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Robert Niles
Editor

Theme park cast member stories: An unexpected gift

Published: April 11, 2010 at 11:43 PM

If you pressed me to name my favorite perk I earned working at Walt Disney World, I'd have to say... the free tickets. When I worked full-time at the Mouse House, I had a pass that I could use to sign in a certain number of family and friends 12 times a year. But even working seasonally, Disney issued us free tickets twice a year - around Christmas and the Fourth of July.

As a single person with no kids (back then), I got two tickets each time. But these were no ordinary free tickets. They were one-day park-hoppers, then unavailable to the general public. And not only were they good at all the Walt Disney World theme parks, they were good at Disneyland, as well. (Which prompted just about everyone to wonder if we could run around to all the Disney World parks in the morning, drive to Orlando International, hop a flight to LA and bag Disneyland the same day, on the same ticket. Of course, we figured, anyone who could afford the plane ticket probably could have afforded their own Disney tickets anyway.)

I hoarded these tickets, amassing a decent pile over the summer and winter holidays I worked while in college and graduate school. They came in handy for a broke journalism graduate student, too, as they made excellent wedding presents for the many friends who got hitched when I was in my mid-20s and had no extra cash to buy decent presents.

But one of my fellow cast members didn't wait to make a gift of her tickets. She was in school, too, and had collected quite a few free tickets as she'd been working at Disney since high school. After our shifts had ended in the Magic Kingdom one July day, we'd ridden the monorail over to Epcot for a cast-discount dinner at Epcot's Le Cellier Restaurant. (This was back in the days before Priority Seating, when it was possible to get a table at Le Cellier without weeks of advance notice.)

On our way back, she'd struck up a conversation with a couple of kids about their day at Disney. They were having a great time, and were gushing to my co-worker about everything they'd seen. After a few moments, they started pestering their mother if they could stay another day.

"No, kids," the mother explained patiently. "Our tickets are up today, and we're going to go to the beach tomorrow."

As she said this, I saw my co-worker reach into her purse. She pulled out the free tickets she'd just gotten and - to my shock - handed them over to the mom.

"I work in the Magic Kingdom," my co-worker explained. "And Disney gives us free tickets every now and then. I don't need them - I can get into the park for free whenever I want - and it seems like your kids are having such a good time. Here - I want you to have them."

The mother looked stunned. "No, I..." was all she could get out.

"I insist," my co-worker said, as the kids squealed.

The monorail arrived at the Magic Kingdom, and my co-worker got up to exit before the mom could refuse. "Thank you," the mom said to my co-worker, who simply smiled in return. I collected my jaw from the floor and ran after my co-worker.

I was going to ask, "Why?" but when I saw the smile on her face and the joy she exuded... I had my answer.

Sometimes, you find the greatest joy not in what you get or what you achieve, but in what you do for other people. Even people you do not know, and who never would have expected it.

Read more of Robert's cast member stories at themeparkinsider.com/stories.

Replies (11)

David L.

Published: April 12, 2010 at 4:24 AM

awsome.
68.49.46.174

Published: April 12, 2010 at 4:29 AM

Thanks for writing that! What a sweet moment to share.
Eric Malone

Published: April 12, 2010 at 6:12 AM

Touching story, actually. Was a nice read. Also a bit nostalgic, as well.
Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: April 12, 2010 at 8:14 AM

That is the best perk at working at the Disney Store: Free Tickets for the Winter and the Summer! Say what you want about Disney, but if you are a fan, the perks are out of this world!

They work everywhere including oversees!

Love it!

Suprised she gave them up due to them now being specially designed and rare, but good for her!

Brandon Mendoza

Published: April 12, 2010 at 9:09 AM

Love it! She sets a wonderful example for everyone. Wish I could be less selfish myself, but we all learn eventually. If I was one of those kids, I know it would have made my day! Heck, if I was that mom it would totally make my day!
Joshua Counsil

Published: April 12, 2010 at 11:29 AM

A very nice story, and rarely am I touched by anything involving kids these days. I find people will often overestimate the innocence and purity of children, thinking especially of their own kids as precious.

Here's a new-age story of a child-cast-member interaction that I witnessed. Some kid at Disney's Hollywood Studios was throwing a fit and crying her eyes out because she wanted ice cream. The mother tried explaining that they were about to have dinner. Well, the kid wasn't having it, and continued making a scene. The little brat was far too old to be throwing fits, and after a while the mother simply ignored her while the kid went on.

Finally, a cast member approached the girl, asking, "Mickey wants to know why you're so upset. He doesn't like to see people crying."

The kid didn't answer coherently, but merely kept screaming and blubbering, with the words "ice" and "cream" occasionally uttered.

After a while, the CM cracked: "Well, let's see if Mickey can't get you some ice cream."

Unbelievable. They caved into her unreasonable demands and against the mother's will.

Regardless, your story was very nice.

Anthony Murphy
Writer

Published: April 12, 2010 at 1:27 PM

Well alot of guest/customer service demands are not realistic or perfect either anyway .

An example that I saw not too long ago was that Disney Stores were starting to hold events in their stores that include doing arts and crafts and other things. One of them was a Princess Party in which they could create their own crowns, learn princess ettiquite, and other things. Well, many guests complained on facebook because Cinderella or any of the other princesses did not make a visit. The Princesses were booked for Norway at EPCOT so they couldn't come :)

The Daily Beast, a news website, allowed a writer to bascially slam the Disney Cruise line. I would love to wonder how her demands could be met.

Bob Miller

Published: April 12, 2010 at 1:37 PM

Great story Robert, I have one about like yours, but I'm not a cast member. For a number of years, our one local PBS station would give free all day passes to Knoebels for joining or renewing your membership.

Well, for the level I would join, you got 6 passes, but with only my daughter and myself, I always had 4 passes left over. You could only use the passes on one exact date of the PBS stations choice.

The first time we went, I decided to give the 4 tickets away. So every year, we would look for a family with small children and ask if they already had tickets. If they said no, my daughter Stefanie gave them the 4 tickets. Talk about being surprised, they couldn't stop thanking us.

We did this for a number of years, until the economy got bad, and I could no longer sponsor the PBS station. But what a good feeling it gave us, to be able to help someone else out.

Larry Zimmerman

Published: April 12, 2010 at 2:00 PM

- snif -
Tyler Stover
Writer

Published: April 12, 2010 at 5:31 PM

Never have I missed being a cast member so much.
Brandon Mendoza

Published: April 13, 2010 at 4:25 PM

I do have to say, Disneyland and Disney World... consistent and quality customer service overall. All the way from the ushers at Abe Lincoln, to the bag checkers before the entrance, and of course the face characters! For them to deal with the barrage of smart @$$ people and angry people everyday is a skill we should all learn.

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