scalpers or personal shoppers

2021 may be remembered for many reasons in the Disney Parks story – from slashed perks to paid-for FastPass, in-your-face money-making schemes have arguably changed fans' relationship with the parks for good... But one of the subtler shifts in Disney management this year may be its attitude toward a subset of Disney Parks guests with something other than making memories in mind. Known to some as "personal shoppers" while decried by others as "scalpers," there's a surprising undercurrent to Disney merchandise that you may never have even noticed... 

Now, Disney seems ready to crack down on resellers who buy exclusive merchandise – usually in bulk, and usually with an Annual Passholder discount – then immediately post it to eBay or "personal shopper" sites, often for twice the price they paid or more. Let's take a look at how it works, then we'll ask if you've ever be impacted – for good or bad! – by the "reseller" market.

How It Started

Of course, there's always been a market for Disney Parks merchandise. But especially in the last twenty years, two very important ingredients have come together.

Image: Disney

First, there's the rise of the "lifestyler" – a subset of guests with Annual Passes who frequent Walt Disney World and (especially) Disneyland so regularly that for them, Main Street has become the new mall; a place where you meet up with friends after work just to relax. These are the guests who, it's often said, stop by "just for dinner" at EPCOT, or swing by Disneyland on the way home from work to stake out a spot for Fantasmic. (The same spots, mind you, that once-in-a-lifetime guests can't afford to waste a whole evening reserving.)

Especially since about 2005, the rise in "lifestylers" has become a green light for Disney to market merchandise that's limited edition, seasonal, or otherwise exclusive. "Lifestylers" can afford to spend an hour waiting in a 100-person line at a popcorn booth, eager to snag a Nightmare Before Christmas popcorn bucket for $24.99; an exclusive, seasonal pin; a 50th Anniversary mug.

Image: Disney

There's really nothing objectively wrong with a subset of Disney Parks fans becoming "lifestylers," nor in Disney creating a merchandise market tailor made for them. Limited, seasonal souvenirs are quite literally designed to be impulse buys that then disappear, so of course folks are excited to jump into whatever Disney decrees the year's cutest color of Mouse Ears, or a light-up popcorn bucket, or a spirit jersey, or a Loungefly backpack. It's all a part of the lifestyle

The second ingredient here is the problem: the Internet. The early-2000s rise of Ebay meant that if you found an old popcorn bucket in the basement, you could find someone who was willing to pay for it. And for that matter, you could sell a brand new popcorn bucket to someone who wasn't able to make it out to the parks themselves... for a premium. And let's face it – every single person reading this has been at least momentarily tempted by a pin or a MagicBand or a map or a shirt or a mug that you can't personally get to the parks to buy, but can find on Ebay... 

How it Works

Image: Disney

If that's how it started, then the way it works today is a logical ten-steps down the line. Throughout 2021 – as literal fistfights broke out in the Emporium over limited edition merchandise – Disney Parks fans' Twitters were covered in images of "personal shoppers" lugging wagons of 50th Anniversary merchandise out of the park.

As the first guests checked out of the Emporium on October 1, 2021, visitors captured images of dozens of guests who immediately laid their newly-bought merchandise out on Main Street to get photos for Ebay, uploading the listings the second they owned the item.

It's all possible because even when Disney limits the sale of merchandise (i.e. "two per customer"), any given item has a separate SKU bar code for each size. That means one guest can buy 2 extra small, 2 small, 2 medium, 2 large, and 2 extra large of one t-shirt, or 2 of each pattern of Dooney & Bourke bag, or 2 of each style of MagicBand.

If they bring their spouse and two kids, they are "allowed" to buy 2 of each size or pattern per person – 8 extra small, 8 small, 8 medium, 8 large, and 8 extra large. And because Disney doesn't necessarily track individual transactions per person, they could take the family to another shop and buy 8 more of each size or style, knowing they'll resell every $25 shirt for $40, $50, $60, or more, "earning" hundreds or thousands of dollars in profit to fuel their next buying spree.

Image: Reddit

Resellers sweep through stores with limited edition merchandise or (as in the photo above) when word of a ride closing strikes, leaving bare shelves for disappointed guests. From pins to Loungefly bags to stuffed animals to mugs, the image of a "scalper" carrying dozens of identical products out of the park in trash bags to sell for profit on Ebay is incredibly frustrating for many fans, and let's face it: it looks pretty slimy. It takes serious gall to walk through the park carrying bags packed with merchandise that you're hoping to resell at inflated prices to desperate fans online.

But some guests argue that they count on those "personal shoppers" to secure the newest bag or band when a trip to the parks isn't possible, and that inflated resale prices are worth it. Disney never really appeared to take action against these resellers, the (maybe cynical) theory being that, hey, Disney makes the same amount of money regardless, so why stop someone who wants 16 of each size? Well...



Of course Disney should care. The whole POINT of the limited merch in the parks is to draw people TO THE PARKS. They want the $120 per person PLUS food PLUS merch - not the paltry profit from one or two pieces of merch. They certainly don't want the resellers making all that profit instead of them.

If, as you imply, the age of the internet has rendered the "release merch to parks to draw guests" model moot, then Disney needs to adjust by offering the merch in their own online stores before the scalpers have an opportunity to create a black market.

Honestly, when I see it, it just is annoying. I've come across items on ebay selling for hundreds of dollars, example, a lanyard from the preview event at star wars hotel selling for 300 dollars, an item that was free. I've seen stuffed animals from disney sold at 800 and are worth 28 to 50 in the store. I gladly take screen shots and send them to Disney and report it to ebay. Ebay has removed items before based on reports and they have closed out some sellers. Disney has been revoking AP cards when they get reports or find out. Some are smart and don't keep images of themselves on their selling accounts. But if you think for a moment disney doesnt have your financial info (name, date of birth, credit card numbers or bank info) and an image of you , you are sadly mistaken.

They began, albeit to late, to make limitations. People buy up things at normal prices, also stupidly using their discounts, than resell at ridiculous prices. A pin of stitch that's 15.99 sells for like 200 follars on eBay. You can literally sell it for 30 and still make a profit with the loss of the fee for eBay and what you forked out to buy it. Probably between 5 to 10 dollars (ten being generous). Selling like that doesn't grab the attention and you don't risk getting the ire of folks. Yes it takes longer to make any huge profit from it, but it also is a more practical and fair way to resell. Selling a mystery figure that sells for 20 bucks and you sell it for 400 because the store hasn't restocked it in over half a year is crude, ridiculous and just shows how greedy one can be.

For those saying that oh but wait, stroes do this all the time, they buy items for cheaper and resell it at a higher price. Well, right and wrong. They buy obviously in bulk to get the cheaper deal and or to have the most stock. They have a advised retail price given to them and than they choose if they wish to use that price or something more. Now this is where everyone fails on this with that comment. For every item the store sells, they keep a portion for their own profit, but a certain percentage of that profit goes back to the company that made said item. A retail store doesn't keep all the profit on the item they sell and if you think that, you are a damn fool.

With disney resellers, they buy using their discounts and resell at triple or quadruple the price of retail value. They keep all the profit for themselves and none of it goes back to disney. So no they are not making money off of this. Also yes it's legal but technically illegal too. You are reselling an item you bought from a company with the sole purpose of owning said item you bought. Not with intentions to sell. Upon selling an item you bought to own from a brand company, you are selling something to make a profit off of that is brand named for a company you made no contract or deal to sell items for.

It's the technicalities that can get you if you think on it. Doesn't mean it'll happen. Simply put, it's wrong and I take great pleasure in seeing resellers get poed when they find out they've been caught, lost their ap or go on social media crying because they lost their ebay account and complained how unfair it is.

Many buyers from personal shoppers are people that live far away from parks with no access to good quality Disney merchandise and that can not afford to make any disney trips. ShopDisney has barely any variety compared to the parks and only ships a percentage of their inventory to other countries. I have only ever shopped from sellers that price their items within a dollar or two of the original price and that are genuinely offering access to items inaccessible to lower income people around the world. As long as they do not clear out shelves when they are buying the items, it is a service benefitting others. It sounds like a lot of the people complaining need to check their privilege a little considering they can afford to enter the parks at all.

They are violating the terms of a contract. Therefore, let them reap the consequences.

First it's not a black market, it is a market. It is not illegal. Second, every market in the world is buy for less than it costs and sell it for more than you paid. That is what Disney is literally doing on every item it sells. These people are doing the exact same thing that every market in the world does. If Disney doesn't want it to happen they can put limits on it, but they of course would never do that because they are selling in a market the point is to sell. Blame Disney, on not creating lotteries or limits, not the market which is working because people are buying on that market. The buyers obviously do not care, otherwise the sellers would be out of business.

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