Markets in everything, the culture that is Manhattan

Some wealthy Manhattan moms have figured out a way to cut the long lines at Disney World — by hiring disabled people to pose as family members so they and their kids can jump to the front, The Post has learned.

The “black-market Disney guides” run $130 an hour, or $1,040 for an eight-hour day.

“My daughter waited one minute to get on ‘It’s a Small World’ — the other kids had to wait 2 1/2 hours,” crowed one mom, who hired a disabled guide through Dream Tours Florida.

“You can’t go to Disney without a tour concierge,’’ she sniffed. “This is how the 1 percent does Disney.”

That is by the way much cheaper than Disney’s own “VIP service,” which costs over $300 an hour.  Here is more, and I thank Neal and also Adam Cohen for the pointer.


I learned this a long time ago. You don't even need to hire anybody. Just put somebody in a wheelchair with a big bandage on his knee and you can do all of Universal Studios in 2 hours. I went with a friend who really was injured, but its not like anybody is going to ask a customer to remove their bandage or show the injury .

Your story is somehow less repulsive to me.

Well, in the redneck version it sucks to be the designated injuree who draws the short straw and has to get beaten up.

Because he was actually his friend and he wasn't paying him to come along.
Somehow when the relationship involves a monetary transaction, it becomes repulsive.

It's the whole exclusivity fetish- the important thing is not the thing itself, but the fact that I have it and you don't- that I find outstandingly childish, moreso than the cheating itself. I understand market segmentation blah blah blah, but...

Great lesson to teach your child. This is how to be the 1%.

Is this the same logic that makes organ donation noble but organ sales repulsive?

It is organ buying that is repulsive, generally. Most people have a lot of sympathy for anyone in dire enough straits to need to literally sell a part of themselves.

Which is why people who want to buy other people's body parts tend to talk about the right to sell, and not about their anticipated benefit in buying, even though such buyers are aware that a market requires both a buyer and a seller.

Since most hospitals charge a good deal for a transplant, the buyer is already buying the organ. It's somewhat like college football in that the market transactions are taking place, but the institutions are stiffing the revenue producers via claims of nobility.

Actually, I think money has an irrational disgust reaction attached to it in our culture, due to it's history as a disease vector and the spread of disease along trade routes (think of the bubonic plague in 1300). That's where I think the revulsion towards monetary transactions comes from. Money is on the "impure" end of the sanctity/degradation axis.

It's not the money that makes this repulsive, but the lying.

Pay Disney $300/hr for a legit concierge--noticeably less shocking than this.

I'd much rather some random guy with some disability to stand in line at $140 an hour than pay Universal studios $300.

On net, I would too, but it's a little degrading, isn't it?

I guess if the person doesn't care, live and let live, but it sends all kinds of wrong (exploitative) messages.

Dr. Wednesday Martin, social anthropologist who discovered scheme.

That bit made me wonder about the veracity of the report. Conflict of interest? It makes an awesome case-study in social anthropology, perhaps a tad too awesome?

Yeah... And that quote "she sniffed. “This is how the 1 percent does Disney.”" It can hardly be more offensive...

Yeah, alarm bells are ringing.

I was at Disney so I couldn't post this article, but I heard about it while there and thought "ah, Markets In Everything."

I don't know if the market rate is accurate, but it's about in line with what you can do with other methods. For example. you can also just have extra members in your party that don't want to ride any rides and use their fast passes to expedite queues for your riding members. It works easy with kids, too, as a "rider switch" pass. Past day 5, the marginal cost of a pass is less than $20 a day.

Disney is all about price discrimination. If you want to spend more money at Disney, it would be very easy to spend $1000/person/day without doing the extreme things like VIP tours.

This is what comes to my mind after reading this story:

It's also not nearly as GOOD as Disney's VIP service. And you can split the cost of the VIP service across a group of six or eight. It also gets you access to back passageways and no waits for dining. My first thought when I saw this story was that it's priced too high, considering that the 'official' VIP service can work out to be a better deal.

Honestly I do find the whole concept of a VIP service at Disneyland repulsive.
These are children we're talking about. What sort of message does it send if some kinds get to go on all the rides first ? Both to the rich kids and the poor kids?
Plus there's just the fact that every person who buys a VIP pass forces everyone else to wait longer. I think that's what pisses people off the most. Nobody would mind if the VIPs just got "extra" seats, like the first class section on a airplane. It's the fact that they actively displace other people who are in the slow line. It's a zero-sum game.

I find the whole concept of Disneyland repulsive (and refused to take my children there).

Disney is great at sexualizing all kinds of things, and also great at making things sickly sweet. Yuck.

What sort of message does it send if some kinds get to go on all the rides first ?

An important one: Life isn't fair.

They've got to learn it at some point. Life is full of VIP shortcuts.

You can already use Fast Passes a certain number of times a day.

And if you want lower wait times, wait until later in the day. We rode Star Tours 4 times in less than an hour one evening.

And honestly, riding any more frequently would have made me sick. It takes the body a while to recover from the g-forces. Get a FP for the long-wait attraction, go do a bunch of other things, then come back at your appointed time.

Lots of people simply do not care about their wait times. People wait for 2 hours for Spaceship Earth in the 11am sun because it's the first attraction at Epcot (the one inside the giant golf ball) that they see. At 4pm the line is less than 10 minutes.

What sort of message does it send if some kinds get to go on all the rides first ?

Money can buy hapiness? Being poor sucks? Any number of useful lessons.

What sort of message does it send if some kinds get to go on all the rides first ?

That money can buy hapiness? That being poor sucks? Any number of usefull life lessons.

But a bullet will splatter their brains just as it would yours.

I remember a story about an aristocrat lady in France pre-Revolution. The lady was following the mores of her time and would be correctly dressed when in company. However, she did not hesitate to take her bath (i.e. be naked) in front of her valet.

In some memoirs or letter, he remembered the anecdote and says something like: "it was as if my whole person was nothing but a piece of wood to her" (I laugh when I read that as I can well imagine a part of him being very wood-like indeed during those bathing sessions).

But the whole point was that the lady could not imagine her virtue or honour being damaged by exposing herself to a mere valet, a sub-human.

Of such slights too, revolutions are born...

So this is a transfer of wealth from someone who obviously has quite enough to someone who no doubt has some rather expensive medical bills, and potentially reduced job prospects. Sounds good to me, but the article seems to imply I should consider these actions "despicable"?

It's lying, and it exploits our compassion for the disabled.

But hey, what kind of namby-pamby economy needs trust?

Trust is indeed important.

I have a disabled son so we get those passes. In the end, let me tell you, it isn't any great shakes because my son can only ride a couple of rides but in any event which we ride over and over again. In at least one park I know of, you get interviewed before they give out the pass. They do it in a respectful way and I thought they were doing it to make sure we didn't go on unsafe rides but now I'm thinking part of it was making sure people don't abuse the pass. Maybe next year we will get asked if we are paying a fee to bring my son along.

Oh and those who see the benefit to the disabled child financially, you may be right but those of us dealing with family member disabilities pay a cost in terms of getting looks and on occasion actual comments from people who think we are receiving some sort of huge benefit by getting to cut to the front of the line.

Good point. I think people are overwhelmingly sympathetic to the principle that a disabled child gets to go first. It's a form of giving. But if people exploit this sympathy to jump the queue, it debases the value of that act. That can't help but have an effect on people's sympathy towards the disabled.

You're absolutely right. It's a transfer of wealth from someone who has extra to someone who probably needs more. Where it's "wrong" is that it's dishonest. I could probably hire many people in need of money to fraudulently pretend to be people in a way that benefits me, but that doesn't make it "right."

Furthermore, in this particular case, whether or not the guide even has a disability sounds fishy. The "guide" rides a scooter because of an auto immune disorder. That's a suspiciously vague condition that could include things like Celiac's, if there's actually any disorder at all.

I'm not sure you have identified the source of the transfer. The customer gets less waiting time at the expense of third parties who are not using the service. The guide's time is a transaction costs of effecting the transfer (assuming the guide doesn't enjoy the rides). At least with the Disney VIP service we can delude ourselves into believing that it results in lower prices for the great unwashed.

Rich wins the economics

I don't understand why Disney doesn't monitor this and eliminate the practice. Not just for fairness reasons, but to get the revenue for their own VIP service. I mean, I am sure they've got a ton of not happy witnesses happy to report each incident.

How should they separate the cheaters from legitimate disabled people coming with their families or friends? Same, last names? I doubt it.

No, simply look for repeat trips. Take the names of those accompanying those with disabled passes, and look for those that don't repeat after three trips.

6 Flags Magic Mountain near Los Angeles has a no "line jumping" policy that prevents this. But of course, the 1% don't go to Magic Mountain. There are a lot of fights at these places too, so given that they are catering to a different audience, this policy makes sense. Disney caters mostly to the rich to begin with, and this is what the wealthy do - pay to get ahead. Other commenters here are saying this is repulsive. I do not understand - this is how the rich do everything; they pay to get more of everything, to go first in everything, to get ahead in everything.

Perhaps though there doesn't need to be the farce of "waiting in line." That is probably what is repulsive to people. Disney just needs to have different pricing strategies for different average wait times for attractions. They should be capturing the revenue anyway.

Apparently, they do: It's called VIP tickets.

I'm surprised the Fast Pass hasn't been mentioned. It's a very effective and free way that Disney uses so that everyone who wants to avoid the lines can.

The 1% does Disney ?

Their kids do. 1% children watch the same children's movies as everyone else.

Then I think its high time for a new set of plutocratic overlords, ones with some taste and the backbone to have their tutors, nannies and wet nurses instill it into their children.

Just for the record: the most common occupation among the "1%" is... physician.

Physicians in America are grossly overcompensated because a cartel restricts the supply of doctors and because of our dysfunctional insurance system.

Just for the record: the most common profession of the "1%" is... Parent of Occupy protester.

Except they root for the evil stepsisters.

Bullsh*t. I grew up as a 5% at best and even my set considered Disney amusement parks white trash, beyond-the-pale entertainment. I'm sure the parents engaged in this are considered horrible parvenues by the most of the other parents at their private schools.

Excellent outflanking maneuver. Sniff at these people from ABOVE!

Doubtful. A friend is a nanny for 2 doctors who have four preteens. The kids love Disney. The parents (yes, two MDs with type-A schedules) have enough money to do an annual Disney trip where they are physically away from their offices. Why not? Everybody has fun.

Six Flags offers a service, for all of $100 per person per day, that allows you to skip all of the lines. Surprised Disney doesn't have something similar.

There is also the VIP option, which the "Manhattan Moms" are evidently too cheap for, which runs a couple thousand per day. All parks offer this, I believe.

While waiting in a long security line at the airport the woman in front of me, travelling with her pre-teen daughter, was getting agitated. She told her daughter to stay there and disappeared. She returned a few minutes later pushing a wheelchair. She placed her daughter in it and wheeled her off toward the VIP line.

That is despicable because the backlash will hurt those who are really handicapped.

I presume you didn't call her out? I sometimes wish we were less polite and proper as a society.

I appreciate your feelings here, but imagine what would happen had he called her out - the mother would play the victim and shame him for questioning the nurture of her poor injured daughter. He'd look like a cruel fool.

TSA might have detained him for creating a disturbance. While mom told a story about her daughter's foot injury.

No I didn't call her out.

I agree with the "less polite and proper" comment, but I didn't feel up to starting the movement right then.

Isn't this an inherent problem for all types of queuing distribution? The rich will pay more to line-jump, or figure out a way to line jump.
If you look at Canada's healthcare market, you have a situation where rich people can effectively line-jump by paying privately for care outside the system. This is why "single payer" is only stable if you outlaw private medical practice. When the Canadian Supreme Court legalized paying privately for medical treatment they opened the door for rich people to buy immediate medical treatment instead of waiting in line. That in turn incentivizes doctors to drop out of the public medical care system and go into private practice. So wait lists in the public system get longer, etc.

But back to topic, this also happened in New York and New Jersey when they imposed gas rationing. People would wait in line all day and repeatedly buy as much as they can and then sell it at a huge markup to those at the back of the line.

Queueing systems at easily defeated by creative entrepreneurs.

Certainly some of this happens, but single-payer schooling seems to have been (reasonably) stable for a long time, despite that the rich obviously pay through the nose for expensive private schools with better quality perception (and wait time is, after all, an aspect of quality), and those schools obviously get their faculty from the same pool as public schools. Nonetheless private school faculty salaries aren't on average higher, and the quality differential isn't enough to get most people to cough up the cash, considering they're already taxed to support the public schools. Obviously the system has some associated tension, anxiety, and occasional breakdowns (particularly in inner cities, where the wealthier flee the payment pool), but it nonetheless has worked for many years. Why wouldn't single-payer medicine be the same?

'Why wouldn’t single-payer medicine be the same?'

Because _____________.

You can fill in the blank any way you want, as long as you are an American. The rest of the industrialized world knows whatever that blank is filled in with proves America's specialness, since they already know how that sort of thing works. For better results and less cost, but then, they don't possess that American exceptionalism.

Actually, where I come from private school is not considered the domain of the wealthy; it's very common even among children of blue collar types. And let me assure that we do hear these complaints, especially from public school teachers and administrators -- that the private schools are 'unfairly' taking away the best students, parents, and teachers (although private school teachers are paid less).

As someone who has just gone through the process of looking to buy a house in the greater Chicago area, I can assure you that everyone knows exactly how the public schools are ranked and the houses are priced accordingly.

"Obviously the system has some associated tension, anxiety, and occasional breakdowns (particularly in inner cities, where the wealthier flee the payment pool), but it nonetheless has worked for many years."

Well, there you have it. The choice to move to an area with "good schools" is effectively a substitute for private school. The "fee" for the good schools is reflected in the premium for real estate. In areas with wide disparities in school quality, it is not unusual to see a substantial differential in prices between homes which are across the street from one another, if the street is the dividing line between good schools and bad schools.

Primary education is probably uniquely suited to this because the quality of the product is unusually sensitive to the quality of the users - good students make for good schools, bad students make for bad schools. One imagines that if there was a public hospital system run the way the public school system is run (i.e. provides services without user fees, funded by local taxes, but only serves people who can prove that they are residents of that jurisdiction), that people would pay a premium to live near "good hospitals". And, of course, the kind of human detritus who nobody wants in their neighborhood would end up with "bad hospitals" just like they currently have "bad schools", which would be dependent on state and federal government funding if they existed at all.

The ostensible purpose of a single payer system isn't just to provide basic healthcare to the neediest. If that were the case, then all you need is something like Medicaid. The purpose of single-payer is to provide health-care equality. It is to make sure that the the rich don't get better treatment than the poor. Canada's two-tier system obviously doesn't do that anymore.

Here is a datapoint for @Hazel Meade:
The Netherlands used to have precisely that system. Essentially single payer, and private practice was outlawed. Patients who could afford would travel abroad to avoid the wait-lists, often together with their Dutch physician/surgeon, who would then do the procedure on them abroad - often Portugal and Spain. Obviously single payer does not work, and there is now a mix of public system for lower incomes and private insurance for higher incomes, and private practice is legal again.

And a data point for @ad*m: Overcharging by Dutch healthcare companies is inflating the health insurance premium by 25%. (

Single payer healthcare systems do work and they consistently deliver world-class care for less spending.

I don't understand why more people don't do this. Anyone can put a family member in a wheelchair. The costs to doing this are not high and are not reserved to the very rich. Queuing and rationing schemes eventually fall apart if the costs of circumventing are low, so it seems that this should be the case here. Handicap lines should grow until it is no longer worthwhile to do it.

Maybe more of our population is ethical than I would first suppose. Or setting good examples for children is a highly valued behavior in Disney's target market. It would be interesting if you could measure this cheating as a function of wait time, so you could find willingness to pay for "ethical behavior in front of children".

I think for most of us the internal moral constraints against this are deeply ingrained. To the point that it would, literally, never have even occurred to me that such a thing was possible before I saw this post.

It's a spillover from the fact that handicapped parking is actually legally enforced and you can get fined for abusing it.
You get a norm established that is against using the handicapped parking spot without permission and it spread to all "handicapped" designated facilities. I've met people who think there is something wrong with using the handicapped stall in the bathroom.

I am surprised by the number of people trying to rationalize this away. This isn't highway congestion pricing or paying for private schools or private healthcare. In those situations, the people in general population benefit because there is less congestion when the rich withdraw and they are still subsidizing the whole system through tax revenue.

In this instance, the rich are essentially confiscating small bits of everyone else's time and effort to use for their own benefit. This is pre-industrial aristocratic behavior.

> This is pre-industrial aristocratic behavior.

You satirize yourself.

Eh. You're the one with the shtick.

I don't know what exactly the business model is, but I think about various sports stadiums that have tons of horrible cheap seats really far away from the field, but derive most of their actual revenue from luxury boxes that only seat a few fans. If Disney's model works the same way, which I doubt, and they were forced to choose between 1) eliminating the VIP program and making everyone wait, or 2) raising ticket prices high enough to eliminate long lines and cater only to previously VIP visitors, then they would choose 2. Does that benefit the non-VIPers, who now can't get in the front door?

Personally, I would never go to a park that required two hour waits for a single ride. What's two hours of your time worth, especially during a precious vacation? What's amazing to me is that anybody goes to Disney without purchasing the VIP pass. I suspect these people do not understand the time value of money, and are actually receiving a false savings by refusing to pay for the pass. How much are you paying for the vacation already? Probably a thousand dollars a day, minimum. And you're not willing to pay that much over again to avoid spending 90+% of your time waiting in lines?

One could actually say that this just shows the rich are smarter with money. If you take the line-waiting approach and it takes you five days to see everything you want to see, how much extra are you paying in hotels, etc, than someone who does everything in one or two days and leaves?

I'm not talking about the VIP pass. I'm talking about people hiring an outside tour operator who provides them with a handicapped person in order to skip to the front of the line. They aren't paying the park any extra money; therefore, they're not subsidizing everyone else for getting to skip them in line. In effect, they are cheating.

If everyone buys the VIP pass then that would nullify the purpose of it, wouldn't it? Lines would be just as long, only you'd be paying more.

The only way the VIP pass can work is if it is exclusive. You have to set the price high enough to stop the vulgar masses from being able to afford it, or it loses all value. So it's not just a shorter wait in line, it's a status symbol to boot.

The assumption is that when prices increase, there are fewer buyers.

Don't understand how this works. Never been to Disney, but I to enough other theme parks to know that VIP folks enter through a special entrance, usually near the ride. Surely, the attendee would notice that the handicapped person is not getting on the ride? Maybe, Disney doe not do fast roller coasters.

My sister is disabled enough that she needed a wheelchair for amusement parks (she can walk with braces in daily life, but a whole day of walking/standing is too much). In my entire childhood of going to probably about 1 unique amusement park per year I don't remember there ever being a ride she couldn't go on. The people they're hiring are probably like my sister, disabled, but not "too" disabled and are probably going on the rides.

Isn't there a whole economic literature on the importance of queueing? I think in places where orderly queues spontaneously form (many Anglophone countries) you see a lot of economic growth whereas in places without rules for queueing you don't see the growth (imagine a Middle Eastern bazaar)?

god bless the job creators

I'm slightly confused. Are they hiring people to stand in line for them and then line jumping up to the front when their "employee" is close to getting on, or are they hiring someone to ride around with them in a wheelchair/hoveround so they can go in the handicap entrance? I read this at the the later (esp since many older rides do no have ADA accessible queues), but if you're going to do something (borderline?) unethical, why pay for it. The utilidor entrances at the magic kingdom are unguarded and cast members ofter store extra wheelchairs and strolers just inside. Open one of the doors, take an unattended wheelchair, and get the same result while saving your cash for the emporium.

I'm guessing most of the line fraud is people doing just that, but a "rich people suck" narrative sells better. Take some of the comments in this thread as evidence of that. I've always associated this sort of thing with rednecks because of what I've observed at amusement parks until I saw this post.

"Personally, I would never go to a park that required two hour waits for a single ride. What’s two hours of your time worth, especially during a precious vacation? What’s amazing to me is that anybody goes to Disney without purchasing the VIP pass. I suspect these people do not understand the time value of money, and are actually receiving a false savings by refusing to pay for the pass. How much are you paying for the vacation already? Probably a thousand dollars a day, minimum. And you’re not willing to pay that much over again to avoid spending 90+% of your time waiting in lines?"

I think you mean "(money) value of time." Time value of money refers to the interest you would have received if you had money earlier, whereas you are talking about alternative uses of (leisure) time.

I believe there's plenty of literature showing that most of the value of a vacation comes in its anticipation and its memories, not in the act of going through it. I would assume there's a similar dynamic when it comes to designing amusement park rides and their queuing systems. A long wait indicates a good ride. Standing for an hour waiting for it heightens the anticipation.

I would assume that amusement parks design in noticeable wait time for most rides. If they really wanted a shorter line, they can add cars to the roller coaster, or find ways to load and run more simultaneous trains. Competitor parks can spring up next door assuming some of the demand. But, we've reached equilibrium with frequent one hour waits.

You don't need the VIP pass to avoid ever waiting even 30 minutes in line. Have a multi-day stay, be willing to say "screw it" if the lines are too long, ride the things with shorter lines more often, enjoy the other attractions, visit later in the day, and use your fast passes judiciously.


Or you could just talk your way into the differently-abled line. That's what my wife did at Disneyland about 5 years ago. Only ride we'd missed, going home the next day, kids ready for bed, hour wait, all true ... and the guy tending the secret gate had sympathy and let our family have the 4 extra seats that a group home wasn't using.

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