Before I moved to (and learned a lot from) Disneyland Guest Relations, my most difficult moment came from my own lack of experience dealing with angry/bad guests.
I started my Disneyland career as a ride operator on Autopia, around the age of 29 (so I wasn’t a ‘kid.’) One of the positions there is “grouper,” where you assign positions for guests, based on how many cars they need for their group. The position is somewhat fast-paced, as the cars are loading and unloading constantly, and not all guests can ‘do the math’ to figure out how many cars they need, so the grouper often needs to make sure adults go with smaller kids (to make sure the kid doesn’t get tired pushing the pedal, etc.) and to make sure people aren’t trying to cram two adults and a kid into a single car.
One afternoon two families of about six people each, were coming down the stairs to be ‘grouped’ and were arguing about something. My recollection is that several people in the ‘front’ family jumped the line to join their party, which made the ‘back’ family angry.
Their argument grew by the time I started grouping them, and a full-blown screaming match was happening right in the middle of the load/unload area.
Having only been at Disneyland a very short time, I tried breaking up the groups to keep it from going to blows. And it wasn’t just the adult men who were being obnoxious, loud, and rude, the women were in there too. It was uncomfortable, and quickly got louder.
This is where I failed… instead of being calm and patient, I tried yelling over them, asking them to step to the exit to resolve their issues. So there I was, a Disneyland Cast Member, yelling and standing in the middle of two groups that were also yelling. I’m sure it looked bad. Really bad.
Thankfully, one of my leads – several years younger than me, but with MUCH more experience dealing with bad guests – came over and de-escalated ME. Of course, my heart-rate was up now, and I was frustrated at these two groups. Within a few seconds of my lead pulling me out of the fray, the two groups exited (still screaming at each other,) and the situation at the grouper position went back to normal.
I don’t have a temper, and I really never yell or get mad. This experience was great lesson, and I’m thankful I had a good lead who had been through stuff like that before. Over the years, being in Guest Relations, and generally just working in the Parks, I was involved in other examples like this, sometimes worse, sometimes sad, but through experience and learning, they weren’t as difficult as that first fight between guests.
I will forever remember my years working at Disneyland, and the many, many lessons covering a thousand areas of life. Those years have, and will continue, to serve me well.