A social media storm hit Shanghai Disneyland on January 29 following a Legal Daily article (in Chinese) about the park’s VIP service, which allows high-paying customers the ability to skip all queues for rides and attractions. The news sparked heated online discussion, with many accusing Shanghai Disneyland of providing its regular customers with second-class service.
Ms. Chen, who filed a complaint to Legal Daily, said she was furious to see a team of VIP visitors cut straight to the front after she had spent two hours standing in line for a popular ride during freezing weather. “She thinks such a practice is a violation of customers’ rights and service contracts,” Legal Daily wrote.
The journalist at the newspaper found that Shanghai Disneyland offers two kinds of VIP guide services. One charges 2,700 yuan ($426) per person for a three-hour tour, with group sizes between 3 and 8 people. For those who desire a longer tour of six hours, they can pay 3,000 yuan ($473) to join a group of 6 to 8 people. The charge doesn’t include the cost of tickets. Each group has its own tour guide, who is responsible for creating customized tour routes in accordance with requests. VIP visitors can also skip all lines.
To confirm Chen’s story, the reporter participated in a six-hour VIP tour. The tour guide, seemingly aware of potential conflicts caused by VIP visitors cutting in line, warned the reporter at the very beginning, “One thing very important is that if ordinary visitors call you out when you’re skipping a line, everyone just wait a little, to avoid unpleasant situations.”
The reporter bypassed all the lines for all seven of the park’s main attractions, something an average visitor would never be able to do, since queue times often exceed two hours. Other benefits included preferential parade-watching spots and first-choice of seats on rides.
The reporter was told that the theme park has more than 30 such guides, and the service runs at full capacity during both holidays and non-peak season. However, only 20 six-hour tour groups are allowed on non-peak days.
The story ignited an online debate over the service’s legitimacy. While some angry commenters said the VIP service is a scam run by the theme park to squeeze extra money out of wealthy Chinese, others accurately noted that such services are not exclusive to Shanghai Disneyland. For example, as noted on its official website, Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park in Orlando offers a private VIP tour for a group of up to 10 guests for between $425 to $600 per hour, depending on the season. The cost per person per hour is around $50, which is lower than the price in China, but not by much.
“Time is money,” one netizen wrote. “Those who feel strongly disgusted by this news never heard of first-class or business-class sections on a plane?”