Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Whom should we blame?

Several students wrote to tell me about this story:  Wealthy hire disabled guides to skip lines at Disney World.

If you are like most people you reacted with moral outrage at the idea of wealthy able-bodied people using money to take advantage of a benefit preserved for the disabled.  Some blame the disabled person who was running the guide service, while others blame the wealthy Manhattanites for using it. 

But this is a blog about management, so I focus on the management lesson:

When there is an inefficiency (people waiting in long lines for rides), there is also opportunity to make money.  

Disney sells VIP access to skip the long lines, which is a type of indirect price discrimination.  But there seems to be better ways for Disney to take care of this, like congestion pricing.  But just because I can think of another way to do it, the fact that Disney prefers to price this way suggests that there is something I must be missing.  

Would love to hear ideas on how Disney can better price rides.  

Note that this is an old problem,  Mickey Mouse Pricing, with many different facets, as explained by William Allen in his textbook. 


  1. Disney's planning a new FastPass Plus system that will enable guests to plan out their park visits (and receive Fastpasses for select attractions) up to 60 days in advance. See for one article explaining what the system will look like.

    That won't fully eliminate the queuing problem identified here, but as with FASTPASS's introduction, it will fundamentally change how people experience the theme parks.

  2. I am seasoned Disney veteran, so I know the pain of waiting in line. It is very frustrating to see an able bodied person get a free pass to the front of the line. I am not sure if I have ever been impacted by a family that has actually hired a disabled person or not, but I do know people that have actually rented a scooter for the same purpose. The scooter rental fee is affordable and not reserved solely for the wealthy. The cheat is to rent one and simply pull up to the front of the line with your family, park it and get waved in. I know people that have pulled this off, they don’t have a single disability. I typically go off peak when the crowds are light, plus I use a Fast Pass for the more popular rides. That being said I don’t really get too upset with the ride lines, but the bus the system line is another story. The busses at Disney can typically accommodate 2 scooters with the simple adjusting of about 6 or 7 seats. When the bus pulls up the scooters get seated first, the driver makes the adjustment and the scooters roll on in. Many times I have had to stand on the bus after a long day because of the eliminated seats, or have had to wait for another bus altogether. It drives me nuts. I see the same people back at the resort pool or bar; they are definitely not struggling to get around. In my opinion it will never change, Disney sells itself and they know their customers and what will bring them back. I don’t think that they have to change pricing at all, they run promotions all of the time. I typically go when they offer free dining which is typically an off peak promotion. I get all kinds of offers when the promo comes up, I guess I am low value customer. My free dining promo offers are usually combined with an offer to stay at one of the value level resorts also. They know what they are doing, if pricing would resolve line wait times it would have already been done. The bottom line is the mouse has to eat and we feed the mouse regardless if we wait in line or not.