Disney’s film Frozen was released in theaters five months ago, but merchandise based on the film is still sold out at Disney Stores nationwide. It’s clear that Disney Consumer Products Division had no inkling that Frozen would become the most successful animated movie of all time—even though parents and members of the girl empowerment community have been clamoring for years for girl-centric animated films that go beyond romance.
As a result, Disney has missed out on millions of dollars in potential revenue in Q1 of the current fiscal year alone, and Q2 will be more of the same, as Frozen merchandise will not be fully stocked in Disney Stores until July or August. Meanwhile, children across the nation are upset that they cannot have toys based on their new favorite characters. It’s a lose-lose situation for everyone.
Disconcertingly, one unanticipated consequence of Disney’s merchandise production oversight is that Disney Store clerks are enduring unprecedented verbal abuse from their customers, according to my sources. One young woman even told me that a woman called her the c-word on the phone last week. The reason? She apologetically told the customer that she wasn’t allowed to tell her by phone what they had in stock—per her manager’s orders.
Now, I understand that consumers are distressed that they cannot find Frozen products available at retail prices. After all, most people can’t afford to spend $200 on Ebay for $18 Anna and Elsa dolls, or $50 for a $15 pair of Frozen boots from a Craigslist seller (as a friend of mine did for her 5-year-old daughter), or $1,000 on eBay for a $150 Elsa costume.
But harassing retail employees is never acceptable. Disney executives are responsible for the difficult task of gauging a film’s anticipated popularity—not Disney Store clerks, who work hard, often for minimum wage, and in my experience are among some of the nicest employees you’ll ever encounter in a retail establishment.
So, here’s my advice. If you’re looking for Frozen merchandise at reasonable prices and have been frustrated in your search, consider having a conversation with Disney representatives about it via email or on their blog. You might wish to state that while you understand Disney is doing everything they can to get Frozen merchandise on shelves, you hope that they take a long-term view and recognize that what’s good for girls is good for business. Encourage them to develop more stories about girls that go beyond romance, and to continue featuring more than one dynamic girl per film. You might note that it would be preferable for them to encompass a wider range of body types, as well.
Please, let’s give the Disney Store clerks a break. Let’s take our concerns to with upper management, instead, where our feedback can make a difference.
Rebecca Hains is a media studies professor at Salem State University. Her book, The Princess Problem: Guiding Our Girls Through the Princess-Obsessed Years, is now available for pre-order from Amazon.