This is a special Tuesday edition of Denise's Corner
If you’ve been reading Disney fan message boards long enough (and in my case, it’s around 20 years now), you know there are a handful of topics that arise which will incur long threads of debate.
From smoking to pool hopping, and tour groups to line cutting – these have been longstanding issues for the online community. One of the most recurring topics is about refillable mugs at the Disney resorts.
(After reading this article, head to my new one that shows the test in progress!)
Sometime in the mid 90’s, Disney introduced these mugs. My first mug was from Disney's Contemporary Resort (around 1996), and I was told to bring it back anytime I stayed in the future. I wasn't a big soda drinker, I mostly just liked the mugs – each resort had it's own unique design. Some of the debate online in the past 10 years has been whether mugs were ever refillable "for life". In my case, I bought 2 mugs in the 90's (the second being at the Wilderness Lodge), and I was told to bring them back anytime in the future when I stayed at those resorts. That was back in the day when you could call on a Saturday afternoon and get into Chef Mickey's that evening, or go to Boatwright's Dining Hall at the former Dixie Landings and have a bottomless bowl of salad included with your meal. The point being, there are a lot of experiences I've had that other guests (including those in the online community) don't necessarily have experience with.
Dixie Landings Resort Specific Mug (Bought in Early 2000's)
Back around 2002, Mike Scopa wrote an article for MousePlanet about refillable mugs and how Disney was considering have UPC's added to the mugs (like at Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach). It is very likely that Disney was considering it then. But what was needed at the resorts required better technology than was available at the time. That isn't the case anymore.
Disney's All Star Sports Resort
Starting next week (lMonday, July 18th is the target date), Disney's All Star Sports Resort will begin testing a new concept that will allow guests to only refill their resort mugs for their length of stay (LOS), or to refill a standard cup (and those are already RFID chipped) for the approximate length of a meal. There are certain things I was asked not to reveal and I won't, but an upcoming test is set for a theme park.
End Zone Food Court
Disney teamed up with the company ValidFill to create the new levers on the soda machines. ValidFill's first theme park test partner for RFID chipped soda dispensing was Sea World, installing something similar to test at Aquatica. But Disney didn't want their cups to be seated on liquid at the bottom of the machine while being filled for health reasons, and worked with ValidFill to come up with this unique lever that looks like a scoop.
We do have a short video I took this morning of the machines!
Refillable Mug Sign
Soda Fountain With New Levers
ValidFill, LLC is a local (Sarasota based) company that "is a solution provider that adds intelligence to self serve beverage dispensing" (according to the company website). ValidFill recently signed a five year exclusive contract with Coca Cola, which will give Disney plenty of time to test and adjust.
There are a lot questions that still need to be answered if Disney implements the technology across property. I was asked by a friend what would happen with split stays (a lot of guests like to split their time between a couple of resorts). In the long-range scheme of things, that question might be moot. But for now, I have no idea. If the test expands at the Disney resorts and possibly parks, then expect the result to be similar to ValidFill on the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line. If you bring a mug back on the cruise ship, you can pay a charge to use the mug again (Disney is a leader in having free soda/coffee/tea, all the time onboard the Disney Cruise Line – most cruise ships do not offer that).
Soda Fountain Levers
Back to the dispensing itself – there will be a five minute delay between soda refills. However, guests will get at least a minute to fill their cup. So if you want to mix soda flavors, or add some extra soda after filling with ice, there will be time to do that. What there won't be time for is going back to a table and refilling drinks for a family. And there will be a monitor on the machine that lets you know how long you have until refilling (as well as letting you know if the mug has expired, etc.) I saw the RFID chip – and promptly forgot to photograph it – on a regular cup. Expect about an hour of use for soda out of those pay-as-you-go cups – that could change, but eventually the cup will cease to work.
These changes aren't just because of repeat guests using refillable mugs. While standing near the fountain, I noticed guests bringing things like water bottles, an ice bucket(!), and plastic hotel room cups to fill with drinks. Actually, the plastic cup was being used for coffee (which probably melted the cup). The change currently is only on the soda – not the tea or coffee, but ValidFill could add the technology to those as well eventually. I was also told that the technology could work with the new Coke Freestyle machines
Mugs Available at Registers
My thoughts? I understand why Disney is doing it. A lot of guests are bringing their own personal containers to dispense drinks into. As far as the "lifetime" mugs – guests have had them for 15+ years now, which is really a great bang for the buck. I suppose Disney could grandfather the original mugs in, but for how long? A lot of the original mugs aren't even with the original owners. A refillable mug is still be a tremendous deal on a vacation, considering the cost of a single beverage.
Personally, I would just like to see resort specific mugs again. They were a terrific promotion for the resorts and a fun souvenir.
What are your thoughts? Remember to check out our video! And remember – this is just a test so far. If Disney implements further, then important questions (like the split stay) will have to be addressed.
I'll be back with a new Denise's Corner on Friday! If you have any park or resort questions you've like answered, please send them to me at Denise@Mousesteps.com. And we'll follow up early next week on the refillable mug test at Disney's All Star Sports Resort.