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News: Disney World Refillable Mug System Experiment

The controversy rages on over whether filling up previously purchased refillable mugs (and other containers) at Disney World self-serve beverage locations is advisable, but should Disney move forward with its new experimental system, that question will be invalid.

Refillable Mugs at Disney Resorts

Mousesteps.com, Micechat.com, and StitchKingdom.com have reported that the new system, which uses an RFID chip to recognize whether guests are using an appropriate mug or cup to obtain beverages, will begin a trial period on July 18th at Disney’s All Star Sports Resort.

At this time, the RFID chip will be embedded into regular drink cups — allowing the guest to use the cup for only the length of a meal (around 1 hour) — as well as the refillable mugs that Disney has been selling at its resorts for years. These, I’m guessing, will be coded to work for the guests’ length of stay.

Cheating the system and using the mug to transfer large quantities of beverages to a bigger container won’t really work after this change. The system requires 5 minutes between refills.

You can see a video of the new system here:

This technology is being brought to Disney by ValidFill, who already maintain systems like this one at Sea World and on Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. They’ve just signed a 5-year deal with Coca-Cola, and say that the system will be available for use on Coke Freestyle machines as well.

And here’s an actual demo of the refillable mug system at work:

You can read more about the patented technology used in this system here. To read more about refillable mugs, click here.

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61 Comments

  1. Jenn says:

    I’m all for it. And especially now that mugs are included in each dining plan? People can stop complaining!

  2. Beth says:

    Do people really drink enough soda at WDW to make it worth it for Disney to install the chips? I’m not a soda drinker, so maybe I just don’t understand how people abuse the system…

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I will admit to buying a beverage at the Electric Umbrella for a meal and then refilling it once more on the way out of the park. Guess this might not be feasible anymore. I always sort of figured that one refill after walking around all day wasn’t cheating since I bought the drink there and didn’t sit around to refill it over and over.

  4. Good bye 1996 resort mugs!

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Reading some of the comments on previous posts leads me to ask…do people think the paper cups are not supposed to be refilled during the same meal?? Do they think that at McDonald’s as well?

  6. Paul C says:

    It always amazes me why people think they are entitled to steal. Do you think it’s okay to steal gas after you buy a new car? What about stealing some CDs after buying that stereo, or some furniture after buying a house?

    Stealing is stealing, and you can try to justify it to yourself all you want, but it’s still wrong.

  7. Dave says:

    OMG! If Disney solves the refillable mug problem, what on earth will people talk about on Disney message boards?

  8. Aurora says:

    Disney being an “Eco” friendly company and all does not sit well with me with this change. So what about people who stay on property many times a year or those of us local residents who stay sometimes once a month? We don’t use the dining plan because we have annual passes but we use the mugs while staying at the resorts. So each time I stay, I have to buy a new mug with a special chip? Why not have a special bar code on your room key that you can use for the duration with the special mug? Because I am surely not buying a new mug each time I stay on property….. I am guilty of refilling water bottles with sprite at EU and doing the same at MGM but, in the over all…..having to buy a new mug each time with an expensive chip in each one, AND then to do that to regualr paper cups….. I think this is a bit much.

  9. Renee D says:

    I’m all for this. I am so fed up of seeing people cheat the system that this will make it fair for everyone

  10. Heather says:

    Ok, As much as I am all for this, there should be something done for DVC members. Whit the average family may only go once a year or every two years, we as DVC members go twice sometimes three times a month…. I just think that if I have to buy a new mug each trip just to get my coffee in the AM, that is going to leave me with a 1000 mugs LOL.

  11. venessa says:

    I’m so glad I drink refreshing water instead of bubbly soda. Soda makes you more thirsty and isn’t so refreshing on a very hot Orlando day. Ice water and water fountains=free. Soda=almost 3 bucks now, ouch!

  12. Jessica Anne says:

    this is awesome

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Dave…have no fear…the message boards will still find things to moan and complain about! LOL

  14. Sandy Ezzell says:

    I think Disney should reward their loyal customers who return again & again and stay on property by letting them have a soda. It costs very little to fill those mugs. I also don’t need more cups. I’ve got like 10 of them. The more Disney nickels & dimes us the harder it is for me to convince my husband to vacation here!

  15. Diana says:

    Maybe for AP/residents they can offer a renewal/update on your chip each time you come. Maybe for 2 weeks at a time for let say $2 or so?!

  16. Michelle B. says:

    I’m with @Aurora from an eco thing but my concern is that the RFID chips in the non-refillable cups prevent that cup from being recyclable. Does anybody know for sure? Also, it would be nice to be able to “reactivate” a refillable mug for subsequent trips. Doesn’t sound like anyone (including Disney) knows that answer.

  17. Ivis Suarez says:

    I go 4 times a year. So over 3 years, my husband and I would accumulate 24 mugs. They will probably reactivate the chip in your old mug, for a price, when you check in. If not, this is stupid.

  18. Josh says:

    I’m still on the fence about the refillable mug thing. The patent was put out over a year ago, and it’s really not all that important if it takes them ~14 months to put everything together. If you consider the costs of the syrup bases and then the cups plus the new ‘chips’ the cost of supplies is going to go up, eventually causing the prices on the consumer side to go up due to supply and demand.

    Overall, this needs to be rethought after finished with for the trial period. Since it’s only being implemented in the Sports Resort guests can just go elsewhere to get their drinks, and save money.

  19. Aurora says:

    Disney doesn’t pay for the syrup though ;)

  20. Emma G says:

    I’ve tried to stay away from commenting on the whole refillable mug issue in the past but I have to say that I fully support this proposed change. I see the opportunity to buy a refillable mug as just that, an opportunity, it’s not a right as a resort guest to have as much drink as I want without paying for it. Providing you drink more than what your mug costs to buy each visit surely you are benefitting and getting good value for money whether you visit once every couple of years or whether you are lucky enough to visit every couple of weeks. Disney, I support this improvement for us honest people :)

  21. This sounds penny wise and pound foolish says:

    OK we go several times per year and even though I have the mug I next to NEVER use it for soda. What about water, tea, hot chocolate or coffee? Are they going to have one of these chip thingies for everything? Seriously – are they THAT worried about cheaters? Wouldn’t it be more cost effective to go back to the OLD way of doing things and have a different mug design for every resort and put a sticker on the mug or something like that?

    I think the whole thing of waiting 5 minutes between refills is totally and completely bogus. What if someone spills their drink. Or a diabetic sends their child to get diet coke, and they accidentally get coke? Or what makes a “refill?” What if you stop halfway through and it trips some switch and you can’t get your mug filled. This is really terrible. If they are REALLY concerned about costs, why don’t they start cutting out the dang dessert from the quick service plan instead of putting these kinds of restrictions on beverages.

    Big brother, if you weren’t going to be generous enough to allow refills, you shouldn’t have put drink machines everywhere.

  22. Dumb says:

    … I foresee that they will go through thousands and thousands of dollars to install this system, when at the end of the day they will determine that the net effect is that they haven’t saved a dime.

  23. Brian says:

    @Dave–there’s always pool-hopping, line-cutting, Brazilian Tour Groups and ECVs, just to name a few. :)

    I quit worrying about soda “theft” when I saw someone at the Pop food court fill an empty 2-liter bottle with soda and no Cast Member did so much as bat an eye. I figured when Disney started caring, I’d start caring. Looks like Disney started caring.

  24. Ken R says:

    Why not just have stickers to purchase with a special bar code that works only the length of your stay that you can place on the mug? You scan the barcode at the soda foutain to fill your mug? The machaine stops automatically for the right amount? Also make it a 5 min wait also before you can scan again. But as with any program there will be the cheaters, I see them all the time with thier mugs from years past and even taking them to the parks to use at such places as the electric umbrella, shame on them.

  25. Jill says:

    what about coffee and hot chocolate? will these machines get changed or is it just soda? what about the frozen coke or blue drink my husband is addicted to? if he has to wait five minutes between freezing his brain he is going to cry!

  26. Dawn says:

    This is our 5th year going and we have NEVER purchsed the mugs.

    To the person who thinks you are stealing…I am not sure how that is. I thought the mugs were for UNLIMITED refills for the duration of your stay.
    What am I missing.

  27. canadianslovewdw says:

    good idea.. but what if you wanna mix flavors… like say half coke zero and half cherry coke( if you can find cherry coke)????

  28. Jill says:

    canadianslovewdw it says on their website that the machine keeps track of the amount of ounces poured from the machine, so you can continue to mix drinks up to the total ounces the cup can hold. seems like they thought of everything!

  29. Elizabeth says:

    Why don’t they just sell bottles only and be done with it.

  30. Galloping Gourmand says:

    @Dave I remember the start of this debate all the way back in the RADP days. (yup, I’m an ancient 37 – or the 2000 Year Old Man in internet time. “Mercurywaxing”). The things you AJ pointed out, like filling the mugs for multiple people or bringing back old mugs, was unethical if not illegal. The agreement always said “at this resort for the lenght of your stay” and you entered that contract when you bought the mug.

    Disney didn’t choose to enforce the agreement. That’s not because they didn’t want to, it’s because it was impractical. You’d have to have a staff know that this guy bought the soda in the morning and kept his cup, or be willing to get in a fight with someone who is bringing an obviously old cup with the same design to the resort. It wasn’t worth the argument to disrupt the morning of everybody in the food court. Now that they have the technology to actually enforce the rules against the cheaters, that’s fine. Those of us following the rules won’t be effected.

    Soda is usually the number 1 revenue driver at a food court in the same way that alcohol is in restaurants. The fact that Disney gets it’s soda for free via a licensing agreement means that they are leaving a fortune in revenue on the table. All this amounts to is the fact that people keep wanting to exploit the program, and Disney wants to recoup it’s lost revenue. So, to sum up all that sanctimoniousness, I’m fine with this.

  31. canadianslovewdw says:

    one more thought.. will the lines be longer during peak hours as i assume you can only have one person pouring at a time???
    P.S. thanks Jill

  32. luvmychaos says:

    It seems to me that anyone with a problem with this are the ones that probably “steal” soda to begin with. I undertsand people try to rationalize that its just soda but refilling water bottles or sod a bottles or old mugs is just lame. Disney wouldn’t have to regulate something as silly as a soda fountain if they didn’t feel that the “stealing” was a major problem. I agree with coming up with a way to reactivate mugs from the same year if you visit frequently but bringing a mug from 1998 and trying to convince yourself that you are in the clear because of how much WDW overcharges for everything is just wrong. Its something so simple and people can’t even be trusted to be honest in refilling drinks – what’s the World coming to? I’ll get off my soap box now.

  33. Abby says:

    I have no problem with Disney enforcing their own rules. I don’t even care much about this issue since I’m not a refillable mug purchaser. The thing is though, I just find it hard to believe that the cost of this system is less than the cost of the extra soda that the repeat mug refillers use.

  34. Susan says:

    Such a sad thing to waste so much time on. I guess if some one is going to bring their cup year to year or whatever maybe they should encourage people using less and offer a discount but really what a huge waste. I would much rather as a company eat the cost then deal with outraged or crabby guests & possibly ruin a vacation over soda pop refills

  35. Hillary says:

    I have a concern about waiting five minutes before I can get another refill. I mix regular Coke with Diet Coke, so will I have to wait five minutes before I can finish filling up my mug? If that’s the case, I will quit buying them, so Disney loses the purchase of 9 mugs per year (3 people * 3 mug purchase a year). I agree with the above posters that I would like to buy a sticker for each new resort stay at a discount, so I don’t have to accumulate a large number of mugs.

  36. Sara says:

    Here’s my only issue with this. We’re DVC members who are lucky enough to be able to spend between quite a bit of time at WDW, and love to stay at different resorts. We’ve been known to spend even just a week long trip at 3 different resorts. While we normally purchase a mug for each member of our party at the start of our stay, only being able to use it for 2 nights of a 7-10 day stay (before moving to another resort) just doesn’t make the purchase worth it anymore. I can’t imagine that soda theft is enough of an issue to constitute the expense of this RFID system (unless Disney has a partnership with that company like they do with Coke!)

  37. Sandra says:

    QUOTE: To the person who thinks you are stealing…I am not sure how that is. I thought the mugs were for UNLIMITED refills for the duration of your stay.
    What am I missing.

    What you’re missing is what we see every trip: people refilling gas station mugs, baby bottles, sports bottles, soda bottles, paper cups obviously bought elsewhere, etc. They are NOT paying anything for their drinks; I AM. That is, those of us who follow the rules, buying a refillable mug for the length of our stay at the resort where purchased. In reality, they are not stealing from Disney, they are stealing from their fellow resort guests, who see the cost of the refillable mug rising every year to cover said theft. I don’t blame the CMs for not wanting to confront the type of people who so brazenly steal; they might earn a sock in the jaw for their efforts. But if Disney finds a way to control this, then I would expect to see more enforcement of the rules.

    I am happy that they are finally going to address this, but a trial is just a trial, and it doesn’t mean this is the final answer. But hey, it’s a start.

  38. Penguin says:

    If this new system is able to know how long your staying and will therefore refill your mug up until you leave. Maybe they’ll increase the price of the mug depending on your length of stay?

  39. canadianslovewdw says:

    maybe now that they can stop the thefts and massive loss of revenue from it.. they can lower the prices?? or they could also stop it from being unlimited and change to say 3 a day or 10 total or something like that

  40. Nicola says:

    I cant tell you how happy I am about this!!!

    Last year we stayed at pop century and bought 2 new mugs (i really dont understand why people take back old mugs – ewww) and we refilled them each morning and night with whatever we fancied.

    One morning, a large family stood at the refill station and filled anything they had on hand, bottles, large none-disney cups, seaworld mugs, regular coffee mugs, and one even a large soda bottle. I stood patiently and waited while they stole. I bit my tongue so hard I was angry while I ate my breakfast!!!! I had paid for my soda, and for them to just take it, no disney mug in sight really really angered me.

    Another incident later in the trip made me actually open my mouth. Electric Umbrella in epcot and a family ask for water with their meals. She then walks over to the soda machine and fills the FREE cup with cola. I was behind her in the queue and so i bumped into her at the soda machine while she was filling her childrens cups also with cola. I couldnt help but point out she didnt pay for cola, to which she pretended she didnt speak english and walked away. Again… people think its ok to steal.

    I hope this is rolled out across the whole of Walt Disney World. And im sure they will sort out DVC members im almost positive.

  41. JoAnn says:

    I think this is a good idea. I think part of the problem is people see other people using old mugs and think it is ok to do so. They bring back old mugs on their next visit and it just continues the cycle. My friend who has been going to Disney every year for the last 6 or 7 years even told me I should bring back the mug I bought last year when we go this year since she saw other people using old mugs. I had already planned on buying a new one with the new design.

    I found the mug to be a good value. It paid for itself with just the coffee I drank every morning. I used it in the afternoon while sitting by the pool.

    I mentioned on another Disney site and I think I saw it mentioned in the comments above, I wonder if the addition of the mug to the DDP starting next year will help lessen the “drink theft” since everyone on the dining plan will get a new mug.

  42. Jill says:

    canadianslovewdw … no problem also according to their website the machines can pour up to 6 guests at a time… in reality that seems like plenty to handle a large crowd at peak meal time. we are not big soda drinkers, but we always fill up with water before we head out to the parks. according to one report the machines will still give unlimited water and ice to all cups. do you all think it is stealing to fill up ANY bottle with water?

  43. James (Disneynorth) says:

    All but one trip we have purchased a new mug. That other one year, we reused old mugs (they actually didn’t change the mug from the year before….). I would say we were filling our mugs up no more than twice per day. Were we getting the full cost of the mug during our stay when we purchased them? Barely.

    Let’s look at this from a cost perspective: The cost of soda to Disney is peanuts. We can all count on one hand how many Park QS restaurants have self serve sode vending. All the rest are behind the counter, which forces the guest to buy a beverage each time. Are the resort soda machines being used that much more than the park machines behind the counter? Doubtful.

    At the end of the day, the infrequent guest will not be bothered by the change. The return guests…. Maybe….

  44. GallicDenis says:

    I’m not so sure this is penny wise but it is definitely pound foolish. These chips are easily deactivated.

    “According to an RSA laboratories FAQ, RFID tags can be destroyed by a standard microwave oven; however some types of RFID tags, particularly those constructed to radiate using large metallic antennas (in particular RF tags and EPC tags), may catch fire if subjected to this process for too long (as would any metallic item inside a microwave oven). This simple method cannot safely be used to deactivate RFID features in electronic devices, or those implanted in living tissue, because of the risk of damage to the “host”. However the time required is extremely short (a second or two of radiation) and the method works in many other non-electronic and inanimate items, long before thermal buildup (fire) problems become of concern.”

    If the mugs are designed so that the chip is protected from radiation it will also prevent it from being read. Not to mention the number of open source apps available to erase and reprogram the RFID chips. The hackers are going to have a lot of fun with this.

  45. Kelley says:

    I wonder what the cost analysis would be of doing away with the self-serve machines and then charging for a refill at a reduced price. We live very close to Branson, MO and visit Silver Dollar City quite regularly. There, you can by a mug and then buy discounted refills. The mugs work forever so you can keep bringing them back. (I would guess other parks might do the same thing) Disney could sell one type of mug that could be used everywhere, parks, resorts, etc.

  46. Aurora says:

    Question: For people who think using old mugs is ewww…. do you just throw away the cups you use at home? Do you replace them every few days? Every few months?
    I am on property a few times a week….. I stay on property at least once or twice a month. I wont buy a new cup each time….. DVC AND Annual Passholders should be given some sort of something here….. because the last thing I need is 5 million cups~

  47. nahtazu says:

    I’m a little behind in my news, but I just saw that line at the end of your article about the Coke Freestyle machines. (!!) I can totally see the value of the RFID mugs if WDW gets the Freestyle machines. Without the RFID chips (which regulates how much soda you can take at a time), it would be a big, crazy mess at the soda machines. You’d have kids tasting and mixing all day long.

  48. sheepdog23 says:

    I do have one problem. I was told when I purchased my fort wilderness mug back in the 90s that it was for the life of the mug and the mug is still ticking so are they going to follow through on their old deal? They have been pouring coffee in it since they switched so the people are still honoring it but the machines won’t.

  49. Get agrip says:

    firstly it isn’t stealing. WDW offered free refils for life for those of us old enough to have bought those mugs.

    Second, it costs 4.3c for a pint of soda out of a fountain, so refils really weren’t hurting disney, it’s just greed.

  50. Keith says:

    I bought the stupid mug and was so annoyed with the process. Had to wait 5 minutes to get a refill because their coke was flat. My food got cold. Got so mad and frustrated I filled it up and “accidentally” spilled it around the dining hall to passively voice my opinion. I know juvenile of me but I think this is tacky of Disney to market a free refill cup but than regulate how long it takes to get a refill. If they’re that concern about losing money charge more for drinks, use smaller cups, charge for refills or do away with the mug system altogether. It’s certainly not about the environment either as I may be wrong but at least the paper cup is recycleable as compared to me tossing a cheap, non-microwaveable, BPA infected plastic mug at the end of my visit. The whole system is just crued and makes you feel like a criminal. I found it offensive and annoying I do not need a countdown to inform me on when I can get a refill that’s why I bring the mother-in-law. I do not need to wait in a line behind others waiting for their five minutes and others trying to cheat the system but can’t figure out why the machine won’t dispense their soda. Whoever thought and installed this system should be fired. At ten cents a refill, I think that headcount alone would pay for the costs of refilling a mug for all the guests refilling their mugs. Bad idea Disney. Walt would be disappointed.

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