By Laurie Smith
150 years ago the verb SHANGHAI came into use as a way of saying kidnapped and kidnapping. 300 years ago crimpers were men whose business was to kidnap men and sell them to ships. They operated out of the seediest parts of London and their “blood money” allowed them to hire runners and bribe officials and the police. A nice man offers cheap alcohol and the next thing one knew they were in a lock house waiting to board a ship. 150 years ago crimpers set up shop in American and British coastal towns. Crimpers were now called Ships Masters and Boarding Masters. They ran boarding houses for seaman whom often were taken from ships to be sold to other ships. Now, they were paid per man no matter how sickly the man was. The victim’s advance pay was given to the boarding master to buy clothes and other items but the boarding master kept the money and sold the clothes to the victim at a high cost. SHANGHAI lasted until 100 years ago then slowly it was just another word for kidnapping.
How does a brutal criminal empire come to play in current life? The boarding masters rivaled Tammany Hall for being the most corrupt form of business to where in California the crimpers were elected to office. Disney Corporation as well as other companies plan for mistakes, strikes, bad weather, and other delays. It is a short list of things that parks promised and did not deliver on time. Companies can plan for all of this but few have met the corruption and shoddy workmanship as seen in Shanghai. It is not uncommon for rumors to fly and grow in the Disney community but this is fact based.
The vice-mayor of Shanghai, Ai Baojun, is under investigation by the China Anti Graft agency. His responsibilities are tourism and social stability. The death of 36 people during a New Year event has left questions on how crowds are handled at large events. Bank president, Yang Shenlin, his mistress and son face charges of corruption. Generals Guo and Xu are accused of millions of dollars of graft money while anti-graft agencies are downplaying how much graft is going on so that the Communist Party does not look bad.
Disney has to start increasing revenue while decrease expenditures to fatten their coffers in case things go bad in Shanghai. It is hard enough to to find documentation of delays and problems in the American projects let alone in China. It is like a restaurant chain with 10 stores and one is a catastrophe. The 9 good stores must contribute to saving the one failure. Various people in the Disney media community are reporting things that add up to a new vile word, SHANGHAI. We, the media, are used to annual ticket price increases and quarterly food price increases. A 1% cut in food at 100,000 servings leaves 1,000 servings to be sold which then leaves 10 servings which leaves .1 servings. That tiny cut allows them to turn $300,000 into $303,030.30 earned. Who notices half a French fry or a few drops of soda pop gone?
Disneyland has seen a 20% labor cost cut in employees that do not generate profit. Profit generators are ride operators, vendors, and ticket takers. Janitors don’t make the park money so they are expendable. Across the board at both coasts the employees are seeing schedules with 1 – 3 hours cut. Olaf, Mickey and Minnie are replacing 6 lost characters at the Studios. Long term street performers at the studios were let go. There was a loss of characters meets, 3 at Epcot and 1 at Magic Kingdom which saves the cost of costume maintenance, the character friend, and the character. They removed the Walt Disney World curb side hotel greeters.
From the minute you book a trip until you leave Walt Disney World there will be tiny changes. Reductions in bus driver hours may add 5 minutes to your wait. Will you miss a smiling face welcoming guests at the curb? That 5 extra minutes at check in is not noticed nor a change in the quality of toiletries. Nobody complains about one less French fry or one less pickle. Those who have been to the parks will remember but most guests won’t notice these changes. Disney is hoping you won’t notice that you are paying more for less.
Current Summer schedules have Magic Kingdom closing at 10 pm while Hollywood Studios often closes at 8:30 pm. Watch for only one parade and early closures of restaurants. Schedules can change for the better. Just don’t be upset if the water park is closed at 5 pm or a show’s last performance is early. Keep checking hours so you can plan accordingly. Skip dessert parties and other events unless it is like Club Villain or character meals. The cost is best used on meals and souvenirs. Animal Kingdom schedules do not show late night rides, yet. I end a tale of doom and gloom with a reminder that you can adapt and plan so that you still have an awesome vacation.