Black-Market Tour Guides at Disney World

The Week (and, earlier, the N.Y. Post) reports a new way for high-wage people to economize on time: when visiting Disney World, hire a “tour concierge” — a disabled person who uses his/her disability privileges to ignore waiting lines (and take the high-wage person and family with him/her ahead of the crowd).  At $130 per hour, the time saving is easily justified economically (just think of the lines at Space Mountain, or at my personal favorite, Small World).  It would be nice too if people would rent me their toddlers to board Southwest Airlines flights ahead of the mob.  Clearly, there is room for beneficial exchange like this in many areas.

These are not, however, Pareto improvements: while the “concierge” and his/her customers gain, everybody else in line loses. It doesn’t seem fair to me, and perhaps not efficient, since the externalities of extra waiting time for the whole line can be substantial.

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I'm not sure that wheelchair users should get preferential line status. A person wit a cane might tire faster from standing in line, and a person with severe intellectual or psychiatric problems might not be able to tolerate either the wait or the overstimulation, but a person who is sitting in a wheelchair (assuming that paralysis/recent knee surgery/etc is the only problem) doesn't actually have a medical issue that impairs their abilities to wait in line.


It may not impair their ability to wait in line, but considering that a wheelchair-bound man sued Disney for being stuck on the It's a Small World ride, I think they'll give wheelchair-bound people preferential treatment just to be safe.


Wow, $130/hour?? I bet a lot of people suddenly became "disabled" for that rate.


blackmarkets r a different story in my opinion.


For this to pay off, I suppose that the concierge would need to be able-bodied enough (i.e. not "too" disabled) to move around the park in a reasonable amount of time. Otherwise, time saved by skipping the line would be negated by the time spent waiting for your concierge to walk from one ride to another?

Mike B

This is what happens when you try to ration in any way that isn't price. Just like with tickets trying to be egalitarian is simply a fools errand and makes everybody worse off. Well almost everybody. The real winner is Disney because they can hook people with a low price of admission and then bait and switch people into riding the Line Ride instead of providing higher cost amenities. What people who use various ways to skip the queue are doing is making it clear to the suckers in line that they've been scammed.

The best thing for consumers is for Disney to raise the cost of rides so that fewer people ride them and no queues form.

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They've done research on it, and waiting in line improves the visitors' experience. If there are no lines, visitors are less satisfied with the rides than if there are fairly long waits. Over an hour per ride was determined to be the ideal. That allows you to get the benefit of talking over the last ride and the benefit of anticipating the next one.

If they'd extend their in-line entertainment, which can be quite extensive, to include water fountains, the occasional bench, and maybe even restrooms, then I think I'd have no objection to a two-hour wait.

Mike B

Are you being serious? Poe's Law in action.

Having been in situations with no line and an hour wait I can tell you that the no line situation is far better than cooling my heels for an hour for a 30 second ride. Even if repeated back to back rides gave me the shakes, I was able to call it a day early and go do something else. Oh wait, that doesn't help the park's bottom line.

Joel Upchurch

I took my parents to Disney Land in the 1980's and I got a Wheelchair for my mom and She and I had a great time cutting the lines, but my Father was exhausted from the walking.

Stephanie O

They're undercutting Disney's offering of VIP Tour Guides that take groups to the front of the line for $315-$380 per hour (I think there's a 6 hour minimum). I'm sure Disney will find a way to put them out of business.


Get ready for the Disney crackdown on the perpetrators exploiting the system. Now, here's how people handle the long lines at Tokyo Disneyland: People wait patiently. For hours and hours. They go to Disneyland and enjoy a couple of the attractions and go home. Long queues for popular ramen restaurants and bakeries are common here in Japan. TV shows often report on the popularity of, say, a confection from a certain shop and the long lines that form up to several days ahead. People camp out.


Do they have nothing better to do with their time in Japan? Don't they have to go to work? Or do they send their unemployed spouses or relatives to stand in line for days waiting for noodles or cake? That is a WHOLE different culture than the U.S. It's like saying the Ubangi tribe will camp out for weeks in the jungle in front of some bushes waiting for the exact moment the juujuu flower blooms to be the first to pick it for religious purposes. (yeah, that was awkward, and I totally made it up. )


In Japan, waiting in line is dealt with the viewpoint of "shoganai" – it can't be helped. So people don't make a big deal out of queueing . Everyday life long lines, no problem. Disneyland lines, no problem. Ubangi outlet store queue in the jungle, ok!

Eric M. Jones

I have lived my life trying to avoid standing in lines. Period.


This is definitely a short-lived market. As Disney makes the rounds refurbishing older attractions and building new ones, they are almost without exception ADA accessible. Soon there will not be enough attractions to warrant hiring a disabled person to take someone through the parks.


A similar practice is common in Manila Philippines and Jakarta Indonesia, where unemployed from the poorer classes stand by the road side and hire themselves as "car jockey" so the driver can add the necessary number of people to enable him to drive in the relatively jam free Transit lanes. The cost is only about $1-2 and allows the driver to save 30-90min


This is the kind of thing that happens in Russia. You can hire someone to stand in line for you. You can hire a handicapped person to get handicapped benefits from you (like a reduction in tax on your brand new car, as long as the handicapped person owns it on paper but you have a power of attorney that allows you to drive it exclusively and sell it without his permission.

G Pendergast

Caryinga $12 Walmart cane will get you on early on most airlines if you are crippled or a tad dishonest.


this isnt even smart. any one at disney can rent the motor wheelchair for a day for $70 and u get in without wait. u can have a bad knee or.just not wanna walk. so instead of paying $1300 for ten hours these morons can pay $70 and alternate on the vehicle if oneof them gets tired....


My local theme park here in the UK sells (apparently limited numbers of) 'Queue Jump Passes' for various rides at a premium over the entry price, including a top-priced one for unlimited queue jumps on any ride in the park, so if you can afford it, you can just walk right to the front of the line without needing a disabled person or any subterfuge.

Not only does this inherently disturb the British fondness for queuing for anything and everything, but it also ruins the visitor experience if you don't pay the extra - it is no longer possible to predict how long it will take you to reach the front of the line.
There used to be signs up saying '90 minutes from this point' etc, and sometimes the line doesn't move for several cycles of the ride!

Of course, the frustration motivates me to buy a queue jump pass next time...



Wonder what would happen if so many people buy queue jumping passes that the queue jumpers have to form a queue?

rethinking disney

I went to Disney Land at 12. I ate my first tuna melt there. My point, the place was interesting and not merely about making money. Went back to the one in Florida a few years back. What a disapointment. Would not go back if you paid me. All the lines. Not fun at all unless you like to wait on lines. So as for those disabled tour guides- I guess it's their way to make a buck. Better than the 7.50 an hour at the super market. That's what one said she gets just today. People make all kinds of assumptions on the basis of their ignorance. As for Mr. West, that was all about him. Art for his' sake.


My 18 year old granddaughter and her friends went to Disneyland (Ca.) recently. They rented a wheelchair which one of the kids sat in and they all went to the front of the lines. None of them are wealthy.


Daniel, I will gladly rent you my toddler for any Southwest flight I happen to be on... no charge!
You haven't flown much with young children I gather.

Brian Gulino

There are people who, when they see a line, try to figure out a way to cut in. They scheme to get service animal status for their pets so they can take them places where animals are prohibited. Buy a dress at Nordstrom's to wear to a wedding then return the dress. Park in handicapped parking when their spouse is the one who got the handicapped sticker.

You can rent a handicapped person to get you through the lines at Disneyland. I understand that your time when you work is valuable (although I don't understand why that means your leisure time is any more valuable). You have to understand that I, and I suspect a great many of your peers who are not economists, would consider your behavior odious. You would not be welcome at my house.

I note that in 30 comments, I seem to be the only one not viewing this in purely economic terms. I don't think of myself as an overly moral or self-righteous person - actually I'm quite tolerant. What is wrong with you people?



Economics is a social science that is concerned with the allocation of scare goods in a world of unlimited wants; in this case riding attractions at theme parks. Positive economics involves observations or explanations of economic life as it is in fact. Normative economics involves explanations about how economic life SHOULD be.

There's nothing wrong with any of the readers, most of them are just posting positive statements about the article. Trying to think of the world in normative terms is, and this is a positive statement, a waste of time. No one cares about your opinions, harsh but true. You really want to get people thinking, use facts - not fiction.

If there are incentives in place people will take advantage of them. A few of my buddies picked up a wheelchair from a thrift store and ran around Six Flags to the front of lines. Is it socially inefficient? Yes. Is it privately rational? Yes. Will they continue doing this as long as it works? Yessir they will. There are many systems currently in place that operate this way, such as lobbying on capitol hill. It's really not that these are bad people, they are just behaving rationally in a system that adds incentives to dishonesty.

Strikes me as odd that one goes to a website about economics to discuss morality.


Brian Gulino

I think my objection stems from the original post:

"These are not, however, Pareto improvements: while the “concierge” and his/her customers gain, everybody else in line loses."

The original policy privileging the handicapped on lines at amusement parks is designed to let handicapped people enjoy amusement parks which otherwise would not be possible for them. If enough people game the system, then the policy will be changed or discontinued. This along with the attendant increase in mistrust and cynicism make this worse than merely Pareto inefficient. Not quite the same as shopping all over town for the lowest priced tomatoes.

Other methods of analysis accepted by economists exist. Check out game theory, and how optimal strategies change if you play a game repeatedly. Your line cutting strategy may change if you view yourself as "temporarily abled" as my disabled friends refer to me.

I leave it to you to speculate as to your friend's motives in telling you about getting a wheelchair to game the lines Six Flags.


two cents

Go in the off-season.