Speak to any Disney Fan and you will eventually find the story. The one about how they became a fan, where they became hooked.
The interesting thing is that many of these stories don’t involve grand gestures or indescribable excitement. Many times it’s a subtle, little moment that grabs them. That’s mine….
In 2001, I received a 3 night hotel stay as a gift from my employer. You could go anywhere you wanted with the voucher; you just needed to get there. I wanted to take my 4 year old Son to Disney World but was talked into believing he was too young for Disney. So I went elsewhere and had a nice trip, but the decision still bothered me. Not knowing when or if I could afford another trip, I felt I might have missed an opportunity for my son to see Disney World
A few months later, a sales contest ensued at work. The prize? Another 3 night hotel stay. It was as if someone was telling me “You blew it last time boy, here is your second chance.” Our office won the contest, and I was presented with a second chance to take the trip I knew I should have. I didn’t hesitate and booked a room in Orlando to see Mickey Labor Day weekend.
That is the setup, now the hook.
My son’s Grandparents did what Grandparents do best, spoil him. The fact that they were not going on this trip was irrelevant, they wanted to ensure the young man was properly taken care of and loaded him up with some Disney Dollars for the trip. He was told to spend the money on something he wanted and we were instructed to make sure he did.
While I had not been to Disney in 16 years, I was quite sure that young Sam would have no problem finding a place to spend those magical Disney dollars. As we all know, there is no shortage of Disney colossal cash grabs…err…gift shops on property.
We arrived at the Magic Kingdom on a hot sweaty late August morning, Sam ready to be separated from his wallet. Exiting the air conditioned comfort of Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger Spin, he spotted it – the gift kiosk with the LGM characters on top. They seemed to be calling to him “buy heeeere..oooo.” Sam surveyed the offerings and found the object of his desire, a shiny Buzz Lighyear toy that could squirt water. Perfect, his favorite character and he could use it for his favorite pass time, making a mess.
Sam looked at me for approval and I relented and pointed him to the cast member at the kiosk saying “let’s go pay.” Sam approached the cast member and handed him his chosen toy and with pride reached into his pocket to pay. I began to say “here, give me your wallet” when I was interrupted by the cast member. “Dad, we can take care of this transaction if that’s OK” he said. I smiled and stepped back.
Over the next few moments, the cast member worked with my five year old on his purchase. They spoke about the toy and how much he liked Buzz Lightyear, where he was from (Sam not Buzz although that probably came up as well) and how much fun he was having. He kneeled down to meet Sam’s level but never spoke down to him, never hurried him and treated him with the same respect and friendliness any full sized guest would receive.
Sam was sold and eager to pay. The price of “Water Buzz” was given and the concept of sales tax was even discussed. This guy was better than some of the Economics professors I had in college at explaining this. The cast member proceeded to help Sam count his Disney Dollars out, adding them up and asking “do you think this is enough?” When they agreed on the amount of Mouse bucks to be handed over, the cast member counted back the change, doing it like a math problem, all with a smile. The purchase was bagged and Sam was thanked and told what a great job he did counting.
Sam beamed. He just purchased the toy he picked out with his money (the fact that the money had a Mouse on it rather than a President matters not)all by himself. He made the small talk, he did the counting, this was now his toy. He was so proud but not nearly as proud as I was.
“Water Buzz” stayed with us for years and became Sam’s favorite bath toy. And the story of how he purchased him became that subtle little moment for me.
Ten years and some twenty Disney trips later, I still think of that cast member each time I see the neon green glow of the LGMs peering over the top of that kiosk. I always make a point to stop and browse at it each trip to remember how on at sticky Friday morning, one Cast Member, suited in Tomorrowland grey, made my kid’s day and had me grab the Mouse’s bait, hook and all.