back to article Disney World slaps pay-by-bonk stalker cuffs on grown-ups

Disney World is going RFID, replacing tickets and wallets with pay-by-bonk wrist bands, and offering an enhanced service for those who want to be greeted by name around the park. The basic service, MyMagic+, is an RFID wristband which identifies each punter, allowing them to store FastPasses and upload credit card details so …

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Big Brother

Am I the only one that finds this just a little bit disquieting?

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Probably voluntary, one site only, stops working the moment you step off-premises. It's not like the Feds are doing it.

what they spend time doing (queuing mostly, from our limited understanding of the venue).

Honestly, the US theme parks are much, much better with queueing than the UK ones. Multiple platforms/carriages, lines that might be long but keep moving, and lots of stuff in the queueing area to keep kids occupied (the Muppets theatre being a great example).

In the UK, we have Thorpe Park, where the staff couldn't give two shits, load carriages like they're stoned off their asses, and the queues are just winding paths with picket fences. Two hours in the August sun to get on one sodding ride...

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@Greg:

I haven't been to a UK theme park in 5 years, and it's more like 9 years since I went to one in the US - but while I'd broadly agree with the suggestion that US theme parks handle queues better, I would argue that Disney is not the best example. I found Busch Gardens to be a more enjoyable experience across the board than Disneyworld, particularly when it came to queue handling (but also because they weren't spending such a ludicrously high percentage of their time trying to flog me overpriced tat in gift shop).

I would expect that Disney will try very hard to justify linking the information gathered in this system to your credit card and home mailing address, in order to start pushing hard sells of the "Pluto misses you because it's N months since you last came to visit. Why not come and give us more money have fun at Disneyland again?" variety. Or worse, sending those to younger family members and getting them to put the screws on mum & dad...

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Though I'm not sure what is more annoying.. queuing to get on a ride.. or queuing, then being ushered into a room to be mind fucked for 15mins by a Kodak commercial before getting on a ride..

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One-site-only TODAY. Never forget that things deployed by a single corporation today are what you'll be using in your corporation tomorrow (or some unspecified point in the future unless some other fad comes along). Otherwise health & safety statements would be two lines long in most places.

That said, the technology is there to do this, I just wonder about the practicality. Can my child run off and buy a load of junk without me knowing while I pop to the loo? When do I find out? When I get home and see a credit card bill with one huge number from Disney on it (i.e. not even itemised)? How do I query it, get refunds, etc. and how do you know I *DIDN'T* go on that ride, but actually just brushed past the reader while opening my backpack after I gave up queuing? Not having cash in your pocket is a good thing, but if it's linked to a credit card that's in my pocket anyway, what do I gain? Am I going to go to this place without a credit card or cash because I "know" I can use this device? Or am I going to soak my wallet anyway because I had to have it with me and I went swimming and forgot it? Does this really *solve* any problem that currently exists? I don't think so.

All it does is make it more difficult to query transactions, requires everyone to have an "accepted" credit card if they want to visit (I assume non-users will have to pay a transaction fee or somehow suffer for not letting their bank lend them a thousand pounds on easy-access terms, and I bet it doesn't work with pre-pay credit cards, for instance, where you don't know how much you're going to spend that day and can't just hold onto £200 just-in-case they spend that much, like with normal credit cards), and not give the customer ANYTHING they don't already have in some form.

And, thus, it's just "technology because". This is what primarily annoys me about even things like board games now. Monopoly has version that use electronic cards to do your adding up for you, and also even an iPad version where each player loads their RFID card into their iPad to play a board game. Just what, precisely, do they add to the game? And what do they do about the bits it TAKES OUT (like kids having to add up to play the game with mum & dad, while trying to peel them away from the damn computer?).

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Unhappy

"Am I the only one that finds this just a little bit disquieting?"

Disquieting but not surprising. Ex-Disneyworld staff have referred to the place as "Mauschwitz". While that's slightly hyperbolic, Uncle Walt's Magic Kingdom really is not a very pleasant place.

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Creepy. Always has been.

Even as a very young kid I found Disney comics bland and empty of content. When we finally got a TV, the cartoons seemed scary, if anything.

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Anonymous Coward

@Lee D

That started off worryingly like one of Amanfromars' mad brainspew posts.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Creepy. Always has been.

I wandered into a Disney shop a few years ago. All the cartoon characters' faces looked positively evil to me, something about their eyes, but there was one notable exception: there was a Halloween skeleton character that looked quite sweet and friendly. Also, I've said this before, but I'll say it again: Disney's idea of a beautiful woman seems to resemble my idea (also a childhood memory) of a rabbit that died of myxomatosis.

Having young female children, I'm sick to death of Hello Kitty, but I'd prefer Hello Kitty to anything by Disney.

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Trollface

Re: "Am I the only one that finds this just a little bit disquieting?"

Not very pleasant, especially for the good looking princesses who probably get chatted up at least 20 times a day by dorks like me. Jasmine and Kim Possible were quite cute last time I went to WDW... Wife doesn't appreciate that either, BTW.

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Disquieting?

Disney's voluntary scheme doesn't worry me as much as the RFID tags now embedded in passports. Some experiments suggest that these can be read over a distance of several metres, rather than a few centimetres.....

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Childcatcher

That isn't creepy in the slightest. Need to be able to put more than one icon on the post but as it's Disney...

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This post has been deleted by its author

Meh

It's the...

...thin end of the wedge.

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TRT
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Re: It's the...

It's another Mickey Mouse scheme...

I have visions of Westworld / Itchy & Scratchy Land...

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Big Brother

I can see this having 1 advantage for the public, Lost children.

If they find a lost child Disney staff can easily track the location of the childs parents and get a message directly to them, or even, stop someone leaving the park with a child that isnt theirs etc.

There are many safety aspects that I can see with this not just the privacy invasion parts as lets be honest if you use the FastPass service they already know your going to use that perticular attraction at a specific time.

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Joke

Won't someone think of the children?

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Stop

"I can see this having 1 advantage for the public, Lost children."

To be fair, I don't think that's true. The...crowd dynamics or whatever you want to call it that they can then analyse will obviously be used to make more money, but part of that will benefit the customers, by trying to use the information to better serve customers, decrease lines and schedule events so that less people are missing them by being in queues and there to... well... spend more money. Not every money-spinning business idea decreases customer enjoyment.

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Happy

@Collis Actually there are no lost children in Disney outside of the "Lost Boys" in the Peter Pan attraction... :-) Ok, sorry bad joke and this really is no laughing matter but there is a point to it:

Cast members (aka "Staff") are trained to talk to children and explain it's actually the Parent's who wander off and get lost. (And we do...) This keeps the kids calm and lets the cast member get vital information from the child to reunite them with the parents at guest services.

So, if you ever find yourself wandering off in a child like daze to say hello to Cinderella and realize your child is not there, simply find any cast member and they will radio it in immediately and all cast members will be on the lookout for the child while the parents are escorted to the front of the park for a happy reunion. (However, chances are you may be panicked and looking frantically around in which case the Cast Member will probably approach you, as they are trained to do...) They drill this into the cast and they take the situation very seriously most families are reunited in minutes although for the terrified parents it seems like an eternity.

While I doubt this technology will be more useful in locating the child or parents more than their pervasive video surveillance is, it may make positive ID of the parents easier but typically there's so much crying and hugging (and sometimes yelling) that's fairly obvious. But, I agree it would be a good thing if it speeds up the happily ever after reunion! :-)

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Silver badge

Handy technology for the local naturist resort too

always tricky deciding where to stash the cash.

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Joke

Re: Handy technology for the local naturist resort too

Pay by bonk, or pay by bonk?

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Old Nazi Uncle Walt would have been proud.

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Big Brother

Why? Does it single out the undesirables for "special" queues?

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Money

The point here is money, because as the author correctly notes - you don't know what you're actually spending. So invariably you spend more than expected. Which I'm sure was Disney's plan from the start.

Behaviour tracking is just a bonus.

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Anonymous Coward

I like it

I just wish there were more "pay by bonk" points around.

I'm tired of carrying a wallet full of cards cash and recipts around. I want an ap that can do the following.

Card Collect, sign up all your cards to the service, input details to download your balance / remainnig credit etc for each card you plan to use. Then when you want to buy something start the shortcut, put in your pin and it'll display the balance, then pay by bonk. No more cards getting lost, no more wallet making me walk lopsided, bliss.

All they need is somebody to start pushing the tech into the open (disney) and my dream could finally be a reality.

Also if anyone makes this ap I'm suing for stealing my invention.

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Linux

Re: I like it

Hope you like how it makes it much simpler for a crook to completely clean you out.

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Thumb Down

Re: I like it

Because it isn't easy already?.

Does it make me easier to rob? Not really.

Does it reduce the lack of security they must go through to identify themselves as me? No.

Does it directly give them all my cash? No.

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simpler for a crook

Why the hell dont they keep the PIN?

How long does it take to push 4 buttons?

thats a whole layer of security just binned for the sake of 'coolness'

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FAIL

Re: I like it

> Also if anyone makes this ap I'm suing for stealing my invention.

This is quite possibly why so many cool apps that would benefit us all just aren't getting made. I'm quite sure your idea is neither new nor unique - as this story itself tends to suggest - and with the world full of idiots running around threatening to sue each other, all that's doing is stifling innovation. Maybe we should try working together to get stuff done rather than shafting each other in a pointless orgy of greed and selfishness.

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It's my understanding that you pay upfront for entrance to the park(s) and this allows you on all the rides. The only thing I paid for within the park(s) was food and merchandise.

So if this is just used for paying for these extras, tracking your movements and some additional location aware services like Buzz Ligthyear calling you by name then I don't see a problem.

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Mushroom

By name, you say?

I'd love to see how the system reacts to seeing the names of some of the contractors I work with.

"Hello, Mr. ... uhhhh...*bzzt* Mackeihdbuydceobzxs Belasifgthfgsdho, *ftzzz* how are you doing *errp* today?"

*clickclickclickclickBOOM*

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Re: By name, you say?

This isn't GlaDOS territory though.

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Meh

Perhaps in this instance RFID stands for ....

R - Really

F - Fed up

I - In

D - Dismal Land

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I went to the Los Angeles Disneyland a few years ago. At the time I had my own personal raincloud which had followed me from Los Angeles to San Francisco and back ... sure enough, it arrived in DIsneyland about half an hour after I did.

One thing about Disneyland in an extended downpour is that there weren't any queues!

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Trollface

What fun we could have!

Hello Mike Litoris!

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RFID

This is great! All you need is an RFID scanner and you've got people's credit card details!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: RFID

"All you need is an RFID scanner and you've got people's credit card details!"

No. Scan the tag and you'll get a customer ID number. There's no point in programming the customer's card # into the wristband (it's actually harder to do that way). The customer ID number will be associated with the CC# in Disney's computers (along with birth date).

The mouse seems obsessed with birthdays. I happened to visit Disneyland on my birthday a few years back (scheduling was not my choice by any means). They make a big deal out of giving you a happy birthday button. Since I would have rather been undergoing a root canal, attracting further attention from the staff was not on my priority list, and I refused to wear the thing. If my tag resulted in happy birthday greetings at every turn, I'm pretty sure I'd have hunted for some tinfoil.

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Fast track and tracking

I went to Disney Orlando in the summer and the basic setup is you have tickets with barcodes to enter any of their parks. Once you're through the gates you don't need to produce them again unless you want to avail of the fast pass service which is a free to everybody way to skip queues - basically you stick your tickets into a machine near a popular attraction and it issues you with fast pass tickets that let you come back at a certain time and skip the queue.

I assume any RFID system would replace tickets with some wrist strap which is affixed on first entry and you don't take off until your trip is over and that's what you wave near the machine instead. It could also be used when you get your photo taken - at the moment they issue a plastic card with a barcode for pictures but they could just scan your wrist instead.

I would not be surprised either if virtually every major ride, attraction, venue and pathway has surreptitiously installed readers that can track where people are going and all the rest.

There's plenty potential profit, use and abuse in such a system. e.g. Disney could recommend routes to people entering the park. They could adjust queue estimates based on throughput or to "balance" the park out a bit. But equally they could use it to know you've walked past shops or restaurants without buying anything or for interactive displays targeted at you and your kids. There is also the potential that RFID could encourage kids to separate from their parents which is good or bad depending on how you look at it.

As an aside Disney had a better set up for fast pass than Universal Orlando where the swingeing bastards make people pay extra for a fast pass. Not a small amount of money either - $30 per person per day.

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I've lucky enough to visit WDW 4 times. ...

But I wouldn't wear any sort lf tag, ever. What I do I, what I ride, what shops I visit and where I spend my money is my business and not for tracking purposes. All you have to do is make an effort to get to these parks early, get in quick, do what you want and get out ASAP. Either that or wait until the parades are on and get to ride while people watch floats you can see on You Tube clips.

If I am ever fortunate enough to go again, although never Epcot, that place is more boring than a team meeting, I wouldn't wear any RFID equipment.

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Re: I've lucky enough to visit WDW 4 times. ...

Epcot could potentially be interesting if its just grownups who intend to have a meal and a drink there. The different zones around the lake look amazing but they're mostly wrapped around food places. So kids will be bored to tears.

The few rides worth going on have massive queues and the fast pass is so oversubscribed that that option is no use either. All that's left are a few boat rides and a "educational" exhibits and god are they boring. One ride consisted of sitting in a boat that snaked its way through various godawful 1960's dioramas before the "highlight" which was a greenhouse filled with vegetables and plants. Seriously.

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Meh

From now on, my name is "You and your family can go to the head of the line now".

By the way, I was also under the impression that Walt Disney was a bit of a Nazi, but upon further reading it seems that while he wasn't a paragon of inclusiveness, he certainly wasn't antisemitic. The main source of the 'Disney is a Nazi' was his name being on a list of founders of a group that ended up a while later being pretty nasty. But there isn't any evidence that he ever participated in it. His main failing was in not bothering to get his name taken off.

Also, while I revile Disney (the company)'s appropriation and molestation of classic children's literature, having seen a bunch of older (and some newer) Disney short cartoons, I'm impressed. One of the newer ones - YouTube search for 'disney short how to install a home theater' I think - is particularly funny, along with 'how to play basketball' and 'how to ski'.

Like everything else, the truth ends up being more complex than the instinctive "Corporate bastards!" stuff. On the one hand you've got Disney's coldly calculated campaign to create a princess obsession in girls - it's not a fad; it was planned from the get-go as a response to increased parental involvement in costumes and crafts harming sales - and on the other hand you've got the fantastic technical and artistic value put into their animation, which must cost a ton of money and could easily be scaled back a couple of notches to increase profits without harming their reputation.

Makes for lousy internet trolling, but I calls 'em like I sees 'em.

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Stop

indoctrination

Get 'em while they're young!

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It looks like...

Scroge McDuck's money bin is now founded in actual fact. All of these schemes are just there so a company can milk more money from the unsuspecting customer. On rare occasions they actually help the customer, but these are few.

Lots of places charge more for items that are cost savers for a company. The best example of this is the transition from rotary dials to touch tone. The advent of touch-tone allowed shorter line hold times (the difference might be seconds, but it DOES add up). It ended up being a cost saver for the various telephone companies. Of course, they charged customers for this time-saving convenience. Yes, the capital cost was there (telephones were supplied by the phone company then), but the savings in equipment load cost were much more.

There is a lesson here.

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Re: It looks like...

@Herby Actually I think the driver is a little different. Yes it probably will save them on staff who monitor the queues on live video to keep an eye on things and also provide more accurate wait times for the people who pay the extra money for the cell phone apps which they may sell more because of this.

The real driver is the same as the "Key To The World" cards they have been using for years as the room key, park admission, fast pass AND room charge.... Most people spend less when they are paying in "real" money than they do when using credit cards, although that is changing as more and more people use credit and debit cards in place of old fashioned cash and coins. By further abstracting things by making the payment vehicle a wrist band as opposed to room key with mag swipe which resembles a credit card. Instead of signing and comparing the signature on the back they use a pin to authenticate you. So even if your brain now says credit cards = Money your not thinking wristband = money let alone wristband = credit card = money and chances are you will spend more casually without thinking as much.

Most of the merchandise you find in the parks are impulse buys, separation of the thoughts of money from the payment mechanism is really a rather clever way of separating your money from your wallet. Which as someone who is married to a Disney Travel Agent can tell you they are VERY good at. :-)

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Re: It looks like...

The price of food and merchandise is so horrific that I wonder that ANYONE buys stuff there. We bought one burger and some ice cream the whole time. Our kids are coeliac which I suppose meant we usually brought what we needed.

As an side Disney seemed pretty cool about people bringing their own food within reason (i.e. sandwich okay, softdrink okay, beer and barbecue equipement not okay). Universal studios were total pricks about it, not even letting in softdrinks. So naturally I just stuck the cans in my pocket to foil their pettiness..

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Disney World

First people trap built by a mouse.

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Meh

Bad news for pickpockets, good for lost kids

Harder to snatch a wristband than lift a wallet, and the band can probably be deauthorized with a mouse click or two. Should make it easier to reunite parents and kids too.

Of course, my wife and I would immediately swap bands. Make them wonder what I was doing so often in the ladies' room lol.

Tracking? I'm less annoyed than usual. The park has a legitimate interest in knowing what makes us happy, to hopefully improve the place (and encourage us to spend more, yes). Not the same as the mall. However, I can't imagine they won't try to sell on the data, so at the end of the day I don't trust it.

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