More than three weeks ago our family was invited to an event – a Christmas party at Disney Store in Oxford Street, London. We then received another email a week later inviting us again.
We discussed it and decided it would be a lovely way to mark Christmas with something they loved so much. We made arrangements to stay in London because what on earth is better in a child’s eyes than Disney and Christmas except possibly a Disney Christmas Party?
The event was to promote Great Ormond Street Hospital so obviously the PR plan was that we would attend and tweet/write about how great it all was. I confirmed our attendance with the PR and send a follow up email on 23rd October ensuring they knew how big our family was. ‘We wouldn’t want to overwhem them!’ I jovially wrote. The PR reassured me with an email beginning ‘Haha…’ that we would be fine and it was a big event.
With plans made, accommodation arranged and everything confirmed we told the children that we would be going to stay in London AND we’d be going to a lovely big Disney party at the Disney Store in Oxford Street. Needless to say the excitement levels were very high. The excitement got even higher once we’d received our postal invitation at the weekend! It’s still on our notice board.
Yesterday another PR directly from Disney emailed us to confirm that we were still planning to attend. I replied saying that yes they were and that I hoped name of PR had let them know how many of us there would be.
I then received this reply:
“Apologies if xxxxxxxx didn’t mention but we can only allow each guest to bring up to four family members or friends due to capacity limitations. Sorry for any inconvenience this causes but do let me know if you would still like to attend with 4 additional members of your family.”
So you have 11 children completely over-the-top excited about going to a Christmas party at the Disney Store with the characters. You have made accommodation arrangements to attend. You have double checked that your family size isn’t an issue almost two weeks before with a PR company that you have worked with for more than a year, your website is called LARGER FAMILY LIFE (the clue is in the name!), and the day before the event you have to decide which of your children will be told can’t go, and which of their siblings can.
We were supposed to go as a family. The hashtag they are using is #DisneyStoreFamily. It seems we don’t count because there are too many of us. So no, I wasn’t going to choose who out of my children would be told wasn’t going. We are a family. We were invited as one (and they knew how many of us there were). Did they really expect me to choose between my children when they all thought they were going? Really?
Whatever happened to Disney’s very own ”Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten”?
Was there a ‘terms and conditions apply’ exemption on that quote in the film because I think I missed it?
Now, I am used to large families being treated negatively but this really did upset me. For one, can you imagine how devastated the children were? Okay, the middle ones took it on the chin and we joked about how we would boycott Disney (or if we did, how much more space we’d have in our house!). The younger ones did not understand at all.
They were devastated.
And this made me upset and angry. How could Disney, who makes so much money off parents on their ‘magic’ and ‘making dreams come true’ crap, invite a family to a Christmas party of all things then withdraw that invitation on the grounds that the family is too big just a day before it takes place? How could they? Dreams come true? You shattered them, Disney.
Of course, if we were to take our children shopping in the Disney store I bet there would be enough space for us. I mean, 11 kids asking for overpriced crap. Yes, you’d have room for us all then, I bet.
I don’t usually rant about issues with PRs but this is not only unacceptable, it’s completely shocking to me. Not only does it change the way I feel about working with this particular PR company (needless to say I’ve asked them to take our details off our system and not contact us again – the first time in over eight years that I have ever had to do this), but it has completely ruined the magic of Disney for all of us.
Can you imagine how it felt having to tell my children this? Can you imagine how we felt trying to console them yesterday when they couldn’t understand why Disney didn’t like us any more? To have uninvited children to an event is bad enough (and nothing I have heard of before), but to a CHRISTMAS party?
So yes, I”m upset. Magic of Disney? #DisneyStoreFamily feelgood PR campaign? It’s all for the love of the children?
Not for large families obviously, eh Disney?
At approximately 5pm last night (the night on which we should have been attending the party), we received an email saying that they had managed to make space for us to attend a party in 24 hours time but they’d understand if we’d already made plans and couldn’t attend. Their ignorance continued to amaze us – we have a lot to organise and had already arranged travel, had our accommodation planned and so on for only two nights – one of which was supposed to have been taken with their original party, leaving us only one other evening. We thought it was arrogant of them to presume we would be able to attend at such short notice (although the cynic in me thinks the short notice was given precisely in order to make it difficult for us to accept), and they presumed we would still even want to after the way we had been treated.
Another person from the PR team (Reprise Media, the PR company who had originally invited us and reassured us that our family size was ok. The PR from the actual Disney PR company who told us we couldn’t attend has not been in contact again), then sent an email this morning stating:
“We’re sorry to hear that you do not want to attend the event this evening. We apologise sincerely for the miscommunication between ourselves and Disney and for the obvious inconvenience this has cause. Due to safety reasons, the event last night was at capacity but we do of course apologise for the manner in which this was communicated to you. We would love to make it up to you and your family by offering you something in the way of Disney gifts for your family.”
They said the reason we were cancelled upon for the original party is because it was over capacity. I replied pointing out that we had confirmed our attendance for 13 of us two weeks ago. I know for a fact that the PR team was still chasing bloggers to attend the event after the date we had confirmed so why were we uninvited 24 hours before the event and why were others still being invited after we had been confirmed? To then be told that they had managed to fit us into an event with just 24 hours notice expecting that we would drop everything last minute to accommodate them is appalling and inconsiderate and, as I pointed out, they would still expect positive coverage and photos of the event. I don’t think so.
I thanked him for the offer of the toys but pointed out that a handful of stuffed toys is not what my children need. They wanted an experience but the one they got was of Disney’s true colours. I believe they’d have received a voucher for attending anyway, so the offer was empty given it’s pretty much what they’d have had in the first place should we had been allowed to go as planned. No effort on the PRs part yet again then.
The PRs also have been continuously referring to it as a ‘misunderstanding’ and a ‘miscommunication’. As I pointed out in my reply:
This is not a misunderstanding nor miscommunication but a general mess up on your part. If you would have admitted as much it might have been a little less frustrating but your constant insistence that I have misunderstood is insulting. The invitation was clear, the terms were clear and I even made certain by double checking that our family size would not have been a problem ten days before the event took place. Not only was it confirmed that we were fine to attend but the postal invitation was also sent out. Your company were also aware that we are not local to London and would be making a great effort in order to attend. As you are aware, we were due to receive no payment at all for this and neither did we ask for any reimbursement towards travel or time. We simply wanted our children to enjoy a Disney Christmas party to which they had been invited. We did not mention it to them until we had made certain that our family size would not be an issue. You completely underestimate the upset you have caused. To offer to ‘squeeze us in’ to tonight’s event at short notice on the assumption we have nothing else to do with our time but to wait for some half-hearted attempt to keep us quiet is both arrogant and inconsiderate.
You seem to greatly underestimate the gravity of what you have done. 10 of the 11 children due to attend are under the age of 12 – Disney’s target market, I believe. My children do not need ‘gifts’ thank you. They were looking forward to the experience. Do you really think a handful of stuffed toys is going to make up for what you have done and how you have treated us all – all for a PR stunt aimed to give the impression that Disney care for children? The truth is very different, and at Christmas, no less. This is certainly not what we, nor the many who have contacted us in regards to this, thought Disney represented.
So yes, we got a memory. Yes, we got an experience. It just wasn’t the one we imagined Disney would deliver.