10 Comments

  1. a lindsey
    December 15, 2011 @ 11:01 AM

    Tom,

    Many of us former emplyees have made comments on FB in regards to the disappointing service we, now as “guests”, have receive on visits to Universal. It’s really a sad commentary on how service expectations have changed over the years. I don’t know if it is because Universal has grown so much, or if it is because they genuinely don’t care about their brand anymore. But, there IS a marked difference in attitude compared to when we were employed at Universal, not necessarily a change for the better.

    My family and I will be at universal tomorrow to say goodbye to “Bruce”. I hope on this trip, Universal proves my post wrong. As a former employee, I am always holding out hope. :- )

  2. Tom
    December 15, 2011 @ 11:05 AM

    Lindsey,

    I carry the same hope. I’ve emailed this post to a number of folks inside Universal hoping it finds its way to the right place and (if nothing else) the situation gets addressed.

    I just don’t want to believe Universal has really gotten that bad

    Either way, I am intent on having fun on Saturday and seeing some old (and some older!) boat skippers for a tour of Amity Island.

    🙂

  3. Sprite's Keeper
    December 15, 2011 @ 11:12 AM

    Well written. And thanks for trying. I remember when the park felt more like a family than a corporation. Have fun on Saturday, don’t get stuck in Scene 3. 🙂

  4. Kimberly
    December 15, 2011 @ 11:19 AM

    As a former skipper myself, who wanted to attend this reunion with every fiber of my being, I am truly revolted at the blatant disregard to customer service. Management is toting back phrases to guests that as employees we were trained endlessly not to use- “I’m sorry you feel that way” was an offense worthy of a reprimand or write up before!

    Growing up my family had annual passes to Universal that we renewed every year. I rode the LAST car of Kong with the Flintstones, and we all had a good cry over it. I was there the day they closed Hannah Barbera, Alfred Hitchcock, was there the day Islands of Adventure opened, and have attended every year of Halloween Horror Nights since I was old enough.

    On the flip-side, as an adult, I can not tell you the last time I paid Universal any money to attend their parks. I pay hundreds a year for my fiancee and I to have Disney annual passes (after working there too, mind you) but nothing to Universal.
    Universal is a hollow shell of what it used to be in all respects. When you take such poor care of your park that it’s a joke when friends go “How bad was the paint in Suess this time” you have a serious problem. I don’t understand it. What is Universal’s advertising anymore? You certainly don’t go to “Ride the Movies” anymore, and no one could answer me when I asked.
    Having been to Universal in Hollywood- a place that still takes care of their park, where no one frowned, everyone was helpful, and we all remarked “so what happened to the one back home?” I really wished I could tell them.
    There is a lot of confusion and heartbreak over the “new” Universal. The Universal with chipping paint, poor theming, and rude employees. Build more Harry Potter. Build Transformers. Build whatever you want to be your next cash cow. When those brands fade, what then?
    We’ll all look at the park in our rose tinted nostalgia, and remember how great it USED to be, and go to Disney World.

  5. Thom
    December 15, 2011 @ 11:32 AM

    Just to qualify my response, I am a nearly 25 year vet of TWDC and an AP holder at UO since the day they started offering them. With that said – I have seen exactly the downfall at both places that you mention in Guest Service over the years: speaking of TWDC I attribute it to two major issues in the industry – one: theyve gotten too big and two: they hire from outside instead of promoting from within – thereby corrupting and eventually losing the culture of excellence in guest service that they were built on. TWDC has taken the position for many years now that giving something away with a monetary value is the quickest way to diffuse the situation and make the person go away feeling like they got something for their time instead of actually listening and fixing/working on the problem (its so bad that for the last few years you can actually find blogs that will even name the manager at a specific location most likely to give you more for your complaint and even when they work)…UO I have seen go from bad to good and back to bad – in their case it seems to be rated on attendance – when attendance dropped off prior to HP, guest service was way up, and they took great care especially with AP holders, as this was the bread and butter that kept the parks alive. Since HP, and attendance being through the roof, things have gone back to a “we really dont care about the individual, just the mob” mentality as far as guest service. Very short sighted. Being in the industry for so long, I very rarely complain – Im one who is more likely to go out of my way to stop and give one of those rare guest compliments than complain, I usually just suck it up when something upsets me, but it seems lately I have had more complaints to UO for things that were over the top as far as rude or rediculous, and have been shown the door as quickly as possible in each case, even talked down to recently by an attractions lead! With TWDC I can say that I have seen over the years an erosion of what used to be the core values of the company – and two things seem to hold true: one, the company that used to teach everyone else what guest service was (and at a high price for a seat in the seminars) now gets its guest service training materials from outside (yes, they are trained in guest service now by a small business owner turned video seminar salesman), and two: they are so big now that there is not the demand for people knocking down the door for a job – both the illusion of excellence is gone, and the hiring pool is not sending the best and brightest any longer, for many reasons. I have heard through friends of UO doing some amazing things for their team like sharing the wealth in bonuses even to the lowliest team member for the success of HP, which is fantastic, but they seem to be going down the same road after success that TWDC followed as far as the guest is concerned: worry about the many not the few (or the one) because they dont seem to have the time or the inclination to do so – its a bad precident to follow, and its a bad culture shift to see, and in the long term it hurts, but those who have failed up through attrition or need seem to be setting the tone and the precident for years to come. And it seems to be worse if you even mention you are or used to be in the industry at all – immediately things take a turn as it seems to come across as a personal attack instead of qualifying your statements as someone who understands the industry as it should, instead the practice seems to be to try and push the ownership back on you. Kudos for calling this out, and for the right reasons (although Im sure it will fall on deaf ears to the ones that need the counciling, they will only see it as a complaint or a personal attack).

  6. Tom
    December 15, 2011 @ 11:41 AM

    Kimberly,

    We’ll have fun on Saturday. That, at least, will make for one more (final?) positive Universal memory.

    Thom,

    Thanks for your words. It’s good to see that others besides myself have seen this change in the company since visiting it as a “civilian.” Maybe someday someone will step up and take ownership of the culture and change it.

    Until then, we can all know that there was a better way of doing things and implement them into our own lives and businesses.

  7. Orca
    December 15, 2011 @ 12:41 PM

    It’s so sad to read about this. It really puts me off to the parks when they treat their employees poorly and act flippant about guest service. I’ll be the first to admit I got an AP just because of Potter and have really enjoyed the new attraction, but it’s sad that despite the turnaround they’ve had as result, they still haven’t done much to address their current attractions that just need a refresh and some TLC. Suess Landing looks *terrible* and the comics area isn’t much better at all. The Cat in the Hat ride is long, long overdue for an overhaul. It was a sad day when all traces of Nickelodeon was removed and now we’re getting an attraction based on a sub-par film that will have no lasting legacy at all. I don’t understand why they’re removing Jaws when there are other areas of the park they could use to build new.

    But as far as service, it was recently I overheard an employee say in front of guests: “This is not the Magic Kingdom, I don’t have to be nice to kids!” and stomp off like a toddler. I’m constantly bullied into taking a crappy gate photo because the poor folks are reprimanded at the end of the day if they don’t meet a quota. I’m constantly corralled by others to take surveys and they argue with you if you state you’ve already done it (3 times before, no less). I was even quizzed on the questions I had been asked to prove myself!

    What really ticked me off was when they had a special AP event for Potter last year in the fall, and by the time I received any information in the mail (the only way they announced it), the event was already sold out. I complained to US via Email, and I was pretty surprised when they called me later about it to apologize but essentially there was nothing they could do, I was not the only one upset, and they planned to make it up to us in the future. The answer was then a $400 a person weekend convention of sorts that was also open to the public, anyway.

    I’ve been disappointed that for being an AP holder, there are very few special events and offerings, while Disney AP holders have all sorts of things throughout the year. If Disney AP’s weren’t so dang expensive, I wouldn’t hesitate to get one. I enjoy US because it’s different than Disney, but as I said during the 3 surveys, it’s still not Disney as far as quality and service.

    I plan to return to ride Jaws very, very soon before it closes and it’ll be a sad experience, I’m sure. I hope you and the other former Skippers have an awesome time despite the bad taste in the mouth your former employer has given you 🙁

  8. Karen
    December 15, 2011 @ 2:59 PM

    Very nicely written Tom. I couldn’t agree with you more about the decline in guest service. Just to make it clear for me….I’m not a disgruntled ex-employee. I truly enjoyed my years at Universal. I learned some great skills that I’ve taken with me to this day; compassion, understanding, empathy, empowerment just to name a few. Once you have these skills, you continue to expect them from others in the service industry, especially the place that taught them to you.

    I’m an annual pass holder now and have been for a few years (primarily for my teenager who loves coasters). You’re a friend of mine on FB so you may have seen my posts regarding the lack of empowering guest service over the last several years. I think the reason it bothers me so much is because Universal is a part of me having worked there for so long and I feel personally embarrassed and disappointed at the way things are going. Nearly every time I go I find myself let down by the lack of attention to detail aesthetically and operationally (wondering whatever happened to “the dispo”), the lack of attention to quality guest service, where smiling employees are truly hard to find and the overall feeling that Universal’s culture has shifted from safety first, customer service second to we don’t care as long as we are making money.

    I won’t get into the list of things Universal is doing these days that I feel goes against everything we all worked to build in the beginning days. I just hope that they take a hard look at what is going on in the parks on a day to day basis. ( I can’t remember the last time I saw any sign of management).

    Since I have a platform, I will shamefully mention my BIGGEST PET PEEVE OF ALL, the admissions fingerprint scanners. This system is the most ridiculous thing they’ve put in place since the park opened. It is unreliable and not everyone gives a good fingerprint scan. Why would you want to piss people off before they even get into the parks??I’ve been blatantly insulted on more than one occasion because my daughters finger wouldn’t scan as if that is my fault. Last time we visited, my 13 year old was accused of being “uncooperative” (employees words: “if she were more cooperative she could get into the park”. More cooperative??? She puts her finger on the scanner, the scanner doesn’t work…..

    I digress. Thanks for posting Tom (and others)!

  9. Tom
    December 15, 2011 @ 3:04 PM

    I think the reason it bothers me so much is because Universal is a part of me having worked there for so long and I feel personally embarrassed and disappointed at the way things are going.

    I think you hit the nail on the head with this, Karen. This is a key source of my frustration regarding this entire circumstance.

    I’m proud of the time I spent at Universal. When I left, it was a tough decision – but I gave my two weeks notice and my wife and I have found a life near the beach. That pride, though, gets tarnished the more I see the once shining example of service and vacation awesomeness slowly fade into “average.”

    Either way, I plan to enjoy myself Saturday.

    Thanks for taking the time to read. 🙂

  10. Frank Wolf
    December 15, 2011 @ 3:57 PM

    I’ve been a Pass Holder for years and years and I’ve seen the downward spiral in all things Universal Orlando. I’ve even seen bait n switch practices (ie) during the Harry Potter Preview Weeks While Press and VIP’s were there The Food at The Three Broomsticks was outstanding. on Subsequent visits it became the same heat lamp dried crap. The rides are falling into disrepair and they have lost all sense of tradition. Look Over at Disney they trade rides out sure but you know space mountain, main st. and dumbo are going to be there. I agree with Tom Guest service has been reduced to lip service. Enjoy your Day and Memory’s because it’s quickly turning into a Sixx Flaggs without a soul.

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