As someone who considers himself at least somewhat knowledgeable about the workings of Walt Disney World, it is hard for me to be surprised or jolted about something I have been to a hundred times. While attractions like Rock ‘n’ Rollercoaster and Expedition Everest are exciting and thrilling, I know what turns to expect, where the camera is, and when the best time to go wait in the standby queue for the least amount of wait. My numerous trips to the World provides me with an insight that may be valuable to someone I know who hasn’t ever been to Walt Disney World before. In essence, I pride myself in not falling for “rookie mistakes” anymore.
Unfortunately for me, however, that streak came to a screeching halt on Saturday morning as I lined up for a special Annual Passholder sale at Downtown Disney’s World of Disney store. As advertised, the Annual Passholder sale would include items 50% off and some excellent “door buster” items at dirt-cheap prices. Of course, the only problem was the sale started at 6:30 am. I was conflicted because I had originally designated that time to go down to the Studios so I could get in line for David Prowse’s autograph during Star Wars Weekend. Or, in the alternative, I planned to sleep through it entirely in the comfort of my home. But I suppose my curiosity got the better of me. Moreover, good friend of the site Colin (aka The Dark Lord of the Sith on the forums) came down for the weekend intent on hitting the Annual Passholder sale. That was enough to convince to put Star Wars Weekend and my sleep schedule to the side and head for Downtown Disney in the morning on Saturday. I mean, what could possibly go wrong, right?
When Saturday morning rolled around, Colin and I made our way there and pulled into the parking lot at 6:30 am. Our eyes were big as we realized there were hundreds of people in line already. A fair comparison would be something that you’d find at your local Wal-Mart or shopping mall on Black Friday. The line snaked from the entrance facing the DTD stage back toward the parking lot, turned behind the store, made its way back on the other side and finally ended in front of the Lego Store. It turned out that there were over 900 people in front of us by the time we had arrived. When Colin and I stood at the back of the line I knew I had made a very common “newbie” or rookie mistake: I didn’t research.
Like jumping off the deep end of the pool without making sure that there was water underneath me, I had taken on something I had no possible idea what to expect. Sure, I thought there would be a couple of hundred of people at most, I mean, how many Annual Passholders would drive or fly down just for a sale at 6:30 am? Well apparently I was gravely mistaken. Instead of finding a manageable line of people, there was a giant labyrinth of anxious Disneyphiles, waiting to pull out their pocketbooks for some Disney merchandise. I wasn’t prepared for it and I found myself flat-footed. “It’s a trap!” was all I could think.
The size of the crowd, however, was not my only folly. After waiting in line and inching around the store for over 30 minutes, Colin and I made it inside. Okay, I thought to myself, this was where we could make up for it; by purchasing some cool Disney merchandise with some deep discounts. I again was mistaken, because immediately I was given a map of the entire store with about 15 circles in various corners indicating what was on sale at 50% and what was considered a doorbuster (which sold for $2-$5). I had no idea that only a dozen or so items would be on sale and that was it. While I didn’t necessarily think every item would be discounted, I did think that it was going to be something more akin to the resort-wide sale they had in December/January where t-shirts, caps, and mugs were on sale. Instead, things like Halloween flashlights, questionably aesthetic reindeer Plutos, and poorly conceived children’s clothing was what was offered to Passholders. Everything else in stock was full price. Simply looking at the map of the store I knew that I would not buy a single thing. Colin was a bit more open minded than I was, but he also agreed that the selection of things on sale for Passholders was an insult. After waiting in line for half an hour in the early morning, we were met with some pretty slim-pickings.
To top that off, the “special gift” Disney gave its first 1,000 customers was a 2009 Disney Cruise Line beach towel. It felt like a slap across the face. What in the world does the Disney Cruise Line have to do with the World of Disney store? The answer: Nothing. I joked to Colin that perhaps this Annual Passholder sale was orchestrated by the fine advertising executives over at the Disney Cruise Line, and Disney merchandise signed on when they realized they could entice some 1,000 people with a “free gift.” To say I was disappointed would be a gross understatement. I left the World of Disney store with the free towel and a pretty big grimace on my face.
Since the Annual Passholder debacle, I’ve had time to reflect on what exactly went wrong on Saturday. And while I still maintain that Disney is largely to blame, by making the sale sound like some sort of savings bonanza, it was partially my fault as well. I had done absolutely no research at all on previous Annual Passholder sales. Heck, I don’t even know if there were sales like this in the past. Even so, I didn’t even look to see what could be on sale, how the sale would be conducted or what items there might be for sale. In essence, I didn’t adequately prepare myself at all, and I feel as if I fell for one of the oldest tricks at Disney. If I had done my homework like I always have, I would have known better than to get in line at the Annual Passholder sale.