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3 Ways Walt Disney World Could Fix the Massive Problem No One is Talking About

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. 

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There are 32 comments.

The free market at work. You call it unscrupulous, I call it clever. But I'm a big planner and make m u ADRs 180+ days in advance.

very well thought out. good article.

Suggestion one would make it difficult for people who are buying their tickets at the gate or are using military hoppers.

Agree and requiring a ticket would not work for resort dining ressies such as Chef Mickeys.
Also I'm sure the scalpers in the instance a ticket was needed would just buy and annual pass, which some prob already have.

I concur completely. That's exactly what I was thinking when I read the article.

It would be silly to exclude locals, DVC, and military (sometimes those military hopper deals come out like a week before- had that happen to us) from a dining reservation. What they really need to do is add the legal speak that these reservations have no $ value and cannot be sold.

If your buying tix at the gate then you won't be able to get sit down anyhow.

I have seen sites on Facebook (and probably other social networks) that advertise they will find you a table in a restaurant where you want to eat, on the date and at the time that you want. There is a fee for this! Obviously, everyone knows about this, but no one at DWD is doing anything about it. Maybe a ticket number needs to be linked when a reservations is made. I'm glad there is a credit card needed to make a reservation. This has discouraged people from making multiple reservations.

If you implemented #1 every Wish family would be cut out of any dinner bookings. We are not given park tickets until arrival at "Give Kids the World". We have no idea what tickets we'll get.
Wish parent have to book dinners just like everybody else - often we don't get much because they're full by the time we know we'really going.
Calling Disney doesn't help.
That's over 200 families a week with sick & terminally I'll kids who would not be able to book a single dinner at the parks.

I don't see why they couldn't just set aside a set amount of reservation slots specifically for things like this. When you receive your tickets they could also give you a special code that would allow you to have access to those available reservation slots.

Another solution would be to use a travel agent. Travel agents are free and many,like myself, will wake up early to get those reservations for you. Plus there is no law saying you both can't be up to get reservations. Two heads are better than one! And you're helping a small business succeed.

That still won't solve the issue- since you're still having to contend with the on-site guests who made their 180+10 the week before your client arrives.

Is Disney Dining Biddy considered "scalping"?

I think Disney should only allow 1 dining reservation per restaurant. If you want a different time, then its all subject to availability at the time you release it. I know CMs and they stated that 2ppl jad 57 BOG reservations and they were only here for 5 nights. To me that is absurd!

Vulgar, unscrupulous people like this are anathema to the spirit and intent of Walt Disney. One of the people in the comments above thinks that these enterprising crooks should be congratulated for their cleverness? Sickening.

Not true that it would make it difficult for military hoppers. We are military and went to wdw last year, made all or reservations 6 months in advance.

One flaw in the first part of your plan is cast members. We dine at Disney restaurants too, so you'd have to have a system in place for us, as well. We have our own cast member dining reservation system, but it is literally if someone cancels we get it, so all of us almost always book through the regular web site. What would be your idea for us?

Disney already limits this by not allowing multiple dining reservations at different restaurants during the same time period.

Not sure I'm seeing where a ticket would help....if the scalpers are making the money you are inferring, then all it would do is take away a couple hundred dollars in profit.....and since you can't activate APs until you arrive...they can sit in your MDE for years, so it's a one time "business expense" for them. I doubt they will even blink.

I am an AP holder....and I often book trips in much less than 180 days...in fact I just booked a trip for November at the end of August....so about 3 1/2 months in advance.....I had to work for it and search several times a day for about a week, but I have reservations at Be Our Guest for lunch and twice for dinner, for California Grill about an hour before fireworks, Akershus for lunch, and several others. They can be found, you just have to be diligent.....and it is MUCH easier to do that with the online reservations....I typically search when I'm on the phone with someone, they can't see me and I can try several times during our call, lol. Since Disney requires securing your ADR with a reservation people are much more likely to cancel reservations they don't want.....best time to look for those is 45 days from when you want the reservation.....people are cancelling their trip (45 days is when packages have to be paid in full).....or the night before....you have until 11:59pm to cancel your reservation for the next day in order to avoid the fee, so people usually plan the next day in the evening and cancel what they won't use. I've gotten several great ADRs that way too, including a Hoop Dee Doo on Level 1 in May.

Obviously, this upsets the author a great deal, but really, if a dining reservation is that important to you, spend some time continuing to try to get it.

Does Disney really care? I don't think so. Their bottom line is not being affected in any way.

Number one would be an issue for me. My fiancé is a CM and takes me on his guest pass. I often make our dinner reservations, but don't have a valid ticket for the day because the passes aren't linked to a person, they're just guest passes. He could make them himself, but I like to surprise him sometimes and that would kill that. Also, for guests who are not going into the park, locals, some DVC members simply stay and enjoy the resort and DTD, etc. would have an issue if this was required at all restaurants.
I do like the wait list pool. That seems like a great option. Cancelled reservations would go to the first person on the wait list. Maybe via email with a 24 hr response time. If they don't grab it within 24 hours, it goes to the next person, and down the line.

I think your first suggestion may not work because there is a portion of the guests that would shut out, although a small portion so who knows, but the other suggestions are good. And secondly, I am also VERY doubtful of these so-called "legitimate" businesses that are charging a fee to "monitor" the reservations. I believe they are also hoarding reservations to release randomly for their customers. After all, people are praising their success rate all over FB. So, if people aren't having success, they would have no more business. I think it's definitely more than luck making that system work!

I think there is no easy solution, as visitors may make a trip to the parks a last minute decision (low plane fairs, special event packages, etc). Also, visitors may opt to buy their tickets at the gate or through official 3rd party outlets at the last minute looking for the best bargain. Those visitors do understand they will not get a chance to make reservation, but sometimes you walk up and "surprise", there is an opening (we lucked out one year by getting a night table at Ohana's that way).

It's a shame to be honest. I see both sides, but it must be costing Disney a small fortune in have open tables, especially during peak seasons at Signature and Event dining. Having watched the boards at various sites I see this to be an issue everyone talks about.

A follow-up thought.... I agree that there should be a waiting list. Everyone who inquires about a restaurant for a specific date and time would be added to the list with those parameters. The computer would automatically go through this list and notify the next person on it. That person would have 24 hours to confirm or the open reservation goes to the next person on the list.
This way those people who purchase park tickets at the gate will still be able to make advance reservations without benefit of a ticket number "holding it.)
Computer programs can be tweaked to do all kinds of things. Use them.

It's 6am for ADRs, not 12:01am.

Not everyone has their tickets in advance, so I'm not sure it's fair that you have to have a ticket to make a reservation, especially since the window is 180 days for ADRs and only 60 for FP+.

I do agree something needs to be done about the scalpers. Disney gave gag orders (essentially) to those that were creating DVC hotel searches off the system, why should it be any different for the ADR search?!

The first one doesn't make any sense. It would also make it impossible for cast members, guests of cast members and anyone with tickets that don't have a specific date.

Easy fix for initial reservations: Do not permit name changes on reservations, and require valid matching ID at time of seating.
As for the services that charge and then continually search until they find the availability window you request, there is no solution. They are being paid for their time and service.

I agree with this one. An ID check and making the ADR non-transferable would be one ending this issue).

This has plagued us local annual pass holders. We would love to book special dining events for our kids or enjoy a magical anniversary experience. Sometimes feels like Disney punishes you for living too close.

Offer the same thing as the dining buddy reservation system but for no fee. Problem solved. Why would anyone pay dining buddy or any other business for something that Disney gives them for free?

Just cancel reservations in BOG and make it first come
first served. Walk ins only. You wait 120 min for an Anna & Elsa meet and greet for Gods sake . Think of it as another attraction. End of story.

There were a few articles at the end of September 2015, one of them from Fox News, that Disney shut these sites down. So hopefully they fixed the problem and these sites won't be able to pop back up!

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