Disneyland: The Costliest Place on Earth

Many families cherish the memories of taking their children to Disneyland for the first time.   I just experienced what in all likelihood will be my last.

This week my wife and I treated our youngest son to an overnight trip at the Disneyland Hotel. A stay in a small 364 sq. ft. room is $595 with tax. This luxurious cost should be reserved for four-star hotel in Midtown Manhattan.

But I was just warming up my credit card.

This month Disney introduced tier pricing, three different prices contingent on attendance figures. Instead of the old $99 any day price, now Disneyland charges $95 for “value” days, $105 for “regular” days, and $119 for “peak” days.

The rationale is that by charging more during busier periods, fewer people will go, thus lessening the crowds.

So far it’s not working.

Just our luck we happened to go on a “peak” day paying 20 percent more than if we had visited a couple of days earlier.   And the whole area from Downtown Disney to lines for rides and food was clogged with people.

A family of four will have to budget a one-day trip to the Magic Kingdom on a peak day as it were a three-day excursion elsewhere.

First, just to walk through the gates is $476. Each meal with drink costs around $20 meaning for four people, one meal is $80; multiplied by three, the total food tab soars to $240. Add $80 for souvenirs and snacks and $18 for parking and the whole day at Disneyland costs a family of four $814.

That nearly matches the gross median weekly earnings of an American, “$825 in the fourth quarter of 2015” as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

And with the ubiquitous crowds, lines lasting up to two hours for a ride, it is doubtful that they will get to experience one-quarter of the 58 attractions.

I would not mind paying an extra $20 if the Disney company would guarantee fewer people. But they do not.

The “you get what you pay for” adage does not apply here. Except for the rides, nothing at Disneyland is of high quality.

The souvenirs ranks slightly higher than those found at a carnival midway, and the food whether bought at a stand or a sit-down restaurant is the same caliber—average—at an exorbitant price.

It’s like buying Target-like clothes at Nordstrom’s prices among Black Friday-level crowds.

It is not just the $4.25 for a churro that ruins the experience; it is the line of 10 people waiting to buy one.

There is only one way to improve the Disneyland experience and that is to limit the number of people coming into the park.   Only on rare occasions does Disney do this when attendance reaches around 65,000 people.

Here’s a marketing suggestion: limit capacity to 30,000 but charge $300. I bet there would not be a shortage of people going for that promotion. Of course, by limiting attendance you are also limiting sales in food and souvenirs.

When my brother worked for Disney, he revealed an internal acronym widely circulated: GTG—Gouge the Guest.

According to Disney, its theme park division earned $2.2 billion in profits in 2013.

Ultimately, my son had a wonderful time. But at $1,200 for this 24-hour excursion (that’s $50 an hour), I’ve had my last “yo-ho-yo-ho.”

Disneyland employees are trained to tell customers, “Have a magical day!” Magic has its price.



Trump Trash-talking Coarsens Society

Last week I took my son to see the animated film “Zootopia” and saw a trailer for “The Angry Birds Movie” which included a 15-second scene of an American Bald Eagle character urinating in front of other birds. While the action was not shown, the sound of it was in full Dolby sound. This is what passes as family entertainment these days.

Of course, this pales in comparison to presidential hopefuls Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio mocking the size of one’s manhood.

The incredulous campaign of Trump that has captured America’s attention this election season has done more than bring out new voters to the polls and new viewers to Fox News. It has lowered the bar in campaign protocol and human discourse.

How many of us would extol a person who uses profanity in a public speech, mocks a female journalist’s menstruation, insults people who are not white or Christian, and interrupts others who try to question him?   Trump is not trying out material in a comedy club—he’s running for President of the United States.

Just so you know, I am not registered with any political party. Over the years I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans.

I get the anti-establishment appeal of a Trump or a Bernie Sanders.   We should not ignore the concerns of those who vote for these candidates.

However, we want leaders to inspire people. Instead, we have someone whose no-filter, impromptu remarks is bringing out the ugliness in Americans.

Two weeks ago a disturbing event took place at a high school basketball game in Indiana.   Students from Andrean High taunted Bishop Noll students, a school with a significant Latino population, holding up giant Donald Trump heads and chanting “build that wall.” A similar incident occurred earlier in Iowa.

Impressionable young people are picking up on how Trump’s vitriolic language is garnering loud ovations. If it is okay for grown-ups to mock immigrants, it’s okay for them to do it as well.

Trump is tapping the anti-politically correct core that has remained dormant. He is not pushing people’s buttons, he is unleashing demons like a bad horror movie.

In the world of 2016, we don’t need someone antagonizing world leaders.

Part of the reason for Trump’s rise is the amount of media attention he has received. Have you noticed how the debates seem to occur once a week? It’s as if they are a regularly scheduled show.

Here we are in mid-March and the GOP has already held 12 debates. The Democrats have had eight, including two this week within four days of one another. And this does not include the phony baloney town hall meetings that CNN televises.

At the very least, stop inviting audiences to debates. It wasn’t that long ago when people attended debates respectfully, reserving applause until the end. Today audiences chant “USA, USA” as if watching a UFC match. Such a mob reaction encourages Trump to say even more outlandish things.

Also, why do the news networks insist on covering Trump’s complete speech on election nights since it lengthens into a pseudo-press conference ensuring extended free TV time for him to pontificate and proliferate his views?

Electing the most powerful person in the free world should not be an entertainment alternative to “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”

A colleague told me long ago that teachers need to be careful of what they say in front of students since one never knows how certain words will affect young people.   Too bad our political leaders don’t follow that same advice. To borrow from Cole Porter, today anything goes.