The End of Refillable Mugs in Disney World?

Beach Club Marketplace Refillable Mug Station

StitchKingdom is reporting that Disney has applied for a patent that could mean the end of the beloved refillable mugs in Disney Parks and Resorts…or at least the end of the free refills…

The new “Self-Service Beverage and Snack Dispensing Using Identity-Based Access Control” system would mean that your Key to the World card — or even potentially your fingerprint — could do more than just get you into the parks; it could determine your fate as to how many refills of that Orange Fanta you can get next time you’re at Pop Century’s Food Court!

That’s right, Disney’s proposing using RFID technology to put an end to endless refills — unless you’re legitimately paying for them. (Time to throw away those Wilderness Lodge mugs from 1997, maybe? Or at least put them on ebay…)

Of course, in my heart of hearts, I’m hoping this might also be the beginning of automats in Disney World (which would be a.w.e.s.o.m.e.). The patent mentions “snack dispensing” ability, which, I hope, means I can go get a butterfinger cupcake at any time of the night…as long as I have the right magnetic strip to scan, of course…

Check out the patent application here.


  1. says

    Interesting… I, too, am torn on this one.

    I will admit to being intrigued by the automat idea (lifelong fascination, thanks to old movies).

    I’m going to think about this one for awhile…

  2. says

    I can not blame Disney for wanting to put a stop of the long time abuse of refillable mugs. Hopefully they will allow free refills with purchase and a swipe of your card.

  3. Jan Farmer says

    This sounds like the way they handle refillable mugs at the waterparks, sort of. There, you purchase a mug with a barcode that you scan to get the soda fountains to dispense. The barcode only works that day. I wonder if this is the same idea?

  4. TJ says

    Well I guess I don’t mind. But forget automats…the new frontier should be telepathic transportation of Disney World food, i.e. you think of the butterfinger cupcake and it appears in front of you. So who do I call to get this awesome plan in gear?

  5. Chris says

    Look at it as one way to try to end the obesity epidemic – who needs all that sugar anyway?

  6. Carrie Atkins says

    Hmmmmm. I’m a little confused by this. Would you have to purchase something additional to have it on your KTTW card so when you wanted a soft drink you had to swipe your card for it to dispense? We took advantage of the refillable mugs every year because with two kids that take only 3 or 4 sips it saved us a lot of money and a lot of waste because I’d only fill their mugs 1/2 way. I think the mugs are great! Not only for use when you’re in WDW but for at home too! Oh well. I guess all good things must come to an end. Seems kind of silly that this is even a concern. How is it people are abusing this? What next? Will we be limited to the number of napkins we use? How about making us pay to use the restrooms? Silly!

  7. says

    This doesn’t sound any different than what Disney was already doing at the water parks last time I was there. If you buy the “unlimited” mug, you get unlimited refills, but only with that little tag that you scan. So then schmucks like me, who just bought the regular pop, couldn’t go and take advantage of the system. It seems to be a sensible way to curb the usage of the old mugs and people who will sneak up with their paper cups while still utilizing the unlimited refills on the current mugs.

    Would love an automat, though. Not being able to find any food after coming back from MNSSHP last fall meant ordering pizza from off-site, which just plain felt silly. But everything was closed at our resort, and transport certainly wasn’t happening.

  8. Adam says

    To be fair, it isn’t the end of refillable mugs, but simply the end of refillable mug abuse! It sounds like the people who pay for the service will continue to enjoy it, and will be repurchasing it every trip, as it was intended to be.

    Can’t fault Disney for this one

    @ Jan – Most likely it will be RFID chip, as many upcoming Disney technologies are rumored to be. It is the same technology that smart keys for cars and corporate id badges work on (the kind you just hold in front of a sensor, not the swipe ones).

  9. Lynne says

    I can’t fault Disney for this one, either. You pay for the mug, you get your soda. After your trip, the mug doesn’t work. Doesn’t seem like a big deal. Sort of like not taking the same cup into McDonalds every time you go eat there and just getting free refills for the rest of your life.

    We do have to remember that Disney is a business and that they exist to make money, not give things away. While soda is cheap, and each individual guest that is using old mugs may not be drinking that much, in the end, it all adds up. Why not just play by the rules and buy a new mug each time?

  10. Galloping Gourmand says

    I have to say I’m behind Disney with the refillable mug issue. I can’t stand all of the posts on Disney sites bragging about how they keep bringing their refillable mugs back time after time so they don’t have to pay 12 bucks for unlimited refills. Soda is one of the main ways restaurants make profits. The syrup is cheap compared to how many drinks a box makes, I mean it’s just astounding. When people bring back their mugs illegally – after all the agreement is for the lenght of your stay, not in perpetuity – Disney is loosing a lot of money. Plus, even people who bought regular drinks go up for free refills.

    The RFID may not be for automats. I can see a system at a food court where instead of going to a checkout station you simply swipe your room key in at the food station then go through a special express line to then show your receipt upon leaving the food service area. It would save a lot of time. Naturally there would still be cashiers for those who do not wish to charge to the room.

  11. says

    Wow, this one has potential. Think about it. Now you can just swipe a card anywhere and refill whatever vessel you have to put drinks in. Want to bring that old mug from 1963, go ahead, swipe your card and refill it.

    The big thing is it should work everywhere. Not just at one hotel, but all hotels, theme parks, water parks, everywhere. Unlimited soda for the whole trip. (Like you get on a cruise ship.)

    Sounds good to me.

  12. says

    FINALLY! I am so glad that disney have recognised that this is a problem. The sheer cheek of some people filling up their own mugs and past mugs always amazes me and kinda defeats the purpose! This way you will be able to use said mugs – but pay for the privilege!

    Id feel very very cheeky to go back yr after yr and use an old mug – so im glad they are implementing a change – now hopefully this will be rolled out into the parks – for those who asks for water – then refill with the soda!!

  13. says

    Aurora and Janna — Let me know what you come up with once you fall off the fence on one side or the other! ;-) Janna, wouldn’t an automat be great?!

    TAF — Judging from the actual patent application, there will be opportunities for people to purchase unlimited refill-type plans. I’m hoping they’ll be separate from the actual dining plan, though.

    Jan — I think that’s the idea, but you’d use a card or “token” to scan instead of a barcode.

    TJ and Jenn — Ha! Very true on the need for automatic Disney Food teleportation! I volunteer my house as the testing ground!

    Chris — Always lookin on the bright side!

    Carrie — Good points on the “how far can we take this?” question! It’s my guess that there will still be mugs, but you’ll have to purchase a mug plan with a token or scanner that will activate the pop machine to actually work. (Heaven help us if they start charging for napkins!)

    Laura — Isn’t it the WORST when everything’s closed and there’s no option for food anywhere?! How can that BE?? Happens to me all the time after Jellyrolls nights. I end up having to get a gross hot dog at the Hess station. Ugh.

    Adam — Very true. Actually, I would look forward to a refillable system where I didn’t have to use one of the 12 oz mugs. I usually need more than 12 oz of pop, so I end up spending half my time at the mug station!! :-)

    Lynne — I think that making the mugs into souvenirs back when they all had the resort logos on them was a great idea. Made more sense to buy them every time when you were getting something specific to your trip!

    GG — But automats are so COOOOOL!!!!

    The Disney Dad — That’s what I need. I big cup that I can use to get pop no matter WHERE I AM IN WDW!!! Never pay extra at restaurants, counter service, etc. I love that idea.

    Nicola — I didn’t even know people did that — ask for water and refill with soda? That’s pretty sketchy.

  14. Melissa says

    I know I’ll sound very strange for saying this, but we go 3 sometimes 4 times a year and get mugs to use. I’d be great if they’d make it so you just pay for the scannable piece and then use your old mug. I say this only because of the new “every mug is the same” design. If they went back to Resort specific ones I’d feel differently. I just don’t 4 or more of the same mug… I’d rather use my own each time and pay to refill them.

  15. says

    Hmmm…okay, I have now thought about this too much and have thrown in part of The DIsney Dad’s idea.

    Is this Disney’s way to be more green in the soda area? Think about it (even if you take paper cups out of it)…that’s a LOT of plastic mugs over time (and boring, too, since the design hasn’t changed for a while). Maybe there will be a price for just a bar code (using your old mug or some other mug of choice) and then the option to buy a mug with a bar code. I, for one, would love to use a bigger mug to cut down on the number of trips.

    Of course, if it’s for a pre-measured amount, that could be a problem. Or if the number of refills is limited…or…


    I’ll stop now.

  16. Susan says

    What about the old refillable mugs that were *supposed* to be good for life?? Sounds like Disney will reverse that lifetime offer.

  17. Stephen R says

    It’s really funny to read this since I was just thinking about WDW refills yesterday!

    I read a post (i think it was here) where you said that it would be better if they had more refill stations but it would make it harder to keep track of whether people had paid for their mugs.

    I was racking my brain trying to think of a solution to this problem when i thought, what if they included some sort of code on your KTTW card when you bought the mug, that way you could take the mug down to a soda fountain wherever it may be, swipe your card and fill the mug!

  18. momav says

    Okay, I let my kids drink soda at Disney.We get new mugs each time.It frustrates me everytime I hear people saying “its the soda pop” “its the junk food”. On vacation I want my kids to get a few treats without guilt or fat talk. My kids are very active and are thin for their age and height.(They wear slim sizes).My kids have chores at home and ride bikes for fun.The a good eaters and get both fruits and vegtables everyday as well as a sweet treat every day.Two of my kids classmates are overweight, one has health issues as a cause the other has coach potato and boredom eating issues.

    I do not mind scaning a card to use the cup.I just do not want the food police saying I am not capable of feeding my kids without them telling me how.Sorry about the soap box I am just getting sick of food police changing the foods we can eat.

  19. Mary W. says

    I personally think using a previous year’s mug at the resorts is the same as stealing.

  20. canadianslovewdw says

    i agree with the idea i dont agree with stealing( by using last years mugs) even if the mugs havnet changed, we still buy new ones every year.. i hate when you see people filling up old cups or even cups that arent even disney… they could probably lower the price if they could stop the stealing…

  21. Cleo says

    I’d like to use my own mug not the plasticky Disney ones. Is there a sink where the mugs can be rinsed out between refills?

  22. JT says

    They should be a cashier on the end of this refills, I have seen alot of this people use their own large mugs for refills and they were not from pop century and I have seen children steal mug and give them to their parents without paying for it.And I have reported this problem…Disney world should have a security in this food court area..

  23. DMM says

    The problem with the RFID chip is that it is fried after 5 seconds in a microwave. If I warm up coffee in this cup in the microwave in my Disney accommodations will I have to purchase a new refillable mug if I want to get a cold beverage later during the same trip?

  24. Ken R says

    coffee should be hot, don’t need to warm it up at the refill stations where it is meant to be used.

  25. Rory says

    I’m very pleased with this. It will hopefully keep mug prices down as the past increases have been a direct result of the people who can’t read the signs explaining how they work.

  26. Ron says

    I purchased a mug way back in 1999 at the Wilderness Lodge. I was told by the Disney Employee that this purchase included free refills for life. I have never felt bad about bringing my mug back as I have spent over $50,000 in Disney vacations during that time with my wife. I certainly don’t consider myself as someone who is breaking the law in any way. If Disney wishes to change their policy, then they need to grandfather the mugs that were purchased with lifetime refills promised.

    I view this as Disney going back on their word to loyal customers who visit Disney EVERY YEAR. Shame on them to treat customers this way.

  27. Katie says

    Actually they piloted this technology in all star sports for a while. It was a chip implanted into a cup that you had to buy and the chip would expire at the end of your stay. To me it is a waste of plastic if you go to the parks often, what are you going to do with those extra cups????

  28. Jodi says

    I find this whole thing amusing…really is Disney losing money by having people refill their old mugs with soda that costs next to nothing? Seems like they will be spending more money on this new technology than it is worth. Especially when you consider that everyone with a refillable mug is a guest at a Disney resort and is essentially paying for their stay whether with points or dollars. I don’t think Disney is really going to be making any extra money from this new change. And it sounds like it also not environmentally friendly to have to get a new cup every time for those of us that visit often. I sold a bunch of my old ones at a garage sale because I didn’t need 10 plastic mugs. In the future, I think I will just get ice water, it is free and no hassle with mugs at all.

  29. Phil says

    I just came back from WDW Caribbean Beach (8/2013) and was in sticker shock when I seen the $18 price tag… I’ve been to WDW 4 times, and bought a mug for EACH (bunch) of us (all four times). The size always got me… 15oz, in those HOT days at WDW 15oz won’t go too far.

    I was at the 7-11 bought a 52oz mug for only $8 (and .99 cents refills). Now I’m thinking… I’ll bring the 52oz mug go to the dollar store, get those crystal light, iced tea mix, etc. and just get iced water and use my drink mix????

    Come on Walt… how much could you be making on drinks that you cant include it in the cost of staying at one of your resorts!!!???!!!

  30. Yvette Lentz says

    My husband and I live in Florida and used to have Resident passes for many years. We also liked to go to Disney hotels to eat and shop and purchased refillable cups for ever Disney hotel and when the designs changed we purchased new ones. They were quite expensive and we had hundreds of dollars in them. When we went to the various hotels to eat we would bring our refillable cups with us and get a drink or so and many times just water. Today I went there and was going to purchase a cup and was told it had a microchip and would not be any good after today. Wow, what a turn-off for me as a lover of Disney my whole life…closets filled with their clothes and a house filled with Disney items. I am so turned off from this that I will never go to their hotels again…this is not “The Disney way”…all about money instead of treating visitors great. I hope Disney reads this as I think “Walt” would be as disgusted as I am and I am finished spending my money on their food, clothes and everything else Disney.

  31. says

    We have the Wilderness mugs from long ago. Only my husband and I have used them, still buy my kids the new mugs since they want soda options. My husband and I only drink coffee, maybe tea and water in them. You cannot get soda in the old cups (no chip). And we were promised when we bought them that they were good for life at time of purchase. So I don’t see a problem with Disney keeping part of their promise for free refills. We spend plenty everytime we’re there anyway, and the cups were always good for free advertising for Disney.

  32. Ron (Nemo) says

    When my wife and I go to WDW and buy food, we assume that everything will cost twice as much as a regular priced food item in our neighborhood. This allows us to accept the high prices as we’ve convinced ourselves that this is their price for doing business. Kinda sad though, because Walt Disney originally opened up Disneyland as a place for REGULAR families to go for wholesome family fun.

    At least WDW waited a whole generation before changing their policy (promise) of a free beverage for life.

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