Walt Disney World uses refillable mugs in its resort hotels (with Rapid Fill) and in the theme parks. This Disney refillable mug guide takes a look at some commonly asked questions about refillable mugs, as well as some of the oddly-prevalent controversy surrounding the mugs. As of 2014, these mugs cost $8.99 for 1 day, $11.99 for 2 days, $14.99 for 3 days, $17.99 for length of stay (4 or more days), or are included with the Disney Dining Plan. The system is pretty simple: you buy the mug (or have it provided to you via the Disney Dining Plan) and then are entitled to unlimited refills at the Disney hotels for the duration of your stay. With some caveats.
Despite it being a seemingly straightforward topic, there are few topics that elicit as much discussion and impassioned debate as the refillable mugs. This article will take a examine the ethical and economical quandaries of the refillable mugs, look at the RapidFill system, and answer some frequently asked questions about the mugs.
Basically, this will be “More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Refillable Mugs.” (Our next article will be an in-depth piece titled, “Using the Handwashing Apparatuses in Restrooms: An Essay.”) We’ll start with the FAQ and finish with the lesson in ethics…
What is a refillable mug?
Beyond the obvious, this is a mug (see photos throughout this article) that can be purchased for a flat fee and refilled at designated counter service locations at Walt Disney World resort hotels (not theme parks, water parks, Downtown Disney, table service restaurants, etc). Current policy states that the mug is valid for unlimited refills for the duration of the trip during which the mug was purchased.
What can you put in the mug?
Bottomless margaritas! Just kidding…a cup like that would probably cost $2,754.99 at Walt Disney World. Coke products are available, as are hot chocolate, coffee, and tea. Milk is not available, nor are real juices.
What’s the cost?
Didn’t you read the first paragraph?! The mug is currently cost $8.99 for 1 day, $11.99 for 2 days, $14.99 for 3 days, $17.99 for length of stay (4 or more days), or are included with the Disney Dining Plan. Note that it’s not “free” with the Dining Plan. It’s built into the cost of the Plan…there’s no such thing as a free lunch (or soda), especially at Walt Disney World.
How much do they hold?
Our mugs have “16” stamped on the bottom, which I believe indicates how many ounces the cups can hold. In actuality, they can hold about one can of soda. Pretty low capacity.
Can I take them with me to the parks and refill them there?
The answer to the first part of the question is yes, you can take them to the parks. The second part of the question has already been answered above–no, you can’t refill them there. Despite this, we see people on a daily basis leaving the hotel with their refillable mugs. This is probably partly because they don’t know the rules and partly because the refill stations at many hotels are “on the way” to the bus stop, making it easy to grab a drink for the ride.
This doesn’t make much sense to me. Don’t sacrifice the short term joy of having a Coke to start out your day for the long term pain of having to lug the thing around all day. There’s nothing fun about that, and the mug literally serves no benefit in the park. You’re much better off bringing a collapsible water bottle or asking for free cups of water from counter service restaurants if you are looking for a “convenient” way to store water while in the parks.
When I bought my mug, I was told it was good forever…is that not true?
Depends upon who told you. If it was a Cast Member (or it was printed on a sign near the mugs) and you relied on this information when making your purchase, forever is forever. If it was some random creeper standing next to the pile of mugs at Dixie Landings, your argument holds less water than one of these mugs. The current policy on the mugs being valid only for the length of stay is irrelevant, as one party to a contract cannot unilaterally alter its terms after the fact without new consideration. As Disney transitions to the new RapidFill system, these older “forever” mugs are something Walt Disney World management will have to address. Chances are, they won’t, though.
If no such policy was in place when you purchased your mug and you just feel like using the mug forever because no one can stop you and you think Disney is overpriced as it is…see the “Ethics” section below.
What if I’m staying at multiple resort hotels during my trip?
As of right now, in the days before RapidFill, the mugs have identical designs for all resort hotels and there is no means of Cast Members knowing where and when you bought your mug. The exact language of the policy varies from sign to sign, but a common one states: “Unlimited Free Refills during your length of stay at [insert hotel name].” Depending upon the part of that sentence you emphasize, the policy could allow or forbid it. That’s your judgment call to make. I wouldn’t read it too literally–after all, if you want to be literal about it, the refills technically aren’t “free,” they are included in the cost of the mug. When asked, most Cast Members will tell you to use the same mug if transferring from one hotel to another during the course of one trip.
Where are the mugs available?
They’re available at the food court and/or gift shop at every Disney-owned hotel at Walt Disney World. They aren’t available at Shades of Green, the Swan, the Dolphin, non-Disney Downtown Disney area hotels, or that random crack den you found for $35/night up I-Drive.
Are the mugs microwavable?
I have no idea why this is such a common question (Americans love to microwave stuff?), but it is. According to Google, they are BOTH microwave and dishwasher safe. So party down! Woo hoo!!!
What is Rapid Fill?
Rapid Fill is the new RFID-based refillable mug program at Walt Disney World that is part of the NextGen initiative and ensures that guests have “valid” refillable mugs before allowing the refill. If you’ve been to Typhoon Lagoon or Blizzard Beach in the last few years, you’ve probably seen something similar to this system in action. Per Disney, this allows guests greater flexibility, as they can purchase 1-day, 2-days, 3-days, or 4+ days to use their refillable mug, and pay accordingly. In actuality, since most people do not vacation for a day or two, it was just a slick way to raise the price of refillable mugs and add technology to the equation. How much technology is too much technology for a soda machine? Well, “Rapid Fill” might be the answer to that question…
How does Rapid Fill work?
Magic. If that’s not a good enough answer, when you set your cup down on the stand below the soda dispenser, some sort of RFID-science senses that it’s there, and is valid. At that time, you can begin dispensing your soda. If you do something wrong, it won’t dispense, and maybe (or maybe not) the Rapid Fill LCD screen will tell you what’s wrong.
As we said in the last answer, a bit too much tech for a soda fountain…
How much filling is too rapid under Rapid Fill?
That might seem like nonsense, but if you’re trying to fill your cup too rapidly, Rapid Fill won’t allow you to fill your cup. You have to wait 2 minutes between each full refill. This is to prevent groups from sharing a single Rapid Fill mug: getting one drink for one person, pouring it into another cup, then quickly getting another, and so on.
When does each ‘day’ end under Rapid Fill?
A Rapid Fill day is not 24-hours, it ends at 11:59 p.m. no matter when you purchase your mug. So, if you purchase a mug at 11:50 p.m. for 1-day, assuming it’ll last until the next day at 11:50, you’re out of luck. Hope you enjoy your 9 minutes of soda! Since most people are in the length of stay category by default, this should seldom be an issue (your Rapid Fill mug will work the entire day on your day of checkout).
Is Walt Disney World still using Rapid Fill?
Rumors have started to surface in 2014 of hotel managers turning off the Rapid Fill system at various hotels. At present this is neither widespread at all hotels or even a majority of them. If Rapid Fill is turned off when you visit, the mugs still work–the RFID chip just isn’t being read. Apparently, Rapid Fill was viewed as too much of a hassle (having used this system ourselves on a few occasions, we wholeheartedly agree) and theft was still occurring, it was just more expensive drinks like hot chocolate being stolen instead of soda, as the Rapid Fill system didn’t monitor those dispensers. (Gotta love the resourcefulness of soda thieves!) Time will tell if this is/was a temporary thing or not. It seems unlikely that individual hotel managers could opt out of the program, and equally unlikely that Disney would revert to the old system less than a year after rolling out the new one, but who knows.
Is the RFID chip in the Rapid Fill mug microwavable?
That’s a good question. We haven’t gotten around to doing comprehensive testing on the consequences of microwaving RFID chips, but we’re betting they don’t work after being microwaved. So that’s a bummer for all you microwave aficionados out there. Honestly, though, who wants to live in a world where you can’t microwave your Disney cup? It’ll only fry the RFID chip, and you won’t need that chip once you get home from your vacation (when I assume you’ll be doing the bulk of your microwaving activities…unless you really need to get your microwaving fix on vacation) so I say MICROWAVE AWAY!
I think one of the big reasons why these mugs have so many “ethical dilemmas” associated with them is because people realize they are not a good value, and because of that, people want to “force” more bang for their buck.
Keeping in mind that these mugs cost about $20 after tax (for an average vacation) and a regular sized soda at Walt Disney World is about $3, you’d have to purchase over 6 drinks on separate occasions (since you can refill the paper cup on the same visit) at your hotel to “break even.” To reiterate, this is just drinks at your hotel. Since we don’t recommend taking the refillable mug to the park with you (something you can do with a paper cup since you can throw it away when you’re done with it), this means getting up early 6 days of your trip and filling your mug up and taking it back to your room, or using the mug at the pool, etc. Five or six days of use may not seem like much, but in practice, for a lot of people it is.
There’s also the argument that the refillable mugs have value as a souvenir, but I can’t imagine that this is the souvenir many people would buy if given the choice. The mugs aren’t that cool.
If you’re really into saving, the most economical thing to do is buy a few two liters of soda and call it a day. Even at a high price of $2 per bottle, a two liter is a much better value than the refillable mug. There are approximately 4.2 “mugs’ worth” of soda in each two liter. You could buy ~40 “mugs’ worth” of soda via two liters for the same price as one single refillable mug. Unless you like to seriously tweak on caffeine, chances are that you won’t be drinking 40 refillable mugs of soda on your vacation. Of course, bringing or buying two liters isn’t as convenient as buying the mugs, but still…
If the mugs are included with the Disney Dining Plan, that’s another story altogether. Elsewhere, we address that in the economics of the Disney Dining Plan versus paying out of pocket.
Ethics is the area of philosophy concerning the moral concepts of right and wrong. I took a number of classes on ethics in college, and I can’t really say I view refillable mugs as an interesting area of ethics. The “ethical” debate surrounding refillable mugs is essentially whether it’s morally okay to bring back your refillable mugs from past trips to reuse on subsequent trips despite Disney’s stated policy that the mugs are valid for the length of your stay.
Someone with a serious interest in ethics might look at the refillable mugs debate as an interesting case study in the field, but I am not that person (true ethical concepts are nuanced, subjective, and not nearly as cut and dry as either side of this little online spat would like to think them). Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t really care what people do with their refillable mugs. There are a lot of problems in the world, and I don’t see Disney’s insignificant lost revenue on soda via this loophole (that Disney could have easily closed years ago if it so chose) as something that is in any way worth my attention as a third party who has no vested interest in the situation. It’s not even a blip on my radar. It’s more interesting to me that people get so worked up over something in which they have no vested interest (besides the Disney stockholders out there who might be losing $.000001 per year as a result of the aggregate of the theft).
Feel free to argue amongst yourselves about this incredibly significant moral issue in the comments if you feel so inclined. Remember to stand firm in your convictions: either re-using refillable mugs makes someone on par with a bank robber or it makes them the Robin Hood of soda. There is no place for cool heads in this discussion. Use outlandish analogies! Personally attack your opponents! Make ridiculous assumptions! Disregard logic! Condescend as much as possible!
If you’re planning your dining, make sure to check out our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews for analysis and plenty of food photos.
For Walt Disney World trip planning tips and comprehensive advice, make sure to read our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide and related articles.
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What do you think about Disney’s current refillable mug system? What about RapidFill? Share your thoughts in the comments…but if you do go down the ethical road, please keep it civil.