The most magical place on Earth? Not if you work there.
Disney World employees — officially known as “cast members” — have reported being yelled at, pushed, hit, scratched and even spat on by visitors, according to the New York Post and the Orlando Sentinel, which analysed reports of several incidents.
One female staffer had to inform a visitor, who was staying at the $880-a-night Grand Floridian Resort, that he had shown up at the wrong time for a ride via Disney’s virtual line-waiting service FastPass. After the worker let the guest go ahead anyway, the irate man grabbed her shoulder and yelled, “I’m not your slave!” and “You don’t tell me what to do!”
Another cast member was scratched, elbowed and shoved by a 36-year-old Frenchman because the Winnie the Pooh ride wasn’t working. And a third one was pushed by a 64-year-old Canadian man who was impatient about exiting Splash Mountain after the ride broke down. “Get the (expletive) out of my way,” he said, according to the Sentinel.
A different visitor, an oil scientist from Ohio, repeatedly rammed a stroller into an employee because he was mad about being asked to leave a viewing area. Yet another Disney worker bee was headbutted by a 57-year-old tourist who was upset that his wife — who appeared to be able to walk without assistance — wasn’t allowed to use the wheelchair line at the monorail station.
“The guests will push the boundaries,” Tommy Fontenot, who has worked at Disney for 14 years, told the Sentinel. “We serve as an emotional punching bag.”
Mr Fontenot added he had also seen co-workers crying in the break room.
In one very extreme and widely publicised incident in July, a Disney World employee was punched in the face by an angry 23-year-old Chicago woman who didn’t have a valid FastPass for the Tower of Terror. (The Disney worker walked away with a swollen eye but did not want to press charges.)
In two separate incidents in and near the Haunted Mansion, one worker reported a visitor grabbing her crotch, while another reported a different park-goer touching her breast twice.
Confusion with FastPasses, impatience with waiting in lines and just being told “no” are the top-ranking causes of ire toward workers at Disney World, reports the Sentinel’s Gabrielle Russon, who reviewed nearly 50 employee complaints filed over the past decade at the theme park. Nine of the incidents occurred in 2019.
A 24-year-old Disney employee, Lauren Abdul, said she had been hit, cursed at and spat on. (She didn’t file a report with police.)
“There have been times where I’ve been at work, and I’ve asked to get a bathroom break,” Ms Abdul told the Sentinel.
“I’ve had to just sit in the bathroom for five minutes because it adds up during the day.”
Sometimes there are consequences for the out-of-line visitors. The Chicago woman was banned from Disney World for life, as was the man who yelled “I’m not your slave”.
The pushy 64-year-old Canadian was arrested, but the state attorney’s office later dropped criminal charges. The oil scientist was arrested, but the state attorney dropped the charges after the employee declined to prosecute.
Disney says it is up to the employee whether to press charges. The company also acknowledges that many employees don’t report incidents.
As for what the cast members can do to avoid such conflicts, Disney told the Sentinel new hires must undergo safety training. Employees also carry a two-way radio or a phone to call for help. Disney security and deputy sheriffs also patrol the grounds.
The company also told the Sentinel it had a wellness assistance program that provided five free mental health visits with a counsellor.
And if all of those don’t work, there’s always crying in the break room.