Are unscrupulous scalpers ruining the Disney Dining Experience?

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Anna Skamarakas, one of the original panelists on the Disney World Moms Panel (so she knows what she’s talking about), has exposed a very real problem with the Disney Dining system. On a new vlog, Skamarakas fumes over the state of Disney’s dining reservation system and how a few unscrupulous souls are making an already stressful situation worse.

If you’re not familiar with the Disney dining system, guests can make their advanced dining reservations (ADRs) 180 days out (up to 190 days if you’re a guest of a Disney resort). Disney opens online reservation at 6AM Eastern and phone reservations at 7AM. So set that alarm clock early, fire up all the computers at your house, and have your credit card ready.

The system evolved out of Disney’s desire to maximize profit by managing labor hours. Even though it seems they’re leaving money on the table, Disney managers would rather leave tables open with no guests because they don’t have enough staff to serve them, then have extra staff standing around waiting for guests to walk-up and eat. My suspicion is Disney manager bonus structure has more to do with meeting labor efficiency numbers than generating revenue.

Because of this, popular restaurants and dining times usually fill up immediately; often times before the 180 day window opens because of the early opportunity resort guests have to book.

The pressure to secure an ADR is made worse by the Disney Dining Program. Depending on your package level, you have one or two sit down restaurants a day. With the price for the package going up every year (and the benefits being reduced) you’re under pressure to maximize value by getting the best sit-down restaurants.

There’s also the blackbox that is Disney’s secret formula for how many tables are available at what time. They do hold some back for reservations closer to the date (although you can’t count on that) and deluxe resort concierge guests get special treatment. Plus there is the occasional cancellation. That means, if you don’t get the ressies you want at 180 days, you are stuck checking every day to see if something opens up.

Minor industries have built up with fee-based concierge type services that will check Disney’s website for your desired dining spots and then email you if that spot opens. You’re still responsible for calling or jumping online to finish the booking though.

I’m not sure why Disney would be happy with a reservation system that works like this. It’s the complete opposite of magical. But it gets worse.

Back to Skamarakas’ video. There is now a group of people who use computer automation to ‘snipe’ the best reservations and then scalp them back to Disney guests for a fee (usually $15 to $20). I don’t know why anyone would want to use a service like this, if they’re unscrupulous enough to scalp tickets, why would you trust them with your credit card.

Here’s Skamarakas with a little more detail on how it all works:

To me the ideal system would balance Disney’s needs to be efficient with labor with guest’s desires to enjoy sit-down restaurants without the stress of making ADRs 180 days out. There would also be enough tables held in reserve for day-of reservations to allow for some spontaneity to return to the Disney dining experience.

As I said above, the fact that we even need tools and services to spot open ADR times or have a company that can manipulate the system and resale ADRs, lets you know how broken the system is. It’s already gone too far, Disney needs to get a fix in place ASAP.

Have you ever used an ADR Concierge service? What about paying a scalper for an ADR? Do you think Disney has a responsibility to prevent scalping of ADRs and fix the system to take the stress out of the Disney dining experience?