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Bob Iger's MyMagic+ response would flunk at Disney University

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Published: January 28, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Imagine what would happen if a Disney cast member reacted this way the next time some parent complained about his or her child being too short to ride Big Thunder Mountain:

"It is truly unfortunate and extremely disappointing that you chose to publicly attack us before taking the time to review our policies and/or read your park guidemap, which would have obviated the need for your complaint. Had you or your family made the slightest effort, you would have found most of the answers to your questions already existed and were publicly available in our Magic Kingdom guidemap, which you're holding in your hand.

"In the guidemap, we tell you exactly the boarding requirements for Big Thunder Mountain. However, to ensure that you fully understand our practices as they pertain to children, and our commitment to our guests' safety, let me be clear and reiterate the basic facts.

"Big Thunder Mountain is a completely optional attraction that was designed with safety controls from the outset. Additionally, parents have full control over their child's participation in Big Thunder Mountain and other attractions. We have transparent safety practices; guests can control and limit the amount of attractions they ride."

As emotionally satisfying as it might feel for a cast member to lash out at a guest who asks a much-answered question, Disney teaches its new-hire cast members, on their first day at Disney University training, that's simply not the way the company works. An hourly cast member who spoke to a member of the public that way would be terminated on the spot. There are no stupid questions at a Disney theme park.

Yet that didn't keep Disney CEO Bob Iger from throwing a public hissy fit over questions asked the Walt Disney Company this week. Disney's released Iger's response to questions from U.S. Rep. Ed Markey about Disney's new MyMagic+ program, and its effect on children's federal privacy rights.

Bob Iger

If you're wondering how I came up with the wording for my little hypothetical above, I just copied and pasted Iger's words to Markey, substituting Thunder, guidemaps and safety for MyMagic+, letters and privacy.

If Iger wants to use his position to chew out a member of Congress, hey, it's his company. Markey's party is in the minority in the House, so I doubt Iger's response will result in a subpoena and a forced appearance in front of hostile Congressional committee. But as a parent who has a few questions of my own about how MyMagic+ will be implemented in the parks (and every detail of how this system will work is not yet set in stone, by the way), Iger's response leaves me even more worried.

Disney won its reputation for great customer service by acknowledging people's concerns, no matter how unfounded they might be. Disney listened, and worked to find an answer, no matter how many times it'd given that answer to others before. If people trash-talked Disney, Disney didn't trash-talk back (at least, not publicly). That "we'll take the high road" attitude encouraged people to trust Disney.

It's going to be harder for Disney to continue to earn that trust if the company's going to lash out when people start asking questions about this new and, let's face it, complex and somewhat technologically intimidating system. Disney's customers deserve sober answers about MyMagic+, no matter how many times Disney cast members must provide them.

And especially so from Disney's Chariman and CEO.

Update: Just to make clear, the link behind "released Iger's response" above goes to the Deadline.com story with the full text of Iger's letter. (I use hyperlinks, uh, a bit more aggressively than the average writer, so I forget that sometimes I should spell things out.) Disney's also now sent me a copy of the letter, which I've uploaded to our Pinterest page. It includes an addendum not in the Deadline.com story.

Also, in the Iger letter is a URL to Disney's "FAQ" about MyMagic+, which Disney's reps say answers Markey's questions (follow that link to read it). And finally, here again is the link to our previous story about Markey's letter and my take on it.

Update 2: More thoughts: It's not really about Disney.

Readers' Opinions

From Michael Owen on January 28, 2013 at 5:57 PM
Rather silly from Mr. Iger. This is something which would have received little media attention and by firing back an abrupt response he will have just drawn more attention to the concerns over MyMagic+.
From 65.33.226.3 on January 28, 2013 at 6:02 PM
W.W.E.D. = What Would Eisner Do?
From Joshua Counsil on January 28, 2013 at 6:19 PM
Previously, I thought nothing of it. Now, I'm interested in knowing the details. Way to go, Iger.
From 108.73.78.209 on January 28, 2013 at 6:24 PM
i dont think he was wrong at all. this is how the business side of Disney HAS to work. He is defending the entire company in his letter and to even think that he made a bad decision is false information. if you understand politics at all then this was the correct response.
From 67.83.28.38 on January 28, 2013 at 6:24 PM
Way to go Bob! First this guy busting Disney's chops. Then the President dissing the NFL. Why don't these politician's stick to matters that mean something? Like unemployment, taxes, etc. Christ, you would think they have bigger things on their small minds!
From 66.233.135.76 on January 28, 2013 at 7:42 PM
I'd like to see the original quote, but based upon what you posted, my mouth literally fell open. As both a former cast member, manager, and current themed attractions professional, that reply is, without ANY question, absolutely and completely inappropriate, unnecessary and worthy of immediate dismissal. The Disney Board of Directors and stock holders should seriously examine if this is the type of person they want representing their company.
From 99.227.135.62 on January 28, 2013 at 7:42 PM
I completely agree with 108's comment above. Disney works extremely hard to please paying customers and attract new ones. If you think for one second that the type of response Iger gave to Markey would also be given to a guest, then I don't know what to tell you. This is business and politics, not tea cups and churros. I get the impression that you'd like Disney to be walked all over and never defend themselves. The amount of hate being spewed at Disney from supposed fan sites over MyMagic+ is mind boggling. For one thing, look at Disney's track record. Second, look at what Disney has to lose if there is a serious security breach or massive customer revolt. A lot of people seem to think that the Disney company exists in a bubble and don't know how the world works. I assure you, they know what happens when a security breach leads to customer data leaks.

I find it hilarious that people are up in arms about privacy concerns and haves vs have nots. Especially when these same people probably use very similar technology in their daily lives already (RFID is new to theme parks, but far from new to the world). Furthermore, paying more gets you more in life. Disney is no exception. MyMagic+ bookings, EMH, park hopping, photo pass, and on and on.

I figured if anyone would give Disney the benefit of the doubt here, it would be its fans. We barely know anything about this system that isn't even in use yet, and even when it is, I have no doubt it will be improved upon constantly.

From Robert Niles on January 28, 2013 at 8:03 PM
The full letter from Iger is available by clicking the "released Iger's response" link above.
From Rob Pastor on January 28, 2013 at 8:51 PM
Robert: I haven't personally decided where I stand on the Disney Next Gen privacy issues yet, though I'm apprehensive whether the Fast Pass+ in the form being run through tests will work well. But I salute your determination in bringing these privacy discussions to the forefront on this site. This is quite brave since you do have numerous Disney advertisements. I've read many of the blogs on other sites and it seems like there is a large outcry denouncing this Disney policy. This indicates that even if there are no illegal ramnifications, it will probably be a marketing nightmare.....I also question why the vehemount responses so far on this particular post are mostly anonymous postings. Curious as to who is posting.
From Todd Donahue on January 28, 2013 at 9:28 PM
Alright I read the two letters and I agree with some that Iger sounds a 4th grade bully in some ivy league prep school that fails repeatedly but gets to go on to each grade cause his parents are in the trust fund of said school. It would have been much better if he just wouldn't have said anything at all and just let his PR guys take ahold of this. It sounds to me like Iger's a sissy (that's what bullies really are) and should be made to apologize or maybe even step down. Are we living in Grade School? The fact that he uses that we're better than you tactic just goes to prove that they are hiding something and they dont want us to know. Reasons why I don't like this plan and want to know more information that this letter does not answer.

1) You can scan another person's smart phone with another smart phone and get the information that is currently up. Magic+ it's basically a smart phone in a wrist band.

2) Wi Fi, they tell you not to do any personal information in a public area because its like having everything out there for the taking. Magic+ is going to be wi fi.

3) I'm an adult and I am alright with someone knowing something about me because if you really wanted the information than you can get it. But what about your kids? My Kids? Anyones Kids? The information about everyone will be out there.

4) I don't like being numbered. I don't like someone telling me I should buy this instead of that because of my buying patterns. I like spontaneity of doing things that I normally wouldn't do. I do not like to plan every single second of my hard earned vacation.

5) The wristband all day....really Iger you spent a billion plus for the magic plus and you got out of it a wristband.....it better be water proof Genius. Wearing a wristband all day is not my type of fun. I would have preferred a card

6) Its great of him to say you don't have to do this but what he doesn't say if you want a reservation, you want to have fastpass+, you want to have preferred seating, you want a better hotel room, and you want the better stuff than your going have to get the wristband and all the not so good goodies it brings with it.

The plan sucks in my opinion and I'm not the only one with this opinion. Iger's sissy rage only fuels the doubt and more questions about the "magic- plan"

From Phil B. on January 28, 2013 at 9:32 PM
But didn't Bob tell them that they spent over a billion dollars on there next gen initiative and if you shake your wrist in front of a crate, an animatronic skeletons teeth chatter?

Whatever, good for Bob. I like a little fire in the belly of a man with a lot on his plate. Congress should turn their attention inward and start scrutinizing all of the glad handing, back stabbing, number moving, shady back room politics that take place constantly and never come to light.

From Tony Perkins on January 28, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Iger just failed Public Relations 101. Instead of being testy, defensive and combative, he should have composed a reasoned, rational and calm response to all concerns that have been raised. His job is to calm a brewing storm, not let his temper get the better of him and "succeed" in only drawing more negative attention to MyMagic+.
From Anthony Murphy on January 28, 2013 at 10:22 PM
I feel that there might be something going on behind the scenes that Iger (or Congress) has not made clear. Iger has had a pretty stellar record when it comes to promoting the brand. I find the outburst a little out of character.

While it is perfectly reasonable to ask questions, I still do not see how this is any different than having a Key to the World card. Disney knows what you are charging to the room, what faspasses you are getting and they know what parks you are going into. Why not roll it all into one? If I can put a wristband on that would be my room key, charge card, park pass, and reservation keeper, I would go for it!

From N B on January 29, 2013 at 12:04 AM
Being able to unlock a hotel room door via RFID is my only issue with this. The tech can be easily cloned / defeated with one of a hundred devices I can purchase online for $50.

It doesn't require someone to get a hold of your tag, only near it. At least a room key with a magnetic strip needs to be physically swiped to clone it.

Someone will post a YouTube video of how easy it is to gain access to a hotel room with a cloned RFID at Disney. It is less secure than Bluetooth.

Iger's condescending response reminds me of why we don't do Disney anymore.

From David Brown on January 29, 2013 at 2:22 AM
I've read the responses and I can't see anything inappropriate in them at all. Disney have been accused of threatening the safety of children - about as serious a claim as someone can make against Disney - and they have responded robustly to reiterate their commitments to privacy and responsible use of data, emphasised the optional nature of any future programmes and pointed the congressman to the information he should have checked prior to making a very damaging public attack.

Why do people always assume the worse of everybody these days before they have any evidence of malpractice? We see it all over - people jumping to conclusions. As has been said before Disney are investing over $1 billion in this. Their entire market model is predicated on creating a safe environment for families to have fun together. It is inconceivable that they have not considered all the issues prior to rolling the programme out.

And I'm sorry - but likening the response to something a cast member should or should not make is simply wrong. There's no comparison between a parent chewing out a cast member because their child is too short to ride Thunder Mountain and the attack from the congressman.

This just feels like more 'Disney is the new evil empire' stuff.....

From TH Creative on January 29, 2013 at 3:29 AM
I agree with Robert. If a CM had responded to a paying guest in this manner it would be inappropriate.

However, Mr. Iger afixed his signature on a letter to a member of Congress who may rightfully be accused of committing an act of self-promotion -- exploiting the popularity of a company to gain column inches featuring his name.

Sorry Mr. Niles, but responding to a resort guest vs. responding to a politician ... not really the same thing.

From Mark Kausch on January 29, 2013 at 5:17 AM
Well, here's the thing. I read the letter from Congressman Markey. He did not accuse Disney of anything. He merely asked questions. Period. As his job requires. For everyone here asking why he doesn't try to ferret out wrongdoings in Congress or look for some bigger fish to fry, there are at least an equal number applauding him for this "inquisition". And I bet I could pick out who does and doesn't have kids of those that have commented.
From Adam Wade on January 29, 2013 at 6:39 AM
Sorry Robert, think this is one of the times you are over-reacting.

Iger was not speaking to a guest, but a politician who read something on the Internet and tried to make a federal case out of nothing. As a citizen, I applaud Iger for this - our politicians waste too much time on things that, as Iger points out, five minutes of research would eliminate 95% of the questions.

And if you notice, what got Iger the most upset is what they were implying about Disney endangering children - when any parent who allows their child to sit at a computer alone is doing a much better job of than Disney could ever do with a bracelet your kid wears at a theme park.

Even in the comments here you have people making misinformed statements who haven't taken the time to understand the technologies used. Personality, I agree - it was a waste of a billion dollars. But all these unfounded privacy concerns are just people who have latched on to a few ideas who probably do things 1,000 times riskier to their privacy every day but are focused on this because its "Disney".

The one thing I wish people would understand is: NONE OF YOUR PERSONAL DATA IS ON THE WRISTBAND. It's a code. With a hardware token - basically, your KTTW card with EXTRA security. Sure, could someone who really wanted to (and had too much time on their hands) scan this code? Sure, but there is nothing they could do with it without the hardware token. Unlike if they stole your KTTW card (a lot easier than getting a bracelet off your wrist, and a lot easier to not notice for hours until you reach for the card again) where they actually could go do some immediate "damage".

I swear, people should spend this much time thinking about how their privacy is affected every day, not just when it's "sexy" because it's Disney. I work in financial security and I can tell you - there are far far riskier things people do every day that are actually dangerous.

Mail a check lately? It's an absurd experience these days, especially when people do it because they are scared of electronic payments. After your check has gone through dozens of hands at the post office (and those security envelopes are easily seen through these days with a scanner) it finally ends up at a "lockbox" center where people making minimum wage sit and open envelopes from dozens or even hundreds or thousands of companies, scan them into a computer which then - you guessed it! - electronically processes the payment. Hopefully your check then gets shredded, but a digital copy now lives out there and you just gave it a tour if a few dozen hands before it processed.

Now that is risky - yet I don't see many people or congressman asking questions about the safety and privacy concerns of mailing checks.

From Rob Pastor on January 29, 2013 at 9:04 AM
What happened to that early blitz of anonymous posters? Seems something may have been amiss (or coordinated).....I've done hundreds of labor/management arbitrations in the past. Generally when one side gets belligerant & surly, it seems to hurt their position. Better to remain professional and above the fray. Can't believe that Iger came across so harshly & unprofessional since the congressman's approach was very civil. Iger's type of response usually only inflames the other side, accelerates the argument and hardens the opposition stance. While the congressman's letter may ultimately be much ado about nothing, we don't have the legal acumen to judge the merits of the law in relation to what Disney may or may not do. The law often is more gray than black & white. That's why there are lengthy appeal processes. Its hard to believe that Disney legal & public relation departments advised this letter. But Iger is the boss, so I guess he did what he wanted to do. This new breed of corporate CEO's are like rock stars. They are paid much much more than previous CEO's, often seek out public attention instead of operating behind the scenes, and believe themselves to be invinceable.But ultimately everyone has a boss somewhere. In this case, boards of dirctors and the money & hedge funds that hold most of the stock. They can't be happy with this kind of negative publicity.
From Anon Mouse on January 29, 2013 at 3:41 PM
"Markey's party is in the minority in the House, so I doubt Iger's response will result in a subpoena and a forced appearance in front of hostile Congressional committee."

I'm surprised you took this position as it is a jumbo of contradictions.

Markey's party, the Democrats, is the minority in the House, but his party is the majority in the Senate.

Congressional committees are in both the House and Senate. Each have their own committees.

The Senate can certainly take up this issue if it wants since they are in the majority.

The House can take up this issue if the Republican chaired committees sees an opening to grill Iger. Believe me, the Republicans can exploit this situation to its advantage if it is in its interests. Remember, the Entertainment industry are not the natural allies of the Republicans.

The Democrats could defend Iger or Disney, but they will look after its own Congressmen first. That is how it works.

From Rob Pastor on January 29, 2013 at 4:23 PM
Anon: Good points. And if there was, by chance, something illegal in the implementation of the policy, the Justice Department could step in..... I think that the end result of this is that the final Disney My Magic+ implementation may be somewhat different than some in the corporate offices envisioned. Caution may ultimately override. The policy as stated throughout the Disney responses is a bit sketchy and will probably be refined in a manner that fully conforms with the law and guest expectations.
From E Ticket on January 29, 2013 at 5:34 PM
Anyone who uses a mobile phone or credit/debit card, who thinks that this wristband is any less secure than those devices and conveniences they already use daily, is kidding themselves.

Anyone who thinks that you have "privacy" in a public place, is kidding themselves.

I love when people say things like "I don't want anyone knowing my home address or phone number" when those things are publicly available in the phone book (and in the case of your address -- IN PUBLIC, on the front of your house).

From Anon Mouse on January 30, 2013 at 11:49 AM
I just read that Markey is thinking of running for Senator Kerry's old position in 2015. Kerry was just confirmed for Secretary of State. Imagine the problems Disney can encounter when Markey goes to the Senate.
From N B on January 30, 2013 at 5:16 PM
Robert, I don't know the first thing about Iger, and I don't care to learn, but, could you have chosen a better photo to make him appear like a sniveling little weasel? I think not.

I am aggravated with Disney just based on that picture alone. :)

From Rob Pastor on January 30, 2013 at 5:44 PM
NB: Good point on the sniffling little weasel. I'm still laughing.
From Tom Cunningham on January 31, 2013 at 10:00 AM
I think that everyone is missing the point of what is happening

Disney is using RFID technology to monitor the behavior and likes of children !!!

They want to find out what your child likes in order to replace your children with exact replicas based on the animatronic technology they have been working on for years yes its all been part of a grand plan.

In 1989 a Mickey Mouse animatronic gained consiousness and has since been working on replacing Humans with animatronic replicas !!!!!!!!!!

The animatronic replacement children are built to suddenly announce that they cannot wait to return to a Disney themepark and will become a fan of all things Disney. They will force their parents to spend crazy amouts of money on all things Disney and fight to defend Disney against all who would question the brand.

If you dont believe me earlier animatronic people replacements have been put to work on sites such as this one in order to defend all things Disney.

The earlier technology was not quite as good as it is now and in order to remain hidden they normally start their posts with "I am a fan of themeparks or I love all theme parks" before bashing Universal etc ;)

The Child replacement normally takes place in either A Small World or Spaceship Earth where parents pass out(Nod off) for a few moments during which time their child is replaced.

The Children are then mind-wiped and used by Disney for character meet and greets !!!! (where did you think all the old characters were coming from at the parks?)

Iv done my best Iv tried to warn you all. But you wont believe me until its to late the last sign will be when John Carter becomes the most downloaded movie of 2013.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED

Ps if people use RFID their houses wont be broken into, their hotel rooms wont be robbed.Their children actually wont be abducted by master mind criminals breaking into Disney records,If they are burgeled while at Disney it will most likely be because the local thief noticed their house was empty or because they themselves spent the last six months posting on Facebook and telling everyone who would listen that they were GOIN TO Disney World. Seriously RFID is coming and just like Cell Phones, Micro Waves,the home computer its a new technology and it will be the norm in five years time an everyone will wonder what all the Hysteria was about

From Rob Pastor on January 31, 2013 at 12:35 PM
Tom: Definately one of the most humorous articles recently posted on TPI.
From Tom Cunningham on February 1, 2013 at 7:42 AM
Thanks Rob I think we sometimes loose track of the notion that themeparks are about having fun
From Rob Pastor on February 1, 2013 at 8:01 AM
Yes, we often get a little too serious.

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