In the ParksWalt Disney World (FL)

Kindness Creates Cast Member Magic

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t_logo_fbWhen traveling through Walt Disney World, we all face frustrations. On vacation, it’s quite easy to give into the frustration. I’m no expert on Disney, but I do watch people quite a bit. Instead of facing the frustration with anger – try flipping over – and greeting with a friendly face. On a Disney World vacation in 2013, we decided to embrace the joy. It paid off tremendous dividends. Why? Multitudes of reasons. Usually Disney Cast Member Magic. Why should you? Easy.

You’re not that guy. Let’s face it, kids. We’ve all been somewhere. A place that someone has exploded all over a Cast Member. And trust me, I know how getting riled up and letting loose on some defenseless person can really make you feel good. Frankly, it sometimes does let off some of that steam. And often, you might win that battle – and get what you want. But you’ve sacrificed your level of dignity – and perhaps the dignity of people in your party without even knowing it. I was on a bus on the way back to our resort, and for whatever reason, a left turn light wasn’t working. The driver waited through five lights before moving slowly out into traffic, and going around the block to get to another entrance to the resort. A person on the bus started loudly complaining about the speed of the trip – and her kids became more noticeably embarrassed. When the bus arrived, we waited for the guests to get off the bus, and thanked the driver profusely. We compared the driving of the Disney drivers – SUPER SAFE to the Mears drivers – MUCH different. While we lost a few moments, we all exited happy.

Cast members have seen it all – and face fierce guidelines. If you’ve done your research, you probably already know the four guidelines that cast members follow. I’ve heard about the wide circles that give large freedoms to cast members when solving problems. But they also face tremendous pressures delivering that dream vacation. Instead of taking advantage of that – extend your hand and offer back that smiling face.

Ask. They know. I am a big believer in the expertise of Cast Members. Especially support personnel who might go otherwise unnoticed. I stop and talk with custodians. And servers. And busboys. When I don’t know what to order, I ask, “What’s your favorite?” Especially on something like desserts – when nearly all can be good. Ask what the server likes. From a logical perspective – you’re asking an expert. From a respect perspective – it empowers that person. From a selfish perspective – the other person might want to give back.

When you are kind, karma tends to pay you back in kind. I want the best to happen. And I know that it often doesn’t, or can’t. But if everyone watches out for everyone, things tend to really move for the better. If nothing else, I have the confidence that I have done the best possible thing. When we were in Hollywood Studios, we noticed some cash lying on the ground. Discreetly, I picked it up, and showed my wife. It was over twenty dollars. A twenty was on the outside, and it had more cash in the little pack. We watched around the area for ten minutes, wondering if someone else would look for it. No one did. So we approached two Cast Members, and told them that someone had lost the money, and we asked them to take the cash, and turn it over to lost and found. I am not a dolt. I absolutely understand that probably one of two things happened. If the Cast Members had scruples, they turned the money over to Disney – and no one ever claimed it. Disney made a profit. If the Cast Members were unscrupulous, then they split the cash. But that meant that one or both of them would have had to cross that trust line to each other – over something like twenty bucks. Either way, if it happened to me, I’d like to think that the money would have been turned in.

You never know what might happen. Years ago, I noticed something amazing about my wife. She has a distinct ability to put others first – nearly all of the time. It’s kind of scary how it really works. She constantly notices others – especially in difficult situations. We watched a couple trying to navigate getting on and off a bus – and we insisted on picking up a diaper bag and a stroller. We never sit on a bus if anyone else is ever sitting. Frankly, it makes us happier to be helping others – makes our vacation a little better, too. But here’s where it gets better. One thing I have always tried to do now is take pictures for other people. See a family with one person taking a picture and the other one standing? Offer. Take the picture. Often, they’ll take the pic for you. Or… See, I was walking through the streets of America, and took a picture for a couple. And the woman offered to take a picture for me. We’d just had one with someone else, so I smiled and declined. She leaned in and asked if I liked characters. “Of course…” I said. She told me she was a cast member – and suggested that I stay around three minutes for the character greeting coming. I’d known about it, and was specifically waiting for it – but this confirmation was a beautiful thing, and great to see. I can’t tell you how many times something like this happened… Over and over again. I am a big fan of asking for opinions. When I can’t make a choice – I always ask. At Tangierine Café, I asked, “Which is better, the cashew or the pistachio baklava?” The cast member chose the pistachio, then asked if I had tried the other. I hadn’t, so she pulled out another slice for me to try – on the house. We talk to anyone who will listen. We struck up a conversation with a Dad and his adorable three year old son. Two days later while waiting for Dumbo, I heard him say, “It’s our friends from Pittsburgh!” We talked for a few minutes, then he asked if we were returning to Epcot. When we told him we were, he turned over his Soarin’ rider exchange pass – telling us that he couldn’t use it before he left. Bonus ride on Soarin’! I don’t know if anyone has stayed at the Boardwalk lately, but Nico, the bus concierge, is a hoot. He tells wonderfully bad jokes – and even will get anniversary couples to get ‘re-engaged’ at the Boardwalk bus stop – complete with commemorative buttons. A few nights later, we ran into him (off duty) at the Star Wars fireworks party at Hollywood Studios, and he joined our ragamuffin group of Star Wars nerds. We had a grand old time. We walked back to our hotel with him – and he told us about a bunch of cast stuff – and why Disney employees all have similar priorities. We even walked back to the bus stop the next day, for another round of bad jokes, and he gave us a Pinocchio ‘cast member’ fast pass when we were delayed for the bus. Funnily enough, we never had to even use the advanced pass for the Magic Kingdom. Our plan for the day was pretty good – and we fast-forwarded through everything we wanted to see – and the things we loved multiple times. It was a day we ended up with a fifth fast pass, but I still have the jump ahead in the line pass.

Kindness gave us two skip the line passes this day.
Kindness gave us two skip the line passes this day. In our last three trips, we’ve received three.

Joy pays off. On our first visit, we checked out of our hotel, and zipped over to Magic Kingdom, arriving at the front gates early. Unfortunately, one member of our party had lost the entrance ticket. I’d love to hang it on one of my children, but it was me. I skirted to the service window outside the entrance gate, and explained the scenario. The cast member did a quick bit of research, and then told me she’d re-print the ticket. She quickly popped onto her computer. I politely waited. Then, the Welcome Show began. I listened, and worried. The gates opened. My beautiful plan for our first day disappeared. So, I waited. Finally, the cast member returned with my new card, and two skip the line passes for the delay – and my smiling kindness.

Magic happens everywhere. In a strange set of scenarios, we booked our first Disney trip overlapping with close friends of ours from college. When we made the discovery, we decided to spend a portion of our day together – dinner through the fireworks. We accumulated a number of legacy fast passes for Test Track. Since we both had a child too young to ride, we decided to send Moms with kids, and then Dads with kids. My wife and kids loaded through the fast pass line, and were gone for an extensive period of time. When they returned, my wife told the story. After riding, our four-year-old jumped up and down yelling about how great the ride was. When a cast member heard her, she asked if she’d like to ride again. She took Rachel by the hand, and the five skirted back up the ramp, and hopped on the ride again. Incredulous, I took their word. Four years later, our kindness paid us back again. Rachel trumpeted her joy after riding Space Mountain for the first time. As we walked off the ride, a cast member approached us again, and asked if we wanted a second ride. I shook my head, and happily climbed the stairs for another trip.

Kindness is contagious. Remember – you are on vacation. It’s fun! You are spending all of this time to enjoy yourselves. Take full advantage. Smile. Laugh. People watch. All of them. On our anniversary trip this past May, we noticed. Being without children, our eyes were drawn multiple times to people with kids – but most noticeably the people with kids that were not having good times. Fighting, crying, or angry groups. Will things go perfectly? Probably not. But remember ALL THE TIME that this crazy place is where you want to be. And you will be down when you return. And you will want to go back. Enjoy while you can. My favorite story was an odd one. Last year, we were walking into Hollywood Studios. At rope drop – but without the SERIOUS mission to run to Toy Story. I struck up a conversation with a man walking down the center of the park. I found out he was from Pittsburgh, and even was close friends with a former colleague of mine who had retired a few years back. (My wife keeps telling me that I should start blogging about random people I know that I run into.) He asked if I was planning on seeing Beauty and the Beast later in the day. I told him that the kids were entirely in charge of the plan on our last day. Turns out that he was the director for the Beauty and the Beast show – and he gave us passes (with a specific instruction) for priority seating later that day for the show. We sat down front – and enjoyed Beauty and the Beast more than we ever had. After the show, we struck up a conversation, and we chatted back and forth about Disney World and guests. He told us that no matter what – even problem guests – are still guests. And everyone deserved that respect. With that in mind, do good. Be good. And enjoy.

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Kevin Bastos

Kevin has taught high school since 1998, and loved Disney World since a 2009 visit with his wife and three daughters. He loves the planning stages of the vacation, and tends to focus on details (while his wife manages the big picture). He also collects comic books, and sometimes maintains a blog reading them. You can follow my twitter @kevin_m_bastos.

19 thoughts on “Kindness Creates Cast Member Magic

  • Brilliant advice! Well done. What are the rules that you mention for cast members ?

    • Christina

      This is great advice. My 5 year old daughter’s first trip is this Novemember, and I have preprinted Business Cards for her to sign and give to Cast Members who make our trip Special. They say “Thank you for making my first trip magical” have her name and a place for her to write her name. I am hoping to teach her to that every cast memember does a magical job and she should say thank you and be kind to them.

    • Kevin Bastos

      1. Safety
      2. Courtesy
      3. The Show
      4. Efficiency

      Taken in that order. If you look, you’ll find tons regarding it.

  • Exactly how I feel and how I behave at Walt Disney World and Disneyland! I meet the nicest people there, both cast members and other guests. I always thank cast members or say hello with a smile. I know what grief some guests can give them so I hope I can make up for them just a bit by showing some kindness.

  • Debbie V.

    Thank you sharing this wisdom. I’m going to take it through my day here at home and “pretend” I’m at WDW. (259 more days till the real thing).

    • Kevin Bastos

      We are counting down, as well! Enjoy!

  • I always wondered if Disney hired the nicest people on Earth or sent every employee the to nice boot camp. 😉

    My son is autistic, and we love Disney World not just as a vacation but as a place where he is welcomed and shown love and respect. The characters are always so kind to him, especially the princesses, who he adores.

    If a cast member does something above and beyond, you can reward him or her by stopping by guest services and filling out a small form. We’ve done that a few times. Of course you won’t know characters’ names, so use time and place to ID them.

  • Elizabeth

    Case in Point: Using a Fastpass to get to Soarin’ while one of the sides was down… We were going to miss a lunch reservation so we went to the desk to ask a CM what to do. While we were in line waiting for the CM, another family rudely yelled at the CM like it was THEIR fault Soarin’ was down and they had wasted a Fast Pass. They kept berating the CM, even to the point of saying their failed vacation was the CM’s fault. Their kids looked mortified. When they left, we went up to the desk and told them they were doing a great job and that some people just need to take a chill pill. They gave us return Fast Passes (we had already checked in for our FP reservation), cleared our FP reservation (essentially giving us an extra FP) and thanked us for being patient. The other family left unhappy and without a FP… Being kind to those serving you makes a huge difference.

  • DisneyDad

    Excellent column. Thank you.
    At the end of every Disney Park day our family’s last “thing” is to go to Guest Relations and simply thank the CM on duty for another excellent day and ask that he or she pass along our gratitude. We have noticed that after a shift of fielding complaints that our heartfelt gratitude is always welcomed.
    Really, it’s the least we dan do.

  • Thank you for writing this great post. It should be required reading for parents, since a little role-modeling in real-life situations is a good thing for their children.

  • I’m sure the point of your article was not to be nice so you can get good stuff, good karma or even a pat on the back, but I just wanted to state the obvious: Sometimes you can be as sweet a pie, and you will not receive kindness in return – the person may even resent you for it. Does that mean stop being nice and friendly? Of course not. But I would just note that sometimes the only reward for kindness is the internal knowledge that you’ve done the right thing (which I guess is the point of the money story :)).

    • Kevin Bastos

      Funny – because it’s exactly the same take my wife had when she did the first read on the article. She has a much better ability to step outside and really look at responses. We completely agree. Kindness will be its own reward. Unfortunately, many people don’t have that initial response (including us some days). So, I tried to put that carrot spin on it. Be nice – and you might get that response. I’ve learned that many people need some incentive to initially do the right thing – and after that – the right thing keeps it perpetuated.

  • Deirdre

    We will be going at Christmas. I am well-aware that cast members will be missing time with their families to make our time magical. We’ll be making cards to hand out to cast members on Christmas Day, thanking them for helping make our day so wonderful.

  • Absolutely, Karma counts. I’ve turned in lost wallets, cameras, shopping bags left on benches, laughed and told cast members everything was fine when we got stuck upside down on sum of all thrills for 15minutes. The universe usually gives back and others have returned items I mistakenly left on rides or in restaurants.

    Sometimes you do need to be firm and stand your ground though. Year before last staying at the BW we went through the trip from heck. Had a group of friends and we were staying in a 2 bedroom villa, we checked in late around 10pm, there were some problems initially getting 3 separate CCs hooked up to different people’s room keys, but whatever it was an unusual request and she seemed new. I began to get one of those premonitions that this week was going to be a problem when I swiped the card swung the door open and found the maid asleep on our couch with the TV on. She jumped up, ran over told me “room not ready yet” and shoved me back out the door, closed it and dropped the latch. So now seven people are standing out in the hallway, five of them first time visitors at 11pm going wtf? After 30 minutes I went and got the manager, who then had to call maintenance because he couldn’t open the door because of the security latch. The whole time accusing us that “are we sure it isn’t one of our party inside?” After his 4 repeat of the question I snapped and told him basic maths skills, seven people on the reservation, seven very irritated people standing here in the hall, how many irritated people remain in the room? When he ran off to find the maintenance guy, she emerged from the adjoining studio and vanished into the cast area section down the hall.

    That was just the beginning, for the tldr folks, quick remaining summary. They attached our CCs to various different rooms (who ran up thousands in charges) took all week to sort that, my guests magic your way tickets would randomly stop working throughout the week, the DDP we had would get refused, cards wouldn’t open doors to the room, bloody nightmare, I spent the week running back and forth from the hotel to the parks to sort it out while my wife tried to keep showing our friends a good time so they didn’t regret the choice to come down to WDW.

    The desk manager I was dealing with all week had a delightfully indifferent attitude, offered some truly pathetic gestures to make it up to us. (they wanted us to go over to Fort wilderness first thing in the morning, be the family of the day there, 7 adults and raise the American flag in the morning ceremony, no offense to the Americans present, but I told her we were Canadian so we didn’t care, it was like I kicked her puppy.) so on the fifth day, I told her I had enough and wanted a meeting with the hotel director, now. Took an hour for her to get there, but we sat in her office I laid out exactly what happened, patiently and without raising my voice, showed her my notes with names and times of the issues, failed promises and let her know that their usual overtures weren’t going to cut it. I wanted my DVC points back, refunds on the DDP and my friend’s park tickets and a do over in January on them. She didn’t even argue just told me it’s yours.

    She did great, in 30 minutes I had a statement showing the charges wiped out, my points back in my balance and a reservation booked in the new year. I have a feeling had I really lost my temper and went red faced screaming at the woman, I wouldn’t have gotten half of what I wanted from them. It was one of those unusual perfect storm scenarios, in 20+ trips with my wife, nothing even remotely close to that has happened before and the followup trip was flawless.

    Always be polite, but be firm when you have to be.

  • Crystal

    Wonderful article! Always smile and treat people kindly as you may end up being the one good thing that happened to them that day.

  • Great article! One of the best and most well thought-out I have read here in a while. Keep up the good work!


  • Morgane

    Loved this post! My first trip to Disney property was Disneyland last year, as a solo adult. Favorite moment? The smiles on the faces of two little kids as I gave them my balloons from my trip. I was flying home, I explained to the mother, and couldn’t take them home with me. It was the end of my trip, but the beginning of theirs, and she laughed incredulously as I untangled strings and gave the boy and girl each a balloon to hold tightly.
    She had looked so frazzled, so stressed to be starting her vacation with two little ones, and I could tell that she was already overwhelmed. Maybe this was their splurge of the year, or a couple of years. Maybe it was the usual trip, just a little harder with two kids chattering at her.
    But she relaxed a little as I grinned and handed her the last balloon, the fancy white one with the LED inside, and as I sauntered off to enjoy my last morning she stood there looking a little confused, a little shocked, and a lot happier than she had been.

    The simplest things for you to do can be a big moment of disney magic for someone else, and the biggest thing I learned on that trip is that it’s so easy to create magic there, even as a guest for another guest. So smile!

  • This is one of the best things I have ever read! THANK YOU! We are going to WDW 12/16-12/22 (our first Christmas time trip!!!) and have decided to make little thank you cards and attach mini candy canes to give to exceptional CMs. My husband and I both have MANY years of management experience in theme parks and it is very true that we are more willing to work with guests who show us the same courtesy and respect. Not to mention that someone thanking you or telling you (or your boss) that you did a really good job is the best pick me up ever! After having the experiences I had (and he still has as a Police LT for a theme park) we make sure to always get a manager after having very GOOD service whenever we’re out and about. The managers appreciate hearing compliments every once in a while, considering they usually deal with complaints! It lets them know they’re doing a good job with their staff and it always makes me feel good!

    • Kevin Bastos

      I am humbled by your kindness. We, as well, are going to Disney World this Christmas – but our paths will JUST miss each other. It is our first CRAZY Christmas trip, as well. The positive ones are always most appreciated both inside and out. On our last trip, we stopped to compliment someone at Universal. The man stopped – almost awestruck – and sincerely told us how we’d made his day. Made ours, too.


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