Crystal, the Speedway Concierge!
by, 01-10-2012 at 04:45 AM
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Hello, and welcome to this week's [B]'From The Mouth Of The Mouse!'[/B] Each week, we spotlight a different Cast Member story to give you more insight into some of your favorite attractions, resorts, and movies from all over the Walt Disney Company. [/FONT][FONT=verdana]
This week, we’re talking Crystal. She worked at the Tomorrowland Speedway for a few months before moving over to the All Star Sports Resort as a concierge. Just how did she go from racing around the track to the equally fast paced world of a resort concierge? Just read on to find out![/FONT][/SIZE][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]
And now, here's Crystal! [/FONT][/SIZE][HR][/HR] [SIZE=3][FONT=verdana] [I]
JEFF: What made you want to work at Disney to begin with? [/I][INDENT][B]
CRYSTAL:[/B] I have always been a Disney nerd. My family did not have a lot of money when I as a kid so I never went when I was young. I remember my best friend coming back from her Disney World vacation when we were 8 or 9, and telling me all about it. She had one of the Birnbaum’s official guides, which I borrowed, and spent hours and hours looking through, dreaming about actually seeing all of those things, making lists of everything I wanted to do. I finally got to go on my first trip when I was 18, and I spent months and months researching everything online first. It was basically the grown-up, internet age version of my early guidebook gazing. After that first trip, I had the Disney bug and worked countless overtime hours the next several years so I could keep going back. I got really into writing trip reports to share my experiences and the things I learned. I had a really rough year in 2007, a combination of losing family members, health issues, and generally feeling like I needed a major change. I started considering the idea of moving to Florida, but didn’t make any solid plans. Then on my Disney vacation that October, I was watching Festival of the Lion King and was just overwhelmed with that feeling of “I belong here.” I went to casting the next day, went through the application and interview process, and was hired. I moved out to Florida just over a month later.
JEFF: I love the “I belong here” feeling…Lots of people get that feeling, but very few actually run with it. I’m glad you did, though! So, you worked in both attractions and as a concierge. How did you wind up in those positions? [/I][INDENT][B]
CRYSTAL:[/B] Usually when someone is first hired, they can pick the general category of their role (food and beverage, attractions, etc.) but there is not much choice over the actual location. Actually, I didn’t learn which attraction I would be working at until the end of Traditions, when I got my training schedule! When I applied for front desk/concierge, I was given the opportunity to rank resorts I would most like to work at, but I decided to leave it up to chance. I’m really glad that I did it that way, because I learned, after working a couple of weeks working at other resorts on special assignments, that some of those places were much less fun than places I would have ranked towards the bottom! The All Stars wouldn’t have been among my top choices, but I think it’s actually one of the most fun resorts to work at! [/INDENT]
JEFF: You originally worked at the Speedway for 2 months, but then moved over to concierge. Why the somewhat sudden change? [/I][INDENT][B]
CRYSTAL:[/B] I originally applied to work front desk (which includes concierge) while I was on vacation, knowing that I would be moving to Orlando in a few months. I didn’t have an exact date that I knew I’d be available to work yet. I was accepted for the position, but when the time for me to move came, no front desk positions were currently available. So they gave me a choice of attractions or quick service so I would have a job until my position did become available. Attractions sounded like more fun, so I went with that, even though the pay was a bit lower. After around a month and a half at the Speedway, I finally got to interview for an open concierge position at the All Star Resorts. I’m glad I got the experience of working in attractions, especially at Magic Kingdom, but I was SO happy to be moving to a job that was more “me”! I worked in a hotel for 3 years before moving to Florida, so a job that combined my previous hotel experience with helping people plan Disney trips was practically tailor-made for me! I was especially excited to be moving to an indoor job, since I’d already gotten sick from the heat at Speedway once... in the middle of February! I didn’t miss the crazy tan lines and always smelling like car fumes when I transferred, but I did kind of miss how toned my legs were starting to look from wearing heavy steel-toed shoes every day!
JEFF: What were your basic responsibilities for the Speedway? Can you give me an overview of what a typical day was like?[/I][INDENT] [B]
CRYSTAL:[/B] Oooh, boy, this might get wordy! As you can imagine, there isn’t really a “typical” day at Disney, but I can give you a general idea! A lot of the responsibilities and general flow of the day at Speedway depends on if you are working morning or night shifts, or somewhere in between. For opening shifts, morning starts out with filling all the cars with gas, wiping them down with a rag to make sure they are show ready, and my not-so-favorite part, getting them all started. Some of the cars are great and will start the first time you try them, while others were a battle! Once the cars are all up and running, you have to get them out onto the ride track, since they are stored backstage overnight. There is definitely a learning curve to putting cars on the track. If you don’t hit the angle just right, you’re going to be calling a few fellow CMs over for help repositioning the car!
Several positions at the Speedway are the same as at every other attraction. There are one or two people out front greeting guests, and it is their job to keep the wait time sign up to date, send guests with disabilities to the right area, hand out Flik cards (those red cards on a string we use to measure the wait in line), keep the stroller parking organized, and help measure kids to see if they are tall enough to ride alone. This is the position with the most guest interaction, so you spend a lot of time directing people towards Space Mountain, the nearest restroom, Mickey, etc., as well as answering the usual “No, we don’t have Fastpass.” “Yes, the wait really is 30 minutes” questions.
The next cast member that guests will encounter as they go through the line is the grouper (no relation to the fish), who is in charge of assigning people to a car. The cars at Speedway hold an adult and a child easily, but you can sometimes smoosh two small adults in. It sounds simple, but I think this is one of the most challenging positions! It involves keeping an eye on the entrance used for guests with disabilities, so that you will know if one or more cars on that side will already be taken, trying to communicate to guests that speak a different language where you want them to go, working around when a car has to be taken out of circulation because it is running funny, trying to keep families together, doing your best to accommodate “I want a blue car!” type of requests, catching the guests that just speed past you without stopping, and so on! Time can go really fast here when it is busy, because you have to stay so focused on what you are doing! One group going to spot 3 when you said 2 can cause a big jumbled mess of people really quickly, so you have to be on your toes!
A big portion of a Speedway cast member’s time is spent on the track. There are usually between 8-12 people on the track. Their job is mostly about safety, making sure that everyone is buckled in, reminding people not to bump other cars, standing with one foot on the car’s outside brake until everyone is safely seated, giving the basic “you push on the pedal to go!” type of instructions, etc. If guests say that a car wasn’t working right during their ride (no steering, kept stalling, would barely go), the Cast Member on the track will be in charge of taking that car out and around to the maintenance garage backstage (And generally offering the guest the opportunity to ride again in a different car, if they want to).
Taking a car off the track can be a bit of a production, depending on which lane it is on. If the car is on Track 4, which is farthest from the backstage area, you have to signal your fellow CMs to stop the cars on all of the other tracks while you lower the rails (which keep the cars in their own lane) and drive the car around to the back. There is a special parking area for cars that need maintenance, so once you get the problem car back there (which can be pretty interesting, depending on what’s wrong with it!) you just leave a note on the car for maintenance about what’s wrong, and you’re good to go!
My favorite position was usually the Bridge. This is a spot out near the middle of the track (on a bridge, thus the highly creative name!) where you can see most of the ride track. This cast member keeps an eye out for anyone having trouble (or causing trouble!), and will run out to restart cars that stall. You can also pretend you are Mufasa - “Everything the light touches is my kingdom.” Even though the attraction has a height requirement to drive alone, a lot of children will find that by halfway through the ride, they are really struggling to push the pedal that makes the car move (you have to stomp on them pretty firmly!). The bridge cast member will ask if they would like some help and if so, hop in the car with them to push the pedal while they steer. This cast member will also periodically run a count of how many cars are on each track, so that if several have been taken out for maintenance, we know where to add more. I loved this spot because you get away from the exhaust fumes for a while, you have a nice tree for shade, and it is comparatively pretty quiet.
Plus, it is fun to watch people enjoy the ride! Some kids drive along looking super-serious, like they are on their way to work on a morning commute, while others are all hands in the air “WOO-HOO!” There are a few other random duties that can come up during the day. You are generally only at one position for around 30-45 minutes at a time before you are bumped to the next one. A computerized deployment system tells you where to be and when, so when you are working as greeter, for example, Bob might come up to take over your position and you will go back to get your next assignment. In addition to the normal positions above, these can include sweeping the line and spectator areas, helping to organize the stroller area, creating magical moments, or adding/removing cars to/from the track depending on how busy it is. At the end of the night, cars are all brought back stage and shut down. This is way easier than opening for the morning! One weird side-effect of working at Speedway (at least for me) is that because you spend all day walking in front of cars, the part of your brain that tells you that walking out into traffic is a really dumb idea kind of shuts off. I remember once in Downtown Orlando when a friend had to stop me from walking right out into traffic! You kind of forget that normal cars don’t all go 4 mph!
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JEFF: How about as a concierge? [/I][INDENT][B]
CRYSTAL:[/B] Concierge gets a somewhat shorter answer, even though the job itself is quite a bit more detailed. The main responsibilities there are assisting guests with dining reservations, selling tickets to the theme parks, water parks, and special events like the Halloween and Christmas parties, answering almost every question you can imagine, solving any problems or complaints that come up, and helping out the front desk with check-ins when things get busy. Almost every day follows the same basic formula of counting your cash register drawer, logging on to several different programs, assisting guests, going on a break or two, assisting more guests, and banking out at the end of your shift, which is basically recounting your drawer, dropping any cash you took in, and running end of the day reports.
[I]JEFF: You also told me earlier that you were a trainer for other people at the Front desk. How did you get into that? Was that something you wanted to do, or were you asked to do it?
[/I][INDENT][B]CRYSTAL:[/B] Well, I never became a trainer for my area (concierge), although I did fill in a few times when a trainee’s assigned trainer called out sick. Instead, I worked as a facilitator for the resort’s orientation, which is where all new hires from all lines of business spend their very first day of work at the resort. We go over basic information about the resort, safety, and Disney in general, and then go out on a walking/driving tour of the resort so they can learn their way around. The resort periodically holds auditions for facilitators, which are the people who teach the orientation class. This is definitely something you do by choice; they would never stick someone there that didn’t want to be. I was interested in the position because I really enjoy having the occasional change of pace, so a day spent doing orientation once every couple of weeks was a fun break from my usual role. Plus, I really like welcoming new cast members and helping them to feel at home. Starting a new job anywhere can be scary, and for a lot of our new hires, this is their first time living away from home, sometimes their first time in this country! If I can make that transition easier and more fun, I’m in! They generally want people who have been at the resort for at least 6 months for this role, but I was accepted even though I had only been there about 2 months. I think having a background in theatre and public speaking helped, because being comfortable talking in front of a group of people is a major requirement! Some of my classes would be as few as two or three people, but during new CP and ICP season, 30+ people in class was pretty normal.
JEFF: Any times you can think of that you went out of your way to make a guest's visit more magical?
[/I][INDENT][B]CRYSTAL:[/B] The freedom to make extra magic was one of my favorite aspects of being a concierge. My managers at the All Stars were great, and they generally trust our judgment on handling situations however we felt was best. I loved the opportunity for creativity that comes with that freedom! Why just tell a guest you’re sorry their shower needs to be repaired when you can send them to the food court for ice cream sundaes while the work is done, instead? It all kind of blends together after a while, but I do remember a time when a fellow CM and I went on a little shopping spree in the gift shop for some guests that were visiting to celebrate their anniversary and had told us about an especially rough day they’d just had. We had so much fun picking out some gifts to send to their room! Magic is such a big part of the everyday job there that I’m actually having trouble remembering specific examples! Even though most of my magic-making was in concierge, my most vivid memory comes from when I was at Speedway. I had a family who was down to the last hour of their visit, and their son (who had special needs) had been dying to drive one of the cars the whole trip, but they just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. I helped them into the car and sent them off as normal, but when I saw the amazing joy on the little boy’s face when they came back around the track at the end that I asked if they’d like to stay on and go again. The answer was a resounding yes, and again the boy looked like the happiest kid in the world when it was over. I think I ended up letting them ride five times in a row before they finally had to leave. As they were about to go, I handed the boy one of our Speedway drivers licenses. I’m not sure if these are still around, but they were a fun little extra thing that we would hand out now and then.) Even though he couldn’t speak, he made excited “Ooh ooh!” sounds and proceeded to show EVERYONE in line his new license! There’s something really cool about getting to make a child THAT happy and excited, with hardly any extra work on my part.
[SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][CENTER][SIZE=1]Crystal visiting her old stomping grounds[/SIZE] [/CENTER]
JEFF: Any other fun stories that you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them!
[/I] [/FONT][/SIZE][INDENT][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana][B]CRYSTAL: [/B][/FONT][/SIZE][SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]One of the coolest parts of working in concierge is that we would occasionally get to do really amazing things to increase our knowledge of Walt Disney World. The Sammy DuVall Watersports Center at the Contemporary treated us all to a day of parasailing, jet skiing, tubing and boat tours, and on another occasion I got to do the ride-along experience at the Richard Petty Speedway. Restaurant Marrakesh invited us to sample a meal so we could give our guests first-hand knowledge of the restaurant. I always tried to take a moment to really take in those experiences, and appreciate that I was getting PAID to do something that guests paid hundreds of dollars for! One of the other best things about working for Disney is the recognition. I remember working my pre-Disney hotel front desk job, watching an awards show on TV one night and thinking how nice it must be to be an entertainer and get awards for doing your job. I thought about how nobody ever came up to the desk and said “Wow, that was a really great check-in, you deserve an award!” So imagine my surprise when not long in the future a manager came up to me at work and gave me a card recognizing a great check-in I’d just done!
[SIZE=3][FONT=verdana]Thanks for sharing with us, Crystal![/FONT][FONT=verdana]
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