This Is What It Means If You See a Disney Cast Member in a Plaid Vest
These cast members are the cream of the crop.
Any theme park aficionado knows that the Disney parks are well-oiled machines. From Disney World to Disneyland to Tokyo DisneySea, these parks require massive amounts of person-power to pull off the inimitable guest experiences that make them so magical. And one of Disney’s employee secrets is the way they go above and beyond to acknowledge extra-special employees—or “cast members,” as Disney calls them. Just be sure not to bring any of these everyday items banned from Disney parks in order to make the most of your trip!
You already know about Disney’s blue name tags and all of these other Disney insider tips. (Oh, you don’t? Find out what it means if you see a Disney employee with a blue name tag.) But there’s another badge of honor that special cast members get: a plaid vest or any plaid accessory. Read on to find out just what it means.
What are “Plaids” at Disney?
Disney employees in plaid vests—nicknamed “Plaids”—are known as ambassadors. According to Christopher Lucas, author of Top Disney: 100 Top Ten Lists of the Best of Disney, they’re super-high-tier tour guides. For most cast members—at least the ones who want to interact with guests and represent the company—this is the job to aspire to. Ambassadors have to be unflappably knowledgable about the park and Disney as a whole and stellar at providing a top-notch experience for customers.
While there are many different tours and guest experiences available at Disney parks, the ambassadors are interacting with VIP, high-paying guests. Yes, that’s another major aspect of the Plaids’ job, and hiring them is incredibly expensive. They’re the ones who might lead a big-name celebrity around the park for a day.
So what do they do, exactly? Well, it can vary by customer, but Lucas says their main job is to be a high-level concierge. “They are there to make your wishes come true and to do what you want,” he says.
For a cool $3,000 to $5,000 a day, an ambassador will tailor your visit to your specific itinerary, complete with some truly elite perks. “In the morning, the Plaids ask you, ‘What would you like to do?’ They plan it out, and they drive you around the park in a little private car,” he explains. “If it’s the Frozen ride [you want], they don’t bring you through the front gates of EPCOT; they’ll park around back. There are secret doors on every ride that they can bring you [through], and you get right on the ride.”
That’s right: You don’t need to wait in line. Unfortunately, the service isn’t within the desired price range for the average Disney guest—especially because these tours are available only to groups of six people or fewer.
The ambassadors must be cast members that the company can trust to give big spenders their money’s worth. They also need to treat these guests, even household-name stars, a certain way. “They’re trusted enough [to] not go fan-crazy: ‘Can I have an autograph?’ ‘Can I have a photo?'” Lucas says. “They’re not allowed to do any of that. They’ve got to treat everyone as if they’re just a regular Disney customer.”
How do you become a Plaid?
Since they’re the cream of the crop of Disney cast members, becoming a plaid-wearing ambassador is no small feat. You truly have to work your way up to it. “You have to [have] at least a year of working for Disney,” Lucas says. “They start you working at the front counter at Town Hall when you walk in. You’re wearing plaid, but it’s usually a tie or something small; you’re not wearing a whole plaid outfit like the guides are. Your job is to answer every single [customer] question.”
In that position, your performance, skill at interacting with customers, and inside-out Disney knowledge are rigorously evaluated. If you have the makings of an ambassador, hopefully you’ll rise through the ranks.
Other cast members who wear plaid
Does all this mean that average guests are priced out of this magic if they’re not rolling in dough? Not quite, says Lucas. The parks offer other VIP tours that are a little more in reach for the average guest. These aren’t led by the full-fledged, celeb-hobnobbing ambassadors but by other (still very prestigious) tour guides. “They’re the ones that are training to be the biggest ambassadors, the ones that get all the high-profile jobs,” Lucas says.
One of the current VIP tours is specifically for Disney World’s 50th anniversary. “They’ll take you inside Cinderella’s suite; they’ll let you ride one of the rides; they’ll [take] you backstage at Haunted Mansion,” he says. But the biggest difference with these tours (besides the price) is that “you can’t choose the itinerary; whatever you pay for is there.”
Ambassadors aren’t the only Plaids in town.”Disney tour guides, Disney concierges, customer service—a lot of them wear plaid, too,” Lucas says. “If you see somebody at Disney wearing plaid, any bit of plaid, it means that Disney trusts them to deal with the public and answer questions.”
The more plaid they’re wearing, the more Disney trusts them. “So if someone has the full vest on and the hat, then you know that they’re at the top level of plaids. But if they just have a plaid tie or a plaid skirt, it means that they’re working their way up to that level,” he says. “Most people, when they think of the Plaids, think of [the ambassadors]—the higher-end ones.”
Does that mean that regular ol’ Disney guests will never get to see these hallowed guides? Well, if you’re talking about the big-time Plaids, it might. In general, they’re tied up with the guests they’re helping, and it helps that they frequent “secret” spots where the general public isn’t as present. “But if they’re out in public and someone does ask them a question, it’s their responsibility to answer it,” Lucas clarifies. “As an ambassador, it would be terrible if they just said, ‘Oh no, I’m sorry, I’m with this person.’ They still have to attend to the people that are paying them, but … they’re Disney front and center, so they’re required to help the public in any way they can.”
If a guest brings a bigger issue to their attention, they might have to get another cast member to help. But if it’s a simple question, they’ll most likely be able to answer it—and you can feel confident that they’re giving you good advice. They’re probably particularly adept at avoiding the three words Disney employees can’t say.
How does the plaid vest differ from a blue name tag?
You might wonder what differentiates the plaid vests from another cast member badge of honor: the blue name tags, for recipients of the Disney Legacy Award.
Plaid denotes a cast member who excels at guest-facing duties. “The plaid vest is saying, ‘You’re a trusted ambassador. … You’re going to show us off in the best light to whoever we throw your way, and you’re going to treat them well,'” Lucas says.
Blue name tags, on the other hand, are for any cast member who is being recognized for exceptional work, whether they work in the kitchens, in housekeeping, or anywhere else in the parks. In fact, Lucas says it’s a way to acknowledge the cast members who may not get the status or recognition that comes with the high-profile, guest-facing gig of a Plaid.
- Christopher Lucas, author of Top Disney: 100 Top Ten Lists of the Best of Disney