Progress City – A Response

I enjoy reading Michael Crawford’s PROGRESS CITY, USA blog – it offers well-researched, well-written commentary and analysis of the history of Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and other aspects of the Walt Disney Corporation.   If you’re a Disney theme park fan, you will be well served by bookmarking the site and reading the updates as they come in.

I do want to respond to one paragraph written in the most recent posting, TEN WISHES FOR THE NEW YEAR, #9.   In it, Michael says…

“What’s more unsettling are the areas in which the rest of the industry has not only caught up with Disney but surpassed them. These days, pretty much any run-of-the-mill chain motel has free wi-fi, or at least internet service. Not only does internet access at Disney require calling room service for an Ethernet cable, but using the service costs the guest ten dollars per room, per day. This blatant price gouge puts Disney not only behind its high-end competition, but also far behind even its most lowly lodging competitors. It might seem like small potatoes, but considered in the light of the resort’s once-unparalleled level of service it looks shabby at best.”




I do agree with the sentiment being expressed in the overall article, in that there appears to be a small decline in the amount of service at the Disney hotels when compared to the service level offered in years past.  However, to point out the Internet pricing on the Disney property as an example of a service decline is, I feel, misguided.

A few examples:

  • For all the Internet-enabled hotel rooms I have ever stayed in, I have never had to call room service for an ethernet cable.  Aside from the fact that I travel with one as a matter of practicality, if a cable is missing from a hotel room then it is an oversight on the hotel staff to replace it rather than a problem inherent in the way Disney runs their hotels versus other hotel companies.
  • While Courtyard by Marriott does offer free Internet in all their rooms, the full-service Marriott hotels do not.  I find this odd, as one would expect this to be the reverse, but in the Marriott brand, Courtyard is the chain that caters to the business traveller. Theme park resort hotels, on the whole, do not.
  • Other high-end hotels differ in their Internet pricing policy: resort hotels in Las Vegas all charge a daily usage fee.  The Hilton at Downtown Disney charges a daily fee.  One hotel I stayed at in California charged for in-room access, but Wi-Fi in the lobby was free…albeit significantly slower.  On the other hand, the Gaylord Palms does not charge at all.

The point is that charging $10/day is not unusual in the industry and is a reasonable price point. I have seen access charges as high as $20/day.  To call Disney’s Internet Service Fee a “blatant price gouge” is misguided and inaccurate.

Here is where I try to offer a specific example that could be used to support the price gouging argument: the last time I stayed at the Dolphin, there was free Internet available in the rooms.  Unfortunately, because the Swan and Dolphin resorts are not managed by Disney, this is more of an aside than anything else.

Their policy changed in March 2008 when the Swan and Dolphin hotels also began charging $10/day.  One wonders what the reasoning behind this switch would be, as the hotels were not charging guests, and now they are.  This could be due to a switch from providing the access in-house to using a third-party provider; it could be due to bringing pricing in line with other hotels on-and-off the Disney property or elsewhere in the chain; it could be due to economic conditions…or any number of real cost reasons.

In any case, I do not feel Disney is out of line with their Internet Usage Fee when compared to their competitors. At $10/day, it certainly isn’t price gouging. 

Would I like Internet access to be free?  Sure – who wouldn’t?  But I would rather pay the occasional $10 for a day of Internet access when I am travelling instead of having the room charges hiked by $10/day across the board whether I need the access or not.  I’m sure other guests who do not require the Internet on a daily basis would agree with the call for keeping room prices lower as well.