"You guys get down there at least twice a month. For God's sake, don't eat off the lot. Stay there... lunch with the guests... talk to them."
For the sake of argument, let’s assume you’ve been given a reasonable level of influence at the Disney Theme Parks. You immediately decide to take on the guest experience on a regular basis. For your first on-the-job visit to Anaheim you decide to only address your experiences leading up to your entry into Disneyland’s Main Street, having recognized that this is the very experience a vast majority of the Executives within Walt Disney Parks and Resorts choose to bypass.
What would be some of the things you would encounter?
You have always understood that waiting in lines at Disneyland is one of the most oft heard guest complaints on record. What you didn’t fully realize is that the waiting game begins well before entering the park. In addition, you're shocked by exactly how many of these lines there are; five in all, with each wait feeling more substantial than the last, especially if you’re arriving with the morning rush.
The first line is for the entrance to the parking lot/structure. Unlike the lines inside the Park, this one asks you to surrender $11.00 for a regular vehicle. Your first impression of the “Disney Magic” is decidedly less than magical.
Relying on cones and Cast Members, having been stripped of your common sense approach to finding the best space available, you secure your spot and leave your vehicle. Immediately you take note of the land of enchantment Disney designers have laid out for your all important initial greeting (and later farewell) at the Disneyland Resort. If first impressions count for everything, this one leaves much to be desired.
In the case of the Mickey & Friends parking structure, it is cold, unpainted concrete surfaces and sticky stained floors often littered with trash. Off-model Disney characters adorn pillars to categorize which level you’re on. If you’re fortunate enough to be in the minority parked close to the escalators, you have access to trash cans and a brief walk to the trams, but the rest must traverse a near endless dark maze of cars while on their way to that location. Even with the Parking Lot days of yore, frequent tram stop locations guaranteed a short walk for anyone not willing or capable of making the longer journey on foot. You are bewildered by why that is not an option for guests anymore.
The second line you encounter is for the tram itself. Other than open spaces between planters, you are immediately struck by the lack of order here. Guests are left to proactively ascertain which horde of fellow guests is grouped smaller, and then join them. For those with a wheelchair or a stroller, their options are narrowed, and the line they’re required to join is larger and slower.
The third queue is at the security checkpoints. Camping out here for a while, you immediately recognize how extremely rare it is to find all queues being utilized at any given time. The crowds squeezing in to this bottleneck are numerous and, once again, there is no perceived structure or conformity to rules here. If you do not create intentional organization, chaos becomes the common default and chaos is what is too often present here. You are struck by the irony of it all, being that this is the one spot at the Disney Resort that should work overtime to put guests at ease but instead seems to actively solicit anxiety, frustration and sometimes even anger.
The fifth and last line is for entrance into the theme park itself. You are immediately aware of what a zoo this area is. Just like the lines for the parking lot tram there’s no clear sense of where to queue up. Where’s a friendly Cast Member guiding guests into the least filled line? Why aren’t all entry points being utilized? Having already spent upwards of 30-60 minutes waiting in lines, having to traverse a several acre mass of anxious hyper-caffeinated guests only to end up in yet another line is not your idea of a dream coming true.
Regardless, you have finally arrived inside the Happiest Place on Earth, thrilled to be wrapped up in the real land of Disney, honored to be entrusted with spearheading proactive change at the park; to be truly ‘walking in Walt’s footsteps’.
You close up your note pad and decide to take a quick bathroom break before heading to lunch.
Spotting the restrooms by City Hall, you head on over and get in line.