Police were forced to investigate and take action after would-be Disney Guests discovered that parks trips they paid for were never booked.
There’s no such thing as the wrong time to visit a Disney Park. In the summer months, Central Florida humidity can be brutal at the Walt Disney World Resort, and in the winter months, some parks, like Tokyo Disney Resort, experience weather that drapes the parks in a snowy blanket. But even with the weather factored in, there’s simply not a bad time to visit a Disney Park. But for Guests looking to have a different kind of Disney Parks experience, one of the best times to visit is during the holidays.
Hundreds of would-be Guests apparently had the same thought and set out to make plans to take their families to Disney’s Parisian park and surprise them with the trips as Christmas gifts. But what started out as exciting holiday surprises turned into empty promises and the stuff of nightmares.
More than 400 families had planned to surprise their children with an exciting experience at Disneyland Paris after purchasing trips from a travel company known as Go West with Mickey, which was based in South London. But after purchasing their trips, families found out the hard way that their trips were never actually booked, so there were no trips to be taken. Shortly after families began to realize they had no trips to the Disney Parks near Paris, they discovered that the company had closed, and its Facebook page and website had both been deleted. Additionally, messages from the defrauded would-be Disney Guests were no longer answered.
“I contacted Disney,” said Ali McEvoy, who purchased a trip for her children Owen and Cariad, ages 10 and 7, respectively. “They said nothing was booked.”
The mom of two purchased a holiday package with Go West With Mickey–a four-night Disney trip that included a resort hotel room for the family plus park tickets. She presented the gift to her children for Christmas, and she recorded the experience during which they unwrapped a calendar with the dates of their planned trip in December circled. It was only after this that McElvoy began to read online that the company was allegedly involved in fraudulent practices. That’s when she called Disney and got the worst holiday news she could imagine.
In all, Go West With Mickey had allegedly defrauded paying customers out of £370,000, or roughly $480,000. Police reportedly investigated 419 separate allegations. The owner of Go West With Mickey reportedly cooperated with a voluntary interview related to the allegations but was released without an arrest. He remained under investigation at the time.
Months before the holiday, the firm issued a statement online saying the company was “dead” and that its assets had been frozen. “There have been mistakes, yes, it was a company of five staff who also made mistakes,” read a message on the company’s website, which has now been taken down. “We have always highly compensated for these mistakes.”
The Association of British Travel Agents weighed in on the situation, stating that Go West With Mickey was not a member of the ABTA.
“Operators selling packaged holidays are legally required to provide financial protection for customers,” the organization said in a statement.
The company has virtually disappeared–even online. The only remnants of the organization that referred to itself as an “independent travel advisor” are in the forms of scathing online reviews in which good neighbors have attempted to keep others from falling prey to what some called a “Ponzi scheme.”
One review on TripAdvisor tells Disney trip planners to “Avoid [Go West With Mickey] at all costs,” saying that “most of the reviews on [TripAdvisor] have been done by the scam artist owners of this company using fake profiles.” The review goes on, saying, “They have run off with over £300,000 of customers’ money.”
There’s also talk of the company having changed its name to “ThemeParks4U,” and reviews online warn vacationers to “avoid this one at all costs too.”
When planning a trip to any Disney Parks Resort, it’s important to book only with an authorized Disney vacation travel planner. This is the only sure way to know that you’re getting the trip you’re expecting–and so that you don’t get any “surprises” when you arrive at the parks for your Disney Parks experience.