A not so magical Disney experience.

My wife loves all things Disney, and seven months ago we began paying on a vacation for the family to introduce our children into the “magic of Disney.” Because it is something that makes her happy, I don’t mind. Really until this trip.

There is a saying in the infosec business that only “The Mouse” cares about security. And this is true, however, the rest of their security might as well be run by the TSA. For anyone not familiar with the TSA, that’s not a compliment. But, here’s some damnation by faint praise, at least Disney bag searchers seem better trained than Norwegian cruise line personnel when it comes to dealing with “guests” http://blog.joehuffman.org/2017/10/23/overheard-on-the-cruise/

Going into a park, I had an item confiscated. Not my belt, 2 inch ballistic webbing which makes a dandy restraint, nor my shoelaces (things useful for restraining someone or strangling them). Not my watch with it’s lithium ion battery that can serve as a dandy catalyst for a number of chemical reactions. None of my clear liquids in water bottles was tested by making me take a sip (is it water? is it acetone? Is it white gas? who knows? But really do you want someone with a degree in chemistry to be able to bring in a liter of clear liquid without even checking?). But the duct tape that I’d brought to secure the RFID “magic tokens” that are required for the fast pass system, as well as enabling some functions on the rides, was taken.

Now Disney is a large corporation, and they reserve the right to prohibit items not on the prohibited item list (but let it be noted for the record that “duct tape” is not on their list of prohibited items, they simply reserve the right to randomly and capriciously fuck with guests). That is their right, but a right that they are quite literally relying on the sole judgement of a middle aged black female from Hackensack, New Jersey to exercise. She asked me what on earth I was planning on doing with duct tape in a rather accusatory tone, as if there were no usefulness at all in being able to keep things from coming apart in a non-permanent fashion.

I  quite distinctly remember that she was black because honestly it felt like she was singling me out simply because I’m a white male and she wanted to enjoy her position of power over the happiness of my family. But what are you going to do? Die on that mountain and deny two children a chance to get all the “Disney Magic” that they can? No, you swallow your pride, hand over the duct tape and get the hell away from the fatal funnel, because this vacation is important to the wife, who loves Disney, and the kids don’t need to see Daddy ruin a vacation.

Since I actually care about the rules of the park (after having shelled out well over three grand for a vacation it would be stupid to lose that money over something trivial) I politely let her keep the tape rather than asking what the hell sort of trouble or “disrupting activity” I was planning on getting up to with some duct tape. I explained that I wanted to fix the problem of the wrist bands coming undone and getting lost, because kids are active and the two “studs” that fight through the rubber strap are insecure and fall off. I didn’t explain that within two hours of trying mine out that I had to retrace my steps and find out where the hell it had fallen off (and it turned out, the bathroom of the restaurant in Disney Springs). Hell, I shouldn’t have to explain to someone on security about how poorly designed the wristbands are at staying on the wrist of a child as the guest relations people we talked to about them were chalk full of examples as to how to replace those bands.

Seriously imagineers, I know the two studs create a slim, modern look. But it sucks for retention, so next time please choose a clasp or a buckle. And I know that Disney knows this is a problem because they rather conveniently sell, for no less than ten bucks a pop for the cheapest upgrade, key fob variants that do much better on the retention standpoint. However I don’t have key fob carabiners for the kids, have no desire to waste more time and money when I already had duct tape in the truck (seriously, it’s useful to have around).

But instead of enjoying the day care free with RFID tracking devices firmly attached to wrists by a strip of duct tap holding the studs in place so the bands don’t separate, Mom and Dad had to continually put get in and out of bags to get the RFID trackers out to be scanned, and then put back in the bags because you can’t get the RFID tracker easily into and out of a pocket because they are attached to the wrist band with the studs rather than a clasp. Every time I got into my bag to retrieve or replace that stupid RFID tracker I remembered why, because a Disney employee acting on the force of making three grand worth of already spent money go down the drain, thought that somehow I shouldn’t have access to duct tape.

My wife, who clued in on how frustrated I was by my body language, asked me what was wrong and I explained my frustration, and she decided to talk to a “guest relations” specialist. The guest relations promised that a security manager or representative from the park in question would contact us the following morning, which happened. However I’ve been around the block long enough to know when someone is reaching out to try to “close out the complaint” versus actually fix a problem. From Disney’s perspective I’m just one sucker out of millions to be fleeced, and the only feedback they want from me is how to avoid scaring off other suckers willing to spend money standing around in Florida.

However, the security manager did inform me that if I had a problem with a security guard that I as a guest have the ability to request a security manager come to review “the situation.” That would have been great information to know about, except it was abso-fucking-lutely nowhere on the FAQs or other documentation involved with actually going through security and gaining entry into one of the parks, and at no point did the lady from Hackensack, New Jersey let me know that there was any recourse beyond her personal judgement as to the many nefarious uses of duct tape.

In twenty years of military service I’ve lived through actual security problems, including a car bomb about the size of the Oklahoma City attack and an active shooter who had an actual AK, not some semi-auto sporting rifle. I understand that given even minimal resources and sufficient planning time anything can be made into a weapon to kill, disrupt systems, and cause damage. I understand that employees will do the best they can with the information they have, and that despite the Disney corporation having access to damn near all of the pertinent data about me that all of that context probably wasn’t available to the bag screening station at the front gate. I get it, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that a corporation enabled their employee to submit to capricious accusations of nefarious intent for the possession of duct tape.

Now, there are other Disney parks, and we had other, better, experiences. However I no longer trust Disney to maintain the illusion that I’m a valued guest. If I were a valued guest, my kids would be able to wear those stupid magic bracelets rather than having to keep them stored in Mom and Dad’s backpacks so they don’t get lost.

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