Pssst! Wanna buy some old FastPass tickets that will supposedly get you around the long lines at Walt Disney World's most popular attractions?
Despite Disney's insistence that old FastPasses are worthless, a brisk after-market exists on Internet sites such as eBay.
Disney World wants to stop the trade, and a spokeswoman said the company has complained to eBay in particular. But business is business, leaving customers to take their own chances.
"Since there are no laws prohibiting the sale of expired tickets, listings for expired tickets are allowed," eBay spokeswoman Catherine England said. "eBay does not enforce third-party contracts, so it's up to whoever issues the tickets [in this case, Disney] to enforce the terms and conditions they've defined for their tickets."
Walt Disney World Disney spokeswoman Zoraya Suarez said Disney tries to enforce the terms, though many of those who resell FastPasses insist it's not happening.
On most days, eBay features more than two dozen separate FastPass auctions, some for dozens of tickets. Some claim to offer VIP FastPasses good anywhere, anytime. Requested bid prices start at less than a dollar but can run into the hundreds of dollars.
FastPasses are the little paper tokens printed by Disney World kiosk machines for many of the resort's most popular theme-park rides and other attractions. Once inside a park, visitors can pick up the passes and then return at the designated time to avoid the long waiting line for the general public. Instead, those with FastPasses are sent through an "express" entrance with a shorter wait.
The passes are free, though there are limits on their availability each day. Disney World has offered various versions over the years, with different rules for ride entry, including a VIP FastPass introduced last fall for politicians and celebrities traveling with entourages.
Disney tries to head off bogus tickets
All recent FastPass tickets are stamped with a time and date, and with the warnings "NOT FOR SALE," "Valid only on date printed" and "Nontransferable." Suarez said Disney World ride and attraction attendants are instructed to reject any FastPass not stamped with the current date and time, as well as any tickets that are so old that they are not stamped with a date at all.
"What we typically do, we have the cast member politely explain the FastPass is only valid for the date and time issued, then we invite the guest to get a valid FastPass or go to the stand-by queue," Suarez said.
Disney also has taken steps to intercept counterfeit FastPass tickets. All valid FastPasses are cut by machine at the kiosks, resulting in perforated edges. Suarez said ride attendants are instructed to feel with their fingers for perforated edges and reject any tickets that don't have them. Disney also has been experimenting with more automated FastPass technology, adding bar codes to the tickets and installing bar-code readers at some attractions.
Online pitches offer assurances
In their online-auction pitches, those selling FastPasses openly debate Disney's diligence in monitoring the passes.
"Cast members do not bother looking at the date. I am so sure of this I offer a money-back guarantee," one recent FastPass seller on eBay stated in his auction description.
A different seller offering undated FastPasses countered: "Despite what other sellers on eBay claim, Disney IS checking dates and they ARE turning people away." But this seller argued, in his auction description, that would not be a problem with the passes he was selling because "none of these tickets has any expiration date whatsoever."
Many of the sellers appear to be trying to sidestep potential trouble from eBay by promoting the FastPasses in their offers, but then stating in fine print that they are actually selling a plain envelope, or a Disney park map, or some other object of minute value, and are throwing in a few free FastPasses for the winning bidder.
England said such sleight of hand is pointless.
"These sellers think they are skirting an eBay policy when, in the case of expired tickets, no such policy applies," she said.
The Orlando Sentinel attempted to contact several sellers, including one in Deltona who sold the Sentinel eight March 9 FastPasses to the Winnie the Pooh ride in Magic Kingdom for $6.50. But only one seller, from Georgia, responded.
"This is the first time I've ever sold any FastPasses," the unidentified seller stated in an e-mail. "You might be better off asking someone with a little more experience. If Disney didn't scam ME every time I blinked, I wouldn't feel it necessary to try to make a little money back from our trip. You can put that in your write up. :) Thanks for asking."