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Two of my favorite things are Disney and discounts. (Yep, I live a life of non-stop thrills and excitement!) It should thus be no surprise that, when emails land in my inbox with subject lines advertising a, “Special Offer for the Bricker Family,” they move to the top of my email queue and are immediately opened. I’ve written about these targeted offers here before, which are known as Pin Codes in the Disney vernacular. However, when I saw a new type of offer for the Fall off-peak season yesterday, I was especially intrigued.
Here are the details of this offer:
Lower Price: Stay at our choice of a Disney Value or a select Disney Moderate Resort hotel for just $67* per night, plus tax!
With this special low rate:
• We choose the hotel and room type and you’ll find out what it is after booking and paying in full
• Full payment is required at time of booking and payment is nonrefundable
• No cancellations or modifications are allowed after payment
Based upon the above, it appears that Disney is trying its hand at a Hotwire.com or Priceline.com style room lottery system, where you receive a greater discount by offering greater flexibility in where you’re willing to stay and by paying up-front without the ability to cancel. Especially intriguing is that Disney is employing A/B testing with this deal, offering slight variants of the deal (such as removing the possibility of receiving a Moderate from one variation of the deal). This is undoubtedly being done to test whether such a “room lottery” appeals to past Disney guests, and whether it might be successful with the general public.
Given that the current Pin Code room-only discount for a Value Resort is $91/night, even if guests are to get “stuck” with a Value Resort through this offer, they’re still getting a fairly good deal. Although I doubt $91/night will be the top discount for Value Resorts during this period, $67/night is not bad, and falls in line with Fall Value Resort discounts from past years. Assuming, for the sake of discussion, that $67/night is a fair room-only rate for a Value Resort during this time period, you are essentially trading the pre-paid and non-refundable elements of the discount for the possibility of snagging one of those elusive Moderate Resorts!
Thus, the question becomes, is there sufficient upside to that trade-off? For myself, and for most people reading this blog (read: Disney Nuts), I think there is. Obviously there is the attendant risk in having to pay up-front and not being able to take the trip for whatever reason, but many of us take this risk frequently with those other booking engines, anyway. Additionally, for the obsessive planners among us who want total control over their vacations, and I’m guessing a lot of readers here are like that given the nature of this site, this offer may simply force us to sacrifice too much planning control to Disney. The great benefit, though, is that stated above: we get a deeper discount and the possibility of landing a higher tier room for the discounted price of a Value!
That said, I could see some issues with this deal were it released to the general public. I think this untrodden soil onto which Disney is stepping might be dangerous for it from the perspective that it cheapens its product (as if the constant barrage of deep discounts haven’t already done that–okay, maybe this isn’t much of an issue at all). More importantly, I think it might create expectations in the minds of guests that Disney is unable to satisfy. While Disney clearly indicates that the room will be in either a Value or Moderate Resort, at Disney’s election, I have little doubt that many guests will be disappointed when they find out that Disney has chosen a Value Resort for them. A great portion of Disney’s success is predicated upon the general public’s incredible guest satisfaction numbers, and if Disney disappoints guests at the outset by informing them that they’re getting the “lesser” resort, that could set the tone for their vacation. This does not jive with Disney’s mantra of exceeding expectations, as it would create the opportunity for Disney to easily fail to meet guest expectations.
Conversely, Disney has the opportunity to use this system to increase guest satisfaction with the general public by moving as many guests to Moderate Resorts as possible, thereby starting their vacation out with a ‘bang’ as they find themselves landing a resort in which they might not otherwise stay, for over 67% off the normal rack rate! If Disney ends up using the discount in this manner, to fill the moderates as close to capacity as possible, this discount could be a huge victory for guest satisfaction. I’m not a hospitality management expert, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, but I think this might also be good for Disney in that it could close down portions of certain resorts during slow booking seasons to save on expenses (or for refurbishments). I have no clue if this is actually feasible or would result in a savings, so I won’t file this as one of the “official” benefits of the discount. (Oh yes, by virtue of being in this blog post, it becomes official!)
As I always geek out when contemplating the psychology of discounting, I found this new offer really fascinating as it could be a huge victory for Disney and guests alike if executed carefully. If you didn’t like this post, and you wondered how I just rambled on for over 1,000 words about a three sentence discount, I apologize (although in my defense, it’s not like I pretended at the outset that the article was going to be about Concierge Level at the Polynesian or something else more “interesting”!).
For those of you who do find this new type of discount fascinating, what do you think? Is this something you would or would not book if you had the opportunity? Do you think Disney is heading into dangerous territory playing the resort “lotto” game, or is this a great new discount that guests will embrace like they’ve embraced Priceline and Hotwire? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments!