Walt Disney World Dining to automatically add gratuity to DDE transactions

A email was sent out to Disney Dining Experience members this morning informing them of changes in the plan (good ones). Tagged on to the bottom of the letter was this:

We would also like to inform you that the Walt Disney World® Resort will be implementing an across property policy change regarding gratuity at all food and beverage locations. Effective January 1, 2008, 18% gratuity will be added to all transactions, regardless of party size. Thank you for your continued support.

So that could be read one of two ways. Either the DDE members are getting a scolding for stiffing cast members out of their tips or all Walt Disney World dining guests are getting a taste of the poor contract negotiations between Disney and their unions.

Okay. Let me explain.

Right now DDE members get 20% off their checks at certain locations. Most members tip off the original amount, but there has always been minority who either refuses to tip or tips a small amount. This is not fair to the wait staff who rely on those tips for a large portion of their income.

It’s even worse for the Disney Dining Plan where the tips are no longer included and cast members are getting stiffed by families who believe they are and leave no tip at all. As you might expect, this has created something of a stir among restaurant workers.

Back when the last contract was negotiated, Disney made sure that the DDP price would no longer include tip. At the time it was speculated that this would cause problems down the road as guests who thought DDP included the tip would leave without adding one. Plus guests on the DDP tend to order meals that were more expensive than they otherwise would in order to feel like they’re getting the full value of the DDP. Since they wouldn’t order those meals usually, they don’t tip accordingly either. When servers knew they were getting 18% everything was okay. Now they often get significantly less. To save a few bucks ordering food, Disney created a guest service nightmare.

Needless to say this created quite a bit of speculation in the Disney fan community. We just got word that right now this is for DDE members only. So it turns out to not be a big deal. But here’s a big note to everyone at DDE; please be sure to have someone not familiar with your newsletters read them first to help with reading clarity.  Thank you.

7 thoughts on “Walt Disney World Dining to automatically add gratuity to DDE transactions

  1. biblioadonis aka George


    I abhorred the DDP when we had it. For our family, it just didn’t make financial sense.

    How does this effect me now? Well, we are usually more than happy to pay a 20% tip for most above-average service, so I am inclined to think that there will a lag in service. If the tip is already there, why work as hard.

    I am jaded when it comes to Disney Dining…and I think that Disney has made a mess of this.

    Anyway–thanks for doing an AMAZING job of keeping us in the know with your blog.

  2. John from thedisneyblog.com

    Hey George,

    Thanks for the very nice words. And I agree about how messed up Disney Dining is. The first 18 months we lived in Orlando we ate at a sit-down Disney restaurant at least twice a month, for the last 12 months we have only eaten at a Disney sit-down restaurant twice (both for anniversary occasions). Disney is obviously not hurting for customers, but they are alienating their best customers. That will come back to bite them in the end.


  3. Anaheim Kango

    I’m a big Disney fan, particulary of Disney Land, but this entry brings to mind the corrective influences of capitalism: In Anaheim, Disney isn’t the only game in town . . . so if these kinds of changes are implemented and don’t sit well with consumers, well . . . free enterprise will intervene, I guess.

  4. Grumpwurst (aka Ray)


    Thanks for posting your source on a comment on my blog. You didn’t have to do that. I agree with everything you have said on this post and my post.

    Talk about a good idea gone serious off track somewhere

  5. JeffG

    As a bit of clarification, the DDP does still include gratutities with meals until the end of 2007. The new plan where gratuities (and appetizers) are eliminated from the table-service meals takes effect on January 1.

    I really think that this is a pretty big mistake as one of the bigger appeals of the DDP is the ability to budget the vast majority of food purchases up-front and never having to worry about additional cash/credit payments at meals. If they end up forcing the gratutities on DDP meals (which strikes me as likely), then they are likely to have a lot of complaints from guests that didn’t expect any further food charges. If they don’t force it, I do think an awful lot of tips will be skipped.

    Finally, I think the whole idea of “forced” gratuities is morally wrong and basically counter to the entire idea of a gratuity. If salaries are designed such that the wait staff is so dependent on gratuities that they have to be forced, Disney should just be honest and up-front about the charges and raise the prices to include the service charge. By definition, a gratuity is supposed to be an appreciation for quality service, not an obligation.

  6. Rick Bertrand

    We were at Disnet in Orlando in December of ’06 and had a fantastic experience, Now that being said we decided to organize a trip with some friends to go to Disney again and it was this past week, the parks themselves are still breathtaking but the service I was terribly dissapointed. I’m tagging this to the gratuities not included deal even though we did tip accordingly. I was never told by my travel agent that tips were not included so our buget for the week did not include gratuities. My first inclination about tips was the driver of the bus that brought us from the airport to our resort. he actually said when he welcomed us “If you like your driver, You will tip him” (in a joking way) I immediatly turned to my wife and said to her “that’s funny, I thought tips were included” then I saw the Gratuities Accepted sign in the front windshield by the driver. It just got worst after that when we got into the restaurants. Nevertheless, over a week tipping bus drivers, waiters, resort staff ect.. it cost us an extra $500 US (party of 5) BUT! I didn’t see the prices go down on the other end at booking time. This will seriously affect my decision on going there again, I like the idea of no tipping, no stress!! everybody was satisfied…worker and customer.

  7. Keith R

    I am very disappointed in the changes disney has made the their meal plan options this year. The cost of the Disney meals plans for 2006 and
    > 2007 were 38.99 per person each day and would include 1 snack, 1
    > counter service meal, and 1 table service meal and gratuity was included.(Table Service: Included drink,
    > appetizer, main course and desert.) All was a factor of making the Disney
    > experience more affordable for families.
    > This year the plan has changed. For $37.99 ($1 reduction per person
    > each
    > day) Families lose the option for an appetizer and now have to pay
    > the gratuity for each meal. My guess this will increase the cost for
    > an average family by about $40 – 50 per day. Very disappointing in a
    > time when the economy is having challenges, families are loosing homes
    > and people are losing jobs.

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