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.