Disposable Imagineering

Visited the local franchise for The Big Mouse recently, where things seem to be taking an upturn technologically. In lovely money-saving news, Disney resorts have finally decided to include free Wi-Fi in room prices. Okay, the frugality here is relative. Even “value resorts” aren’t bargain-basement prices. Which was, of course, why it was nice to finally not to have to pay park-food prices for internet access.

They’ve swapped out the card-slot locks. It’s not the hands-free future I hoped for, despite my best efforts to get the little key pad at the door to read the card from my pocket. I tried. There was much jumping and awkward leg lifting, but alas, to no avail. Still, tapping the key card is still a little more fun than timing the swipe correctly in a key slot. I don’t think it’s faster, mind, but I’ll cop to the fun of it.

The oddest change, though, happened in the food court. In an apparent effort to curb the scourge of drink thieves which threaten to drag Disney’s struggling finances into a pit of darkness, every drink cup is now embedded with an RFID chip. The drink stations read the chip, and limit refills based on the encoded information. You prepay for refills on plastic mugs for a certain number of days.

Even the wax-coated, paper cups have a pre-set limit: 3 refills in the space of an hour. It’s not an unreasonable limit, though I did run afoul of at least one problematic piece of logistics when I used up a refill on a drink station that had run out of syrup.

What’s really interesting to me about this odd episode of Soda Fountain Brother is what considering the process that brought it about suggests. Nothing this widespread went into effect without any number of cost-benefit analyses. And at the end of the day, the cost of adding high tech chips to thousands of disposable cups was apparently desirably profitable. It’s just kind of mind-blowing to me that the cost of RFID chips these days is apparently somewhere in the neighborhood of a couple of fountain drinks.

Then again, that’s a couple of fountain drinks at Disney park prices…

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