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RapidFill Mugs

Rolling out now across the resorts at Walt Disney World is an all new, technologically enhanced version of the sometimes popular resort mugs.
If you’ve been to WDW any time in the last 15 years, you’ve no doubt seen these in some form or another. And, if you’ve gotten the Dining plan any time in the last few years, you probably have a few of these lying around. So, what’s so “new” and “technologically enhanced” about them, you may ask?  Four letters, R-F-I-D, Radio Frequency IDentification which will allow Disney greater control over who gets soda and how much.
According to The Disney Food Blog – these have already been implemented at Disney’s All-Star Music and All-Star Movies food courts, and they’re continuing to be installed in the other resorts on property.
In general, I think these are great, although, the prices seem a bit on the high side, but I really like the fact that they’ll be usable at all resorts across property, not just the one you bought it at, like in the past. However, I would like to see Disney take this program a step (or two) further by allowing them to be used in the parks as well. (Nod your head if you agree). I believe this would make the cost of $17.99 for a four day or more mug a bit more palatable.
Aside from my wishing for the in park usage ability, I’ve come up with a few arguments for which I would like to expand upon to justify my wishful thinking in hopes that someone from Disney will see this and consider it.

Disney Resort MugsSome of my own personal collection of mugs

Cost Savings

While there’s a minimal savings to guests in allowing resort mug refills in the park, the potential savings for Disney is somewhat substantial if you consider the number of mugs used over time.

I think it’s safe to say that the use of paper cups in the parks has to generate a LOT of waste! So, if they offered refills property-wide, this would cut down on the amount of paper cups used and thrown away daily. I’m sure some of these get recycled, or I hope they do, but still if you figure on average there are 130,000 guests in the parks, and of those let’s just say they are buying at least 100,000 cups per day (just to make the math easy) if not more. If 5% of the guests brought their mugs into the parks, that would cut down on 5,000 paper cups a day being thrown away. Over the course of a year, that’s more than 1.8 million cups being thrown out, collected and recycled. It’s not much, but it does add up in that fewer cups would be used (cost), the trash has to be emptied a little less frequently (labor), as well as hauling, recycling is carrying a bit less (overhead). Oh, and if they have standalone fountains like at the resorts, it further reduces labor costs and even order fulfillment. Soda consumption would go up slightly, but using the new machines, they could actually put limits on that as well while at the parks. As they like to point out on Disney Channel, “A little can make a big difference”. Who’s to say what the actual numbers would be, but when you’re talking about 47 million people a year, little bits add up quite quickly.

Based on a foodservice.com post (popular industry forum), the cost breaks down something like this [1]:

Estimated costs for 16 oz cup of soda for Disney (Castmember fills cup):

  • $0.12 for soda
  • $0.03 water and CO2 to mix the soda + ice
  • $0.07 for the cup
  • $0.01 for the lid
  • $0.015 for the straw
  • $0.015 electricity estimate (fountain, ice, lighting)
  • $0.07 for the labor*, CM to fill cup (est. hourly wage $8.47)    
  • $0.07 for labor*, CM to empty trash

    Total: $.0.38 (estimated)

Estimated costs to refill cup/mug (self service)

  • $0.12 for soda
  • $0.03 water and CO2 to mix the soda + ice
  • $0.07 for the cup
  • $0.01 for the lid
  • $0.015 for the straw
  • $0.015 electricity estimate (fountain, ice, lighting)
  • $0.07 for the labor, CM to fill cup (est. hourly wage $8.47)
  • $0.07 for labor, CM to empty trash Total: $.18 (estimated)

Difference of $.20

So, if there is an estimated 130,000 (average) visitors at WDW daily, and 5% bring refillable mugs, that would equal 6,500 cups.

6,500 * 365 = 2,372,500 (paper cups saved) 

2,372,500 * $0.20 = $474,500.00 (estimated savings by WDW on filling a cup of soda in a year). That’s almost half a million dollars!

* Labor source: http://www.glassdoor.com/Salary/Disney-Salaries-E717.htm

Disclaimer: As always, I should state that these numbers are hypothetical, and may even be inaccurate. If you find errors in my math or the numbers I’ve used here, please let me know and I’ll be glad to correct it and give you credit!

Environmental Impact

Disposable paper cups – just how many of these things do you think Disney uses each day? And, how many of those get thrown in the trash or maybe even recycling? Then you have the added cost and labor to have someone handle all those cups/trash.  I’m guessing easily 50-75,000 per park per day, multiplied by 4 and you’re looking at 200 – 300,000 in a day! That’s over 73,000,000 PAPER cups tossed in the trash in a year.

Benefits/Ease & Convenience for guests

While it’s nice sometimes to be handed a tray from a Quick Service restaurant with your drinks already filled, some guests like to do it themselves. I think where this comes in handy the most, would be with refills. Overall, it’s more of a preference or convenience than anything else. But, if this is what guests want, then maybe it’s a win for Disney as well. They could really plus this by adding the Coca-Cola Freestyle machines where you can mix drinks and flavorings.

A few other options for consideration

  • Lower the price. Have just one price for the mugs, then an option to add extra days at 99 cents each. Maybe sell them for $9.99, and make the first 24 hours free to use as many times as you like, but then sell additional days for 99 cents. If you were staying for 5 days, your price would be $13.95 (9.99 + (4 *.99)), 7 days would $15.93. Doing it this way, they could also sell them to guests who are not staying on property.
  • Option to Re-charge/re-activate mug on next trip. Allowing this might save me some cabinet space, but it’s also kind of an environmental consideration as well.
  • Along these lines, a frequent visitor option for DVC, Annual Pass holders or anybody who just wants to use it for a longer period of time. From what I understand, Seaworld has a similar program where you can purchase any mug or drinkware and get it refilled for just 99 cents.

Prior to publishing this wishlist, I sent Disney an email regarding my thoughts on the mugs, this is what I sent them.

I read recently in the Orlando Sentinel that Walt Disney World will be upgrading the soda fountains across the property to RFID-enabled systems with chips embedded in the cups.


As someone who has visited multiple times, and taken advantage of the refillable mugs both free with dining packages as well as paid for, I would like to make a couple of suggestions regarding them and the upcoming changes.

I don’t have a problem necessarily with the new system that is being installed, however, my issue with it and the mugs in general is the fact that I already have far too many mugs from past trips sitting on shelves or in boxes in my house collecting dust. In the past, I have donated some to charity, others I just threw away, but I would like to suggest that you come up with an exchange/recycling/re-use program for old mugs, if for nothing else to help the environment. Alternatively, it would be a nice reward for guests who return an old mug to receive a discount if they brought an old mug in for exchange on a new one.

Aside from the waste issue noted above, I’m curious if the new mugs will be usable in the parks now or in the future? Again, having this as an option would help the environment and reduce the amount of paper cups collected and recycled from the parks daily.

Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you as well as seeing you (Mickey) soon,

And, this was their response:

This will acknowledge, with thanks, your email to us regarding your idea for our Resort, which you have indicated might be of interest to Disney.  Your communication was forwarded to the Legal Department here at the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Resort as it is our responsibility to respond to such correspondence.  We appreciate your interest in Disney and taking the time to write to us.
Unfortunately, our company’s long-established policy does not allow us to accept for review or consideration any ideas, suggestions, or creative materials not specifically solicited by us.  Our intention is to avoid misunderstandings when projects or programs are created internally which might be similar to submissions made to us from outside the company.

We recognize that this policy is sometimes a difficult one as when someone like you, with all the best intentions, would simply like us to consider their own creative idea.  Experience has taught us, though, that if we abandon our policy for one person, we will soon have no policy at all.  Therefore, as required, we must delete your correspondence, without retaining any copies.

We hope that you understand.  Please be assured of our sincere thanks and of our best wishes for success with your ventures.


Legal Department

Walt Disney World Resort

I’m not sure how to react. I guess I should be flattered though, because it means they at least read it and recognized it as an improvement idea, but then passed it around until it made its way to legal. Regardless, they still didn’t answer my question though as to whether they would be allowed in the parks.

After this nice formal rejection letter, I sent another note to Disney, this time just asking if RapidFill would be implemented in the parks to which I received an actual phone call that was a pleasant response telling me “No, at this time RapidFill is only planned for the resorts”.

So, what do you think? Should Disney expand the RapidFill program to to allow guests to refill their mugs in the parks? Or, do you have other ideas about how they could make this program even better than what I’ve suggested?

Update 3/24/2015

Just a little update I stumbled across while browsing thru some Disney patents.
US Patent 20100125362 seems to deal specifically with the design and implementation of RapidFill. Interestingly, they did at least think about the idea of rolling it out for use in more places than just the resorts. Just over mid-way thru the patent, I found the following:

Typically, the entitlements will also be tied or limited to a particular time period. For example, the user entitlement may be defined by a start date and time stored in field 226 and a start date and time stored in field 228, and the controller or reader/processor of the token access data 200 may operate to compare a time of an attempted access with the values of in the start/stop data and time fields 226, 228 to ensure the access time is within this access time period or time range. For example, a user may buy an entitlement for unlimited access to a beverage and/or snack dispenser(s) during their stay at a resort or during a particular meal period or some other time period. The entitlement 220 may also be defined as applying to a particular or limited location, facility, and/or geographic use area with a value or code stored in field 229. For example, the entitlement 220 may allow the user to access self-service beverage and/or snack dispensers only at particular restaurants, food courts, or kiosks or, in contrast, may allow the user to access such devices at a subset of parks/resorts within an entertainment complex. In this manner, differing entitlement packages or options may be designed and/or priced to support differing customer/user needs.

Sadly, however, this feature has not been made available for use by guests, so far. Perhaps one day it will. 

Note: If you’re looking for more information, be sure to check out a great review with lots of photos by at MouseSteps.

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