My hat!” You could barely hear my anxious shout over the laughing and screaming on Disneyland’s classic ride, Splash Mountain. On a drop, my son had accidentally knocked my hat clear off my head.

bobbyhat.pngWhy was I so upset?  I mean it’s just a hat, right?

But it wasn’t just a hat for me. It was an artifact. I find one to take home from every one of our family trips. Indiana Jones would have a field day in my house!

This particular artifact was from our first trip to Disney, when my sons were three years and six months old and my daughter wasn’t yet born. We’d created some awesome memories and I was devastated to lose a symbol of that great trip.

Dad, that’s your favorite hat!  Is it gone forever?”  My son asked what I was silently dreading as I looked back to see no sign of my hat in the rushing water.

What was I going to do? 

How do you solve a customer’s difficult problem?

This was a moment that could have gone a lot worse if not for the magic of Disney. Here’s how they turned my lost family memento into a legendary family story:

1 | Respond with empathy first

After we get off the ride, I found a cast member (what Disney calls their employees) and explained what happened.  She reassured me and my worried son that it happens all the time, and that when they do a routine drain of the water they should find it.   

Sensing my obvious anxiety, she personally hustled me about a quarter mile across the park to report my missing hat to Lost and Found.

What made this reaction so awesome?

Disney reinforced the idea that every customer’s problem is valid, even if it’s just a lost hat. The cast member met my emotional needs first and then made it her personal mission to help me out.

2 | Provide honest and timely feedback

The cast members at Lost and Found told me they’d keep an eye out for my hat and let me know if anything turned up. I shouldn’t have been surprised that for every day of our three-day trip, Disney called to give me an update on the search.

What made this reaction so awesome?

Can you imagine calling someone every day just to deliver bad news? It can be hard to confront reality with your customer.

But as Disney knew, I appreciated the transparency and consideration. While I was still bummed about my hat, I was able to enjoy the rest of my trip knowing they were taking care of it.

3 | Follow through on your promises

By the end of our trip they still hadn’t found my hat. You know that one special thing you have that fits and feels just right?  Every time I wore the hat I thought of our first trip and the countless pictures of me and the kids with my hat. Needless to say I was bummed.

Fast forward a month. I came home to a large envelope on the kitchen island addressed to me from Disney.  I open it and yell out to my wife and kids, “They sent me my hat!  They found my hat!” 

Inside the package was my one and only hat, but it also came with a note from the cast member I met all those weeks ago. It was so simple: “Yay! We found your hat!”

How cool is that?!

What made this the most awesome reaction of all?

The magic!

As Dennis Snow wrote, “Great service isn’t about grand acts. It’s about common courtesy, artfully delivered.” Everything the cast members did for me was within the realm of common courtesy, but they did it with a delight and magic that was uniquely Disney. Best of all, the kept their promise. I was pumped!


How will you delight your customers?

At Populus Group, we practice empathetic customer service to help businesses, contractors, and kids find an opportunity to succeed. How will you approach your customer’s problems to transform their problems into a delightful story?


I just gotta say – I was delighted to open that envelope and plop that smelly hat on my head (that had undoubtedly been at the bottom of Splash Mountain for several weeks).  It smelled like happiness to me. 

All hail the underdog,