Saturday, September 5, 2009

Hot Button Topic: Refillable Mugs

After my last blog about the guest parking lots, I thought I'd tackle another hot-button issue:

Refillable Mugs at the Disney Resorts

I can imagine people read that topic and think, "Oh no. Not another debate about the refillable mugs!" But I can't wait to share my .02.

It might seem that the refillable mug program has been around forever, but it really started sometime in the middle of the 1990's. For those Disney fans who lived under a rock since then, the program was essentially this:

For a nominal fee per person (somewhere around $10-12), guests could enjoy unlimited refills at the self-serve drink stations at their resort for their length of stay. Coffee, tea, hot cocoa and sodas. Or in the case of some deluxe resorts, there were locations to get the drinks filled for you by cast members.

It was made perfectly clear that the mugs were only good at the resort you were staying, unless it was a "sister" resort group like Port Orleans/Dixie Landings or Yacht Club/Beach Club.

Today, we have a moral controversy over the mugs. Back in the 90's, cast members who sold the mugs actively encouraged guests to bring the mugs back on future trips to the same resort. But somewhere in the early 2000's, the drink stations would have placards posted that the mugs were only good for the length of stay of the trip the mug was purchased.

Suddenly, you had a group of guests who faced conflicting messages from Disney. Repeat guests were allowed to bring back the mugs when the program first started, but suddenly Disney would now frown upon that?

Now I've seen guests clearly abusing the drink stations from Day One. They would fill up any drink container they had. It didn't necessarily have to be a Disney mug. And guests would bring mugs from other resorts, which was a clear "violation" of the original rules.

Do cast members ever tell a guest they are not allowed to use the contraband drink containers?

Never. It would be a guest relations nightmare if the cast members did that. I think cast members are lenient because they know that some guests are a short fuse away from a total meltdown during their vacations.

Do I condone it?

Nope. Never condoned it years ago; still don't condone it today. But when I had lots of 1 and 2 night stays at Pop Century (to avoid weekend points at DVC since 2002), I never bought the mug. I had Mug Guilt. I couldn't justify buying a mug on a short stay, and I felt like those intimiding new placards were going to eat away at my conscience if I bought a mug and used it on future trips.

It was actually funny that in 1999, I did a split stay of 2 nights at All Star Music, 5 nights at Dixie Landings, and 2 nights at Beach Club. I had packed my All Star resort mug and Port Orleans mugs from prior trips, and bought a Beach Club mug to add to my collection. I find it comical that I made sure I used the proper mug for each resort!

Part of me thinks that those of us with original mugs should have a grandfather clause allowing us to bring back the mugs because Disney marketed the mugs to us as repeat visit mugs. Another part of me thinks that Disney changed the rules, so we should now abide by the new rules. And another part of me thinks Disney could really milk the whole "environmentality" thing by encouraging us to reuse mugs at the resorts and the parks to avoid discarding paper cups.

What is the solution for this controversy?

I think Disney had the right idea by testing out a bar code system at the water parks. You were able to refill your drinks on the date of purchase by scanning a bar code on the machine or it wouldn't dispense. I'm not sure how feasible that would be at a busy drink station at the resorts. But if Disney was able to work out a system that would allow you to use old mugs yet pay for the length of stay use, that might end the controversy.


  1. We have used mugs from a previous trip, but we did it as long as it was identical to the current mug. In the beginning, they didn't change them very often. I did feel like we were cheating a bit, but nobody could tell.

    But in the last trips, after seeing all those "cheaters" and the price of the mugs going up, we thought that the higher price was meant to cover the cheaters, so since we pay for the so called "cheaters", might as well cheat a little too. But we would never go to filling jugs. We just use them at other resorts.

    I agree, there should be some way to prevent cheating. And I always thought it would be great to have a mug that could be refilled anywhere in the parks for the lenght of stay.

  2. I suspect Disney has made the situation even more difficult with the uniform mug brought to all resorts this year. Now, unless they use a barcode system, there's no reason for someone staying at one resort not to use their mug at another if the mug design doesn't change yearly.

  3. Things got more complicated when Disney introduced that generic mug design. I think they did that to prevent cost overruns on producing more mugs for specific resorts. I'm sure they got a volume discount for buying in bulk.

  4. My guess too is redesign is so expensive while those beverages are sooooo cheap that they always stay ahead. Even with the cheaters.

    (Thank goodness I gave up soda. I've never bought a mug so I've avoided the whole controversy entirely)