Back in August I wrote the post below about catching onto a way to save a few bucks by bringing “old” refillable mugs to Disney since they aren’t currently using the sensors on the soda fountain machines to verify if the mugs have expired. This caused all sorts of uproar on social media about ethics and stealing from a struggling company and yada yada (biggest eyeroll ever…). I’m not really expressing an opinion on the rights or wrongs of any of this, but just providing information on what is happening right now, which is that new styles of mugs do not seem to be being introduced currently, and expiration dates are not being scanned at all.
So here is an update after our more recent trip to clarify whether it was just an oversight back when the resorts were freshly reopened, or whether it continues to seem to be a conscious choice to not care about the use of expired mugs (spoiler alert: it is the latter).
We visited Disney in early December for 9 days, doing a split stay at Bay Lake Tower and Beach Club. We brought our two refillable mugs that I had purchased back in July 2020. I honestly should have only purchased one, but man-friend-non-fiancé really likes Star Wars so I brought him home the stainless steel Star Wars mug as a souvenir from that trip. Those stainless steel mugs are totally awesome by the way, definitely worth the extra $10 as compared to the normal mugs. Anywho, we stuck both mugs in the bottom of our stroller every morning and “refilled” them at various resorts throughout the day. I put “refill” in quotes because mugs are not currently being refilled. You show your mug and ask for a drink, and a cast member gives you a fountain drink in a paper cup, like the olden days.
Our experience is based on “refilling” the mugs at the Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Boardwalk, and Beach Club. I did hear rumors back in the summer that at Fort Wilderness they are using some sort of sensor disc by the register to check the mugs’ expiration dates. I’m surprised that if they have this technology available they aren’t using it at all the resorts by now, but again, I’m pretty sure they just don’t care about the few pennies’ worth of soda being dished out in these paper cups, especially given that so few people are even opting to purchase the refillable mugs without the dining plans being offered. The dining plans always included refillable mugs, but now people have to actually purchase the mugs for $19.99, and perhaps they don’t want to do that, who knows. What I do know is that I hardly see anyone with any refillable mugs these days, as compared to on normal trips where mugs were hanging off of every stroller. Also the mug displays in the quick service restaurants always seem completely untouched (and full of the same styles in December as they were full of in the summer…. I don’t think they will introduce any new mug styles any time soon since they have such an abundance of the current styles, just a guess).
The main development that we noticed in December was that not only do they not care when you purchased the mug, but you don’t even have to bring the mug with you to the quick service restaurants. We were instructed at both the Contemporary and the Beach Club to “leave the mugs in our room and just take a photo of them.” So after being given these instructions, I just showed a photo of our mugs on my phone every day to get our drinks. It could have literally been a photo I took at home in New Jersey, and I could have saved myself the room in my luggage…. but then what would I use to rinse my son’s hair in the bath tub!!
Again, this “loophole” or minuscule savings on an insanely expensive trip, or whatever you want to call it, only applies to the select few people who are traveling to WDW again after already purchasing a mug in one of the current styles. I imagine it would be awkward to show a photo of a super old mug from years ago, but I’m also pretty sure it would still work just fine, given the general nonchalant attitude about mugs right now.
Before anyone judges me, we have paid for a ton of these damn mugs. We get them on every trip as souvenirs and we just love them. It’s a rough year for everyone financially and we are supporting Disney a hell of a lot with our annual passes and 3 trips in one year (during a pandemic!), so cut me some slack on the free soda! Plus cmon, don’t I get some IOUs from the wedding we paid for in full?! Just kidding (kind of).