Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Disney Cast Member Discounts!

An awesome perk of being a Cast Member for one of the biggest companies in the world is the discounts you recieve. Working for the Mouse definitely has it's benefits. Although they are subject to change, and also are different for different statuses of Cast Members (CM), here are some of the discounts I recieved on my program and took advantage of.

  • approximately 10-20% off of table service meals, if used during specific time periods
  • 20% off at some quick-service restaurants that accept your merchandise discount (Restarauntasaurus, some restaurants in the resorts, buying bottled beverages at merchandise locations)
  • 20% merchandise discount
  • 50% merchandise discount during holiday discount periods
  • anywhere up to 40% off of hotels for family & friends as well as up to 60% off for yourself
  • some cast members are able to get Disney Vacation Club membership at discounted rates (speak to a Vacation Club representative for specifics on that as I do not know the logistics)
  • discounts at Downtown Disney on things like Characters in Flight, movie tickets, restaurants, Cast Member movie days, and more
  • Occasional Cirque du Soleil discounts (I received 50% off at one point and had to purchase tickets the day of the show)
  • Free access to all of the parks (Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom & Magic Kingdom) at all times aside from Extra Magic Hours, holidays and special designated events
  • Discounts and sometimes free access to Disney's Blizzard Beach & Typhoon Lagoon water parks
  • Discounted admission to Disney's Miniature Golf courses, Winter Summerland & Fantasia Gardens
  • Discounted park admission for friends and family.
  • A few sets of free one-day park hopper passes to use with friends and family.
There are so many other discounts you can get if you just look and ask around! We liked to visit CiCi's Pizza for their special CM discount, got discounts around town at certain restaurants in close proximity to the parks, discounts at some of the stores at the outlet malls in the area, free admission to Service Industry Nights at House of Blues (if 21+), I believe free admission to Jellyrolls at the Boardwalk (I never went, so I'm not 100% sure), and soooo much more!


Housing Rules & Inspections

A rumor you may hear about the Disney College Program is that the housing company that operates the complexes can be very strict. I'll leave out names, but it's definitely the truth. I work for housing at my university and have for three years, and yes, we are strict and follow rules but nothing to the extent that I lived up to in Orlando. It only makes sense though, as the living conditions and situation in general is completely different.
  • You are able to go to any apartment within your complex at any time.
  • If you are visiting another complex, you can enter before 9 p.m. with your own housing ID.
  • Visiting after 9 p.m. you must be signed into the complex by the person you are visiting.
  • You MUST LEAVE any apartment complex you do not reside in by 1 a.m. sharp, or you run a risk of getting caught and possibly terminated. (they have been known to check apartments, look for license plates - they document plates when you sign in, etc.)
  • Every time you enter a complex, you must present your housing ID.
  • You are allowed to have up to three people signed in at a time and they must all be above the age of 18. They must present some form of ID and you must fill out a visitors form for them that lasts for three days.
  • Buses go directly into The Commons & Vista Way, so it IS possible to get into those complexes without signing in, but it's recommended to sign in because you could get into a lot of trouble if you're caught.
Housing has people in the security booths at all times, and they also send people on patrol with golf carts and such. We were once told at three a.m. to close our window because we were not allowed to have them open and one of the guards drove by on a golf cart and saw ours cracked. You CAN get caught if you're doing something you shouldn't (lighting candles, drinking underage, etc.) and your blinds are open for the world to see because they keep their eyes open. What I've learned from working for housing is that the number one factor of people getting caught for doing things they shouldn't is noise.

If you are trying to sneak people into the complex, there are ways to do it that I am not going to list publicly. I personally never snuck anyone in, but I knew people who did and got away with it. You just have to know the right way to do it if you are that inclined. One thing I would NOT recommend doing would be to put someone in the trunk of your car. I unfortunately had three roommates who were trying to bring a friend into the complex in the trunk of one of their cars and they were caught. The next morning they were terminated and given 24 hours to pack up everything and leave the complex. It was an awful experience for everyone involved. It is definitely not worth the risk, so please DON'T do it!

Otherwise, just follow the written rules. Don't do anything that would involve breaking the law. Drugs are an automatic termination. I know people who were terminated for drinking underage, including people over 21 who were in an underage apartment while alcohol was being consumed, so be careful and think before you go into a situation with alcohol. Don't have candles or weapons. Basically just use common sense.

There is not much to say about inspections. The dates they will be held for your apartment building are usually listed on a board at least a week in advance, but it is possible to have surprise inspections (although we never had one). I think we had three or four while I was on my program and we passed each time. You can fail individual pieces, but overall pass as an apartment, but if you fail for the apartment each resident has to pay $25 for a cleaning crew to come in. We passed each of ours, and they usually leave you something like candy or a small snack when they leave. One of my roommates' bathroom counters kept failing each inspection, and none of us could really tell why haha. Otherwise, you just have to make sure that EVERYTHING is clean. Make sure your bed is made, surfaces are clean, the bathrooms and kitchen are as spotless as possible, and even make sure your trash is taken out as well. Someone usually comes in and checks everything off on a sheet of paper that is left in your apartment for everyone to see so they know what areas need to be improved or what was done well.



Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hours/Points/Reprimands/Great Service Fanatics

I'm pretty much copying Crissa's Blog on this post. Thanks Crissa!

To start out, HOURS & TIME OFF:
Hours-wise you are usually guaranteed approximately 32 hours a week in order to have enough money to cover your rent. I worked roughly 32-39 hours a week in my location at Epcot Towers & Glow which I will tell you more about later! I would usually work shifts from around 4:30 p.m. until 11:15 p.m. Of course I had other shift times, but those were the most common. My shifts would go from 6 to 14 hours. We would get breaks based on how many hours we worked, which were pretty good in my opinion. I know people who during the high season worked crazy hours every single day and probably around 80 hours a week. I lucked out in my location and did not have any really super insane times like that. Working in merchandise, all of the registers are the same across property for the most part and I could have picked up shifts at many other locations if I had wanted to though, which is a really good idea to get some extra money here and there. I never actually did it, but maybe in the future I will! In requesting time off, I usually got what I wanted if I requested it off enough time in advance.

You usually will get 2 days off for every 7 days you work. Some people believe that is Sunday to Sunday, but in all actuality, you could have Monday and Tuesday off, and work the next nine days in a row before you had another day off. It is two days within a seven day period, so you could have two at the beginning of the first seven days and two at the end of the next seven. I usually had the same two days off, but if I requested certain days as my "regular days off", I would get the days I wanted off instead. You have to request time off at least two weeks, or sooner in advance if you are able to. Some locations it was not as easy to get time off, so I guess I lucked out!

POINTS & REPRIMANDS:
The point system is basically the discipline system of the company. You get a point value for being late, missing work, etc. Your points can accumulate and they actually stay on your record for the entire time you are employed by the company. They can affect your status with the company and hold you back from things like extensions and becoming a Campus Representative or becoming seasonal.

Some examples I am stealing from Crissa's Blog are as follows:
"-You call into work for being "sick" or "personal"... you get 1 point each day.
-You are late to work by 1 second-2 hours... you get 1/2 a point.
- you are late to work by 2 + hours... you get a whole point
- you do something bad on the job... missing money, poor judgement, etc etc etc ... you could get anysort of points/rep's... it really varies by severity and it's up to the discretion of the leader

3 total points in 30 days = 1 repimand
6 total points in 60 days = 1 repimand
9 total points in 90 days = 1 repimand...

3 1/2 total points in 30 days = 1 repimand + 1 point...

in order to get termed AS A CP (i'm not honestly sure if it's the same for full time/ part time)... you need:

4 attendance repimands or I believe it's 3 performance reprimands (most commonly given in hospitality for being short a lot of money in your drawer, REALLY poor judgment while working.... something like that)."

During my program, I had gotten 2.5 points in a 5 month period, so I think I did pretty well! I had called in sick once, personal once, and was late once coming back from a trip to see a shuttle launch a few hours away. Even if you are one second late, you are given a half of a point and that lasts through tardies up to two hours.

DO NOT EVER CALL IN SICK AND THEN USE YOUR ID FOR THINGS SUCH AS DISCOUNTS OR PARK ACCESS. YOU WILL HAVE A HIGH CHANCE OF BEING TERMINATED.

GREAT SERVICE FANATIC CARDS:
GSF cards are awesome! They are basically awesome comment cards you can receive from fellow Cast Members or guests who may know about them. I actually received one from the Vice President of Epcot once! Awesome! I had gotten three over the time I was on my program, which was pretty good. Some locations gave them away like water, but others like mine did not give them out as much. Each card is a nice reminder of why you do what you do with a smile on your face and keeping the magic alive. You put one half of the card into a raffle box and are entered to win for the month and get to keep the other half for yourself. They are really motivational and make you really want to go out and keep doing a good job to get more! I would give some to my coworkers, and also asked a manager at the 50s Primetime to get one for one of their cast members who really did a great job. It's a nice thing to recognize your fellow cast members for eveything they do!



Training for Merchantainment

My role was Merchantainment, which is Disney-ease for merchandise. Training was a long process, but when it was done felt like it went pretty quickly!

Training began with Traditions, which is something everyone goes through within their first few days of being on the program. It is a 4 to 5 hour program where you learn about the company are are inspected to make sure you pass with your Disney Look. Make sure you dress appropriately. One of my roommates wore dress capris and was sent to costuming to get a large pair of costume pants to put on instead and missed part of the Traditions class. This is also where you get your name tag and Cast Member ID that gets you into all of the parks and gets you all of your discounts!Princess, me & Bridget ready for Traditions!

After Traditions, each role has its own type of training. I went through a lot of computer training on Epcot property backstage as well as computerized evaluations placed after hands-on learning. I went through Merchantainment training where I received a special pin and learned how to use the registers and deal with different situations. Most people were given sheets with their proper costumes pictured on them and an itinerary of their training, but I did not recieve one, so another girl named Danielle in my work location and I showed up to our first day of real training without knowing we would be training. My location required white tennis-type shoes, and I was most definitely wearing black flats on my first day. It took a long time to find a costume, which I also had no idea I would be wearing that day (I dressed up like a lot of others believing we were going through more classes). My trainer, Lydia, got me a locker and I changed with Danielle for the day ahead.
this costume looked AWFUL on me! I learned how to wear it better later on in my program, but this just looked horrible! especially with the shoes. the pants were HUGE!

A big part of training was Discovery Day. Each location has a different name, but similar type of day for their Cast Members. Animal Kingdom has "DAK-limation" (something like that). We went through some instruction in a classroom type setting, and then were taken on a tour through the park to learn more about it and its history. We got to ride a couple of attractions and learn about them as well. A lot of our training was ongoing. We had some classes months after we started working on the floor. It was really just to keep us updated and to make sure we were practicing the traditions and teachings of the company in the ways we were supposed to.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Classes



The College Program offers a lot of classes that participants can sign up for during their first couple of days on the program. Some schools accept these classes for credits, and some do not. Luckily, my school accepted them and so I signed up for two. If I was not getting credit for the classes, I probably would not have taken them. They were usually held on your days off, so you would not have a full day off, and some of them cost money for the materials that would be deducted straight from your paycheck. One of my classes was $56 and the other was $6, and I was also paying tuition through my school to get the equivalent credit. I have heard that some of the actual learning series and exploration classes are very interesting and take you behind the scenes of the company, so it would be worth it to look into those if you are really interested. I was not allowed to take any on top of the two classes I was taking for credit, so I do not know too much about them.

I took both the Organizational Leadership & Advanced Studies in Hospitality Management courses. Each of the classes were taught in classrooms at different apartment complexes. Mine were in Patterson's clubhouse and a Vista Way classroom. Each class I took was at 8 a.m. and lasted for 4 hours with a break somewhere in between. My classes were pretty generic. We went through powerpoint slides, took notes, and had group projects in each. We wrote a couple of short papers, and I had a final presentation in one and a final exam in the other. Overall they were both pretty easy, and I made an A in one and a B in the other (I did not study enough for the final!). For each class, you must dress in Disney Look attire with your nametag, or in your work costume. There is a period during the really crazy season where you get I think two weeks off of class so that you can be scheduled to work and not be too overwhelmed. The professors are also usually pretty good at working with you as well.

Packing & Apartment Post!

Packing...that is an interesting subject. This post will show you some of what a basic 4 bedroom apartment at Chatham Square looks like, and a bit about what you should bring with you and what is included. Everyone packs completely differently. It's also different if you fly or drive. I personally believe I brought WAY too much because my parents drove me down! You work a lot and you don't really spend much time in your apartment other than sleeping and sometimes eating, so you don't really need much in the way of recreation with you. I brought at TV, but I probably turned it on twice to actually watch something during the entire 5 months. When I was roommateless, I had it on for background noise at night, but that was all. I actually sent my DVD player home with my parents when they came to visit because I wasn't using it. I would say it'd be good to have one for the apartment, in case there are shows you really want to watch but otherwise it's just not really worth it.

Decorations are fun to bring because it makes your apartment more like home, but also keep in mind that it is not permanent and you will have to take all of that down and take it back home with you.

Each bedroom supplies:
  • Two twin (squeeeaky & not super comfortable) beds
my bed & nightstand!
  • Two night stands
  • One dresser - three drawers for each person

There was also a small closet for towels and bathroom supplies, as well as a walk-in closet with two lockers that you must supply your own lock for.

Bridget & my closet the day of move in!

The bathroom we shared with another bedroom of two had a toilet and a shower with a generic shower curtain. Each bedroom had its own sink which was really convenient. We also had a guest bathroom in the common area of our apartment which was good in case we had company or needed a bathroom when one was in use!
our bathroom!

The living/dining room area should have a kitchen table, chairs surrounding it (I believe we had six), a couch, a chair, a coffee table and an end table or two.


The kitchen is filled with with usual kitchen utilities. A stove, oven, refrigerator, pantry closet, cabinets, drawers, sink, garbage disposal, microwave, dishwasher, etc. Our apartment only had one fridge for EIGHT GIRLS. Eventually, towards the end of my program they added another fridge in a room we had in our apartment that they unlocked the door to. We had an assortment of dishes, and a few pots and pans and whatnot. I recommend using paper plates and things like that which are disposable because dishes between so many people can be a pain to control. They did not provide things like toasters, coffee makers, blenders, pizza slicers, etc. Just the very basics.


Overall, it's hard to really say what to bring and what not to bring. Usually if you really need something, you can go out and get it. I would bring clothing you feel comfortable in, but not too much because you will be in costume most of the time. Bring some clothes to play in and clothes to fit the Disney Look for classes and Traditions. If you want wireless internet, it is not provided for you, so you must bring a router. Otherwise only two people or so can be on the internet at once with ethernet cords in a pretty crammed nook area. If you are in a class, it may be useful to bring a printer but otherwise it really is not worth it. Curtains are definitely a good addition to your room for decoration AND to keep the sun out! A white board is also good to have for roommates to stay in contact with each other and post schedules and birthdays.

Extra storage is always a good thing to have. I bought a 3-drawer plastic container as well as a small shelf to put my television on and used the shelves in it. Things like decorative shower curtains and bath mats are good too and make your apartment feel more like home. They are pretty strict about putting things on the walls, but I had put some things up and it really was not ever a big deal. Hangers!! Make sure to get hangers to put your clothes and costumes up in your closet. A laundry hamper is good so that you don't leave clothes just lying around. My roommate bought a shoe rack that saved a lot of space too.

Things to leave at home:
CANDLES (ask my roommates how I felt about those haha), alcohol if you're under 21, drug & alcohol paraphernalia, weapons, pepper spray, basically anything illegal.

Really it's all about how you feel, on top of the basic personal items. You can always buy things there, and get cheap things at places like Property Control and Company D to decorate your apartment. I got picture frames galore, and my roommates gave me birthday cards and things like that which I used to decorate my room without spending too much money or bringing too much from home to worry about getting back home (although I ended up bringing a lot and having a tough time getting it back with everything I got there!).

CHECK IN DAY!

This is it! Time to move to your new home for the next 5 to 7 months! I had picked the earliest check-in day for the season, which I would recommend because it left the highest selection of apartments and it was much easier to find what I needed at Wal-Mart and local stores before EVERYTHING sold out. It is seriously true. CPs take over! I could not find a mattress pad that fit my twin bed the entire time I was on my program. No lie, they were sold out every single time!

Before I started my program, I joined a lot of Facebook groups and made some new "friends" before arriving. I ended up staying in touch with them, and met some of them who became my really good friends during the program and for life! It's good to go with at least somewhat of a net of people so you can kind of have those people to go to and say hello and hang out with. Something else to keep in mind, is that everyone is going through the same things you are and are all there for the same reason. They wouldn't have been chosen by Disney if they were not outgoing and exciting people! So during check-in, be open and outgoing and try to meet as many people as you can!

Some of my roommates & I at check-in!

My roommates and I arrived at Vista Way at 8 a.m. and lined up at the clubhouse to check in. Our parents were taken elsewhere and given tours of the complex. We were so excited that we talked to everyone we met and chatted with the housing staff. We filled out paperwork and went through housing selection where we told them we wanted a 2 bedroom apartment in Chatham Square. They said the only way the four of us could stay together and in Chatham would be to get a 4 bedroom apartment so we went with it. It's good to know what you want and be in line with who you want to live with, because it gives you a higher chance of staying together. Price wise, each complex was different and the prices were lower for the amount of bedrooms you had. Vista Way was the least expensive, then Chatham Square, Patterson Court (the newest complex) and The Commons (for international students).

During check-in, you get information about when your orientation session is, and where your apartment will be pretty much. During my program, we found out on the second day where our work locations would be and when our Traditions class was. I think they may have changed it now to have all of that to you on the first day.

Applications & Interview Process

Ok, to start from the beginning, I'll tell you a bit about the application and interview process. It has actually changed a bit since I applied for the program, and as a Campus Rep, I'm kept informed of some of the changes! When I applied for my program (each time haha), I attended a presentation at my school. We were shown a video with our good friend Tara who showed us all about the living, learning, and earning components to the College Program. During the presentation, we were shown a ton of the other companies owned by Disney, and asked questions that we recieved cool prizes for answering like Disney figurines or cool CP pens.

After the presentation, we were given applications to fill out, and we scheduled phone interview times with the recruiter who was there. The applications were paper at the time, but things have changed! Now there is an online application, where you fill out an application, a role checklist, and you do a new web based interview. The web based interview takes approximately 45 minutes and it will determine whether you move on to a phone interview or not. When I applied, we just went straight to the phone interview after turning in our applications & role checklists.

The role checklist is basically a list of roles and what their responsibilities may include. There are a lot of roles, and the more you check off, the higher chance you have of being accepted into the program. I would not check off anything you feel you would not like doing, because you will be doing this for anywhere from 6+ hours a day for the majority of the 5-7 months you spend on the program, so choose wisely!

Here are the on-stage roles listed on the checklist: Quick-Service Food & Beverage, Merchandise, Attractions, Custodial, Main Entrance Operations, Hopper, Lifeguard, Recreation, Full-Sevice Food & Beverage, PhotoPass Photographer, Housekeeping, Hospitality, Concierge, Resort Hopper, Bell Services Dispatch, Transportation, Vacation Planner, Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique Hostess, Character Attendant & Character Performer.

The backstage roles providing minimal to no guest interaction include: Costuming, Quick Service Restaurant - Kitchen Only, Culinary Assistant - Cook II, and Culinary Assistant - Baking & Pastry.

During my phone interview I was asked some general housekeeping questions about my application and information. We discussed the roles I had checked on my list. I was asked why I did not check certain roles, and I explained that I did not find that they would be giving me the best learning experience that I could achieve and that I just did not want to do them. I was asked questions pertaining to the roles, for example when asked about being a Character Attendant, I had to answer how I would deal with a situation concerning an angry guest and a character performer I was taking care of. I was asked a bit about my previous job experience as well. A big question that I was asked, and did not realize how big of a question it was, was what my favorite park was. At the time, I kind of just threw Epcot out there only because it was the last park I had really been to. Others were asked where they wanted to work, and sometimes it may have helped their placements. I was placed in Epcot and I believe it is because of my answer to that question. Make sure if you have any preferences that you mention them during your phone interview, because it couldn't hurt!

After my interview, I was told I should get my information within the next 2-4 weeks or so. I got my acceptance a lot quicker than most people I had heard from each time I had applied. Although, the first time I applied they actually sent me the wrong person's letter! I got my acceptance letter just about 2 weeks after my interview! It described my role, the amount I would be paid, and what I had to do to accept it. From there, I paid my assessment fee and accepted my offer. You go through a process online after you pay your fee where you choose your check-in/check-out dates from whatever is still available.

If you are planning on living with someone you know, they MUST be doing the same program as you (the 5 or 7-month) as well as arrive on the same day as you. You are able to request one roommate online before you arrive, but no more than that. I found my roommate through Facebook groups which really helped, because she was amazing! There is also a random roommate selection that you can use to pick one of your roommates and you can accept or deny them, as well as change as time passes and things may change.


Introduction!


Hello everyone! My name is Corinne and as you can probably tell, I was once a participant in the Walt Disney World College Program. My amazing friend Crissa created a blog about her experiences, and although mine may be entirely similar, I really wanted to create one as well. I know when I was going through the process of deciding whether I wanted to do the CP or not, I went crazy looking for pictures and blogs and just any overall information I could find so I could learn anything and everything about the program.

I actually applied for the CP (College Program) three times. The first time I was accepted in a QSFB role, which is short for Quick Service Food & Beverage. I turned it down because I was informed that our school highly recommended you have at least 60 hours under your belt before doing the program and I was just too afraid to leave. The second time I applied, I was offered a merchandise role. I turned that down as well, because I did not want to leave my life behind! Finally I applied again and realized that this was something I obviously wanted to do, otherwise I would not have applied so many times. I also realized that if I turned it down again, I may never get another chance.

I have really only been to Disney World a few times in my life aside from the times during my CP, but every time I felt the magic. I never realized what a completely different world it was until I actually lived it. I went through the application process again and was accepted for a merchandise role in the Fall of 2008 for the Spring 2009 session of the CP. This time, I accepted my offer. I did my program and had the most amazing experience of my life, thus far, although I feel like nothing will ever compare. I am currently working as a Campus Representative for the College Program to keep a little bit of the magic in my life.

This blog is meant to be a forum, a place for you to comment on your thoughts, ask any questions you may have, and more. Please feel free to ask anything on your mind and I will definitely answer it to the best of my ability! I look forward to hearing from you!