I worked Merchandise at Hollywood Studios in the Backlands, which covers 14 different locations including Tatooine Traders, the area over by the ex-American Idol and Indiana Jones, Stage One (where all the Muppets are!), Oaken's Trading Post, Writer's Stop, the Prop Shop over by the ex-Backlot Tour, It's a Wonderful Shop, and any carts in those areas. Tatooine and Writer's were my absolute favorite places to work!
What was a typical day like at work?
I worked longer than a lot of my friends in other roles; an average shift was between 8 and 10 hours, going up to between 9.5 and 13 during Star Wars Weekends. The times we went in varied a lot too, probably because of the park hours - sometimes I went in a 11 and got out at 7:30 or so, once I was there at 7 am (the worst), and other times I've worked more regular CP hours, like 5 pm til 1 am or so. I had a lot of shifts that would start early afternoon, like 2:30ish.
Because we worked so many locations, we were assigned one loop per day (unless we were in Tat, Writer's, or Wonderful Shop), and we would rotate between three or four locations throughout that day. There was also the possibility of stocking, which left you more or less backstage all day. Most of the time though, the day was filled with great Guest interactions and because back part of the park clears out so early, we were able to really get to know families who came in later in the evening!
Is this the role you originally wanted? If not, are you happy you got it?
Merchandise was actually one of my top three roles, so I was very happy about it! As much as I knew I wanted this role, I ended up loving it even more than I thought I would!
What are your favorite and least favorite parts about your job?
Favorite: Like I mentioned earlier, the Guest interactions in this part of the park were so fun because we weren't slammed with crowds...almost ever, really. Also, I had the most amazing group of people to work with, from other CPs to coordinators to leaders...I just loved everybody so much and I've definitely made friends for life and a bunch of us already have reunion planned in a couple of weeks; spending everyday with them was the greatest!
Oh yes, and merchantaining, which is entertaining with merchandise, was taken very seriously in my area. For example, when I was in Tatooine Traders, we would play with light sabers, Boba Fett blasters, and wear Jedi Robes on the job.
Least favorite: I don't know if this is necessarily a part of the role so much as my personal experience, but STAR WARS WEEKENDS. This was such a struggle because we were working 30-40 hours in one weekend, we had 6 solid weeks of one day off per week (not helped by the fact we lost a ton of CPs in May) and everyone's moral had basically hit rock bottom. Also, the Backlands just aren't used to crowds, even during Spring Break. Then Mark Hamill came and that weekend was kind of my breaking point - it was the only time I can honestly say I wanted to leave and wasn't having fun. However, SWW ended and things improved so much!
Any specific magical moment you want to share?
Oh gosh, there's SO many! One that stands out was when I was working in Tatooine Traders, stuck at Build Your Own Droid, which is the absolute worst. One family was walking off of Star Tours and the droids caught their little girls' eye. They were from Wisconsin (where I grew up), so we struck up conversation pretty easily. The younger daughter left some stickers behind, so I held on to them because I knew she would be back. Of course, she did and when they came back, the dad asked if it would be ok if the younger daughter stayed with me while he took his older daughter back on Star Tours (the younger one didn't like it). I said yes and because no one was building droids at this time of night, I had chance to talk to Princess Isabel and learn about her trip and how much fun she was having. We built about four droids before her family came back and the older sister joined the fun! While the girls built, I found out that their dad used to be a Cast Member, in merchandise, no less! The family was with us for about 45 minutes and Isabel refused to leave, gave me about a dozen hugs before she left, and only left once her dad said they could maybe come back to Studios later in the week to see me again! It was by far the greatest Guest experience of my program.
Obviously, this is just one of many!
What made you want to do the DCP?
I've wanted to work at Disney since I was 3 years old. I didn't actually visit til I was 4, but my family is so immersed in everything Disney that I've known and loved it quite literally my whole life. When I was little, my mom told me she wanted to work at Disney when she was in college, but she met my dad and ended up staying in the midwest. From that day on, I wanted to work at Disney, but I figured it was like that thing I'll never be able to do. However, when I was at my cousin's wedding in 2009, my aunt introduced me to a friend's daughter who had done the DCP and now works as a leader down there. From that moment, I knew I needed to do the DCP!
Is there something you wish you would have known before doing your program?
BRING A CAR IF YOU CAN - seriously, the CP buses are the worst and I wish someone would have told me that. They're never on time, they break down a lot, just...they're a pain.
Also, this is going to sound so cliche and silly, but it's going to go by so much faster than you ever expect, so seriously, make every single moment count. There are so many things I didn't do because I thought I had all the time in the world.
I wish I would have known to take advantage of the networking events and such as well. I feel like they would have been great experiences and I'm actually considering doing another CP just to make those connections to give me a better chance at a PI.
What advice would you give to those who want to participate in your role?
Be super outgoing! I know it seems like a pretty obvious thing for Disney, but asking where someone is from or what they're favorite part of the day was can spark a conversation. In my experience, those are the best Guest interactions.
This probably applies to all roles, but don't be scared during your training because someone will make sure you know what you're doing. I remember learning returns/exchanges/how to charge someone for autographed pictures/making coffee and dealing with Writer's Stop/building lightsabers/where the heck do I clock in was so scary and I was convinced I wouldn't be able to learn it. I did, of course, and you will too!
If your area is big into merchantaining like mine was, have fun with it and don't be afraid of looking silly. We went CRAZY and Guests loved it!
What advice would you give to people who are interested in doing the DCP?
First and foremost, if you want to be there, KEEP APPLYING!! It took me a couple of tries to get in, but perseverance was worth it! And really be able to pinpoint why you want to do it as well, since I think that really helps in your phone interview. Finally, when going through the WBI, go with your gut always; that was where I got stuck in my first application process.
Oh yeah, and don't be afraid to reach out to those who have already done the DCP to ask for advice! Most of the time, they are more than willing to help out (my ask is always open!) and give you real perspectives about their role. Helpful as the DCP blog it, it can sugarcoat some things and obviously omit some of the less-than-glamorous parts of the job.