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Robert Niles

Theme park cast member stories: The end-of-the-season shopping spree

Published: October 5, 2009 at 9:21 AM

When I worked merchandise at the old Mickey's Mart in Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland back in the late 1980s, those of us who worked seasonally all celebrated our final shift of the summer the same way.

We went shopping.

Ringing up customers all summer long, you develop strong opinions on just about everything sold at your shop. You know the T-shirts you like, and the ones that you hate. You smile extra wide at the people buying the cool plush and keychains, and force a grin at the ones taking home the lame stuff. All the time, you're building a mental list of the items that you most wish you could have.

So... on your final shift of the season (which is the final evening you'd have that sweet employee discounts, if the lead snagged your ID at check-out)... you get them.

Since I went to college at Northwestern, which started its school year in mid-September, I was among the last to leave for the season. So I got to see dozens of my co-workers do this. The process was always the same. Whoever was leaving after that night would squirrel away a pile of their favorite items during their break. Some people set aside a shirt and a keychain. Others cleaned out entire shelves.

Then, at the end of the shift, another cast member would ring them up and check them out. Most would leave the tunnels that night loaded down with multiple Walt Disney World shopping bags, but much lighter in the purse or wallet.

Yeah, it was an expensive way to finish the summer. (Even more expensive that getting loaded at Jungle Jim's. Heck, with drinking, after a while you become too incapacitated to spend any more. That doesn't happen with shopping.) But how could you walk away without that 15-Year commemorative sweatshirt you'd been admiring all summer long? Or that cool Lucite keychain you'd been wanting in your pocket? Or the ridiculous, multicolored 6-inch lollipop you'd all been joking about for two months?

Yeah, looking back, I guess that working merchandise can make you crazy about that sort of thing.

So what did I buy? The sweatshirt, the keychain, the lollipop and a few other things, I guess. To be honest, I can't really remember. After all, 20 years later, I no longer have anything I bought that summer. And I never went on any shopping sprees when I finished the summer working in attractions.

Was this just a Mickey's Mart thing, or do other theme park merchandise employees do the same? Any current or former souvenir shop workers care to share a story?

Update: Whoops. Forgot the link to the cast member stories archive.

Replies (5)

Published: October 5, 2009 at 9:53 AM

I didn't work in merchandise, but after my program working at Splash Mountain, we all raided the Splashdown gift shop for all of the ride-related merchandise. I stayed seasonal, and every time I headed down for a New Year's reunion with the other CPs I met down there, we'd visit the store again and pick up any new merchandise that we hadn't seen the previous year. I've spent more money buying assorted Disney collectibles over the last few years than I care to think about...
Anthony Murphy

Published: October 5, 2009 at 11:10 AM

I totally do that at the Disney Store, but usually at the end of the month when the stuff goes on sale.
Corbin Barker

Published: October 5, 2009 at 12:36 PM

I did that my last CP...kinda. I worked attractions and from the time i got there to Feb. 14th, the merchandise discount was 40% instead of the 20%, so the night of the 14th Downtown Disney was full of CPs and other cast members loading up on gear (mostly pins)
Anthony Murphy

Published: October 5, 2009 at 1:40 PM

I also tend to go to town on the pins at Company D whenever I go down there.

Happy 10th, Pin Trading!

Published: October 5, 2009 at 9:11 PM

I've got two Everest t-shirts I hardly ever wear...

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