Are Disney Waiters using dirty trick to encourage large tips?

Let me say up front that Walt Disney World’s dining situation has some serious problems. Among them are: ridiculously reduced menu options, extra-ordinarily high prices (pay $8 for a child’s meal recently?), a reservation system that requires you to plan 6 months ahead, confusing dining plan options, and weird rules that can leave the server staff holding the short end of the stick when it comes to tips. So when I read this blog post over on AllEarsNet today I cannot say I was shocked.

Disney blogger Jack writes about using his Disney Dining Experience card. A card that gives the holder and up to 5 guests a 20% discount off the food and drink costs at most sit-down restaurants on WDW property. Beginning this year an 18% gratuity is being automatically added to the check when the DDE card is used.

I wanted to give all of you who use this card a friendly “heads up.” I have used my DDE card four times since the beginning of the year. On every occasion, the server has NOT informed me that the gratuity has been added. Instead, I’m presented with three pieces of paper. The original, itemized bill. A second, itemized receipt that also displays the discount and the tip. And a final draft that ONLY has the total and a place to add a tip and sign my name.

When the itemized bill that displays the tip is hidden the extra blank spot for a tip could cause the diner to inadvertently leave a second tip on the bill. Jack’s experience was seconded by Allearnet Deb Wills.

Part of me is sympathetic to the server who is currently getting screwed by the sad situation with the Disney Dining Plan where the gratuity is no longer included in the package. This has led to server after server getting a small tip or no tip at all when the irate diner is presented with a check for what he thought was a pre-paid meal.

This situation was created by Disney’s dining management team and needs to be resolved immediately. It’s not fair to put the server, and the guest, in the middle of this situation. Either include the gratuity in the dining meal plan and raise the price or get rid of the program. I’d prefer they just get rid of the program since it has led to restaurants dumbing down their menus, inflating prices, and to poor service as servers can no longer count on a tip for their service.

As for the bit of trickery used to encourage double-tipping by guests. This is not a practice isolated to Disney by any means. Disney could take care of the situation immediately by making sure that the final bill for signature shows the included 18% gratuity instead of a blank spot.   

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7 thoughts on “Are Disney Waiters using dirty trick to encourage large tips?

  1. Lee

    I noticed this recent change when planning for our trip this coming February. The printed material you receive does inform you that the gratuity is not included, however they have not changed the copy on the website to reflect this change.

    The meal plan certainly has value – especially if you manage to get into places like Le Cellier Steakhouse, but they certainly need to make it more clear that the tip is no longer included.

  2. Amy

    I wouldn’t assume that it’s dirty tricks. Those look like standard receipts you’d get when you use a credit card at any restaurant. The copy you sign and total does not usually contain any itemization. Sure, Disney should be better about calling out the auto gratuity, but I wouldn’t put the blame here on the servers.

  3. Zach

    Just got back from a week-long trip to the World and I encountered this pretty frequently. A few servers pointed it out, but most did not. Also, there were a couple of occasions where the 18% was not added.

    Not that big of a deal, just a matter of looking at your bill and being aware. Some servers may have ill intent, but my guess is that most assume you will look at the bill and notice it, and don’t want to say ‘the tip is included’ because that would discourage anyone from tipping beyond the 18%.

    I hate the new system. It did tend to discourage me from leaving higher tips where I might have before, and it rewards a decent tip to servers who provide lousy service.

  4. John from TheDisneyBlog.com

    If you receive bad service, I strongly suggest you ask for the manager. Explain what happened and why you want the 18% gratuity removed. This will get the manager involved in fixing the problem, because they’ll be annoyed they have to take time to fix the check, which is the whole point anyway.

  5. Ceronomus

    I don’t really see the problem. Disney notified me of the change, up front before it happened. I’m aware of the change and since I generally leave at LEAST a 20% tip, I knowingly use that extra line to increase the gratuity.

  6. patty

    I too am a member of DDE and have been using the Dining Plan for previous vacations. Being a vegetarian most menus are limited in what I can or will eat. The Disney staff is always very accomadating in that I have even been personally greeted by the chef to find out exactly what I would like to eat. I reallize the menu may seem limited, that’s probably because there are so many restaurants available. If you don’t see what you are looking for on your menu or you have food allergies or prefer specific types of food, ask! I guarantee you will leave happy (and a happy tip!) :)

  7. Tim Lenz

    As a former Walt Disney World server, I have to say that I think it’s unfair to blame the servers for this situation. They are certainly not “tricking” you in any way, shape or form. They are simply expecting you to actually LOOK at your bill before you sign something, an assumption which I do not feel is the least bit out of line. If people tip above a gratuity without realizing the gratuity is there, then that’s their own fault for not taking the time to read the literature regarding their discount card, or for being lazy and not giving their bill a 30 second once-over.

    As for adding the gratuity amount to the signed copy of the receipt, it is simply not possible in the system that they use. The credit receipts list only the information that is sent electronically to the credit card company, which does not include the gratuity amount.

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