Leaky Mug? Contigo's Senior Engineer Can Explain The Problem And Send You A Replacement

Joe’s auto-sealing Contigo mug wasn’t working properly. Moisture was getting caught between the mug’s layers, causing leaks. When Joe wrote to Contigo, he quickly received an unexpected reply from the mug’s designer. Joe writes:

I’ve been using your Autoseal mug for a few months now, and have some quality concerns regarding the product. I’ve already owned two of them – I had to return the first one, and will now likely have to do the same with the second.

The problem specifically relates to the quality around the mug itself; the double-walled plastic version of your product is prone to leaks. The seal on the top of the mug degrades, letting liquid in between the double-lining of the mug. This is accompanied by a hissing sound, as hot water seeps into the mug. No liquid leaks from the mug itself, but over time, the moisture condenses in the mug lining.

The autoseal lid itself is great – I’ve never had any problems with it, and the idea is ingenious. It’s why I bought this mug.

The quality of the plastic mug itself is another thing entirely. I won’t buy the metal version for quality issues as well – all of the metal mugs I saw on the shelf were shredding the plastic lid. I also question the insulation quality of that mug; it’s a bit on the thin side, with little in terms of vacuum insulation.

In short, I’ll probably return my current mug, and I won’t be buying or recommending the product to anyone until the mug itself improves. The autoseal is great, the mug isn’t. I’ll stick with my Sigg Metro Mug, even though it’s a pain to open in the car.

Two hours later, Joe received a response from Contigo:


I’m the engineer that designed the Autoseal mug that you describe. I’m sorry to hear about your experience. We really do appreciate feedback from customers, especially on new products such as the Autoseal mugs.

The problem with the leaking between the plastic walls of the body is an issue that we have improved in more recent shipments. I’m afraid that you may have an early example of the product, manufactured before we caught this issue. The problem typically occurs during dishwasher cleaning. In early examples of the product, the heat of diswasher testing causes a decrease in the “squeeze” on the small o-rings that seal between the walls. This allows water to enter the space between the walls. We have since improved the design to eliminate this problem.

I’m not sure about the source of the hissing sound but it may be the pressure release through the lid when the button is depressed. This is a normal and beneficial feature of the product and allows the pressure to be dissipated safely before the user can drink from the mug.

The issue that you describe for the metal version where the plastic threads on the lid are shredding is one that we caught early on and the later versions do not have this problem at all.

As you point out, the distance between the inner and outer metal walls of that mug is small. The vacuum space between the walls is as thin as 2 to 3 mm in some locations. This is ok. One of the advantages of vacuum insulation is that its effectiveness does not depend on the thickness of the vacuum space. We have performed thermal studies to prove this out. The result is superior insulation in a slender product.

This may be more information than you were looking for but we are dedicated to customer service and appreciate you taking the time to communicate your feedback.

If possible we would like you to send the defective mug to us so that I can study it first-hand. (address is listed below)

Regardless, I will send you a latest version of the metal Autoseal mug today. I am confident that you will be satisfied.



Steve Pinelli
Senior Mechanical Engineer
Ignite USA

Not only did Steve send Joe a replacement mug, but he proved that engineers are good at dealing with customers.

Above and Beyond highlights exceptional and extraordinary acts of service performed by individuals. To nominate someone for inclusion, send your story to tips [at] consumerist [dot] com. Be sure to put “Above and Beyond” in the subject line.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Chicago7 says:


  2. ArtDonovansDrunkenLovechild says:

    I second the wow and nominate them for an interview of some sort. I would love to hear managements views of customer service.

  3. jeffeb3 says:

    Go Engineers. If only every company had $60/hour to spend on customer service, I wouldn’t be spending my time on consumerist reading complaints when I am supposed to be working (I’m an engineer BTW, entry level though, not up to $60.hour yet).

  4. valkin says:

    I like reading this kind of stuff. I have always had problems with travel mugs because of leaks. Now, I’ll check out the Contigo brand. Thanks.

  5. obbie says:

    if only verizon would learn from them.

  6. hockalees says:

    “Not only did Steve send Joe a replacement mug, but he proved that engineers are good at dealing with customers.”

    As someone who deals with customers and engineers all day long, I respectfully submit that your sample size is too small.

  7. Sudonum says:

    Engineers are good with dealing with customers because they (usually) don’t BS.

  8. yetiwisdom says:

    Mad props! For my part I have a coffee-addicted colleague that swears by her Contigo mug.

    That response is amazing and very nice to see.

  9. mgiampapa says:

    So where do we order this wonder-mug from? The new version that is. This is a company I would gladly give my .02$.

  10. dbeahn says:

    @mgiampapa: You mean your $20 to…

  11. FightOnTrojans says:

    I got a set of two of these mugs as a X-mas gift this past December, one with a handle and one without. The lids stay on tight, my coffee stays hot for a long time, and, unlike Alli users, I have yet to experience any *leakage*. The mug with a handle has some carabiner-type contraption that I guess would allow one to clip this to a backpack or something, but I’ve never tried it. It’s a bit on the narrow side, with the base being about the same width as the top, and the top is top-heavy because of the lid, so it can tip over if your cupholder in your car is not high enough, but if you have it closed, no worries, right? Otherwise, they are very solid mugs and the first ones I use if available (i.e. I’ve washed dishes recently). The base is rubber-like, so the mug won’t go sliding around on you, and the center of the mug has the same rubber-stuff so you don’t burn your fingers whilst drinking your coffee.

  12. FightOnTrojans says:

    Oh, and I don’t know where they were purchased at, but it came in that ridiculously difficult to open plastic-packaging so favored by the big-box retailers (you know, the kind you have to cut open and absolutely destroy to get anything out of it), so I assume it may have been Sam’s Club or Costco (but I haven’t seen it at Costco). Hope that helps.

  13. Upsilon says:

    Geez. That engineer is total WIN.
    Do we have this guys address? Can we send him a gift card of some kind? This dude needs to be rewarded for not being a douchebag!

  14. sled_dog says:

    I’m so impressed that I’m going to buy one of these. I need a new mug.

  15. fairweather says:

    Now, that’s how to do your job and run business.

  16. 3drage says:

    I deal with the customers so the engineers don’t have to, what’s wrong with you people?!?!

  17. mrmysterious says:

    I’m excited about this since I have one of those from Starbuck and it leaks just like they describe. It’s been in a filing cabinet at work for about a year now. I think that I’ll contact them tomorrow and see if they’ll replace it.

    I also have two that I bought from Costco and they have been grate with no leakage.

  18. TheDude06 says:

    Consider yourself up a new customer contigo!

  19. Black Bellamy says:

    If I’m ever in the market for a mug like that, that’s the one I will buy. The cynic in me says they’re all the same, but you have to support the effort.

  20. balthisar says:

    @3drage: heh, I usually find that you don’t have the answers, and if I could talk to an engineer, I’d have my problems fixed right away. That presents some cost issues, though!

    I’m an engineer at a huge company, and I’m really good at searching the company directory. When I have an issue with one of my company’s products, I don’t go to the dealer or call some customer satisfaction line; I go to the team (and often the individual) that designed or integrated the system I’m having trouble with. Were that everyone could be so connected.

    I have to imagine that Contigo gets a lot fewer support requests, though, since it’s kind of a straightforward product and it’s hard to have stupid users that need to tie up support people all day long.

  21. acambras says:

    Very impressive. Makes me want to go buy one of the mugs for myself.

  22. joe_consumer says:

    I’m the Joe who submitted this. Customer service from Ignite (the makers of the Contigo brand) was great; he even sent me a prepaid FedEx envelope to return the mug. I’m moving this week (thanks for the help, Consumerist) so I asked that it be sent via USPS, so I knew I’d get it. He did that too. I got my replacement today, and let me say, it’s much better than the one I bought myself. I plan on recommending their products all over the place.

    One small thing from this Consumerist post, though. The picture isn’t the mug I had the problem with–it’s the Autoseal line, which doesn’t have a handle ([www.gocontigo.com]).

    Also, in response to questions, I bought my mug at Target. The web site also lists vendors, if you’re looking.

    I couldn’t give Steve a customer service medal, but getting an “Above and Beyond” from Consumerist is pretty close.

  23. eli_b says:

    wow! that’s all i’ve got.

  24. Shadowfire says:

    This just sold me a mug…

  25. kerry says:

    I’m so totally floored by this response that I’m immediately contemplating replacing my existing (and essentially fully-functioning) travel mug with one of theirs. Kudos to Consumerist for posting items like this, which enable companies that provide excellent service to get more customers who will appreciate their efforts.

  26. nardo218 says:

    “So I can study it,” lol. Geektastic.

  27. Plasmafire says:

    So where can I buy one?

    I’m an engineer too.. we love to analyze broken stuff. Half the fun is breaking something, the other half is in the analysis.

  28. EtherealStrife says:

    Wow. And I happen to be in need of a new travel mug.

    contigo ftw

  29. Hawk07 says:

    Customer Service done right. A simple gesture and look how many “wow’s” it got.

    Steve obviously looked like he put thought into the letter rather than the usual corporate approved verbiage.

  30. Trai_Dep says:

    To those that say Consumerist (and its readers/commenters) are nothing but fussy whiners who hate capitalism, I respectfully submit this thread as the counter-argument.

    We LOVE businesses. Just the good ones.

  31. capturedshadow says:

    It was a good move on joe_consumer’s part to explain exactly what the problem was, and what he thought caused the problem. It is much more likely to the the attention of the quality control department if they have some clear problems to address. Good for J_C and good for Contigo

  32. medic78 says:

    Wow, impressive. I needed a new mug too. Guess I know where to get one now.

  33. bdgbill says:


    I agree. Consumerist should contact the company for an interview.

    In the rare case that I am treated this well by a company, not only will I stick with them forever but I will reccomend them to everyone I know.

  34. As good as the engineer’s response is, I bet Contigo’s legal department is having fits. I mean he just admitted the company sold a defective product, didn’t he? Even so, this is the type of accountability that is needed by manufacturers… It wins consumer trust and might even reduce litigation in the end.

  35. shoegazer says:

    Excellent customer service aside, it helps that the product was good enough (in later iterations) that Engineer Steve didn’t have to make excuses for it.

    A bad product is a bad product. Demonstrating why YOUR model of a product has been improved since you bought it, and replacing it for free, is definitely Above and Beyond.

    I’m in the market for a good mug, too bad they haven’t traveled across the Atlantic yet.

  36. joeblevins says:

    Two things.

    Number 1, the complaint letter was written very well.

    Number 2, the response from teh company was written very well.

    Good to both parties.

  37. Schminteresting says:

    Yay for Contigo, and for Joe_Consumer (great initial e-mail, Joe).

    I love Above and Beyond stories.

  38. axiomatic says:

    Applause!!!!!! Speaking as an engineer myself, on the toughest issues I too will become available to my customers. Tech Support usually does not care if the customer is happy or not, they just want the call to end so they get their “tick” on the metrics sheet. When things like this happen it spurs repeat customers. WIN/win

    Unfortunately, us developer/engineers are a little too busy to do this all the time.

  39. alicetheowl says:

    Looks like Target carries these mugs. I’m swinging by there tonight, anyway; I’ll have to keep an eye out for them.

    My biggest problem with these mugs is getting water between the layers, which then slowly leaks out throughout the day. With one mug, I joked that it wasn’t house-trained, because it left a little puddle behind wherever I set it down.

    I just got a new one that’s holding up all right, but it doesn’t have a handle. Not putting a handle on my caffeine conveyance is a BAD idea.

    Can anyone tell me whether this is dishwasher safe? Not that that’ll affect my decision, but I can’t seem to find that in the product information.

  40. mammalpants says:

    this is great and this company deserves recognition for standing behind their product and not giving us the runaround like so many do…

    i love that there are people who are passionate about what they do…i wish more companies would let the passionate ones speak about their great or not-so-great products.

    this is the first ive ever heard of this mug, but now i want to find one!

    this type of service is worth a lot more $$$ than the company might think.

  41. Contigo says:

    Hi Everyone,

    This is Don from Contigo. I was one of the product designers on the Contigo Autoseal mug that this post is about. I am responding on behalf of our company and Steve since he is a bit shy from all the attention. (Engineers, shy? Who knew?)

    First off, thanks for the really nice feedback. We have been passing this post as well as all your comments around the office today and everyone is excited that our hard work on our products and responsiveness to customers is getting attention. Upsilon’s comments especially had us all laughing.

    We try hard to keep our customers happy as we are very proud of these products and think they are the best coffee mugs out there.

    Second, the image in the post is of our very popular Contigo Extreme mug but the post is about our new Contigo Autoseal mug. It’s “The only mug you can’t spill.” You can purchase it directly from Target’s website at this link: [www.target.com]

    Thanks everyone!

  42. Modano says:

    I just bought one because of this.

  43. Tom Smykowski: Well… well look. I already told you: I deal with the god damn customers so the engineers don’t have to. I have people skills; I am good at dealing with people! Can’t you understand that? What the hell is wrong with you people?

    I appreciate the humor Consumerist. :)

  44. Michael says:

    Yet another wow–what a friendly, warm email–from an engineer, no less!

  45. Yoni K says:

    Can this mug be purchased *with* a handle?

  46. Contigo says:

    @YONI K
    At this time we only have the two non-handled Autoseal models that come in stainless steel and polycarbonate.

    If you are looking for a good handled mug check out our Extreme Coffee Mug. You can buy it at Costco, Target and our eBay store ([stores.ebay.com]).

  47. rioja951 - Why, oh why must I be assigned to the vehicle maintenance when my specialty is demolitions? says:

    WOW! Nice one, excellent customer service (even if it was not in his scope, or was it?). I’m in the market for one, and this got them a sale.

    On a side note, how did he get the letter? In my dept. we only receive the customer complaints second hand. (Always after support and QA had their go at it, and we were targeted for the blame without a chance to see what was the problem)

  48. E-Bell says:

    Just to jump in:

    I went to Target last night and bought the stainless steel mug.

    This morning, it’s awesome. Seals and keeps my coffee hot like a champ. I may buy the polycarbonate model for my wife.

  49. sfagent says:

    I purchased 4 Contigo mugs and have given 2 away as gifts. They all love them. I recently dropped mine for the third time and it seems to always fall on the top-heavy edge, leaving a nice scrape on the rubber lid. This time it caused a leak that won’t go away with tightening. Otherwise, I love the way these mugs work. All you have to do is push the button on the side (shown in all photos) and the liquid pours smoothly.

    It keeps the coffee/tea warm for hours too. I can’t say enough about these mugs. I just wish Costco would get them back in. They were 2 for $20, and everyone else seems to want $20 a piece. Help!!!