The Magic of Disney – March 2015

“Would you like Mickey to buy that for you?” The Disney employee in one of the thousand gift shops asked Alex the question as we were leaving the parks on the last day on our recent trip to Disney.

Anthony and Alex each had some money left to spend on a souvenir before leaving and returning home the next day. Anthony is great at planning and budgeting, so he knew exactly how much he had left to spend and kept his souvenir within his budget. Alex, however, couldn’t decide between a Simba and a Nala stuffed animal. As he and I were having the discussion and I reiterated the point that he had enough money for one, but not both, you could see his 5 year old face becoming upset. Not enough to cry or become angry, but just disappointed.

Out of nowhere, a friendly Disney employee showed up and asked Alex if he would like Mickey Mouse to buy one for him?

I couldn’t say no to Mickey. Who could?

The employee made Alex feel extra special as she personally accompanied him to the register to let the cashier know that Mickey Mouse was buying Simba for Alex. She asked Alex how old he was. What was his favorite ride at the park? Where he was from? Just making him feel extra special. The cashier even gave Alex one of his Disney trading pins and a sticker for free.

This little act of kindness went a long way in the eyes of a 5 year old (and a 38 year old father for that matter too). Having never been to Disney before, I wasn’t sure what all the hype was about and why some families make a Disney trip their annual vacation. But after spending a week there I can see why. All the employees that we encountered give that extra effort to make sure that you have a memorable vacation.

Not everything was perfect at Disney. I’ll get there in a second, but any hiccup was always accompanied by employees willing to do what it took to make sure the consumer (us), didn’t dwell on the negative.

Our trip was the week in February with the record low temperatures. Our flight was at 6:50 on Sunday morning so we had to get up early to get to the airport. As you read in a prior article, getting up early to leave for a trip is nothing new for our family, and we enjoy getting to places early so we don’t spend a full day traveling. But we didn’t expect it to be 3 degrees when we arrived at the airport for our flight. Anthony said that his lips froze just walking the 30 or so steps from the car where my Dad dropped us off to inside the airport.

This was the boyz first experience flying, so everything was new to them. The baggage check-in, the security line, the airport, the boarding, etc. Our airline was Southwest and we arrived at the gate as they were boarding the plane so we couldn’t get 4 seats together. We split up with Susan and Anthony sitting together and Alex and I sitting one row behind them on the opposite side. Alex and I sat next to a “Dead-Head.” A Dead-Head is the term for airline crew members that are traveling from one airport to another to start their workday. Like carpooling, but on a plane. The gentlemen we sat next to was retired from the Air Force and is currently a pilot for Southwest. As we sat on the plane for an hour and 45 minutes waiting to get the clear to take off, he was telling Alex and I stories about flying and being a pilot and he was also explaining the de-icing process in detail.

Even though we were delayed nearly 2 hours because of the record cold temperatures, when we finally took off our 2 hour flight to Orlando was smooth and without incident. Alex and Anthony got to see the earth from above the clouds. A view that I still find breathtaking and beautiful every time I fly.

Upon arriving in Orlando and gathering our luggage and finding the rental car we discarded our jackets and hats, as it was 73 degrees.

No wonder people vacation in Florida and never return north.

We couldn’t check-in until around 4pm, but as soon as we could the boyz immediately put on their bathing suits and jumped in one of the pools at the resort. We went from 3 degrees in the early morning to 73 and swimming in the afternoon. Not a bad little Sunday right there. We got settled into our room, got some dinner, and relaxed for a bit before our Disney park adventure started the next day.

Monday morning we awoke early, grabbed some breakfast, packed our bags and snack, and drove to our first park.

I’m not going to give you play by play of the entire week but if you have been to Disney recently they have these special passes called ‘Fast Passes.’ This is an upsell for Disney, but one which I say is a must for anyone visiting Disney. What these ‘Fast Passes’ do is allow you to basically avoid waiting in lines for 3 rides/attractions per day. Susan is AWESOME to vacation with, as she mapped out our days, our rides and the attractions that we were going to see. Plus Disney has an app for your phone that you can use to change your schedule so that your fast passes are used on the attractions that have the longest wait, allowing you to get the most bang for your buck.

I can’t remember if it was Monday or Tuesday, but we had already used 2 of our 3 Fast Passes, and when we arrived on time for our final one of that day, the ride was having ‘technical difficulties’. This was one of the rides we really wanted to do so we waited 45-1hr to see if the ride would re-open. It was getting late in the day, and the whole family was starting to tire as we’d walked around all day.

After about an hour the technician told the waiting customers that they didn’t have a time frame on the ride re-opening, so we decided to abandon the wait.

Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you that these Fast Passes are only good for a one hour time period. Our time had elapsed and we had to track down a Disney employee to redeem our last Fast Pass. Disney is amazing and there are employees everywhere. They carry around these Ipads or Notes (not sure which) that they use to scan your Disney pass, can access your information, and can manually change your Fast Passes, Dining Reservations, etc.

Susan picked out another ride in that park that had a significant wait, and we had the employee change our Fast Pass to this new ride. (Small world scenario here. The employee was from Westminster, Md.) We hustle over to the new Fast Pass ride, we enter the Fast Pass line and about halfway through the maze to the ride there are people walking in the opposite direction. They announce ‘The ride is experiencing technical difficulties’. We are thinking, “Really? Really? How often does this happen? And on back to back rides.” So I hustle back to the employee from Westminster and at this time, the kids are shot for the day (and so am I) I tell the guy what happened. I asked if he could do a Fast Pass at another of the Disney Parks. He couldn’t accommodate that request, but what he did was pull out this special ‘Fast Pass’ that would be good for that park any day, anytime. Did he have to do that? No, but just another example of how Disney went above and beyond.

We finished out the week without any other ‘technical difficulties’’ on the rides and attractions.

The Verdi family had an amazing week in Disney, and I would highly recommend to anyone. I would, however, tell you to make sure that you wear comfortable shoes. Susan has a Fitbit, and we ended up walking between 6-7 miles per day. It was not a relaxing trip, but it was an amazing and memorable vacation.

One of my favorite rides were ‘Soarin’ in Epcot. In a simulation ride, it felt as though you were flying (birds eye view) across the US seeing all of the beautiful landscapes that our incredible country has to offer. The other ride that I loved was actually at Harry Potter World at Universal Studios called Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. This ride also had the sensation that you were flying alongside Harry Potter as you were escaping danger. In my opinion, these are two must rides if you go to Disney/Universal in Orlando.

Our flight home was on schedule and, again without incident, we got home on Sunday, just in time to get ready for our ‘normal’ week.

The Disney experience was one which I try to bring to my real estate business where, even in difficult times, I try to go above and beyond for my customers/clients. Every transaction may not be perfect and sometimes we experience ‘technical difficulties’.

It is during these times when buyers and sellers need that extra attention.

Ironically, on Monday morning I go to one of my listings that is supposed to settle on Friday just to check-in to make sure all is ok at the house as it is not occupied. I open the door and hear water running (never a good sign). And I’m thinking, “ok, maybe someone left a faucet on.” I go down in the basement – this is an older 1900s house with a ‘cellar’ type basement so it is dark and dingy. No natural light, so I turn on the dim light and can’t really see anything as my eyes are adjusting to the changing brightness. I hear the source of the water and it sounds like a waterfall.

As I rush down the steps, my foot hits water on the third step from the bottom. (This is a family publication, so I can’t repeat what came out of my mouth). But I call my assistant (also named Susan) and tell her what I just walked into. I then tell her I’m putting her on speaker phone as I take off my shoes, socks and roll up my pants to my knees so that I can wade through the water to turn it off at the main shut-off.

I got the water turned off. And I knew that my week just took a dramatic turn from what I had originally planned.

I called the owner and the other agent to let them know of the situation and to game plan how we were going to: 1- get the water out. 2- have a restoration company properly dry the basement. 3- get a plumber out to fix the leak. 4- make sure the furnace (which was off and partly under water) was working and clean from the water. 5- repair drywall from where plumber had to cut to access pipes. 6- have drywall finished and painted to match

The thing with real estate is that I’m always learning, and every transaction is something new.

When I told the other agent what happened, she said that the Fire Department will come and pump the water out of the basement. This was news to me, but sure enough, Susan called and the Fire Department was out there within an hour with a truck and pumped the water from the basement.

During the course of the week, I went to this house four times to check on everything and helped coordinate the repairs. We had the painter finish at 2:30 on Friday, just in time for our 3p settlement. It was during this time of ‘technical difficulties’’ that this client received extra special attention.

Much like the Disney employee who saw a disappointed 5 year old and she out of her way to have ‘Mickey Mouse’ buy it for him, giving Alex a lifelong appreciation for Disney, I try to deliver the Mickey Mouse/Disney experience to my customers so that there is also a lifelong connection with myself and Maryland Real Estate Group.

If you have a good Disney or Vacation story where someone went above and beyond and it made a lasting impression on you or your kids, I’d love to hear it next time we chat.