I’ve been selling Disney travel for going on five years (or is it 6?) and there is one universal truth when it comes to the end of April.
Agents hate hearing the “F” word.
F as in FREE. Free as is in FREE DINING!
What started out as a very cool promotion to help entice some would-be Disney travelers to visit The World during slow periods of the year has now become a headache.
It’s the travel agents’ version of Tax Day for accountants. Or Black Friday for retailers.
The weeks leading up to the “Free Dining” offer release, rumor websites start to whip those would-be Disney travelers into a foaming frenzy.
That frenzy came to a head Monday, as the Free Dining offer was officially released to the public.
This is my groggy account of my experience:
It’s 3:30 a.m. and my old body wakes me up to go use the bathroom. Of course, I take a peek at my phone to see the time and then check email to see if they sent the email while I was asleep.
Nope, no email yet. About 30 minutes later, I’m still not sleeping, so I check email again. Nothing.
Luckily, I do fall back asleep, but not for long. My wife’s alarm wakes me up and I immediately grab my phone to see if it’s official yet.
Still nothing on email. And just as my body starts to relax again, I hear that familiar DING. That’s gotta be it. And sure enough, it was.
So I grab my iPad and get on Disney Travel agents site and start bringing up booked reservations to see if they qualify.
Shortly before 6 a.m. I get my first inquiry.
“Any luck yet?”
“Working on it now,” I respond.
And of course, that client’s trip is the one that’s going to give me the most trouble (more on that later).
My wife kisses me goodbye as she heads off to work and I decide “Well, I better get my ass on a laptop and get this done.”
So, I walk into the kitchen, fix a bowl of Cheerios, get the coffee going and then sit down to start saving clients some money.
I go back to work on Client A’s trip. And of course, it’s not showing any availability. And the bad thing is he doesn’t even want free dining! He’s hoping to take advantage of the room discount.
So I grab my phone and commence to dialing. Maybe talking to someone at Disney will be more productive.
Wait, wait just one damn minute. Is this 1986? Who has a busy signal these days?
Disney, that’s who.
So I try again. And again. And again. And about 75 more times. All busy signals.
At one point, I start to think I’m calling 94.5 KSMB back in the day, trying to be the 94th caller so I can win tickets to the Def Leppard concert.
I figure I need to multi-task a little. So, while I’m waiting to break through the busy signal barrier (man I hope I get floor seats, Pour Some Sugar On Me!), I get back on the website and start checking for another client.
OK, here we go. A little success!
Client B’s trip is in the window for the promotional rate. Hmm, oh, she’s got base tickets and her preferred room isn’t available.
Well, let me message her to see if she’s OK with adding parkhoppers (one of the stipulations of “free dining”) and losing the preferred room.
RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRING!!! RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRINGG! RRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRING!
Yes! Disney’s line is ringing.
Wait, that’s not Disney’s line. That’s my alarm.
What the hell is my alarm doing ringing at 7 a.m.? Oh shit, I forgot. I have kids. They need to start getting ready for school.
So, I run into the bedroom, yell at Logan to get up, then run back to the computer.
Client B responds with “Let me talk to my husband and I’ll let you know.”
In the meantime, I make the necessary changes to her trip to see what the price would be for her now.
I send her the new price, she sends me a message saying “Let’s do it!”
So I’m like “Yes!”
I make sure everything is all good and I hit the “Check Out” button to complete the changes.
Oh hey Woody! What a rootin’, tootin’ day we got going here buddy!
(10 minutes later)
OK Woody, you can stop your stupid lasso crap. I’m gonna need you to go to the confirmation screen, if yo….
OK, deep breaths Brady. It’s fine. You know the room’s available. Just do it again and hope this time Stitch doesn’t eat the page or Wreck-it Ralph doesn’t show up.
“Daddy, are you ready to go??”
“Oh crap, Logan. I forgot you were still here. Yeah, let me throw on my shoes and I’ll walk you to school.”
Just in case, I try Disney on the phone again, still working on Client A’s trip. Busy signal. Man, they have to be around caller 90 by now.
OK, I’m back from bringing Logan to school. I have about 20 minutes before Kaleb gets up.
Let’s knock out Client B’s trip.
Oh, hey there Woody. I’m not even kidding, partner. If you crash my page this time, you’ll be worried about more than a snake in your boots.
Oh hey, that’s what the confirmation page looks like!
Sweet! Client B trip done! “Free dining” added to the trip. She ended up adding a little to her original total, but now she has parkhoppers and a dining plan. So, she ends up saving $450 in the long run.
OK, back to the phone. Busy signal.
OK, while I’m waiting, Clients C and D asked about booking a December trip and were ready to book last night.
So, now that we know free dining dates, let’s see if I can make it work for them.
Bam! Two more trips booked with free dining, saving both parties $450 each.
OK, back to the phone.
Busy signal. Are you freaking kidding me!
“Oh hey Kaleb! Good morning.”
“Oh, Jared’s up too, huh?”
Well, that’s going to slow things down. Oh well, let me take a little break from dialing Disney to get Kaleb to school and get little Jared’s day started.
I send Client A a message that I’m still working on his trip, but I gotta take a quick break to bring son to school. He’s cool with it, knowing exactly what I’m going through because he’s a Disney buff like me and is reading the horror stories on the Disney websites.
Now I’m back from bringing Kaleb to school and it’s just me and the little one.
Back to the computer, back to the phones.
Checking to see if I can do something for Client E while waiting patiently for Disney’s busy signal blockade to collapse.
“Jared, what are you doing with the box of Cheerios?”
He shoots me a blank stare, and he shakes the box.
“OH, daddy forgot to fix breakfast huh? Sorry buddy, here you go.”
With Jared chomping down on his Cheerios, I get back to work on Client E’s trip.
I think I’m on attempted dial No. 156 when Client A messages me with probably the best words I read all day “Hey, what if we switched our dates? Would that help?”
Well, let me check!
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Not only did it help, it saved Client A a whopping total of $1000! And he kept his view, kept his ADRs, kept his number of nights. Just had to change the dates slightly.
Once again, I had to sweat out Woody’s lasso tricks. Confirmed!
OK, back to Client E’s trip. This one is tricky because her trip actually starts the day before free dining starts. So, let me see what happens if I change her dates.
Oh great. Call to modify.
Yeah, let me do that. It’s so easy.
“Jared! It’s ringing!!!!!”
Oh, that wonderful, wonderful sound of hearing that chime and then the sweet automated voice asking for your travel agent info.
“Not now Jared, I have to focus!”
Wait, what’s that in your mouth? Is that an acorn? Where the hell did you get an acorn son?
Oh well, it won’t hurt you until tomorrow (poor baby).
Ahh, I’m in! Love hearing that Disney music while I wait on hold.
“Wait a minute, did she just say 90-minute wait???”
This isn’t Rock N Roller Coaster, why is there a 90-minute wait?
Oh well, at least I’m in.
In line, I mean.
(45 minutes go by)
“Jared, are you still eating acorns? Oh never mind, that’s just a leaf.”
Why do we have leaves in our living room? I probably need to pay more attention to him. But Grim Grinning Ghosts is playing.
And then silence.
Here we go.
Then a dial tone.
All I could do was laugh to keep from crying. And it’s a good thing Jared has quick reflexes. I think I have insurance on my iPhone.
Eventually I figure out Client E’s scenario and now waiting to hear back from them. Checked on Client F’s booking and her original booking was already better than what’s being offered (the benefit of booking bounce-back offers).
I look at my notebook and I think I’m done.
Whew! I survived the Free Dining morning.
At the end of the day, I went a cool 5-for-5 with a sixth trip that’s on the fence.
I’d say that’s a successful morning.
Now I’ll sit back and wait to see if any new clients want to take advantage of the promotions.
Oh, and I should probably take the time to rake the living room.
Thanks for reading. And remember, if you are planning a vacation in the future (even non-Disney), give me a chance to book your trip. I’ll do my best to make sure you’re taken care of, so email me at FTJBrady@gmail.com.
And remember to always let your conscience be your guide.
P.S. No kids were harmed in the booking of these free dining trips.