Disneyland's new Holiday tradition: the Annual Candlelight ticket sales fiasco
by, 11-19-2008 at 12:14 PM (6097 Views)
After Disneyland borrowed the concept of a Candlelight Dining Package from Walt Disney World, I wrote of the 2003 offering "Those visitors who did book the dinner package reported hassles with their meal and crowd control challenges at the theater. Despite these issues, it looked like Disneyland had the foundation for a successful Candlelight program. With a few tweaks, everyone would know what to expect, and the event should run smoothly."
Unfortunately the communication and registration process are not really all that much improved, and issues that were understandable in those earlier years are unforgiveable when they haven't been resolved six years later.
In 2004, dining managers first said that there would be no repeat of the dining package program, then finally made the tickets available without prior announcement. Details were equally sketchy in 2005, and after strong demand once again overwhelmed the Disney Dining phone lines, the decision was made to move to an online-only reservation system starting in 2006.
Demand for these tickets crashed the ticket sever within minutes that first year, forcing the company to twice postpone sales in an effort to sort out the mess of completed, duplicate and partially-completed registrations.
There was a rumor that Disney would bring in an outside ticket firm to handle the 2007 ticket sales, but that proved to be false and the Disney system still crashed just moments after sales began last year.
The 2006 scenario was repeated when Candlelight Dining Package sales opened last night, and the Disney server crashed just minutes into the registration. Some MousePlanet readers reported spending more than two hours trying to buy tickets last night, only to receive a series of error messages.
Whatever happened, it was enough to force the Florida-based department that operates the reservation system to reschedule the ticket sales for this evening.
This just leaves me shaking my head and wondering WHY this has to be so difficult every year. With six years experience under their belts, the Candlelight Dining team has to know how strong demand is for this package. They know potential customers are going to overwhelm the phone system and crash the computers. So why is the same failed process being re-implemented year after year?
As I see it, one of three things is happening here:
1) The Powers That Be really don't understand how frustrating and difficult they are making this for potential customers.
2) The Powers That Be know that, no matter how frustrating or difficult they make this process, they are going to sell out and so have no incentive to invest money to improve the infrastructure.
or (and I'm afraid this might be the real issue)
3) Candlelight is a low-profile project, being championed by a few dedicated people who don't have the support of The Powers That Be, and who therefore can't get the resources they need to fix what is clearly a flawed system.
So, to the Powers That Be: the time has long since come to decide what Candlelight means to the Disneyland Resort. If it's really intended to be an private event, a "thank you" of sorts for corporate sponsors, senior executives and Club 33 members, then hold it after park hours on a December week day, much as you do the Cast Member holiday parties, and be done with it.
But, if Candlelight is going to remain a public event, then it's time to get serious about making this truly a Disney experience.
But treating customers the way you have for six consecutive years is absolutely unacceptable, and completely beneath the standards the Walt Disney Company has set for itself. I hope that tonight's ticket sales go off without further incident, and that those who have been so inconvenienced by this process at least receive an apology for the hassle you've subjected them to.
- Officially announce the date in advance, so guests can make travel arrangements.
- Announce the narrator in advance, so people can make an informed decision.
- Upgrade your registration systems, or to hand this entire process over to a company that does this professionally.
- Allow Candlelight Dining Package customers to eat dinner at dinnertime. If you really need to keep them out of the restaurants during dinner hours, offer a brunch instead.
- Improve communication so that those who aren't purchasing the Dining Package know how they might obtain space in the Standby Viewing area.