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Foul Fellows

Where do you fall in the spectrum of rules-following "sheep" to anarchy-embracing rabble when you visit the Disney parks?

I don't know about you, but I've been witness to line jumpers before. There are those who blatantly push their way ahead of you, with nary a word of explanation (and no, these are not always teenagers). I've seen a variant with small kids pushing their way to the front claiming "my mom is in line ahead of us", only to see them finally rebuffed by a visitor with an eye for fairness, though the line jumpers are content to have skipped 90% of the line by that point. It boils my blood, personally. Whatever happened to the policy that "line jumping is subject to removal from the park"?

Longtime readers know where I'm going with this: line jumping gained legitimacy with FastPass, and people started to accept the concept, if not the outright abuse of the idea. The appropriate use of FastPass is not "illegal" at all (though I retain the right to have problems with the concept), yet I would maintain that the very existence of the system invites cheaters.

You've got the low-level cheaters who obtained FastPasses from a previous visit and never used them, and on their next visit try to bring these back out. I don't know about how it works in Anaheim any more, but out here in Orlando, they recently introduced a change to the FastPass printing to short-circuit this kind of cheating. The largest, boldest typefast on the printed FP ticket now says the day of the week and the date, making it harder to use last month's FP on today's visit. Good for them. (But bad for the system inviting such abuse in the first place).

Sliding up the scale ever so slightly, you've got the "FastPass Two-Step," a full exploitation of the child-switch coupon. (I guess it's the same "cheat" for the non-FastPass version of childswitch). To do this, first everyone gets a FastPass. Then, at the appropriate time, everyone gets in the return line. If you've got a small child with you, too small to ride this roller-coaster, you get a child-switch card. Sometimes they confiscate all the FPs as they give you this card, in which case there is less cheating of the system. But often, they allow the person(s) waiting with the child to keep his/her/their FastPass(es), and then also hold a child switch card. Now, the child-switch card is a FP for up to three people, the idea being that when the first parent comes back, the second parent can jump straight into the FP line. But the three-person limit creates a loophole. Do you have an older, tall-enough-to-ride child? If so, he can ride a second time, for "free." And if you managed to keep those original FastPasses without confiscation, you use those FPs for free, for a third time for that privileged older child. Or, if you're so inclined, you can try for the child-switch-two-step dance a second time, really enhancing your ability to line-jump.

FastPass certainly changes how everyone visits the parks.

Moving toward the truly disingenuous, we've got the "FastPass Switcheroo." To do this, simply get your FastPass like normal for Splash Mountain. You notice that the return time is two hours away, in the afternoon. Wait two hours, then return here and get another set of FP tickets, this time for later in the evening. But at this moment, your first set of FP tickets are active. Use them to get by the FP guard at the front, but when prompted to turn in your tickets at the front of the FP line, hand over the ones for this evening instead. 99.9% of the time, they do not look at these tickets whatsoever in this point in the line; they just add them to the pile in their hand and impatiently gesture you forward. All the examining of the tickets takes place at the start of the line, not the end. Voila, you've cheated the system. After this ride, you can get off and immediately ride again, since you've held on to the afternoon FPs and can use them in the normal fashion now.

None of this even touches on outright dishonesty and abuse of the FastPass system. In the old days, you could locate the "master" FastPass dispenser and hold in the unlabeled button in the back, which generated a free FP regardless of the ticket (or lack of ticket) in the front of the machine. These days, you need to turn a key to enable the free FP ticket, though sometimes I've seen the key stuck in the back of the machine, unguarded, while the Cast Member is otherwise engaged. I could imagine a "divide and conquer" mentality taking hold to distract the CM.

It would take less work, though, to just lie. Quickly obtain two FP tickets and hide them, then cycle through the other three admission passes (or annual passes) in your possession, getting FPs like normal. Then return to those first two you used, and naturally, what gets spit out are "not a valid FP" tickets. Cry foul to the CM, who may take the time to ask you to cycle through all five of your park admission tickets, but is more likely to just use the override key and give you what you want. Even if they put you through the paces, a little insistence on your end is all it takes for them to "cave" and provide you with the extra tickets.

It strikes me that so many of the ways to cheat at the parks revolve around FastPass. Frankly, I'm not a fan of the entire system, and my explanations of how to cheat the system are not provided in the hopes that you readers will go out and be dishonest, but rather that the powers that be at Disney will recognize the shortfalls of the current practice. I'm not sure how Disney is supposed to fix some of them, though. The harried CM issuing FPs encounters dozens of clueless tourists every hour, and most of them are truly confused, not trying to game the system, so it's unlikely they can adjust the "trust quotient" needed by this CM. It simply opens up an avenue for cheaters, and provides yet another reason why FP as a whole is an inequitable and unsustainable system.

Key + button = cheating.

But it's not just FastPass that folks cheat. There's the "oldie but goodie" in the form of wheelchair rentals. Since anyone can rent a wheelchair, no questions asked, able-bodied cheaters (yes, mostly teenagers) have tried for decades to use this device to access a special, shorter, and usually faster-moving line. It backfires sometimes I can think of a few rides where the wheelchair line takes more time, not less time but by and large it probably still does save time. Unfortunately, even minimal cheating means longer wait times for the people who are legitimately in the wheelchair lines. Just as with FastPass, this kind of cheating is not a victimless crime. For every minute spared by moving through the line faster, that's an extra minute tacked onto other rides (though perhaps spread out among those in line).

The granddaddy of disabled access cheating comes in the form of the Special Assistance Pass (SAP), which Disneyland used several years ago until cheating became so rampant that management had to discontinue the SAP. In those days, anyone could ask for an SAP, no questions asked or indeed allowed to be asked for legal reasons, and this pass would function not only as an unlimited FastPass, but as a true backdoor pass. Show it to a CM before you step foot in line, and you'd basically be escorted directly onto the ride.

Disneyland replaced it with the system in use at WDW then (and still is), called the Guest Assistance Card (GAC). The GAC is not a single card, but several different types, with most of them offering some kind of accommodation, just not "immediate boarding" onto the rides. They are color-coded to differentiate them. Even without true backdoor privileges, most garden variety GACs work as unlimited FastPasses, which is a tremendous boon.

What I don't know is whether the GACs can be obtained as simply as the SAPs. Can you just waltz into Guest Relations, declare your child has ADHD and cannot wait in lines, and be issued a GAC without a doctor's note? That was the case under the SAP, but I've never tried to find out with a GAC (partly because I'm frightened the answer may be that lawyers prevent Disney from requiring proof, but mostly because I'd feel dirty and guilty for simply asking, even though my motives are pure).

But we're stepping pretty far toward one extreme in the spectrum of cheating. There may well be people reading this who disapprove of the fraudulent disabled access but may yet engage themselves in smaller, more benign, perhaps more victimless methods of cheating. Or are the following examples just exploiting the system? Or something even more neutral, simply using or just reacting to the system?


2009 Kevin Yee

A Different look at Disney...
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