Monday, March 30, 2015

Disney is Southernizing the World One Smile at a Time

Sam and I went down to Orlando, FL a few weeks ago for Braves spring training. Nothing beats a visit to a big, congested city to make me appreciate living in Tassanoxie. 
It’s a comfort knowing I don’t have to battle traffic in ten lanes going at rocket speed when I go to the grocery store. 

Now the Braves play in ESPN’s Wide World of Sports stadium. Since Disney owns the franchise (along with about every other media outlet), all the employees (about 60,000 folks in Orlando work for Disney) at the stadium have been through the Disney employee training. From what I gathered, the most important thing these guys learn is to make the customers happy they came to Disney.

To do that, the employees smile and greet you as if they’re happy you’re there. Which of course they should be since you’re paying their salaries. But it sure makes a visit to any Disney franchise feel like home. As we all know, some employees can be downright unpleasant to customers. These types are NOT happy to see customers.

With Florida situated in the South, smiles from strangers shouldn't have to be taught, but the truth is, folks from colder climates have been migrating there for the past 100+ years seeking warmth. Gradually, Florida became a retiree mecca. Since these weren’t native Southerners, the habit of smiling and being friendly got diluted. Many of the transplants weren’t used to speaking to strangers, much less smiling at them.

Disney to the rescue. As Disney grew, it needed workers and lots of retirees wanted to do something besides twiddle their thumbs. Retirees and Disney made a good fit. Of course, in order to work for Disney they all have to undergo specialized training on the traits of a good Disney employee. Like learning how to smile and be friendly to strangers.

And I bet my bottom dollar, it’s added years to the lives of those retirees. No telling how many grumpy people have benefitted from working for Disney. Not only in Florida but across the world since Disney has several other entertainment centers. At each one, they’re training folks to smile and talk to strangers, 

It gave me hope for the future.

It made me think how great it would be if Disney opened a place in the Middle East. And held lots of employee training sessions. Maybe friendly smiles and being nice to strangers would catch on there and reduce the chaos.