Though Walt Disney World fans are very opinionated about things like MyMagic+, the direction of Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the inclusion of Frozen at Epcot’s World Showcase, you’d be hard pressed to find a Disney fan who would say that one of these developments actually ruined their Walt Disney World vacation. However, there is one BIG problem happening every day at Walt Disney World that is actually causing guests some severe stress, and is robbing some of their chance to experience their perfect Walt Disney World vacation. And oddly, no one seems to be talking about it.
When you think of scalping, you probably think of people selling merchandise or event tickets at extreme markups online. However, a different type of scalping is going on at Walt Disney World, and it involves something that is technically free: dining reservations. Now you may be wondering, how can you scalp something that doesn’t cost anything?
Essentially, unscrupulous individuals are making a business out of scooping up high-profile dining reservations (think Cinderella’s Royal Table, Be Our Guest dinner service, etc.) the moment they become available every night at 12:01 AM, and then reselling these reservations to guests for a modest fee. Though there are some legitimate businesses that monitor dining reservations at Walt Disney World (see this article at Theme Park Insider for more), scalpers have increased in number in recent months, thanks in part to the ease of booking that MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience have afforded.
Though meticulous planners may not have an issue making reservations 180 days in advance, more casual visitors as well as annual passholders have been really hurt by this phenomenon. However, it's not just guests that are suffering with the effects of dining scalping. If you’ve ever been to Be Our Guest or Le Cellier in the middle of a dinner rush and wondered why there were so many empty tables, this phenomenon is partly responsible, as any reservations that are "held" by these services are typically cancelled with as little window as possible in order to maintain the artificial scarcity that created the demand for this service in the first place.
Unfortunately, Walt Disney World has expressed little to no interest in fixing the dining reservation scalping problem, even though it has been going on for several years. However, in the interest of being proactive, here are three simple ways that Walt Disney World could potentially hit back at scalpers and make the playing field a little bit more level for all guests who are wanting to make dining reservations at the resort's most popular locations.
1. Requiring a valid ticket for date of dining
Currently, in order to make dining reservations 180 days in advance at any Walt Disney World restaurant, all you need is a credit card. Though there is no way to dine inside a Disney park without a ticket, you are actually not required to have a valid ticket or pass at the time of booking to make a reservation. This loophole has been exploited to great effect by dining scalpers, and simply requiring a ticket for reservations would go a long way towards solving this problem, as all scalpers would need to maintain annual passes that would need to be matched to guests at the time of reservation.
Not only would this be a huge investment, but Disney may call into question passes that have dining reservations for every day of the calendar year on them. While we'd all love to think about eating every meal at Walt Disney World forever, the reality is that it is extremely unlikely that anyone would actually do this, making scalpers easy to spot.