How the State of North Carolina ended up with a surplus Little Mermaid snow globe
After a Rabbit Hole investigation, we now know precisely how a Disney tchotchke became official state government property.
We’re now a reader-supported newsletter, and if you like what you’ve been reading here, please pledge your support with a monthly or yearly subscription. You can help out by clicking or tapping the button below.
Let’s start here:
First off, this tweet itself isn’t inherently interesting. The state ends up with surplus property that it no longer needs for whatever reason, and it has to sell it off. Many people have told me that they’ll regularly drop by the ol’ surplus property warehouse in Raleigh to look for deals. It’s like a Goodwill run by the executive branch.
However, the Disney snow globe caught the eye of a lot of people.
I did threaten to make an Open Records Act request to get to the bottom of this, but it turns out that all you need to do is email the right person. In this case, the right person was Aldesha Gore, the assistant communications director for the North Carolina Department of Administration. It took her six days, but she figured it out and got back to me. For that, I think, she deserves a raise.
The Item Itself
First off, let’s take a closer look at the item in question here. It’s a “Disney The Little Mermaid Ariel Dare To Dream Snow Globe,” a clunky name that only a SEO manager could love. It was sold at Hallmark originally for $39.99 but was recently marked down to $19.99. It got mostly five-star reviews from the grandmothers who gave it to their granddaughters, although the only complaint I saw was that it didn’t have enough glitter in it. The item itself is made from resin and glass, and comes with the following description:
Princess Ariel reminds us that when we dare to dream, amazing things can happen.
The exact quote—”Let your dreams go where you’ve never dared”—is one of those sayings that ends up next to a picture of Albert Einstein and gets shared on Facebook by the woman next door who likes each and every picture of your children. How do we know that she really said that? Didn’t Ariel spend half of that movie without a voice?
Share this philosophy with a Disney fan when you give this charming snow globe that features the adventurous mermaid sitting on a rock inside the globe and an inspiring quote painted on the sea-blue base.
Side note here: I only very recently read the original Hans Christian Andersen version of “The Little Mermaid,” and folks, it does not end like the movie! There are many differences, but the biggest is this: In the book, the mermaid does not end up marrying the prince. Instead, he marries another woman, and the mermaid gets super depressed. At that point, the mermaid’s sisters show up and say hey, you can turn back into a mermaid again and come back to your family, but ONLY IF YOU TAKE THIS HERE KNIFE AND STAB THE PRINCE TO DEATH. She tries to do it, but can’t, flings herself into the sea, and immediately turns into foam. But! She’s not dead! Instead, because of this selfless act, some benevolent being gives her the opportunity to serve humans for the next 300 years, and if she does a good job at that, she can go to heaven instead of becoming an inanimate floating mass of bubbles.
You know: HAPPILY EVER AFTER.
Anyhow, yes, the snow globe is charming.
Makes a wonderful gift for a birthday or graduation.
Sure does! And if you would have bought it from the state, you could have had it for the sale price of $8! A steal! So how, exactly, did this thing you can buy at Hallmark become official state property that had to be disposed of?
On Thursday, after I officially found out the reason why the state ended up with this snow globe, I asked you all if you could guess why.
Many people guessed some version of that, but nope, that’s not it.
This is a more elaborate guess than the first one but, also, no. I’d like to point out something, though, which is that every little plastic doodad and cheapo piece of memorabilia that I’ve ever collected and displayed at work has come with me to every new job I’ve ever had, where it MIGHT end up going back on display but probably will just stay in the same box. Hence, I have a “Philip Frye for Governor: He’ll Do His Job, Not His Staff,” campaign button from my time covering the Bob Wise gubernatorial administration in West Virginia. I have a champagne flute from the J.B. Duke Hotel that I will absolutely never use. I have a stuffed moose from my time working for Emmis, a media company that thought it was naming itself for the Greek word for “truth,” but ended up being the word for “moose.” Anyhow, we all got a stuffed moose one year instead of bonuses.
All of those things I cherish deeply and will cart them away with me when (?) I retire someday, at which point they will probably remain in the box.
Also, after sending that first tweet, Chris wrote some snow globe fan fic:
Yeah, man, ain’t no better way to stick it to The Man than to, um, put a snow globe on your desk.
Naw, Pat McCrory would have inadvertently knocked it off of a desk with his elbow while telling a story about how he called Michael Jordan for traveling in an ACC All-Star Game that one time. It would have landed on his toes and shattered into a million pieces, and he would have blamed someone else for his broken foot. LOOKS LIKE WE GOT OURSELVES A CLEAR CUT CASE OF DEMOCRAT ELBOW FRAUD.
Not really a guess, but thanks Matt.
Yeah, there is some policy on the books that defines how and when you can accept gifts, I’m just gonna wait for Gerry Cohen to chime in and tel—
That joke works better if it came from a guy named Lariel, who has a brother named Dariel, and another brother named Dariel.
Yeah, ol’ girl’s had some botox?
The Real Answer
Great guesses, but every one of those guesses was wrong. From Aldesha at the DOA (who again, deserves a raise for this):
Due to the liquid contained in the Little Mermaid snow globe, it was prohibited from being carried on a plane. Therefore it was confiscated by TSA and disposed of through the Division of Surplus in lieu of abandonment/destruction.
Look, state government gets a lot of flack for stuff, but in this case, they decided to make sure that a little snow globe found a good home instead of going to waste. Congrats to Clark Riemer, who was the only person who guessed correctly.
By the way, after I posted about the Little Mermaid snow globe on social media, I got this:
Y’all are on your own for that one.
My father, Glen Gillis, was in charge of constructing a warehouse about 1960 near Garner that was used to store federal surplus property. He soon worked for the NC Department of Education and was involved in distributing surplus properties to fledgling community colleges. I traveled with him during summer months while he made his rounds, one being Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte.