Stand and Deliver: Effective Techniques for Vacation Complaints and Conflict Resolution

It’s inevitable. No matter how much research and planning you put into your Disney vacation (and in some cases, because of it), something’s going to happen that is completely out of your control. Disney transportation is running late. An attraction breaks down. There is a technical glitch with your ADRs or FP+ reservations. Instead of screaming at the World about how much this vacation has cost or how your vacation is ruined, try some simple, effective complaint techniques for mediation and conflict resolution. You could be the factor that turns a negative situation into a positive one.

First a few don’ts:

angry donald

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Don’t wait. The time to complain and seek resolution is while you’re still in the parks, soon after the issue has occurred. Waiting until the end of the day, or when a shift has changed, or until you are home, can not only ruin the rest of your vacation. It can also prevent a cast member the chance to take immediate restorative action. Your churro isn’t hot and crispy? Return immediately to a vendor to get a fresh one.

Don’t let your emotions take over. Granted, it is difficult to stifle anger and frustration. But such an attack will likely arouse defensive actions by the cast member rather than empathy and help. Be calm, polite, direct, and firm. Don’t scream at the cast member while waving the churro threateningly.

Don’t launch into a laundry list of things that have gone wrong, or things that bug you, or general annoyances. After hearing just a few, most people will stop listening. Don’t add to your churro complaint that you’ve endured long waits for the resort buses, or that you couldn’t get your ADRs, or that they’ve sold out of the collectible popcorn bucket you covet.

Don’t claim to be a special person under special circumstances. Everyone likes to feel special. Claiming that you are more special could be alienating and result in being treated anything but special. Besides, we all know that everyone at a Disney park is either a pretty princess or dashing hero, anyhow. You are not a victim because you received a heinous churro.

Now, a few dos:

happy donald

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Do know what you are complaining about. Be specific about the details of the incident, including the time, the place, the circumstances, including any cast members involved. Be specific and honest about your actions, as well. Relate all the horrifying details of buying the terrible churro.

Do think of your complaint as a critique rather than as a reprimand. If you can identify a problem that could be fixed, and therefore be avoided in the future, that message might be received more positively and easily. Ask if there’s any particular policy for keeping the churros fresh and crispy. Suggest that there could be.

Do be realistic about your expected outcome. Have an ideal, realistic resolution in mind, and voice it. You cannot get FastPasses to see Anna and Elsa because of the terrible churro.

Do identify the person who has the power to remedy the situation, and then speak to that person. Do not just shout to everyone within earshot. You will quickly be surrounded by enemies. Just ask the churro vendor for a new churro.

Do admit if you are part of the problem. You can gain a lot of credibility and empathy by starting with “I think I’ve messed up my FastPasses…can you help?” rather than “FP+ sucks!” (This comes from personal experience.) If you rode Splash Mountain with the churro, admit it.

Do use the “sandwich” approach. Start by saying something positive (a compliment), then your criticism/complaint, then finish with an encouraging statement. “I really love Disney churros. They are my favourite snack. However, this churro is terrible. It would be awesome if you could replace it for me.”

Do pay attention to your body language and position. Your body position can instill tension in your conversation, and therefore block any resolution. Align yourself with your conversation partner (face the person, be open…) to build rapport. Again, don’t waggle your churro in a confrontational manner.

These tips and techniques are not guaranteed to solve all of your vacation problems. Sometimes, things are beyond your scope and control. At these times, patience is important. But if you do use some of these techniques, there’s a good chance that your issue/conflict will resolve quickly, uneventfully, and satisfactorily to all involved parties. As they say, you get more flies with honey than with vinegar. Or for this group…more crispy churros!


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