The Great Refillable Mugs Debate

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StitchKingdom.com is reporting news that have many Disney fans a buzz. It appears that Disney World is researching ways to end the loophole of using a past refillable mug on a new Disney World vacation. Here’s the details:

  • Starting July 18th RFID technology will be tested at the All Star Sports Resort that enable your resort purchased refillable mug to only activate the drink dispensing machines for a period of time.
  • After this time, mugs will only activate water and ice on the machines.
  • There will be a five minute period before you can fill up your mug again.
  • Single use cups are also getting RFID chips and will work for a very limited period of time to stop refills as well (an hour).

The Disney Food Blog actually has a video of the new system in action. Check it out.

Whew! This is some crazy news. What do you readers think?

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Posted on July 14, 2011

53 Responses to “The Great Refillable Mugs Debate”

  • That’s crazy! What if you take multiple trips in a year, you have to buy the same cup over and over in the same year? I completely understand purchasing new ones every year, but every trip?! I love Disney World and it would take something grossly wrong of them to make me stop going, BUT can’t they understand just how much money is takes for a family to make the visit and how much most people have to sacrifice to be there. They should lighten up on the re-fillable cup issue. At some point, somebody bought a cup from them and Disney got their money.

    • by Rob Stevens on July 14, 2011, at 4:53 pm EDT

      “… you have to buy the same cup over and over in the same year?”

      Technically, this has -always- been the rule. Disney never really enforced it before. When they went away from resort-specific mugs to the generic mugs, this became even harder to “police”. Just because you were allowed to do it before, doesn’t mean you were supposed to.

      And where do you draw the line? For you, it’s one year. I bought a Blizzard Beach mug in 2000. It’s specific to that park. If I bothered to dig it out of a box and haul it to the park, should I be allowed to use it?

      There’s always a line. Clearly, Disney felt that there was enough abuse of the standing policy that they chose to employ technology to solve the problem.

      There’s always the hope that Disney will be able use this as a way to reduce prices on the refillable mugs (I’ve noticed that the mugs are back on the Dining Plan in 2012), since more people will need to re-buy the mug. Or, perhaps they could offer a DISCOUNT on people who return a mug they purchased on a previous trip (or reactivate that mug at a lower cost).

      But that said, yes, this is exactly what Disney expects you to do.

  • I’m glad Disney is finally finding a way to enforce the rules they’ve previously stated. Its not whether I agree or disagree with the rule, its the fact that I, as a rule follower, have not been taking advantage of the system. But I see many people abusing the system by filling up their resort mug and then just dumping it into any ol’ container. I think if you have a rule about refilling on the specific container and not being able to reuse your mug on subsequent trips, you need to enforce it. Or else, just don’t have the rule.

    • My best friend does the whole fill the mug and then dump it into different container thing for her family of 5 or 6 (if they’re traveling with one of the Grandmothers). Drives me nutty – the mug is meant for one person to have unlimited refills not for you to hydrate your entire family! I could almost understand it if she was splitting a drink between the two littlest ones but mostly she just fills it up, dumps it into a different container, and then a few hours later ends up throwing out all kinds of beverages that nobody wants or drink, and repeating the whole process. But it was “free.” No it’s not – my little law abiding self is paying for it every time they raise the prices on those mugs. Grrrrr.

  • LOL really? That’s lame. I have to wait 5 minutes before refilling a cup? What if I’m really thirsty & dehydrated?

    So at least water remains free it appears, right? If you bring in an old mug you can still get ice and water?

    • This was my main issue with the plan! sometimes i’m CRAZY thirsty and would like a drink before the five minutes are up. From the videos i’ve seen they only have the smaller mugs available (not sure if they discontinued the larger ones or not before this move).

      I’m also confused, would i only be able to use these at my home resort? often times i stay at a different resort from my out of town family. if i join them in their food court would i be able to use my resort mug there?

  • I agree with Ashley! Disney should lighten up. How many people who make multiple trips to Disney World in the same year are abusing this policy? And isn’t Disney making enough money on those families already?

  • Laura, I follow the rules as well. My point is that it’s a lame rule.

    • I’m not arguing whether the rule is lame or not. That is up to the individual to decide. I’m saying its Disney’s rule and I’m glad that they’re enforcing it.

      I think paying $15 to park is lame, but what if Disney didn’t enforce it? That would be ridiculous because some people would pay and some wouldn’t. I think if Disney’s going to have rules (lame or not) they should be enforced.

  • love Disney but they can be tight sometimes. I usually fill cup, drink contents and refill straight away… Surely that’s the point of ‘free refills’?

  • by Jeffrey Lipack on July 14, 2011, at 5:04 pm EDT

    Get over it people. It’s just soda…

  • How can this be cost effective? Wonder if they will increase the cost of the mug on top of all of this. This sounds crazy, and stupid. I hope they do raise the price so even less people buy them.

  • Personally, I would prefer that they simply enforce the current rule and stop letting people with their Dixie Landings mug, their Year of a Million Dreams mug, their styrofoam cup, etc., refill away. Then the only issue becomes whether the person refilling with the current mug design bought the mug this visit or some previous visit. Change out the mug every year or two and you eliminate most of that problem as well. Instead they let people steal and steal and steal, never did anything about it, and thus encouraged even honest people to question what the real policy was.

    In any event, if they move entirely to RFID, I hope they will allow “re-upping” on old mugs at a discount. Collecting 4 new mugs every year? What am I going to do with all those old mugs?

  • I’ve never been a rule-breaker myself, but as much as we hate to admit it, Disney is a company that is about making money as much as it is about making magic. Forcing everyone to purchase new mugs every trip is a way to make money. Discounted refilling priveledges on old mugs would mean less people buying mugs because it would then be “legal” to reuse old mugs=less money Disney makes. Especially that a large part of visitors are repeat visitors. Implementing a refill discount on future trips in the same year might be a better option for those that are fortunate enough to afford it more than once a year. Just my opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as big a Disney maniac as the rest of you, and would like to see something that works for all. However, I also didn’t enjoy seeing people refilling a mug (for free)from 2000 on our last trip in 2010. Worse still, they would refill the mugs, go to their table, poor into a non-Disney mug for someone else, then refill again. They sat at the table across the aisle from our at Music and watched them do it. I knew the mugs were from 2000 because I have 3 of them at home from our trip in 2000. The rest of us pay for the mugs and follow the rules, when others take advantage of the situation.

  • Don’t stay on Disney property. Problem solved. Everything about it is highway robbery anyhow.

  • Agree with points made about using cups from old trips, but why stop those of us who buy a new cup each trip, refilling multiple times in 5 minutes?

    • Because some people fill the mug, dump the contents into a Rubbermaid type container, and refill it again and again and again and again. They buy one mug for their entire family and use it to fill empty cups and containers. They do this every couple of hours because a gallon of Coke goes flat in one of those Rubbermaid things and start the whole process over.

      If you personally downed a Coke in five minutes and wanted another that to me is fine but I’m willing to bet most people who hit the refill button in under five minutes aren’t refilling it for themselves.

      • I see your point, I guess I just resent it (anywhere) when policies changed on the assumption ‘the customer’ is dishonest when most (and I) are/am not.

  • Honestly, does anyone know how much it cost Disney to fill up one mug of soda….about 32 cents! It cost me $15 to buy a mug last week and I only got to use it about 4 times during a five day time period. Partly because I left the resort too early in the morning to get a drink at the food court at Saratoga Springs and came back after they closed at 11pm. I really felt like I got taken for a ride for what I spent. We either get a mug with the DDP (comes with the plan when the plan is free) or we go without so we do follow the rules for each of our visits but this time, I really felt quipped. I think that Disney has more important things to focus on than how many times I fill up my mug. If they want to limit the amount of times I can refill than have the soda machines in places that I can get too or have the food court open longer and don’t limit me by when I come and go to the parks. Just my two cents.

    • I’m sorry but you really don’t have anyone to blame but yourself. The food court hours are easy to find out. So if you weren’t going to be around, why buy the mugs at all? No one forced you to buy them. Not really Disney’s fault if you didn’t use your mug.

  • Let me get this straight. When I go to 5 Guys Hamburgers (or any other place with unlimited refills), can I bring my cup from the last visit and use it on future visits? Sounds silly, so why should Disney be different. There are certainly areas where Disney can be criticized over pricing, but unlimited drinks over an average 5-day stay and a souvenir cup is a good deal. Now, if you want to complain about the ever increasing admission costs….

  • Disney seems to be pretty up on the “green” movement and I don’t find this very “green.” It’s actually pretty wasteful especially for those who visit multiple times a year. It would make more sense if they allowed people to reset their existing mugs. Have an existing mug? Pay a fee (preferably a discount since you’re reusing) to reset it to be able to use it again. They could just reset it with the Key to the World Card. Need a refill? Slide the card at the fountains. Simple as that. RFID cards can be easily fried so would you be out of luck and have to drop another $15 on one if it fries during the trip you bought the mug.

    Judging by the pics posted on Mouse Steps, it looks like water even has the new levers. Admittedly, I always refill my water bottle and Camelbaks with ice and water (never soda or tea or coffee, only water) before heading out to the parks. As far as I know, that’s not against the rules, is it? Are they cracking down on water too or is that going to remain free?

    • Totally agree with comments about not being very “green.” I understand Disney’s goal is to make profit, but I always thought they tried to make profit by making truly happy and satisfied customers and guests. I also thought they tried to make choices that were smart for business but also smart for society and our environment. I would really like to see an option to have a refillable mug plan be tied to your KTTW card, and then you could renew that each visit (for a fair price).

  • We all love Disney and it is a great product, but they are a business. Like all successful business they are looking to maximize their profit. When people do not pay for their drinks their profit goes down. Yes it is expensive to have soft drinks at Disney, but their are alternatives like water, which you can get at the drinking station. You are not forced to drink soft drinks or pay their prices. The new stations allow Disney to cut out the free refills from mugs from previous trips and not have a poor CM be a beverage police and listen to complaints all day long.

  • I am pretty excited about this new system! I saw people refilling non-Disney mugs and cups the last time I was there. My favorite was someone reusing their old Sbarro (fast food place) cup. I see those people and I think they look cheap and tacky. Yep, that’s right – I’m making a judgement about your and your mug choice. If you can’t afford a $15 (or whatever they cost) mug for everyone in your group, then bring a cooler of beverages from home and keep it in your room. Or drink tap water. Maybe this system will weed out a lot of people and make the lines shorter at drink stations during peak meal times. :)

    • JUDGE AWAY! I agree, there are other options – some of them very cheap. We divided a case of water and a 12 pack of coke zero between four suitcases this year (not to exceed weight per suitcase) and opted out of the mugs. I was shocked at how may people were cheating the system though. Great post.

  • We bought a barcoded refillable mug at Typhoon Lagoon one year, only to find that the barcode reader at the refill station wasn’t working. We had to wait in line at the quick service place every time we wanted a refill, which was a hassle. Barcodes and RFIDs don’t operate in the same way, but I can only imagine the pandemonium at the food court if the technology should go on the fritz.

  • We’ve never invested in the mugs, as only one of our party of three drinks soda. We’re water drinkers, and take advantage of free ice water in the food courts and at the parks. Too much soda is bad for you anyway :)

    • I don’t drink pop either. I use my mug for hot tea or coffee in the morning. And hot chocolate in the evening when we get back from the parks. Those things and the occasional glass of lemonade were the only things I used my mug for. For other meals, I just bought bottled water. I should probably find out how much tea and coffee cost out of pocket. I never bothered to do that to see if the cost of the mug would technically be worth it.

  • Here’s a guess based on the reactions here: the CMs manning the food service area don’t have time to police the beverage dispenser, and management hears complaints about people filling up containers from the customers who play by the rules and buy the cups. The solution? An electronic system that regulates the dispensers so that CMs don’t have to hover and the people with ‘official’ mugs don’t feel like chumps. Rather than chips in the cup, wouldn’t it be easier to let the KTTW activate the machine?

    • by Rob Stevens on July 15, 2011, at 2:44 pm EDT

      Ted: I think your assessment is spot-on. They’re removing the need to have a cast member “police” the mugs, which they hate having to do anyway.

      The KTTW card would require non-intuitive steps (sliding your card through a reader) to someone already familiar with how these machines work. It’s about reducing friction to the experience. The way the new mugs/machines work is identical to existing machines from the user experience standpoint (save for the 5 minute refill limit). You don’t need to know or even think about the chips. You just fill your mug and go.

  • I understand why they are trying to rectify the situation- obviously there is “mug abuse” going on. In the beginning it was a nice, fun collectible item that has clearly turned into a problem for Disney since they are thinking of going to such great lengths for a solution.

    Buying the mugs was a trip tradition for us, not just for the free refills, but b.c of the novelty of the mugs. I was VERY disappointed when they switched from resort specific mugs to general property mugs. To me, it lost it’s appeal slightly. It seems going back to resort specific mugs ‘could’ help the situation a bit?? Everyone running around and filling and refilling general mugs all over the place can’t be helping their cause. Not sure though…

    • by Rob Stevens on July 15, 2011, at 2:49 pm EDT

      I’m betting the switch to the generic mugs was a pre-cursor to this move, we just didn’t know it at the time.. Resort-specific mugs were, at the time, slightly easier to police. As much as everyone slammed the generic mugs when they came out (and I feel, rightly so), I’m guessing that chipping one kind of mug is less expensive than chipping mugs for every resort (volume buying power).

      • I think you may be right. It is certainly less cost effective to be designing/printing/selling and now chip installing on 20+ resort specific mugs. ;)

  • I personally haven’t used Disney’s refillable mugs in years. I just don’t find it very convenient to have to walk back and forth to the food court every time I’m thirsty. We typically bring drinks with us from home and keep them in the mini-fridge in our room.

    That being said, I used to enjoy using the refillable mugs (back when they had a unique design for each resort). I’ve been going to Disney World regularly since 2000, and the policy has always been that the mug is to be used for your length of stay. I realize that cast members sometimes suggested that you could bring the mug back over and over, but the policy was clearly stated on signs and even on the drink machines for all to see.

    Honestly, I don’t have a problem at all with Disney enforcing refillable mug use. To me the issue is not how little the Coke costs Disney, but rather the inequity that the rule followers keep having to pay for their mugs while the rule breakers refill 5 year old mugs or use 1 mug for their entire family.

    I do hope that Disney can come up with some sort of system for folks that come down 4-5 times a year and want to use refillable mugs–maybe a discount to reactivate the old mug like previous posters mentioned. This could even be limited to 1 year so folks would have to get a new mug each year if need be.

  • I happen to like the system that the water parks employ, namely the bar code sticker that indicates the day on which you may use the refillable mug. Buy a sticker for your mug, stick it on the side somewhere, and refill all day. Sure, the locals could buy a sticker on a particular day (most popularly, on Saturday or Sunday) and then bring the mug with them every weekend to “beat the system,” but most tourists won’t be at Disney for more than 2 weeks (and what are the chances that they’d go to a water park on the same day the following week?), so the system is “less beat” this way. I do agree that policing the existing policies and systems would be in Disney’s best interest to protect their profits.

  • I’m fine with the new technology, but don’t agree with the 5 min per refill time limit. Revenue protection is one thing, prescribing consumption rates is another.

    • Do you generally down your drink in less than 5 minutes?!

      • Personally, yes, it’s either “free” refills, or its not. Regardless if you, or Disney, believe a 12oz/5min consumption rate is excessive, or that pop is bad for you; if that person is purchasing a mug with unlimited free refills (given: for that mug on that stay), its their choice. If not, stop calling it an unlimited free refill mug.

        • by Rob Stevens on July 15, 2011, at 2:51 pm EDT

          As long as they document that time limit, I don’t see where anyone would have much room to complain. Yes, they may not like it, but they purchased the mug with the awareness of the limit. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Your wallet trumps all. ;)

  • I am ok with this. My only concern is what would happen if you have two reservations for the same week. Say you wanted to stay at the Beach Club but they only had availability on nights 3-6, so nights 1 and 2 you stayed at PoP. Will the chips work on all resort machines for a designated time or will they be resort specific?

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  • I’m fine with Disney enforcing their rules, but I do have two issues..,
    1. The 5 minute rule…No, I’ve never used my mug to fill other containers. Yes, I do get a refill in less than 5 minutes. Especially after coming back from a park.

    2. We take 4 trips a year to Disney, having to buy 4 sets of mugs is a terrible waste! If Disney truly wants to be green…allow the mugs to be “renewable.”. Maybe the original mug price is $15 and then $10 to renew a mug.

    On a side note, I feel sorry for those of you on here that seem so bothered seeing others break the rules. Don’t let other people steal the magic of your time at Disney. Your judgement only leads to the loss of joy for you and doesn’t bother the offender at all.

  • Just by reading these post alone is more than enough reason for Disney to do this. You know the rules when you buy a mug. You buy a ticket every trip, but guess what you cant take it back and use it next trip just because you bought it before and want back in to the parks! Silly…right? So is the mug issue, if everyone would have followed the rules in the first place it wouldn’t be changing now. The majority of the people complaining are the ones who abused the rule in the first place.

    • I have an annual pass and don’t have to purchase a ticket every single time i visit disney world. i’m not debating the charging thing. i’m debating getting another mug every time i stay on property. if i can use my annual pass for a whole year they should do the same and let me re-use my mug (maybe pay a different fee or something) every time i stay at a resort for a year. the last thing i need is more plastic cups.

      and really the 5 minute refill thing is a joke. i don’t fill up other cups with my mug, i just get thirsty after visiting the parks for the day. or perhaps i would like to top off my cup before heading back to my room? that is my #1 problem with the system.

  • If the technology is there for RFID, why don’t they just have an option for people to bring back their old mugs and “reactivate” them for the duration of their trip? This way, guests don’t have to buy a new mug every trip and with a smaller “reactivation” fee, Disney won’t be giving away free beverages.

    As for people who use one mug to quench they’re whole family’s thirst, I say come on, pony up and just buy another mug. Is that one little expense really gonna put you over your family’s vacation budget? If so, start refilling your water bottles and hold on to those – much more economical.

    • I always wash my mugs at home in the dishwasher. With regards to re-registering your RFID mug, does anyone know if the heat from the dishwasher dry cycle would kill the chip?

  • The idea that I find most amazing is that it costs less to implant the RFID, do the programming, install/maintain the readers on dispensers and administer the whole thing than it does to give away high fructose corn syrup mixed with water and carbon dioxide. I would never have suspected that!

  • I realize that alot of people probably take advantage of this system, but really Disney?
    Tickets for one day are over 100.00, hotel rooms for Value resorts over 100.00 per night and prices are constantly going up. Now I don’t mind buying my mug but if i get back from the park and I am thirsty I cant have a refill until after 5 minutes have gone by???Are they really jailing the drinks that much? Also I like the idea of turning your old mug in towards a discount for the new mug. But what if I come back 4 times a year I have to re buy a mug each time????? What about a 5.00 fee to reactivate it if you already have a mug
    Disney give your guests a break

  • Not sure if this clarifys things or not, but I’ve just came back from DW and the refillable cups are the size of my bladder (so who would want to go back in 5mins anyway??). Barcodes were on the water park cups,not the resort cups, but again, I was more than content with filling it up every now and then rather than trying to see how much soft drink I can get down me in 5 minutes. Still works out better value and a great idea.

  • hi, we are from the uk and have just been to blizzard beach where we bought a refill cup, i think its a brilliant idea and to be fair not that expensive, but saying that i am from england and if you go to one of our crappy water parks you would have to give your actuall right arm for a refill cup cos we really do get mugged off !!!! disney rocks !!

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