Disney and the Discounts

I’m not much of a cook, so a little over a year ago, I noticed that Boston Market had come out with a line of frozen dinners. I was impressed. For a frozen dinner, they were really good. Of course that meant they were more expensive, but I thought they were worth it. Then I saw in the weekly ads that they were on sale. Almost half off! I stocked up thinking it would be quite awhile before I’d see such a good deal again. I was wrong. They seemed to be going on sale every other week. So even though I probably would have bought them again at regular price, why would I when I knew another sale would be coming? Then one day after heating up the Swedish Meatball dinner, I noticed the noodles were different. The thick, seriously like homemade,  noodles were now thin, flavorless and kind of chewy. I was disappointed, but the meatballs were still really good, just maybe just a tiny bit smaller? Then I noticed less chicken in the Southwest Chicken dinner and the mashed potatoes in the Meatloaf dinner had a gritty texture I never noticed before. Could they be instant? To be honest, I don’t know why I was surprised. Yes, I still buy Boston Market dinners. I miss the good noodles and non-gritty mash potatoes, but overall they are still really good frozen dinners. I pass them by at regular price though. I know another sale will come along.


I’m sure at this point most of you are scratching your head wondering why I’m writing about frozen dinners. The slew of discounts that Walt Disney World released on August 16th were no doubt exciting! But, they are also very surprising and I think show a hint of panic as well. Especially when you consider that in early June Disney CEO Bog Iger very publicly announced the impending end of discounts and referenced a plan he talked about in December of 2009 to wean people off the discounts. And yet now we get an unprecedented release of Free Dining dates all the way into September 2011?! Not to mention, free gift cards and room only discounts too? That’s quite the turn around from announcing the end of discounts.

I have no doubt that bookings are way down and Disney needed to do something, but was throwing all the these discounts out there for the short term return really the best answer? Believe me, I don’t have anything against discounts. Disney put them out there and I’m happy for everyone that got a great deal. I just wish Disney would have taken a step back and really considered some other options. Options that would not only provide a good value, but that would also be something that  wouldn’t inevitably force them to further cut back on the quality that is at the very core of their business. Instead, they took the easy way out, further encouraging a discount mentality and in the case of free dining especially, making it not the exception, but the “norm.”  Free dining in September when it’s slow and hot in the parks with a possibility of a hurricane is one thing. It is not, nor should it be, the answer to all of Disney’s booking issues.

To be sure, I don’t think ending discounts is the way to go either. We know all too well that the economy is not turning around as we had hoped it was when Bob Iger made his statement. So, yes, there is a need for discounts, but I believe Disney missed an opportunity here. Rather than free dining, which you can debate all you like, it will force Disney to further lower quality and choices, could Disney have not put some of their very creative minds to it and maybe done an offer with just a table service credit and maybe a snack credit for everyone each day of your trip? Or maybe instead of a free gift card, how about a 25% off shopping pass discount? I know people love the word FREE, but it’s only a word. I have every confidence that Disney marketing could have made these offers sound just as good. Or perhaps, given the chance, come up with something even better. I guess we’ll never know. In the meantime……anyone want some slightly gritty mashed potatoes?

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Category: Disney World, Editorials

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  • Doug7856

    At first, I agree with your assessment, but I have a couple of other thoughts. Iger has indicated previously that people are booking short term. Maybe discounts through September 2011 is Disney’s way of getting people to commit to a vacation further out? Also, in the winter the discounts recently have been buy X, get y free. Are the current discounts as good? I’m thinking they are giving the illusion of big discounts that aren’t quite as big as previous years. Just my thoughts, I haven’t done any real “analysis” of the offers.

  • gymnastgirlflips

    Well, I’m not sure if I can agree with everything there. I don’t see how the Disney quality changes as much with them offering free dining or them giving discounts. Their income is what is going to further determine the quality of the parks if you ask me- that is if they use it for refurbishments. I know the guests who have the discounts aren’t going to be treated any differently from those who spend more because I’ve gone to Disney World as both without a change.

  • fldisneefan

    I honestly agree. Discounts have long been something that is expected and not an added bonus. Disney has released the same discounts around the same time for the last few years almost to the date every year. This is not to say that I haven’t taken advantage of some of the discounts and enjoy the deals and rates but sometimes I wonder if such “deep discounts” do affect the quality of the product. I do believe that service and even the food will suffer on some levels, but I also wonder if disney recoups the “discount” by the fact that during non-discounted dates and times the prices are so high and continueto increase every year. I have been to wdw many times throughout the last ten years and although I would love to stay at one of wdw’s deluxe accomodations I can never justify the cost. I find $450/night at say wdw’s Grand Floridian a little bit overpriced. I live on the beach and we have some pretty awesome beachfront properties but even at the peak holiday of 4th of July they are not even close to that rate. This is where I believe the recouping of the discounts is done. I will continue to go to wdw no matter the discounts but I would hope that it will keep the Fl resident and AP type of discount.

  • brunoTaTa

    Something you might want to research here. I have a theory that if you went back to the early 1990′s and found the rack rates then, you might be surprised to see that the discounted rates of today are pretty close to the rates you actually had to pay back then when adjusted for inflation. I recall reading more than once that room and pass prices rose at a rate well above inflation for many years due to strong demand.

    Now that demand no longer supports those “high” prices, is it not rational that prices return to those which the supply/demand reality will support? One way to make those prices temporary is discounting, and it has the added bonus of making people feel like they got a “bargain”. A Beach Club type room for $230/night is hardly a bargain in the rest of the US. It’s nice, but you can find a comparable room in a high demand location for less outside of WDW.

    Make no mistake, the resorts and parks are still quite profitable even with the discounting. Perhaps though their days of being the cash cows that supported the otherwise mediocre disney performance some years are over.

    Frankly the percentage of people who can actually “afford” a Disney deluxe resort at full price is not sufficient to keep them occupied. Only by taking on massive consumer debt and overspending was that possible in the past. Just as a “bubble” in home prices occured, so did a “bubble” in the prices of expensive vacation travel. With that credit tapped out, people can no longer charge a $5,000 vacation.

    With no kids to raise and a household income of $160K, I would still never spend $350/night on a hotel room there. It’s just not a good value. But for $204 I booked a stay in December. That is the marketplace at work. They do not have to lower standards, but merely profit expectations during a downturn.

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