If you're one of those folks who likes to bend the rules when it comes to Disney refillable mugs, your free ride may be coming to an end.
Introducing Disney refillable mugs with RFID tags. That's right. Disney is currently experimenting with the idea at the All-Star Sports resort. You'll notice that these mug colors (purple, orange and green) are a bit different from the refillable mug colors offered at other Disney resorts.
What does this mean? Well, Disney is cracking down on the unlimited refill program. At the testing location, you can no longer use your old refillable mugs from past vacations (or other containers). The soda dispensers have been retrofitted to read RFID tags before dispensing soft drinks (the tags are now on the paper cups too). Only water is available without a tag.
The new RFID mugs automatically expire at the end of your vacation stay (up to 14 days) and can only be refilled once every five minutes. The display panel lets you know how many days are remaining on your mug. If you have returned earlier than 5 minutes, it will let you know how many minutes remain before you can fill up again. (Click the photo below to enlarge for detail.)
Paper cups are only good for an hour or two. And, if you try to use one of the complimentary water cups? Guess what? You can only get water.
What is particularly interesting is that the old signage would indicate unlimited refills. The signs at the All-Star Sports test location have been updated with language that does not include "unlimited" in the description. Rather it states "refills available..."
The loss prevention for Disney is just a small part of the equation.
While many people are complaining about the current refillable mug testing, there is a real problem. If you've ever been a guest, you've undoubtedly witnessed other guests cheating the program. It is simply not fair to the guests who play by the rules. Especially if you're standing behind someone filling a 2-liter soda bottle (yes, it happens).
I think Disney may be considering changes that go beyond the resort beverage centers. Many guests carry their mugs throughout the parks (sometimes because schedules are tight and it is a very long walk back to the room). Perhaps Disney is considering theme park refills (maybe .99 cents a refill)? It would be a cost-savings for guests and a green alternative to disposable cups and plastic bottles.
My biggest concern as a guest is "rush times". With the current setup it appears that only two people can fill up at once (one per side). That is going to slow down a process that is already pretty slow.
Also, the last time I purchased a drink at one of the resorts, I had an issue with my drink not once, but twice. The first soda I filled up was flat. I had to dump it and start over. My replacement Coke was literally hot. It melted my ice cubes and I was left with a warm soda. On my third attempt, I finally got an icy cold Coca-Cola. The current RFID system would have locked me out before I had a chance to get an acceptable drink.
The important thing to remember is that this is only an experiment and I'm sure they will need to make many adjustments before the program "works" as it is intended without inconveniencing guests. Until then, it is business as usual for the Disney refillable mugs at most resorts.