be "empowered," like Universal did it when I was there, and may still do it, customer satisfaction would be much better. I hope it's obvious that that's my point.

Edited to add... I rarely have any kind of meetings with management. I should have said that the meetings in the office are with the supervisor. It's so complicated and boring to talk about at length. I have short one sentence conversations with management. I talk to supervisors all day. Supervisors talk to management all day.

Management has apologized to me before for taking so long, and for giving irate customers gift cards for their bad behavior.

I have written, edited, and deleted this post several times now. LOL

Last edited by LostKause, Thursday, September 26, 2019 4:28 AM
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Thursday, September 26, 2019 10:07 AM

I'm just confused on why you have to take verbal abuse from someone for 20+ minutes, all for your manager to walk out and say "Here's $[10|25]."

Frankly, your manager is horrible if he's allowing this to happen on a daily basis. Not only is he making you the punching bag for the guests, he's sending a message to EVERYONE in line that all you have to do is sit there and complain, nag, and curse, and you get free money. Then, to sit with you and laugh about it later? "Can you belive her?! *chuckle* What she was saying to you? I'm surprised you handled it so well for over 15 minutes, Travis. Me? I'd have jumped over the counter. *laugh* And then she just caved when I offered her the $25 gift card 2 minutes after walking out! *guffaw*"

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Thursday, September 26, 2019 10:22 AM

An adequate manager would never involve the person the customer was mad at in the remedy. There should be no “hey load this gift card up for the customer”. There should only ever be, at most, an “I’ll follow up with my employee later”.

That was one of the worst things about working at Walmart 20 years ago. You follow policy, then the manager breaks the policy and scape goats you, even though you did what you’re supposed to do.

thankfully I haven’t been in a position like that in a long time. At this point, I’d someone doesn’t like what I’m telling them and wants to argue, typically my manager will step in before they ask, deescalate the situation, or ask the person to leave. Working for a government agency, none of us, up to and including the governors office really have the authority to bend the law without legislative approval, so as long as I’m doing my job correctly I’m good.

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Thursday, September 26, 2019 11:00 AM

Yawetag, I had to clarify in my previous post... I meant to say supervisor when mentioning the meetings in the office. I rarely speak to any managers. The way it works is that the "associate" interacts with the supervisors, and the supervisors interact with the managers, but the managers do not interact with the "associates."

I only view about half my managers in a positive way. I wanted to explain it without saying that. Oops.

Therefore, the meetings in the office are usually with the supervisor, not the manager who came to talk to the irate customer. Sometimes , rarely, it is with the manager, and that's why I said it in the first place.

It doesn't happen on a daily basis. I'd say weekly.

One thing that makes incidents like this especially stressful is that you never know which manager is going to respond, and if the wrong manager comes up, I can get in trouble, for no other reason but that the customer was upset in the first place. If I don't follow policy, I could get in trouble for that too. I don't usually get to hear what the irate customer is saying to the manager, and sometimes there is absolutely no follow-up afterwards. I suspect the goal of some irate customers is to get me fired because I couldn't return their six month old air mattress or cash their $900 personal check. One day, they may succeed.

I know my situation puts the Disney article into perspective somehow.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019 2:58 PM

Simply put, the customer is always right! (Even when they're not, and usually never are)...

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Saturday, September 28, 2019 7:47 PM

I don’t necessarily subscribe to that theory. The theory I do subscribe to is that even when the customer is wrong, you should generally still try to make the situation right. But no one should tolerate true verbal abuse of staff/policy.

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Saturday, September 28, 2019 10:41 PM

Llama Drama said:

Simply put, the customer is always right! (Even when they're not, and usually never are)...

No. It's the customer is not always bright.

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Sunday, September 29, 2019 8:32 AM

If you had a legitimate complaint at a hotel I worked at and came at me like an a-hole you would have likely got something for your trouble. Maybe we would have given you a free breakfast...or 10% off your room rate...or something along those lines.

If you had a legitimate complaint at a hotel I worked and and came at me with some class you would have likely got a free room upgrade...free twilight tickets into the park...or something a little nicer.

So, if you are a dick by nature...enjoy your scrambled eggs. If you are a decent human being then I hope you enjoy the suite with a nice view.

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Sunday, September 29, 2019 10:58 AM

I like scrambled eggs...

And to quote Ben Affleck in Mallrats, “The customer is always an ASSHOLE...”

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Sunday, September 29, 2019 3:33 PM

In my limited experience with a season on the college program in the 90s at WDW, the only time I've ever experienced full blown hell from a guest was doing parade control. A manager would pull a couple of cast members from each land to deal with the afternoon parade. Most of it was policing a handicapped viewing area.

I never understood the fanatical appeal of the parade but families would plot their entire day around it, usually leaving one person to hold down a spot for hours for the rest of the family. When this person didn't notice that the roped off, signed spot they were holding down was exclusively for disabled guests, they would go berserk. This usually involved screaming, claims that entire vacations had been ruined and threats of legal recourse. An English woman was actually removed from the park after lunging at myself and a manager and screaming in gory detail what her organized crime hit was going to do to us and our families.

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Monday, September 30, 2019 6:30 AM

Geez, Le Monster, the only abuse I ever got while working parade control was Cinderella (and the Prince) hitting on me.

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Monday, September 30, 2019 10:38 AM

Le Monster said:

screaming in gory detail what her organized crime hit was going to do to us and our families.

Well, based on the fact that you're still here, I'm never doing business with her organization. Clearly they don't follow through on their promises.

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