The top 10 ways people cheat in theme parks

July 1, 2016, 11:22 AM · In my Orange County Register column this week, I take on the issue of people cheating in theme parks: Do cheaters prosper at Disneyland, Knott's and other theme parks?

The column is a follow-up to my piece last week, which explained why single rider lines can be a great deal for everyone, whether you use them or not. But some people look for ways to take advantage of anything and try to cheat the single rider lines by insisting that they must ride with family or friends when they get to the loading point.

That's hardly the only way that people cheat the system in theme parks. I hope you'll read my column on the Register website, and for Theme Park Insider readers, I'd like to extend that list with a complete "Top 10" of theme park cheaters. In picking these 10, I'm trying to single out the top ways that theme park guests cheat other guests by taking advantage.

Not-so-single riders — If you have any doubt that your child will be cool with going alone, just wait in the regular queue. And for grown-ups pulling this trick, we're all wise to you. Bravo to any cast or team member who calls you out and throws you out of the line.

Line jumpers — At least they're not being as passive-aggressive as the not-so-single riders. But people who jump the queues deserve a nice long wait in a security office... before getting tossed from the park. Have some respect for your fellow guests, please?

Slow loaders — When the employees tell you to move all the way down to the end of the row in a full theater show, don't stop in the middle to get the "good" seat. That just forces everyone to climb over and around you, slowing the start of the show and leading to a longer wait for the people behind you. The same thing goes for people who hold up the dispatch of rides to take a family portrait in a ride vehicle, or parents who try to force their crying child onto a theme park ride. Fast loading means shorter waits. Slow loading lengthens the wait for everyone else.

Table hoggers/slobbers — Yeah, this one is a judgment call. It's okay with us if you send someone to go claim a table in a counter service restaurant while you are picking up the food. No one wants to stand around with a full tray while looking for a place to sit. But when people send the kids to claim a table even before getting into a 20-minute queue for food, they're helping create a situation where lots of other people will end up having to stand around with full trays while kids sit alone at dozens of otherwise empty tables. Kudos to restaurants such as Be Our Guest and The Three Broomsticks that don't let people claim tables without food. But everywhere else, people can help their fellow guests by not claiming tables early.

And clean up our table when you leave, too. Yes, parks should employ workers to give a table a wipedown as soon as a part leaves. But if they have to take the time to bus everything off the table, too, that slows down the time it takes to make that table available for another group. Again, delays = longer waits in theme parks.

Selfie stick-ers — It's bad enough to intrude on scarce space in a crowded theme park with these things. But when people bring them into parks where they are banned, they slow the line at bag checks while they'r confiscated. Even worse, when people bring them on rides, they force shut-downs that inconvenience and frustrate thousands of other visitors.

Tablet photographers — Until someone develops a transparent tablet, quit blocking the view of everyone behind you to take a photo or video with your iPad. Use your phone or bring a real camera. (And keep it in front of your face — not high over your head.)

Pushy parents — If your child is too short to go on a thrill ride, don't push it. Don't try to cheat by putting lifts into their shoes, and certainly don't take it out on the cast or team member measuring your child. Ride restrictions are there for a reason — to keep you and your kids safe. Support the parks' efforts to keep your kids safe. Don't make the parks the enemy because your child isn't ready for something you want them to do right now.

Fakers — Years ago, selfish, nasty visitors would rent a wheelchair and pretend to have an injury or disability in order to skip the wait by using the "wheelchair entrance" at many rides. Later, as parks created more formal systems to accommodate people with disabilities, people who could have visited the park without that special accommodation took advantage by claiming they needed it anyway. The worst cheats started selling special access to others to ride along on the disability access cards they'd obtained. These days, Disney, Universal and other parks have clamped down on this form of line jumping with new guest access systems that essentially create a parallel ride-reservation system for guests with disabilities, giving them no wait time advantage over other visitors. But the fakers who cheated these systems in the past always should have a place in our theme park hall of shame.

Souvenir flippers — You're not providing a service when you buy dozens of a new souvenir to resell them on eBay to other fans. All you are doing is preventing other fans from getting those souvenirs at the park for their original price. "Limit one per customer" for new releases ought to be theme park law.

Free parkers — If you think parks charge too much for parking, you'll get a sympathetic ear from us. (By the way, bravo to Holiday World for offering free parking to all visitors!) But if you don't like what a company charges for a product, the proper response is to not buy it. It's not to steal it. Don't keep your car in Downtown Disney's lot all day and evening when you're visiting Disneyland. Don't lie and say you're going to a WDW resort for lunch when you're really just going into the park. And don't use back roads to sneak your way into a theme park parking lot. Carpool, take alternate transportation, buy a pass that includes parking — do whatever you want to minimize your parking costs at your favorite theme park. But don't take spaces designed for other purposes just so you can get out of paying. That's cheating the other guests who legitimately need them.

Got something to add to our list? Let's hear it in the comments.

Replies (15)

July 1, 2016 at 1:36 PM

Sadly seen just about every one of these around during my travels. Disney has guys openly saying "don't stop in the middle, keep going" for seats which helps but still annoying how folks do it all the time. The selling of souviners thing blows me away as those things are expensive enough already without buying more on the off chance you make a profit.

July 1, 2016 at 2:43 PM

Preach! Preach!
Wow I wish a print out of this article can be included inside all theme park maps.

July 1, 2016 at 3:16 PM

When a theme park charges 20% of a one day admission just to park I don't have any problem with them finding a way around it. You may call it stealing but I call it working with the system that Disney created. Every dollar that can be made from every visitor. Well some folks don't want to give up every dollar. Parking in a free space and going through the hassle of riding the buses is worth it to them.

July 1, 2016 at 6:49 PM

Add tall parents who put their kids on their shoulders during parades or fireworks. A tall person is already blocking the view of people behind them, if they put a child on their shoulders, they're blocking even more. Just be aware, and see if the child can see just by being carried, don't automatically assume that the child has to be on your shoulders, please.

July 1, 2016 at 8:57 PM

Park at Buena Park Mall when going to Knotts Berry Farm. A two block walk, but not too long.

July 2, 2016 at 1:27 AM

I don't know if it's "cheating" as such, but much like Tablet Photographers, I can't stand people who use flash on rides. I queued for about an hour to go on Soarin' last year, and someone was constantly using their flash on their camera and ruining the illusion.

July 2, 2016 at 4:17 PM

Just a quick FYI to all you FP+ haters out there, you can blame the "fakers" for encouraging Disney to put that system in place. Even though I'm in the minority of people who actually likes FP+, I still feel pesonally insulted; I have Autism so I actually need the disability pass. Plus I know tons of other people who have Autism as well as various other types of special needs who actually need a disability pass as well. (A lot of them actually need it more than I do) So knowing very well what it's like to suffer from a disability makes me feel offended when someone thinks that they can fake having one just for their own selfish gains; and it doesn't help when they end up causing an inconvenience for other people who actually play by the rules.

I'd also like to add two other groups of people to the list.

No.1-Irresponsible Parents

Now, I understand that lots of people bring their kids to theme parks. And I don't have a problem with that; I love kids! One of my favorite parts about visiting a Disney park is seeing their little faces lighten up when they see their favorite Disney characters before rushing into their arms! But kids have a tendency to misbehave, throw temper-tantrums, and just get very crazy. When that happens, the parents need to get them to calm down or use some sort of discipline. In other words: take responsibility. Unfortunately, I've seen too many cases in theme parks (as well as just about every other public pace I've ever been to) where a kid (or kids) started whining and crying over some menial thing or just started getting way too loud and rowdy to the point where everyone else starts getting annoyed. What do the parents do? Nothing. They figure the best way to raise children is to just let them do whatever they want. Certainly outside of being a nuisance this is all harmless, right? Hell no. I once met a Disney Cast Member two years ago who was one of the meet-and-greet characters. She told me how she had so many obnoxious children yell, scream, harass her, hit her, and take way too long thus holding up the line, and the parents would just stand aside and act like it was cute. And here's a more recent example that'll really piss you off. I was at. BGT, and one of the gorillas was leaning right next to the glass. Suddenly one kid just plowed right through everyone, including my sister, and started banging on the glass and yelling at the gorilla trying to wake it up. When it doesn't budge, the kid's dad starts knocking on the glass and doing the same thing. Words cannot describe how much I still want to punch that guy and tell him that he and his kid aren't so special. Bottom line: just be a good parent. You don't have to get abusive, but at least take some responsibility.

No.2-The Revealers (sorry can't think of a good name)

Something I've noticed a lot at BGT and every once in a while at Universal is people who feel the need to wear clothes that are very...."revealing." Very, very revealing. It boggles my mind that people actually think it's ok to show that much of their bodies in places where there's lots of kids running around. If you honestly feel that the world needs to see your beautiful body, go to the beach. I know that there's lots of children at beaches too, but at beaches not only is that kind of clothing appropriate, but you have a very valid reason for wearing it. At theme parks you have no excuse. I'd hate to sound like a pompous, conservative snob, but it's absolutely disgusting and absolutely no one wants to see all that. And I'm not talking about any specific body types, I'm talking about every single body type. Sorry to bring you down to earth, but you're not as sexy as you think you are.

July 2, 2016 at 6:34 PM

I would add familes that walk 4 or 6 people across and block the ENTIRE walkway or just stop in the middle. In a busy theme park it's like parking a car on a freeway. No one should do it.

I went on Reign of Kong the second day it was open and some Scottish guy kept pushing and bumping into me because he was so excited to ride. He even yelled at a couple for taking a picture and told them to keep the line moving. I actually did not mind because he did get the line to move faster.

Now to what I used to do in middle school. My sister would wrap her sweatshirt up like a baby and we would go through the child swap. The employees thought it was so funny they would just let us go.

I always see people ripping off quick service food places and getting food that they did not order and claiming they did at the packed pick up area or they take a bigger order and leave. They always just give people the extra drink or fries and never confront the people

July 3, 2016 at 5:38 AM

Anytime you get when one over the mouse... I say great job!!

July 3, 2016 at 6:52 AM

I agree with Disfan post, drives me nuts when you stand awaiting a show to start to then see a whole host of parents lift their kids onto their shoulders and block everyone else's view, now I understand why they do it as the kids and some adults are too small to stand and watch but I think Disney should have a special area for small people who can stand without the need of parents having to host their children on their shoulders.

July 3, 2016 at 11:48 AM

"Anytime when you get one over the mouse....I say great job!"

Even when they end up inconveniencing other people who saved up a lot of money and just wanted to have a good time with their families?

July 3, 2016 at 4:06 PM

Unless the park is going to offer a free transport option, such as a free shuttle bus from nearby bus or rail stations, then car park charges are just ways to hide part of the true admission cost.

I agree there should be charges if it is a scarce resource, but only of the result of those charges is to encourage you to a less impactful option to attend - if the shuttle bus is going to cost you as much as parking would, and the location makes a walk impossible or impractical, then the only honest thing to do is admit its part of the admission cost, and price accordingly.

How and why you americans accept hidden charges everywhere (tax, service, etc) is a great mystery to me.

July 3, 2016 at 6:21 PM

Souvenir flippers are my least favorite when it comes to trying to collect anything. Rather than allowing people to enjoy a product, they go and resell the items for even more profit. And Disney especially isn't helping as they do too many limited releases of products. In turn, I actually don't buy limited edition souvenirs anymore. Not worth the headache.

Chad, parking isn't specifically part of the admission cost. If you're at hotel, you don't pay for parking directly to Disney. If you have a car of 4 adults, you can split the parking cost. If you get dropped off by friends or family, parking costs you nothing. It's not hiding anything.

You can get validation for parking for Downtown Disney in Anaheim. Disney Springs in Florida has complimentary parking. Not exactly part of the theme parks, but it's in the vicinity. The San Diego Zoo has free parking, but it gets crowded as it's right next to museums.

If parking was free, then you would have random people parking in the parking lot that don't even go to the theme parks. None of the things you mentioned are "hidden" charges. They're spelled out to us. It's why Ticketmaster got in trouble because they didn't explain their additional charges.

July 4, 2016 at 11:50 AM

I'm not so sure this blog is about all the ways people cheat theme parks, so much all the ways people act like jerks in the theme parks.

July 4, 2016 at 3:46 PM

I am an AP so now the parking is free anyway but in the past, I have taken Uber to the parks from the outside hotel (if not too far) to avoid the parking cost (and the monorail, boat, train ride, etc.). I think it is a great idea and it doesn't inconvenience anybody...

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