(Updated November 2012)
When Disney parks made changes to their trading areas, I was hopeful that the scamming of Guests would abate, but the Sharks are persistant and Disney has become lazy about regulating pin trading again. Be warned!
(If you've read my articles in the past, you know that the two things that "get my goat" are Scrapper pin sellers and Sharks. Sharks are some of the people - usually from the Orlando and Anaheim area - who make a living by "trading" common Disney pins for brand new store-bought pins.)
Here's how Sharks function: Because they're in the parks all the time - knowing when lanyards are refreshed and picking off the hard-to-find pins - they have a large collection of the Hidden Mickey pins, mystery box pins, etc. They trade their cheap, common pins to get these. Then, when an unsuspecting Guest comes by their pin trading table (located in Epcot by the pin store), the Guest ultimately finds a pin the Shark has. When shown pins that the Guest has, the Shark will either try to trade for the most valuable pin you have, or say, "Sorry...you don't have anything that I need. But I am needing such-and-such a pin -- which you could buy for me inside the store -- and I'd be willing to trade THAT pin for the one you want." Sometimes, they even get 2 or 3 pins, depending on how desperate the Guest is.
The Guest ends up paying $8-15 for a brand new pin to get a common pin from the Shark. Is it illegal? No. And Walt Disney World and Disneyland say they hate the Sharks' practices, but they can't really fully stop it because Guests willingly give up their money for the Sharks' pins. But is it ethical? Not in my book!
Disney HAD taken some steps to make it less convenient for the Sharks to market their wares, but they have become lazy in some areas...
Disney had removed the pin trading area at Downtown Disney (the Sharks' main feeding area). They also removed all but the Frontierland location for trading at Disneyland/DCA. Now, the main place at WDW is inside Epcot (where Disney has pin trading tables). There are no park benches at these tables (a luxury at Downtown Disney), some Sharks even rent wheelchairs to sit on! Disney also originally restricted how pin traders could display their pins. ONLY ONE TRADING BOOK IS PERMITTED for a trader, and traders may only use ONE TABLE. To counter that, Sharks would create HUGE books (6-8 inches wide!).
Unfortunately, Disney has become lazy. Multiple books have now been seen once again at Epcot and Disneyland, and the Sharks pretty much feed freely on unsuspecting Guests. Sharks also work in teams, sometimes, to circumvent Disney's rules. But they are still "taking candy from babies" by feeding on Guests. As one of the heads in the Frontierland Disneyland pin store told me when I complained, "We have to pick our battles." Sorry, ma'am, but that's not true...it's YOUR park and YOUR rules. YOU can shut down this kind of behavior if you want to.
Don't get me wrong...I understand that Cast Members get tired of the day-by-day, shift-by-shift having to deal with Sharks. But if Disneyland and Walt Disney World are going to put a stop to the Shark tactics, they have to make things uncomfortable for those who refuse to follow the rules!
If a Shark suggests you go buy a pin from the pin store to trade with them - ESPECIALLY if they then ask for your receipt (so they can ultimately return the pin for CASH!), go to a Cast Member immediately at tell them you're offended by that practice! It's not illegal for a Shark to do this, but Disney CAN make a pin trading rule that would forbid such behavior. The more we squeak our disapproval, the more the Mouse is going to hear us and perhaps make the changes!!!
Has complaining stopped the Sharks? No, but it HAS made their lives more miserable...
During a visit to Walt Disney World, I spent time talking with some of the "professionals." The Sharks are NOT happy. Here are some of the comments I heard...
"I used to be able to make 50 or more trades in a day," said one, "having people go in and get pins I need from the store. Today, I've only gotten one or two."
"They take away our benches, they don't allow us to move tables anymore, we have to leave half our stuff at home... I don't know why Disney is doing this: We're helping them make money!"
"I'm gonna have to find another way to supplement my income..."
When I vacation at Disney, I spent some time trading my pins at a table too. It's great fun. The difference for me was, though, is that I tell people loudly, "I'll trade anything for anything...all my pins are traders so it doesn't matter." (I even have shirts I wear that say that!) Ohhhhhhh that makes the Sharks mad!! The funny thing is, folks usually trade me some really cool stuff that I ended up holding onto, but it's fun and it makes a lot of people - especially the kids - happy.
My favorite quote was when one pin trader referred me by name to another pin trader hanging out there. When I approached that pin trader, sitting in a wheelchair (obviously not infirmed), I asked them, "Are you _______?" His response was, "Are you a cop?"
Disney's changes to the Downtown Disney trading area took place because enough of us let our voices be heard! Disneyland trading areas have been "tightened up" some as well. THANK YOU! There is power in many voices...don't be afraid to speak out when you see unethical trading taking place! The Sharks have been "wounded," but I'm sure they'll try to find other ways to sucker Guests out of their pins and money, so be on the watch (especially in Epcot and in Disneyland's Frontierland), and let me know what kind of activity you see going on. The fight is on especially at Epcot, so don't be afraid to speak out! I'll keep updating this article as news warrants...