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David Koenig
David's Ear-Mailbag Week of July 9, 2002

Reaction to "Pesky Passholders" was swift and loud...

Pesky Passholders

Stanley writes:

It sounds both odd and strange for Disney workers to dislike annual passholders. It should be a compliment to Disneyland Resort that people want to make return visits. This attitude is appalling.

Bryant "MegaDisney" McVey fumes:

I was infuriated at the comments some of the cast members made in your recent article. As a premium annual passholder, I was deeply offended at their comments.

Do they realize I not only spent $199 for the pass ($299 last year), but I regularly drop $100 on dinner at Granvilles? In a typical bimonthly visit spend well over 100 on merchandise? Regularly eat at Blue Bayou, Avalon Cove, Soap Opera Bistro, Hook's Point, Ralph Brennan's and PCH Grill?

Pesky Passholders

I never see Fantasmic without plunking down $50 for Gallery seating. I spend a heck of a lot of money on adult beverages at the Lost and Cove Bars. Have enjoyed the Blast! dinner package. Regularly defend the resort and talk it up to co-workers, friends and family? Even occasionally stay at one of the resort hotels (I am an out-of-state AP).

As far as complaining, I have never complained, unless it was warranted, and I have sent many, many letters to Disneyland Resort praising specific cast members, of whom there are many.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you....

Fellow premium passholder Naomi Weeks adds:

I just finished reading your article about APs and was not at all surprised at the comments of the cast members. These are probably the same cast members that act as if they are gracing us with their presence. As someone who has attended Disneyland at least four times a year since it opened, I can tell you that the quality of young employees has dropped dramatically since the 1950s and '60s. Many of them are too busy chatting with each other to notice what's going on around them.

This is not to say we passholders are being unfairly judged, but there is certainly a problem with some of the cast members attitudes as well. A rude or surly attitude from either side can trigger a bad response from the other side.

Personally, my husband and I always try to thank the cast members and smile, even if the cast member doesn't. I know this sounds sappy, but this is supposed to be "the happiest place on earth." Perhaps, with a little effort from both sides, it could be.

Chaikovsky counters:

I unfortunately agree with a lot of cast members. So many APs do walk around the park as if they are entitled to do what they please. It's very disconcerting to have these people be loud and rude to everyone, not just cast members.

I for one do get treated very well by cast members -- but I don't flash my AP card all the time. When I do it's just part of the transaction -- and sometimes even a "Welcome back" or a comment on an upcoming event or park special merchandise.

John, aka "ParrotHead," speaks:

Regarding your recent item about annual passholders and the disdain some cast members have for them... Boy, was that disappointing to read!

I can't argue against the fact that APs often hold Disney to a higher standard than most ordinary guests do. But I would argue that this standard is no higher than that Disney should hold ITSELF to, and the standard Disney held itself to in days gone by.

It should be remembered that APs are often The Walt Disney Company's best customers. We visit the parks several times throughout the year. For me (living about four hours away from Walt Disney World), that means staying in a hotel for a couple of nights -- almost always a Disney-owned resort. And, of course, we generally buy Disney food and merchandise each trip.

But outside of the parks, APs continue to be good customers. Many, like me, make a point of seeing every movie Disney releases. We buy DVDs to add to our Disney collections. We buy books from Hyperion. We buy clothes, collectibles, and other merchandise on a regular basis. We help spread the Magic by doing things like promoting the Company to our friends and helping them plan vacations at Disney theme parks. Many of us are stockholders as well.

So kudos to Disney for recognizing what valuable customers APs are as a group. Cast members who don't see the value of APs need to wise up to the fact that if it weren't for them, they would probably be out of work (this is particularly true in California). It sounds like management recognizes the importance of APs to the company. Hopefully that wisdom will filter down to the front-line cast members you quote in your article.

Although the problem is more acute at Disneyland (since it boasts hundreds of thousands of more APs), Disney World has a few pips of its own.

Pesky Passholders

Neil Kelly shares:

After reading the article dealing with obnoxious Disneyland annual passholders I wanted to share a story with you about one of their Walt Disney World counterparts.

My wife and I live in New York and became WDW annual passholders this year. We made a trip to WDW in late April and on one particularly hot afternoon we decided to explore the passholder's lounge at Epcot. Since this was our first visit to the lounge, one of the cast Members gave us a brief tour. With its comfy chairs, free refreshments and quiet atmosphere the lounge was a wonderful place to relax and recharge our batteries.

Unfortunately our respite was short-lived. About five minutes into our visit the calm of the lounge was broken by the invasion of a group led by a loud, abrasive woman. Shouting across the lounge to her friends, the woman declared that she was going to make everyone her famous "mocha-coca-frappuccino." She started to mix the free hot chocolate, coffee and Coca-Cola, spilling ingredients everywhere and leaving the refreshment bar a filthy mess. She then yelled for a cast member to bring her ice. When no one responded (they had all wisely retreated to the front desk), she began opening doors into restricted areas and shouting for service. At this point my wife and I decided to take our chances with the mad dogs and Englishmen out in the midday sun.

This woman's behavior was atrocious and embarrassing. Thankfully people like her represent a very small percentage of the guests at WDW. I understand that a trip to WDW is not cheap and that we expect a certain level of service for our money. However, a park pass is not a free pass to abandon your civility and accountability. Just because someone else cleans up after you doesn't mean you have to leave a mess. Cast members are not servants at our beck and call. They are people who do an extraordinary job under often difficult conditions. I hope people like my "friend" at the lounge will remember that when they visit.

In closing, I just want to say that my wife and I have made 10 trips to WDW since our honeymoon in 1994 (number 11 is coming up in November). We have stayed on property each time and every trip has been wonderful. We have never been disappointed with any facet of our stay. That's why we keep coming back. Thanks to everyone at WDW.

Bob Andrews writes:

We are WDW fanatics from New York, and bought our first APs in April. We always go for two weeks in February. This year, we decided to go back in April for a week! We are planning for a week in October, then our usual February trip, so APs made sense financially.

I was shocked to read about cast members hating AP holders! I assumed we would be treated specially due to the APs... and we were (i.e., PH lounge at Epcot, access to any park, and DTD anytime, etc.), but I never thought about local APers!

I hope cast members will realize that us non-locals pay BIG $$$ for our APs because we love Disney so much, and that not all of us are jerks (I've sure seen them also!).

After reading your report, I will now be just a little "paranoid" about letting cast members know we have APs!

It's not that EVERY cast member hates EVERY annual passholder. It's just a general opinion most cast members have about some passholders who wave their pass around as if it entitles them special treatment or is a permission slip for being obnoxious. They're the small minority who give the rest of us APs a bad name.

Bob responds:

I can see how some might think they own the place. We have witnessed such people. This year a woman at the Magic Kingdom was telling her little ones to "just say excuse me" coming out of Space Mountain. We were on the belt behind a solid crowd. When I told her there was no room to get through, she grinned and said she was "getting sick." It was obvious she wasn't, and when I called her on it, she turned, got in my face, and just lost it (obscenities, etc.) right in front of everyone, including all the kids!

It was close to closing time, and she was just trying to get in as many rides as she could -- even if that meant pushing by people and lying! Can't believe she was teaching her kids that...

A Disneyland employee offers:

As a long-time cast member, your article on our "APs" was right on target. Keep up the good work.

Debbie Smith says:

I just felt that I had to write a response regarding cast members not treating APs well. My husband and I just took our first trip to Disney World last November and because of our length of stay, it was less expensive to buy APs.

Pesky Passholders

When we went to redeem the vouchers for the actual passes at Epcot, the woman helping us couldn't have been nicer. The first time we tried to enter the park and I put my pass in incorrectly, the person at the gate also was very helpful and friendly.

Maybe they had a different opinion than they shared with my husband and I, but that's okay. As long as they are treating each and every guest courteously, what they think of us behind our backs shouldn't matter.

I just wanted to let you know I had a very positive experience with the cast members in Florida.

Lisa Edwards writes:

I always enjoy reading your column, and was particularly struck by your article today surrounding the negativity that Disneyland cast members hold toward annual passholders. I was genuinely shocked to read how lowly APs seem to be in cast members' eyes.

Our family has held annual passes for a number of years, even though we live in the Seattle area, and generally only get a chance to visit Southern California two or three times per year. Doing the math, you'll see that we are not really saving any money by holding annual passes versus buying single entry tickets.

However, the way we see it, we are sort of making an investment into the parks; even if we do not recoup our annual pass fee, we are guaranteeing the existence and maintenance of the parks. I guess that's somewhat debatable, given the condition of some areas and attractions, but at least we feel we are "doing our part" to keep the parks open and available to everyone. In any case, we see our annual pass subscription payments as unlimited admission fees or membership fees, similar to what you might pay at some sort of club.

As APs, we certainly do not expect any special treatment, attention, or perks. I don't think cast members should treat any guest better or worse than any other guest, regardless of how they got in (discount, complimentary guest, AP, whatever). All guests should be treated with respect and consideration, unless they become unreasonable or violent in some way.

Conversely, APs should not be walking around Disneyland with their noses up in the air expecting dignitary-type treatment. At most, if they are frequent visitors and notice problems with the park, they should go to City Hall like everyone else. You're correct in noting that there are now hundreds of thousands of APs (I think Al or someone recently mentioned an estimate of 400,000 to 450,000), and offering special areas or events for them is likely unreasonably impossible. APs should be grateful to receive some of the dining and merchandise discounts that they do receive, and also to be able to go to Disneyland and experience the special place that it is any time they'd like.

Anyway, I'd be curious to hear what other APs think -- do many of them feel like they are "better" than the average tourist or single-day ticketholder?

And, Shon Christy writes:

Regarding the notes about APs and the way they are treated. Being an annual passholder, and I hope a responsible one, I make a plea to other passholders to please be responsible as well. I can understand how some cast members would resent the attitude of superiority exhibited by ANY guest who felt they had privilege. I almost refuse to point out the fact to cast members that I hold an AP, except when it comes to a discount.

To be honest, it really shouldn't matter if you hold an AP or if you just bought a ticket at the gate. We are all in the parks for the same reason: to be a part of the magic! Just because you hold an AP and get a few perks does not mean that you "own" the park and should be treated like Walt himself. Now I'm not saying that if you hold an AP you shouldn't use it, but please don't flash it around and use it like it was a declaration from Walt himself.

Finally, I must say that I have never experienced any rude behavior toward me from cast members because I hold an AP. That is probably in large part due to the fact that I don't do as mentioned above. I use my AP for merchandise and food discounts, I take advantage of the little perks I can get, and occasionally I ask if there is anything "extra" available to me. If the answer is "no" then so be it. My experience at the parks is none the worse. In fact, I think I get treated better for being polite. Bottom line, don't be an jerk and you won't be treated like one.

I agree absolutely.

I don't think cast members dislike annual passholders on the whole, or think poorly of someone just because they're an AP. I think they've all just heard too many people complaining who say, "You know, I AM an AP!" As if to say, "You know I pay your salary; you work for me!" or "I'm more equal than everybody else!"

Years ago, I worked as a waiter where, like at most restaurants, a small percentage of the clientele were regulars who came in once or more a week. Most of them were extra-nice, in part because they got to know the staff personally. But some could also be more demanding because they knew their cumulative business was more important to the restaurant than that of a one-time visitor. Some APs are like that; but they forget that there are 450,000 other people with the same credentials.

Send your comments to David here.

Pesky Passholders


David Koenig is the senior editor of the 80-year-old business journal, The Merchant Magazine.

After receiving his degree in journalism from California State University, Fullerton (aka Cal State Disneyland), he began years of research for his first book, Mouse Tales: A Behind-the-Ears Look at Disneyland (1994), which he followed with Mouse Under Glass: Secrets of Disney Animation & Theme Parks (1997, revised 2001) and More Mouse Tales: A Closer Peek Backstage at Disneyland (1999); all titles published by Bonaventure Press.

He lives in Aliso Viejo, California, with his lovely wife, Laura, their wonderful son, Zachary, and their adorable daughter, Rebecca.

You can contact David here.


Click here to go to David's main page for a list of archived articles.

Visit MouseShoppe to purchase copies of David's books. (Clicking on the link opens a new window.)


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