disney redux

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Ed note: If you haven’t yet read ‘Dear Disney’ the following post won’t make much sense. Please click HERE to read the backstory. 

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Luau and I had just left an advocacy meeting and were heading into the supermarket together to pick up a few things for dinner that night. It wasn’t exactly how I’d pictured spending one of the last days of my two-week vacation from work, but with the rain pouring down, there weren’t a whole lot of more inviting options.

I didn’t recognize the area code when my cell phone rang, so I was somewhat wary when I answered. Wariness was quickly washed away – replaced almost immediately by gratitude and hope.

“I’m looking for Jess,” the voice on the other end of the phone said, “My name is Joan and I’m calling from Disney.”

I waved to Luau, a few steps ahead of me in the parking lot. When I had his attention I mouthed, “Disney.”

He led us to a bench in front of the market. I was glad I was sitting down as I took in Joan’s very first words.

“Jess, we just want to let you know how very sorry we are about what happened when you were here with us. I watched the video and was just floored.”

I didn’t mean to cry. For God’s sake, Jess, get it together. But I couldn’t help it. The thing is, I’ve been around the block a few times. I can smell bullsht from a block away. And this wasn’t it. Her sincerity was unmistakable.

Before she could continue, I jumped in. “Ma’am,” I said, “I’m so sorry to interrupt you, but I simply have to say this. I can’t tell you how very much I appreciate the way that you began this call. It’s so easy to get defensive when something like this happens and well, the fact that you started out this way, well, it means the world to me. Thank you,”

“Oh, my gosh, well, thank YOU,” she said in response. I’m not sure how many times she thanked me for bringing the incident to their attention. I lost count. SHE was grateful to ME.

She asked me to help her pin down the approximate time of our visit to Donald so that they could be sure to have a constructive dialogue with the specific cast member involved. As we talked I thought of a conversation that I’d had with a reader on Diary’s Facebook page who had pointed out that many of the comments on the post had called for fricaseed duck. I felt compelled to tell Joan what I had written in the comments following that conversation – that I in no way wanted her to think that I sought or was hoping to see any kind of punitive action. I told her that my greatest hope was, as I’d said in my letter, that they would use the incident as an opportunity to raise sensitivity. She assured me that they were of like mind and would do exactly that.

Joan and I talked for a while. I rambled on about what a wonderful time we’d had, how warm and gracious and tremendously accommodating nearly everyone else had been along the way, how grateful we were to Disney for making such a concerted effort not just to welcome our kids but to really understand them. I’m fairly certain I sounded like a blathering idiot for much of the conversation, but Joan was too gracious to let me know.

She assured me that the gesture in question was NOT remotely in keeping with the Disney way of thinking. She repeated being ‘floored’ by the video and so glad that we’d caught it on film so that it could be shared. She told me that it was going straight to the head of the character division so that they could use it as a learning tool department-wide.

Before we hung up she told me that she loved Katie’s nails and that her daughter would have gone crazy for them. It took me a minute to figure out what she was referring to. And then I understood. She’d come here and read Diary.

I got off the phone truly believing that Disney really is everything we all hoped that they were. That their compassion and concern for our kids run deep. That they desperately want every guest to leave with nothing but magical memories. And that they respect and are grateful to and for their guests.

I got off the phone feeling like I’d been heard. Like we’d all been heard. And knowing that in some small way, our voices had made a difference.

I got off the phone hopeful. Hopeful that while we work so hard to give our kids the tools to function in a world that is so foreign – and often even downright hostile – to them, there are people in positions of influence who are not just willing but eager to find ways to meet them halfway.

I got off the phone with hope.

Thank you, Joan – to you and all your colleagues who work so hard to make the magic real.

Thank you.

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Ed (other) note: As promised, I’ve created a page containing some info on Disney’s Guest Assistance Card and some tips for finding our favorite characters. Click HERE to read more and to add your input for other travelers. Thank you!


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33 thoughts on “disney redux

  1. Hallelujah. There is far too little sincere “customer service” these days and Joan and her counterparts deserve a huge gold star. I agree this is not a case for fricaseed duck, but for educated duck. I have no doubt that will happen now.

  2. Nice job Disney…….and again Jess thank you for your eloquent writing that led to this. So many others will benefit from your time and effort.

  3. Jess,
    Could you please email me – I would like to talk to you about a workshop in March 2012 – just don’t think this is the place to have that conversation.

    Thanks!

  4. GREAT Jess! A very big thank you to Joan for making the call and for what is to come. I just know that she is going to take the lessons you shared and run with it. Joan, I hope you will return and keep reading. You would not believe what you will learn here.

  5. Thank you Jess for bring this to their attention. We are heading down the end of November and I must admit I am a bit worried about my son’s reaction to things as he has Aspergers. This makes me hopeful that we will have a wonderful time!

  6. I have long been a believer in the magic of Disney. I am glad to know they didn’t disappoint this 40-something year old kid. :-) Looks like Donald’s going to get schooled…in a very positive way. Whew.

  7. WOW! Way to go Disney and way to go Jess. I’m beyond impressed (well, I’m always beyond impressed with you…but Disney gets two huge thumbs up!)
    You are an amazing advocate for all of us and our kids. Because of you, things will change at Disney. Again, the thousands that walk through those gates after you will have a better time because of your words.

  8. I am so glad this happened. Not the Donald part, but the whole conversation. It made me stop and think about why we must make that voyage so often. I realized, it’s because in that Magical place for a few days each year, we are just US. Princesses are happy to see and hug my girl, her world is a safe and happy place amid the seemingly overbearing sensory overload. She is happy there, and I will continue to scrape every penny together each year or two for those few days of bliss.

    • is there anything more beautiful than when our children can simply be who they are? beautifully said, mamakp. i understand completely.

  9. You have renewed my faith in Disney!! What a great outcome…. to speak and to be heard, it’s a beautiful thing!! Way to go, Jess!!

  10. glad they were so receptive, good for them. disney wins bonus points. they have a solid reputation when it comes to this issue and i can definitely see why.

  11. I am overwhelmed by Disney’s commitment to our kids. Look, nobody’s going to get it 100% right 100% of the time. And the fact that they are always trying to perfect and improve touches me even further. Jess, thank you for the amazing letter you wrote, and Joan, thank you and the Disney corporation and staff for all that you do to make the experience magic for all kids.

  12. Twice in one day. Tears. I’m so happy that it was dealt with in this way. Outwardly I had no doubt that this was how it would be handled, yet somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind I feared otherwise. Thanks to you for handling it with such grace and dignity and thanks to Disney, my former employer, for not making me out to be a liar…

  13. I especially love the fact that Joan had taken the time to come here and read your blog. Hope is a wonderful thing, and a huge thank-you to Joan for keeping it alive.

  14. Liz ~ Well that makes for a happy Monday! ( though the call took place a few days ago) I’m always inspired by your grace and advocacy. I pray I can be a similar voice when her needs it. Hope today’s transition back to work is mostly dancing snoopy!

    Molly ~ Well done, both you and Disney.

    Allison ~ Yay for Disney!! Thanks for sharing such a positive story to start the week! LOVE your posts and blog!! You have been such a huge help to me!

    Jessica ~ I too have dealt w disability dept at Disney and by far they have gone out of their way to help us while we are there. We have even gotten help w making easier reservation times at restaurants . We could never go to Disney without a guest assistance pass, we would have to leave right away if we had to wait in line. I’m so thankful for that. Good for you for letting them know you educated the cast member !

    Christine ~ You were far more gracious than I would have been if that happened to my son. WTG Jess!

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