As some of you may already know, I am a Cast Member at Walt Disney World. It’s a really fun place to work, and I love my job. I get to “Create Happiness” (that’s part of my job description!) for people from all over the world. When I make them happy it makes me happy, so it’s a win-win situation all around. I also work with some of the nicest people on the planet, my fellow Cast Members. I myself am retired and very content to work in Merchandise part time, which is generally 3 days a week. But working at Walt Disney World can be a career if you have the right stuff to succeed there. Most of the leaders and managers started out at low end jobs and worked their way up to the positions they hold now.
However, whether you are in the upper echelon of workers or a “peon” like me everyone who works at Walt Disney World (WDW) is entitled to a number of awesome perks. It would take a very long blog to mention them all, so I am just going to go over the ones that I think are most interesting and fun. Full time workers get more benefits than part timers, this blog will include benefits that are available to almost everyone.
First, all part time and full time workers are entitled to enter all of the WDW parks for free, most any day of the year. There are some blackout dates (i.e. Christmas Day) but they are few and far between. Although I work there three days a week I still very much enjoy going as a guest, so I take advantage of my free entrances quite often. Parking is free as well. I am entitled to bring guests in up to 16 different dates of my choosing. Each of those times I can take up to three guests with me, and I have special passes to use for those guests. I have to be there with them to show my ID in order to let the guests in. There are a number of blackout dates for this perk, especially at the Magic Kingdom, but there are way more dates that are available than are blacked out. Twice a year I get 2 free tickets that I can give to anyone. Those tickets have no blackout dates, and there is no need for me to come along when those passes are used.
From approximately the end of October to the beginning of January, Cast Members get a special discount on the majority of merchandise sold at WDW. Generally, we get 20% off but during this special time we get 40% off most items. I have to control myself not to spend too much with a big discount like that! One of the coolest merchandise discounts available only to Cast Members is at a place known as Property Control. That is where all the damaged merchandise ends up, things that are not perfect and can’t be sold to guests. Sometimes it is something broken beyond repair or badly damaged. But quite often you can find something terrific that has a small defect – i.e. a seam that needs to be sewn or a small mark on the fabric that needs to be washed out. The prices there are amazing, everything is 75% off. Sometimes I can’t even see what is wrong with the item! Being a cheapskate, Property Control is where I buy most of my shirts, hats and other Disney items. My daughters work with children and often I find sticker books that have covers that are bent or ripped but whose stickers are just fine. I always purchase those and give them to my kids. You never know what you will find there, it’s like a treasure hunt!
Of course we all love to save money, but my favorite Cast Member perk is doing Behind the Scenes Tours at various WDW attractions. Every so often we are invited (via whatever location we work at) to do a tour that is not open to guests, or only open for expensive private parties. But if you are a Cast Member it’s free! I have been to a few but my very favorite was a backstage tour of the Haunted Mansion, as that is the attraction I like best at WDW. I cannot give away any secrets; we are literally sworn to keep the magic to ourselves. But I can tell you that I got to walk the ride with the lights on, and to go through every single room, including the ballroom, on foot. They did not rush us through, and I felt so fortunate to have had this experience, I was in Disney Geek heaven! When the tour was over we were allowed to ride the attraction before the guests arrived and were told we could take as many flash pics as we wanted to. I will include some of those shots throughout the rest of this blog.
As mentioned earlier it would take a really long blog to mention all of the perks, but here are a few that I hope you will find interesting:
1. Mickey’s Retreat: This is a place for Cast Members and their families to enjoy nature and recreation. There is a children’s playground, swimming pool, marina, tennis courts, basketball courts, volleyball courts, sports field, and a picnic area complete with tables and grills. Additionally Mickey’s Retreat offers special family events at various times of the year, including a Spring Fling and Fall Festival.
2. Magic Backstage: Cast Members can enter raffles to win prizes, some small and some super fabulous. Among the prizes are tickets to Cirque du Soleil and Orlando Magic Tickets to theater shows in Orlando, tickets to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party as well as Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party. We can win tours of various attractions including the ultimate VIP tour of all four parks. We can win a nice pampered day at one of the Disney World spas. But the best prize in my opinion, is a stay in the Cinderella Castle. Boy would I love to win that one!
3. We are entitled to substantial discounts on gym memberships, yoga, kickboxing classes, dance classes, Pilates, learning to scuba dive, and meditation classes. Karate, self-defense, Zumba and water aerobics are also offered at a reduced fee to Cast Members.
4. There are a number of sports leagues open to interested WDW workers. These include basketball, golf, soccer, volleyball and running. Like the classes mentioned above these have a fee, but it is very reasonable.
5. Disney partners with a number of local merchants to enable Cast Members to save money. For example, I get 15% off at my hairdresser when I show my cast ID. There are a wide range of discounts and in addition to those from local vendors, some of them are from the sponsors of the attractions at WDW. I have a hearing loss, and need hearing aids to compensate for the loss. Siemens is the sponsor of Spaceship Earth in Epcot. Among other things, Siemens makes hearing aids. I am sure most of you are unaware of how costly they are; each aid can run upwards of $3000. But since I am a WDW Cast Member I got a VERY substantial discount on my hearing aids. What a bonus!
6. Cast Members are entitled to 50% off most WDW resort rooms, subject to availability. We are also able to get 40% off for friends and family, again subject to availability. In addition to the free tickets I mentioned earlier we can buy discounted park tickets. Although the discount for the tickets isn’t huge it’s still a much appreciated perk.
7. I am not sure if this is exactly considered a “perk” but I still want to mention Cast Recognition. There are awards given out for excellent service, as well as for special anniversaries. On my one-year anniversary I was called up to the office where I work. A number of leaders and coordinators were there, and they applauded as I was presented with a balloon bouquet and a special pin commemorating completing one year as a Cast Member. I cherish the pin and all it represents to me.
These are just some of the many wonderful perks one gets working for The Mouse. But the biggest perk of all is being able to say “I Make Magic”. By going above and beyond expectations I bring happiness to guests every single day. It is SO satisfying when I am able to find an item a guest has been searching for and I see them light up with joy when I hand it to them. It’s wonderful to see the smile on the faces of guests both young and old when I dial a special number, hand them the phone, and Goofy wishes them a happy birthday. I love to see the excitement when I have that one pin a guest has been searching for during their visit. There are countless ways to make people feel special during a trip to Walt Disney World, and that is the reason people come back time after time. As Walt said, “It takes people to make a dream a reality”. If I didn’t get any of the perks written about in this blog I’d still adore my job, because just knowing I am part of making YOU feel special makes me very happy, and what a fab perk that is!