About 4 million sign up for free Disney World tickets, about third use them

Posted Monday, January 4, 2010 11:23 AM | Contributed by Jeff

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts says approximately 4 million people registered online for free theme-park tickets in 2009 as part of the company's "Free on Your Birthday" marketing campaign. It's unclear exactly how many of those people actually picked up and used their tickets. But Disney said in September that the redemption rate was running around 30 percent.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Monday, January 4, 2010 5:53 PM

This program was heavily advertised on last night's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (with special guests The Muppets). Ty Pennington announced that every volunteer who helped to build the house got a free ticket to Disney World or Disneyland. The very next commercial break included a commercial featuring The Muppets telling viewers to go to Disney's website sign up to get their free tickets.

I cry every time I watch that "goofy" show. lol

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Monday, January 4, 2010 8:58 PM

Probably cry because within a few short months the family will have to foreclose the house because they can't afford it and end up on the streets? ;)

Read a huge article on that, and many of the families loose the home very quickly. It's sad. In the future I guess they are making the renovations much less extreme, and more affordable because of it.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 12:37 AM

I've always wondered how the families can possibly support the taxes and utilities that come with most of those houses, and I guess you answered my question.

The redemption rate on the giveaways doesn't really surprise me. That seems to be a pretty common statistic on things like that.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 9:00 AM

Increased taxes and utilities could be a problem. Though with utilities, there may be some offsets due to efficiency. My first house was 60 years old, had a furnace that no one could tell its age and pretty much had zero insulation. We built a new house about 10 years ago which is 3 times the size but because it has insulation and efficient furnace and a/c, the utility costs are only marginally higher. Natural gas usage for the first winter was actually the same as it was in the old house.

I suspect that in addition to taxes/utilities, some of the EHM folks run into problems because they get caught up in the same home equity/house as ATM trap that caused much of our current housing problems. They had a house/mortgage that they could afford before the show. The show gave them a house (still with the same mortgage though the taxes and utilities were higher) with double or triple the value and they used that additional value to increase their mortgage (most likely with an adjustable rate) to pay for the increased real estate taxes/utlilities but other living expenses (like vacations). When the rate on the mortgage bumped up, they could no longer afford the mortgage and lose the house.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 12:40 PM

They also violate a basic rule of home building and remodeling: don't make your house worth so much more than all the other ones in your neighborhood. It wouldn't make for such dramatic TV, but they don't have to fill the house with every gizmo and premium product/system out there.

Also, in addition to taxes, I'd say other big costs would have to be insurance and maintenance. I don't follow the show that much, but from what I recall, many of the people involved already have big expenses dealing with the illness or handicap of a family member, which doesn't go away just because there's a new house built.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 1:25 PM

It wouldn't make for such dramatic TV, but they don't have to fill the house with every gizmo and premium product/system out there.

It also wouldn't pay the bills. Product placement, baby!

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 1:36 PM

I don't watch the show, but I get the general idea...

The thing is, those premium systems are put in for the homeowners to live with, and they are provided as part of the sponsorship. So that really isn't a problem unless the homeowners are intending to sell, in which case it makes the house worth a lot more than it should be.

I'd think the real problem is the dramatic increase in value resulting in a dramatically higher tax bill. Particularly since a major renovation (or replacement) is likely to result in an immediate re-evaluation. Utilities may be an issue, but I think taxes are more likely to be the big problem.

That, and the dangerous temptation to immediately start cashing out the enormous equity in the vastly improved property...

Anyway, if anything, the redemption rate seems *high*. This is one of those things where you can't get the freebie if you don't register for it, and registration costs you nothing*. So regardless of whether or not you can make use of the freebie, you absolutely do want to register for it, so that if the opportunity presents itself, you're ready. If it doesn't, you aren't out anything*.

--Dave Althoff, Jr.

*Except, of course, for certain personal information which may be valuable to Disney's marketing departments...

--DCAjr.

Last edited by RideMan, Tuesday, January 5, 2010 1:39 PM
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 2:38 PM

"I had to foreclose on my dream home today, But least I have a free ticket to disneyworld on my birthday"

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 3:05 PM

Looks to be a combination of high utility bills, using the home as collateral, and higher taxes have causes these homes to go into foreclosure:

http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2009/12/16/another-extreme-home-f...reclosure/

Back in 2004, the Wofford home - purchased in 1989 for $186,700 - was expanded from 1,212 square feet to 4,337 square feet replete with a gym and hot tub. But, Mr. Wofford now owes $770,000 on the house, including $140,000 in home-equity loans.... the family refinanced twice “after getting the home from the show.” Trouble apparently started after the property was reassessed, leading to higher property taxes. The economic downturn, meanwhile, ate into Mr. Wofford’s chiropractic practice. He has reportedly tried to modify his loan for two years without luck - a problem many troubled homeowners face - so payments were halted this year.


Take Arizona’s Okvath family, which put its 5,346-square-foot home on the market due to extreme bills, including $1,200 a month for electricity and $400 for water. A Michigan family struggling with a hefty mortgage payment and medical bills previously feared foreclosure, while a Georgia family used its new home as collateral for a $450,000 loan to finance a construction business that failed. A Florida recipient found herself overwhelmed by code violations that resulted in her being slapped by a $29,000 lien on her property.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 3:17 PM

Well, I'm not sure the show can be held responsible for everything people do once it is turned over to them. If a lottery winner declares bankruptcy noone blames the State lottery system.

I have quite a bit of home equity myself right now. I'm not taking out loans to start my own business, pay for vacations, etc. And, if I DID do that but ran into trouble I'd have noone to blame but myself.

I would really enjoy an America that believed in personal responsibility and accountability again.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 3:45 PM

I agree, An America where we don't give trophies to our kids for coming in last place, just because they tried... But I guess that's not rationale.

Since Disney didn't have very good results with their flagship park, Do you think we will see this at other parks in the future? To be honest I would have tried this in California before Florida. If people aren't biting in Florida Disney might have hard roads ahead..

Seems to me like this kind of promotion would appeal more to locals than the national audience to warrant the promo on prime-time TV.

Last edited by JoshuaTBell, Tuesday, January 5, 2010 3:55 PM
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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 3:58 PM

Disney is different. Most people come for multiple days so giving them one free ticket (even assuming everyone in the family has the same birthday or a birthday during their stay) still means they will be buying admission tickets for the rest of their stay. And if you are going for multiple days, most likely you will be staying in a hotel/condo which often times is a Disney resort. And then they sell meal plans and souvenirs. So I wouldn't expect any other parks that are not resort destinations to take the "free on your birthday" approach. If the majority of the guests are there for just one day, the loss of revenue from the free ticket(s) is harder to make up.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 4:47 PM

cpubradley said:
Take Arizona’s Okvath family, which put its 5,346-square-foot home on the market due to extreme bills, including $1,200 a month for electricity and $400 for water.

Okay... I understand higher electricity and gas bills, as the place will take more to heat and cool if it's bigger, even if the new devices are more efficient; but how does your water bill go up that much? Are you washing more clothes? Taking longer showers? Did they install a moat? I'd imagine that I could live in a mansion or an apartment, and short of having a pool to fill, I'd use the same amount of water.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 4:50 PM

Perhaps they installed an irrigation system for the yard that ran off their main water line. They often do lots of nice, new landscaping when they build those homes.

And, I must admit that I cry once in a while when watching that show too. The families certainly seem to be deserving.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 5:34 PM

So I'm the only heartless bastard that feels like that's one of the most disingenuous shows on TV? Pure emotional manipulation?

A feel-good moment doesn't feel so good to me when it's that contrived.

This past summer they did a house in our town (the episode aired in early November) and it was all you heard about when the show was in town. After it aired the general buzz seemed to be the same as the concerns posted here - how are they going to afford that house?

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010 5:59 PM

JoshuaTBell said:


Since Disney didn't have very good results with their flagship park, Do you think we will see this at other parks in the future? To be honest I would have tried this in California before Florida. If people aren't biting in Florida Disney might have hard roads ahead..

Seems to me like this kind of promotion would appeal more to locals than the national audience to warrant the promo on prime-time TV.

ok, you completely missed the point of this promotion. It was valid at both World and Land.

Free ticket on your birthday. ONE ticket. How many people go to Disney World alone? How many people go on their birthday? How many family members have identical birthdays? Answer, VERY FEW.

So, the fact that the whole world could register their birthday data (and only had to as a time saving issue, you could still show up at the parks on your b-day without registering and get the freebie).

So the fact that 1.2 million tickets were issued means that some multiple of that (you pick the number of family members/friends that joined that birthday person), and you can see a very successful Awareness program.

Ask any retailer what the normal coupon redemption rate is (less than 1%) and you'll see that a 30% redemption rate is huge. Of course, some of this was locals and/or people who were already planning on a Disney trip. Well, in the worst economic year in several generations, Disney got clicks through the turnstiles. Seems to be a success in my mind.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010 12:53 AM

Lord Gonchar said:
So I'm the only heartless bastard that feels like that's one of the most disingenuous shows on TV? Pure emotional manipulation?

Actually, isn't about 80% of what you see on TV disingenuous emotional manipulation?

I'm wondering about the home where the owner was fined for code violations. A $29,000 lien? That's a lot of fines. So, don't these builders need to present plans to the local code officer? Or get permits? None of these "experts" involved know what does and doesn't pass code? Wow. I'd say that homeowner has a case against the show-- I wonder if any releases they'd have to sign include accepting shoddy construction.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010 1:19 AM

RatherGoodBear said:
Actually, isn't about 80% of what you see on TV disingenuous emotional manipulation?

Yes.

But most of it doesn't pretend it's not and the rest people usually sniff out. This is the one show that I always hear people say nice things about (not just here) and I never got it.

I think it feels yucky to me because they really try to act like it's all about doing good and not about finding the right stories and presenting them in a certain way in an effort to profit.

Like we've established in countless threads around here, I like my dirty out in the open. This show is the opposite of that.

It's a 'free drinks' claim, not a q-bot offer. ;)

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010 3:59 AM

I'm wondering about the home where the owner was fined for code violations. A $29,000 lien? That's a lot of fines. So, don't these builders need to present plans to the local code officer? Or get permits? None of these "experts" involved know what does and doesn't pass code? Wow. I'd say that homeowner has a case against the show-- I wonder if any releases they'd have to sign include accepting shoddy construction.

Turns out these violations are the owners fault not the builders:


http://blogs.wsj.com/developments/2008/10/08/another-extreme-makeov...n-trouble/


The violations began to accumulate after Holmes, a former drugaddict and single mother of five children, moved into the home andreceived permission from Seminole county to run a volunteerorganization from it. Sadie Holmes Help Services collects clothing,food and furniture and distributes them to people in need.

Running the organization from the property required that Holmesscreen from view any materials stored outside, the paper said. BySeptember 2007, the Sentinel reported, a code-enforcement officer beganfiling violations for overgrown grass and because such things asportable restrooms, an over-sized truck and abandoned vehicles wereallegedly stored on it in full view Holmes said she began receivingvisits from the officer as early as two months after she moved in.

Holmes moved the three-ton truck to a storage warehouse and cleanedup the yard, the Sentinel said, adding that code-enforcement officialswere satisfied with the yard’s condition as of September 26. The lien,however, remains for previous violations.

Last edited by cpubradley, Wednesday, January 6, 2010 4:00 AM
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