[NOTE: I am no longer a Disney cast member. I know this. But I say “we” a lot because, even after your CP is over, you still feel connected to the Disney brand. I still feel connected to the company. Okay.]
It’s fairly common knowledge that, as a Disney cast member, you’ll hear your fair share of ridiculous comments and questions from guests. Guests check their brains at the gate, and that’s usually okay (unless it compromises safety). As cast members, we’re there to help.
The biggest inside joke is “What time is the 3:00 parade?” (There’s even a tshirt with Goofy asking that very question.) Maybe in other places you’d say “Uh, 3:00. Obviously.” But at Disney, things are done a little differently. “What time is the 3:00 parade” may mean “What time does the 3:00 parade get to where we are in the park?” It may mean “Does the 3:00 parade actually start at 3 or will I have time to go to my 3:00 Fastpass+ first?” Context is everything, and being that courtesy is the second of Disney’s four keys, it’s imperative to answer even the dumbest of questions with a kind, courteous response.
When working at Downtown Disney, I had my fair share of ridiculous guest questions. At DisneyQuest, I was often berated for not having the ability to sell Universal tickets. However, a kind reminder that the theme parks are separate often cleared that up very quickly.
I once had a guest present his Sea World ticket and ask if it would work for DisneyQuest. It turns out he’d pulled out the wrong card and didn’t realize it. Again, a courteous explanation cleared it up, and the whole group got a good laugh out of it.
But the most ridiculous and frustrating guest situation I ever experienced came from an older woman who could not find her car.
I was working a closing shift, and around 4 PM a guest approached my window. In heavily accented English (I believe she was Russian?), she asked me where the nearest parking lot was. I had her turn around and I pointed her toward OPQ, the parking lot behind Cirque. She asked me if there was another lot. I told her about LMN, the parking lot in front of Cirque. She explained that she couldn’t remember where she parked, but that she had taken a bus from the parking lot to the Marketplace, and she had other women with her who did not have the ability to walk around the lot with her looking for her car.
I pulled out a map of Downtown Disney and pointed out each of the parking lots. She knew where the bus had dropped her off (Marketplace bus loop), but none of the parking areas seemed familiar to her. I asked her if she’d used a GPS to get to Downtown Disney. She showed me the address — a quick search showed that it was the House of Blues address. So logically, she was likely in OPQ, right? But how would she have gotten a bus from OPQ to Marketplace? That wasn’t possible.
At this point, a Guest Relations CM stepped in and asked if there were any landmarks or anything she noticed in the parking lot. The guest explained that there were lots of trees, and a bus stop, and that was it. So no, that’s not LMN or OPQ. The Guest Relations CM asked if maybe she’d accidentially turned into the Typhoon Lagoon parking lot instead. By this point the guest was very upset — she’d even said to me, “If you can’t find my car, how am I supposed to find it?!” Though it was frustrating, especially with a minor language barrier, the GR CM and I remained calm. I continued to speak to the woman while the GR CM called parking to come over and pick up the guests and drive them around LMN and OPQ to see if maybe the car was there. The GR CM went with them, but came back not long after to say that the car wasn’t in either West Side lot, so they were going to try Typhoon Lagoon.
This is where the situation left my hands. I felt I had done all I could to help the guest, and because I was the only DisneyQuest box office CM on shift at the time, I couldn’t leave to assist with the situation any further.
So where was the car?
I’m not sure how they figured it out, but at some point while they were searching the Typhoon Lagoon parking lot, the guest said something about another water park. Yes, it turns out the car was all the way down at Blizzard Beach. The GR CM drove them there, dropped them off at their car, and returned very frustrated but happy that the situation was resolved.
Again, context is important. While it seemed ridiculous to me that the guest was insisting she parked at DTD and got a bus to another spot on DTD, it turned out that she was confused. It was a frustrating situation for all involved — especially when the guest yelled at me for not being able to locate her car from my window. However, Disney trained me well, and, with the help of one of the most lovely GR cast members I ever worked with, the situation was resolved. Patience was key. Courtesy was key.
So to those who are or dream of being Disney cast members, know that you’re going to have ridiculous situations. Know that you’re going to get asked the same stupid question hundreds of times. And know that answering with kindness goes a lot further to alleviate confusion than answering sarcastically or rudely.
And remember, for many guests this may be their first (and only) time visiting Walt Disney World. Do you want them to remember the cast member who went out of their way to help in a confusing situation, or the cast who answered rudely?
[This whole post was inspired by a post I saw of cast members, present and former, complaining about stupid guest questions. I understand how annoying it can be, but courtesy is always very important, and I hope these CMs were nicer to guests’ faces than they are behind their backs.]