Monday, May 29, 2006

V for Vacation Club

Epcot has always been a haven for marketing to guests. From the earliest conception (even going back to Walt’s day), Epcot was a place where large corporations could showcase their innovations and prove why they were the best in their field.

When done well, as at Spaceship Earth or The Land, having a pavilion sponsored by a large company is relatively unintrusive. When less successful, as at Universe of Energy or Imagination, the sponsor’s message can seem heavy-handed and a little too obvious.

And then there’s Disney itself.

Put aside your belief, for a moment, that General Motors is the worst offender with Test Track, and instead think of the ubiquitous Disney Vacation Club kiosks scattered throughout Epcot (and, indeed, all over the Walt Disney World Resort).

These kiosks completely pull you out of your vacation experience and remind you that Disney is, in the end, after your money. Completely unthemed to their surroundings, they exist purely as a shill for timeshares, and timeshare salespeople – whether they work for Disney or not – have always ranked somewhere between lawyers and used-car salespeople on the scale of respectability.

Sorry if you’re a timeshare salesperson, related to one or you’ve purchased from one – but decades worth of reading about people who lost their savings on timeshares or were unable to sell theirs when their finances got tight have hardly given timeshares a good name.

I’ve no doubt that Disney Vacation Club timeshares are nice; in fact, I’ve stayed in a couple of the rooms on occasion. But the last thing I want to be thinking about when I’ve just dropped $7,000 on vacation is how to finance another $15,000 so I can make the dream last all year long.

Isn’t it enough that Disney Vacation Club gets to shout out its message on the in-room channel, in literature found in all hotel rooms, in Disney-owned magazines and in the resorts themselves? In a way, I have less objection to those methods of selling, because at least they’re out of the parks themselves.

But now they’re all over the parks, and they are sorely out of place at Epcot. Walking along the plaza between Mission: Space and Innoventions East, I ran across this young man (above). He looked like he had many, many better things to be doing with his time than waiting for some unsuspecting guest to walk up to him and say, “What’s this all about?” That would be his cue to launch into a spiel aimed solely and squarely at getting the guest to want to know more and, ultimately, to steal from little Sally’s college fund to buy a piece of the magic.

Epcot is about future possibilities, about an optimistic road ahead, about the opportunities that are in front of us. In my book, those future possibilities don’t include trying to figure out how to find another $300 a month to pay for a timeshare.

But let’s for a second imagine that I did want to partake, that I am interested in learning more. The gale-force winds that DVC blows throughout the resorts would be enough to remind me that I should probably log on to the DVC website or call that 800 number (something even Walt Disney World reservations doesn’t have!).

I don’t need this sales pitch interfering with my enjoyment of Epcot, ruining the ambience of Future World.

Here’s hoping that Lasseter & Co. will see how offensive these elaborate kiosks are and do away with this particular piece of “magic.” Let Epcot be for imagining life ahead, not thinking about mortgage payments.


Anonymous said...

Here here!
The only more annoying marketing pitches to me are pyramid schemes. What's next? The Disney Psychic HotLine?

These kiosks make me want to tighten up my wallet instead of being liberal with my bills at a gift shop. These things are the only things, and I repeat only things, that make me want to avoid eye contact with the personnel in all of the parks.

Klark Kent 007 said...

So true. I live in Orlando and am tired of running across DVC. There formerly was only one timeshare connected to Disney (although loosly), Vistana. My grandparents joined up the first year, when it wasn't too expensive, and were happy with their purchase until my grandfather passed on and my grandmother decided to sell it. Now she couldn't get a bar of soap on that side of town for what she payed for her timeshare.

Sad, isn't it.

Anonymous said...

You'd think that if no one actually visited these kiosks, Disney would get the hint, but it doesn't seem to work that way. Not if there's a chance they can turn a buck ... or 15,000 of them.

Anonymous said...

This is off subject on the Epcot part of the rant against DVC, but I was sorely angry when during Everest's Passholder Preview weekend, they *included* DVC. Not did they include them--DVC members were allowed to bring four guests with them! The preview was increadibly packed, and instead of being a gathering of Disney regulars who get the perk of first peek at a ride with relatively little line wait, it was a huge confusing mess of irritated passholders and confused looking DVC. You could obviously tell who were the passholders, and who were the tourists with their families and friends in tow. One of the reasons I value my annual is for the side-perks: like ride previews with passholders only! The Soarin' passholder-only preview was excellently run, with little wait, and the crowd was just fun to be in and talk with, and was very appreciative of the ride. Everest, pardon my french, was a cluster fuck. Easily 70% of the people there were DVC, who were rude, and acted more like 'regular park guests' then the more laid-back passholders. They should done passholder and DVC previews on different weekends.

I know that was off topic, but I'm still so irritated by it! I was looking forward to that ride, and while it was excellent, the DVC crowd and organization ruined it for me.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. If you are interested in DVC, it's not really hard to find out more.

I had a whole other post written until I read about the Everest weekend. Basically it boiled down to I have DVC mother in law, we go to the Beach Club Villas and love it. It's a great spot because you can walk to Epcot, and finally the DVC'ers are important to the Parks because they have committed much future vacation time and dollars to the parks. I would argue that a very large number of DVC'ers were not going to buy offsite timeshares a few miles away, and faith in the Disney company led them to their purchase.

As far as the "rude" DVC'ers....... I've always thought the greatest stress is on the "first time" or "once in a lifetime" vacationers who are in total sensory overload trying to fit 4 weeks of attractions into four days. They often have unrealistic visions of the trip. Most DVC'ers I've met have been generally laid back knowing what to expect. We met a family of four in line for autographs from the Pink Power Ranger at MGM. It was their fourth time that day meeting the rangers. They weren't concerned for what they were missing as they would do that next year.

There isn't a blog big enough for instances of rude or inappropriate behavior in WDW. I try to roll with the punches. I'm not on vacation to be offended all day. However, here is my helpful guide to not be rude.

1. You are not better than anyone else. Whether you have an annual pass, own property nearby, stay at the All Star-Grand Floridian-Days Inn, spent 60 on a one day ticket, are a DVC'er.......whatever. The reason you stand in line is because that's the most fair and orderly way to do something. What is the reason to skip in line.......because other people can wait, you are special, your needs matter while there needs don't. That is the mindset of the rude.

2. Take a portion of a second and look around before you do something. That is the moment you realize that Mickey isn't Standing on the street just waiting for you, but that he is waiting for you after you get in line behind the 30 people who are waiting their turn for a picture. Hooray rude moment averted.

3. There is enough room in the theater. Therefore don't push and shove, move all the way to the left, and don't cut off families.

4. OMG how could I forget this one. Don't stop your family of 8 in the middle of the road to look at the map for 10 minutes, move the hell over. See #2 above. Take a half second look behind you, and see the hundreds of people you are blocking and move the hell over.

Anonymous said...

Cliff, I agree. The thing that agitated me about the Everest preview weekend is that in all of my experiences with passholder-only groups, none of those issues you raised were there... They were by far the most relaxing, laid-back, stressfree events I've ever attended at Disney. I found myself not actually wanting to walk back into the 'masses' in the park! The Everest weekend was the exact opposite of that--and I can assume it was the people who were brought along as guests of the DVC members. I can also assume it had a lot to do with the sheer number of people there, the new-ness of the training of the cast members, and the excitment of the new ride. I still believe they should have seperated those two groups, it would have been much more enjoyable for everyone involved, if only for the number of people that came. A two and half hour wait on a preview? Spare me ;) (good thing for the single rider line!) The people I were irritated with, by and large, appeared to be DVC--but that very well may be because of the reasons I listed, not because of the fact that they were Vaction Club. (I think it was more about the guests of the DVC members than the members themselves)

My brother is the Assitant GM/Duty Manager for Boardwalk, I'm on property at Boardwalk specifically once a week or so--it's the only time I can see him! He loves the DVC guests, because they're courteous, and they're eager to take his suggestions for spending their days. I think it's a good idea--and most of the people I've come across are 'regulars'. It's a great way to do the property, & Boardwalk is a gorgeous little location. And like you said, they're a good source of continuing income for Disney. I think the parks would be more pleasant in general if more of the patrons had a "if we don't do it this time, we can catch next time" attitude.

Anonymous said...

The only thing ruder than the site of these kiosks are the finger-snapping, knuckle-popping pacing salesmen behind them talking about hitting their quota when asked "how are you?". No brainer. Needs to go.

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