Universally Better (and the Distaste of mouse)


My tenure at Universal’s Volcano Bay has concluded and I thought I’d reflect on my experience. I’m still working at Universal, just now at the dry parks entrance operations during weekends. During this time I’ve talked to a lot of guests and staff and one thing has come up often, Disney. My Nana worked in Disney’s now defunct art department (Where Star Wars launch bay now is), one of my close friends worked as a Jungle Cruise skipper, and my ex-step father worked at the defunct Richard Petty driving experience (Where a parking lot now is). They all had positive experiences working at Disney.

To my surprise a number of people in my training had worked for Disney and all had negative experiences. At first I figured that this was simply a biased opinion, since they weren’t working at Disney anymore (I’ll list the major complaints below). Its worth mentioning that Universal, unlike Disney allows us to talk about the other parks candidly. We also don’t have to abide by nearly as many rules, and are allowed to have more fun with guests (IE, offering to cut off a guests finger so they won’t forget which one they used for finger scans). After this I went to Busch Gardens Tampa (Universal was formally the same company as SeaWorld entertainment, and we still retain a friendly relationship), and as I talked with guests, two of them worked at Disney and both immediately listed gripes they had with the company.

These included:

  • Military-like operations
  • No reconcile for badly behaving guests
  • No promotional growth
  • Feeling of being a replaceable drone / Not valued
  • Poor day to day hours for interns
  • Decline in park maintenance quality
  • Poor backend IT systems (due to systems not being updated/replaced)
  • Overbearing/micromanaging management
  • Bad management to management communication
  • Not being able to transfer*

The last one is notable because it was only within the last decade or so that they were added due to unions. Disney world has always had unions for its high skill jobs, but at some later point every department got their own union. The most absurd of it all is that the unions prevented workers from easily cross-training positions. My Jungle Cruise friend explained that if pirates needed an extra hand one day, he could go assist. When unions were implemented however, the union would first have to approve for you to go over to another attraction and work there, which was often a draw out process with no real incentive.

I just wanted to put out my thoughts and findings, which I find increasingly troubling. It would seem that most of the complaints only started within the past 20 years or so, and has gotten worse since. Universal has made it clear (and acted accordingly) that treating the employee right will lead to them treating the guest right. As a Universal employee I want to see Disney fall, but as a tourist I’d like to see Disney pump the breaks and instead of investing so much on NEW NEW NEW they put more focus on their most expensive, flexible, and sociable assets, the employee.

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