Lost Items, Overcharges, Subpar Experiences: Disney World Earns “F” Rating From the Better Business Bureau

castle and f
Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

Despite the revelry, excitement, and ongoing celebrations commemorating the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company, at least one authority in the business world has given part of Walt’s empire a big, fat thumbs down.

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John Hench and Walt Disney with a model of Disneyland

John Hench and Walt Disney discuss plans for Disneyland/Credit: Walt Disney Archives

The Walt Disney Company officially turned 100 years old on October 16, marking the 100th anniversary of the creation of the company, first known as the Disney Bros. Studios, by none other than Walt Disney and his older brother Roy O. Disney. But despite the Disney Company’s staying power as an organization first incepted in 1923 and still in operation today, one authority in the business world isn’t awarding Disney any points for its longevity.

Walt began his company in 1923, but the parks division of the company had its beginnings in 1955, with the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California, meaning that the division is only 68 years old.

walt disney at sleeping beauty castle during construction of Disneyland

Credit: Walt Disney Archives

Disney World was the second theme park resort to be built and operated by The Walt Disney Company. In October 1971, Disney welcomed the very first guests to Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort, which was constructed atop a massive tract of swampland, no doubt teeming with snakes, alligators, and other less-than-welcome inhabitants of the formerly marshy and humid environment.

And though Walt’s untimely death meant the great visionary would never see his beloved “Florida Project” come to fruition, his loyal and devoted team of Imagineers pressed on in creating Disney World, using as their guidance the wisdom of Walt’s brother, Roy.

Walt Disney World Resort Opens - D23

Opening Day at Disney World/Credit: D23

An Entity Focused on Making the Marketplace a Better Place

But despite Disney World’s more than 50-year livelihood in the state of Florida, another prominent member of the business community that has stood the test of time is awarding no blue ribbons for longevity.

Cinderella Castle

Credit: Flickr/Brian McGowan

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) was incepted in 1912 and is a 501(c)(6) non-profit organization that focuses its efforts on “advancing marketplace trust.” The organization’s goal is to work to make the marketplace a better place to conduct business–for businesses and consumers alike. While the BBB refrains from making recommendations about or endorsing any business, product, or service in an effort to avoid bias, the organization does advocate in the interest of business in general.

Contrary to what many believe, the Better Business Bureau has no governmental affiliation. Businesses are not required to affiliate with the BBB, and those that choose to affiliate with the organization and keep to its standards of practice do so by self-regulation.

The Bureau’s Rating System

The BBB’s rating system uses a letter-grade scale. Businesses are awarded points (or have points deducted) based on their complaint history with the BBB, the type of business they are and the time they’ve been in business, whether they conduct transparent business practices, whether the business has failed to honor its commitments with the BBB, licensing and government actions taken against the business, and whether the business has advertising issues known to the BBB.

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Credit: Better Business Bureau

Points are then added to determine the letter grade awarded to the business, with a grade of A+ being the highest and a grade of F being the lowest. The letter grades represent the Better Business Bureau’s “degree of confidence that the business is operating in good faith and will resolve customer concerns filed with the BBB.”

Walt Disney World Earns a Failing Grade

According to its official website, the Better Business Bureau has awarded the Walt Disney World Resort a failing grade of F.

disney world magic kingdom cinderella castle during daytime with visitors standing in front of castle

Credit: Becky Burkett

The BBB reports that in the last three years, 358 complaints filed with the bureau against Disney World were closed–85 of them in the last 12 months. The bureau explains two reasons for Disney World’s failing grade:

  • Failure to respond to 59 complaints filed against Disney World
  • 44 complaints filed against Disney World that were not resolved

The bureau’s website details hundreds of complaints made by guests who visited the Central Florida parks. While some of the complaints were addressed by Disney World and handled to the guest’s satisfaction, there are multiple incidences in which the opposite is true.

Spotlight on Guest Relations - Life at Disney

Credit: Disney Parks

In several instances, the BBB reportedly contacted Disney World on behalf of a guest and received confirmation from Guest Services that the guest’s “concerns were appropriately addressed,” though the guests involved in those complaints responded, saying their issues were, in fact, not addressed or settled.

The complaints range from being doubled-charged for items purchased at booths during the EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival and special requests at Disney World Resort hotels not being fulfilled to items left behind in the safe in a resort hotel room not being returned, and the list goes on and on.

walt disney world resort hotel the swan and dolphin at night

Credit: Disney

You can read the complaints and Disney World’s responses here.

Per the BBB website, the bureau “sees trust as a function of two primary factors – integrity and performance. Integrity includes respect, ethics, intent, and working toward a diverse, inclusive, and equitable marketplace.” Further, the BBB states that “performance speaks to a business’s track record of delivering results in accordance with BBB standards and/or addressing customer concerns in a timely, satisfactory manner.”

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!