Subway Is Annoyed By Drink Poachers

Josh’s Subway doesn’t take too kindly to those who bring their own cups to fill up at its freestanding soda fountain. It also isn’t to keen on those who keep cardboard Subway cups as refillable souvenirs to be used day after day.

He writes:

Here’s a sign I spotted at a Subway in Sun City Center, FL. What is
this world coming to? What do you mean I can’t bring in my own cup and
get a free drink? Sheesh!

If you’ve worked fast food, did you care if people came in to scam off your fountain? If so, what did you do to prevent the scammage?


Edit Your Comment

  1. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    A soda costs a company at most 5 cents for a large and is a huge source of profit. When I worked in the food industry, we had no problem with people getting as many refills as they wanted while in the restaurant, but absolutely would not allow non-current-customers to fill up their cups. I consider it stealing.

    • Southern says:

      I’m sorry MissDev, but I’ve done the math – Even large companies like McDonalds pay close to 1¢ per Oz. for their Soda Fountains.

      Granted, a 32Oz Cup may only have 20Oz of Soda in it (the rest is ice), so it’s still a good profit margin, but it’s not as high as people think it is.

      • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

        Where’d you get your numbers from? I don’t know if I believe the result. My company uses a coffee service that delivers our coffee supplies. I know what (negotiated, proprietary) rates we pay the coffee service for all the supplies we get. Those rates are FAR less than what I would pay going some place like Costco and buying in bulk. Even with the hugely discounted prices, the coffee service is still turning a profit.

        If you’re just looking at the published rates you found somewhere online, your estimate is probably way high.

        • Azzizzi says:

          The amount of money the actual soda costs isn’t the point. It’s the lost revenue from the person not purchasing a soda. Instead of making $1.49 (or whatever a soda costs), they’re making -$0.05 (or whatever it costs them).

        • RvLeshrac says:

          This. Published rates do not include massive discounts for fountain exclusivity, among dozens of other discounts.

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        She did say “at most 5 cents” which means your 1 cent falls in between a range of 0 to 5+, therefore, she is correct.

        But per the article, I’d do the same thing if it were me. Good grief, in Europe you can’t even pee in a restaurant unless you have a receipt because it has a 5 digit key-code on it and you use it to enter their bathroom. You no receipt? You no pee.

        I have noticed that American restaurants are implementing the same procedures here also.

        • iamlost26 says:

          Math Fail.

          She said 5 cents FOR A LARGE, and Southern said 1 cent PER OUNCE.

          So, assuming a large is over 5 Oz, according to Southern’s calculations (which I have not verified), a large costs more than 5 cents, and she is not correct.

      • Chaosium says:

        “I’m sorry MissDev, but I’ve done the math – Even large companies like McDonalds pay close to 1¢ per Oz. for their Soda Fountains.

        Granted, a 32Oz Cup may only have 20Oz of Soda in it (the rest is ice), so it’s still a good profit margin, but it’s not as high as people think it is.”

        There is water mixed in with the syrup, you know.

        • Southern says:

          That includes the cost of the water, actually. It breaks down like this:

          The latest numbers I could get for McDonalds is that they pay $4.25 per gallon of undiluted syrup. (and granted, they’re old numbers – from 2005) (for reference, Costo charges you or me $59 for (5 gallons) of Coke syrup – that’s $11.80 per gallon).

          That’s 3.3¢ per Oz. for undiluted syrup (for the McDonalds one @ $4.25 per gallon)

          Soda machines usually dilute the syrup with either a 5:1 or 6:1 ratio.

          At a 5:1 ratio, that 1 gal of syrup would make 5 gallons of diluted soda. 3.3/5=.66¢ per Oz for diluted soda.
          At a 6:1 ratio, that 1 gal of syrup would make 6 gallons of diluted soda. 3.3/6=.55¢ per Oz for diluted soda.

          So 20 Oz of Soda (Diluted) would cost anywhere from 11¢ to 13¢ JUST FOR THE SYRUP. That’s not including the cost of Ice, the cup, the CO2, etc. (granted, CO2 is cheap. Ice, however, isn’t).

          This also doesn’t include amortization costs of the Soda fountain itself (which can cost anywhere from $500 to $20,000, depending on the features, # of taps it has, etc.) the ice maker, AND THE MAINTENANCE/REPAIRS on these machines; businesses have to factor that into their cost, though.

          Now if you had to pay the COSTCO price for syrup (and I’m sure some mom-and-pop places probably do), the price per cup would triple.

          I’m not saying that Soda isn’t still one of the best profit margins for a restaurant to have, but it’s not as cheap as (some) people would believe

          • MsEllenT says:

            This place is so full of nit-pickers it’s nauseating. This thread is a huge case in point.

            You guys put Farkers to shame.

            • zibby says:

              Ha! No doubt…”Clearly a soda costs the merchant $0.0478 exclusive of the cup…”

              Sadly, Consumerist seems to view its target audience as so downscale that people ducking into a Subway to fill a cup from 3 days ago might actually be viewed with sympathy. Really, Consumerist? Really?

              *reads comments*

              Consumerist, I owe you an apology.

        • JMILLER says:

          Ok, lets show you the math. The break down is 5:1 syrup to water. Lets pretend $35 for a 5 gal bag in box coke (pretty close to real numbers for large end users. 128 ounces in a gallon. A five gallon bag produces 30 gallons at 5:1. Thirty gallons multiplied by 128 ounces comes to 3840 ounces. $35 divided by 3840 comes to 9 tenths a cent per ounce. A 32 ounce Big Gulp would be about 29 cents. I wonder why people think it is acceptable to steal 25 cents from a company because what they sell is profitable?

      • sonneillon says:

        Well at 7/11 the stores paid 35 dollars for a bag of syrup that would do 500 big gulps. So 7 cents a big gulp. The cup cost 20-25 cents. With loss the end profit margin for our store per soda was %64.

        • Southern says:

          Something there doesn’t quite add up – a 5gallon bag of Syrup will produce roughly 3,680Oz of finished product.


          So unless a 32Oz “Big Gulp” only has 7Oz of soda in it (and the rest is ice), 500 big gulps per bag would be quite a stretch. :)

          Now, if a 32Oz Big Gulp had, say, 20Oz of finished product in it (the other 12Oz being Ice), then that would make about 184 (32Oz) Big Gulps.

          I will admit I’m totally guessing at the amount of Ice there is in a standard 32Oz drink. I guess the next time I go to McDonalds and get a large Diet Coke I could actually MEASURE it. *lol*

          • coren says:

            You’re assuming they’re talking about a 5 gallon bag, instead of something else.

            • JMILLER says:

              Coke is sold in 5 gal bag in box with a 5:1 ratio of water to syrup. This is an accepted industry standard for cola products. Some slower moving soft drinks will be in 2.5 gal bag in box containers with 5:1 ratios. Diet coke is unique in that the mixture ratio is actually 5.5:1.

              • The Marionette says:

                Also the syrup in diet coke is lighter than the others. Our theater gets them weekly and when we do inventory I notice that moving the diet is easier, so I’m sure that has something to do with the ratio as well.

                Onto the topic though, a restaurant has every right to refuse outside cups (or what have you) to get free drinks. I honestly don’t even know why this article was even posted, but considering the one consumerist put up yesterday about the epic 1 free refill “scandal” some restaurants are doing I’m honestly not surprised.

    • myCatCracksMeUp says:

      However much the exact cost is, I agree that it is definitely stealing to bring a cup in from the outside and fill it with soda.

      Unless a restaurant puts a sign on the soda fountain that says something like “Free soda for all”, then it’s obviously for those who, during that same visit, purchased a soda.

    • Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

      Regardless of the accuracy of my math, it’s still stealing. My point is that people think it’s “just” soda, but it’s also still a cost for the business and a huge money maker.

      I checked back with my old boss who told me that his sodas cost around $0.17 per large, but that they used to cost closer to $0.10 when I worked for him five years ago. So, still wrong, but I feel my point is valid.

  2. obits3 says:

    I worked at BK. I hated the people who would ask for a “water” cup and then go get some soda. (I could see them). Usually it was kids, but the parents were all Laissez-faire.

    • Draw2much says:

      Oooh, that’s low! Shame on them! Can’t you say anything to people misusing the water cups?

      Btw, I hate those water cups. I buy a meal and I tell them to put my water in the med/large soda cup. I get lots of weird looks for that (except at one Taco Bell where they do that automatically). Why would I want my water in those teeny cups? I end up spending most of my meal getting it refilled! And don’t ya dare give me a bottled water! They shrink-ray those things so I might as well get water cups, which I could at least refill. ~_~;

      I just wish I didn’t get looked at like I was crazy. I know I’m buying a soda with the meal, but I don’t care ok? I just don’t like soda. I like water. GIVE ME MY WATER IN A SODA CUP! D:

      • Southern says:

        It may vary from restaurant to restaurant, but the McDonalds around where I live will “sell” you a 32Oz cup filled with ice (& water) for 20¢.

        This is usually what I get, since I too prefer water over soda.

    • Griking says:

      Some places charge for the cup and not for what you put into it to combat this.

  3. Mike says:

    Perfectly reasonable sign, can’t believe there are people that cheap out there…OK I can believe there are people that cheap out there, I used to work retail.

    What I hate are places that are self-serve for drinks, but then they put up a sign saying refills are 25 cents or something. If it is self-serve, it is free refills in my book.

    • apple420 says:

      Sometimes the store can take the no free refills it to the extreme. One time I was in a KFC close to closing time. They were cleaning the dining area so we decided to go out to the car and eat to not make a mess. When we went back in to refill our drinks we were told we couldn’t since we left the store. So much for trying to be courteous to them.
      (Even worse though at the fast food place I worked at. Everyone always took free refills. One guy was nice enough to ask first and the store manager made him pay a $1. Also told the gentleman that he was doing him a favor since we weren’t supposed to discount refills)

      • AngryK9 says:

        That is a perfectly fair and acceptable policy. They have no way of knowing if you drove off and then came back. If they followed everyone around keeping an eye them, then people would be whining about invasion of privacy or something.

        • apple420 says:

          We had been gone less than five minutes and had a receipt. Nobody else had been in the store. They remembered us.

        • common_sense84 says:

          Not fair and not acceptable.

          The policy is taking the low hanging fruit stance. But there is no reason why you would fuck over a customer for eating at your bench outside or something like that.

    • YOXIM says:

      Haha so agreed.

    • EmDeeEm says:

      ” If it is self-serve, it is free refills in my book.”

      This! x1000. If you own a restaurant and want to regulate refills, put the fountain behind the counter. If I have to do the restaurant’s work for them and fill my own cup, I can fill it as often as I want, including one to go.

      Bringing your own cup form outside is pretty trashy, but hey, it’s a recession.

    • zibby says:

      Ha, yeah – you can’t believe there are people that cheap out there? When I was in high school I worked at a gas station…we had a little promo where if you filled up, you would get a free 10oz bottle of Pepsi (WOW!). A fill up was a minimum of 8 gallons; needless to say, almost every night some sad mofo would put 7.69 gallons in his beater and want to argue for 20 minutes about why he was entitled to the Pepsi. We had a guy that would bring a gallon milk jug to be sure he’d get over the limit (I know, I know, sighs of admiration). In general it was a joy to shut these scrubs down (the best was silently listening to a detailed argument that they had obviously thought through very carefully on their way to the place and then saying “Absoloutley not.”), but if we were busy it could be a real pain in the neck.

  4. Triterion says:

    That’s what yelling is for, like- hey Vagrant! you didn’t buy that cup, get outta here!

  5. David in Brasil says:

    When I worked fast food, I didn’t give two hoots what happened at the restaurant. 35 years later, and now the owner of my own business, you’re darn right we don’t serve free drinks.

    • Big Mama Pain says:

      But your employees probably don’t give “two hoots” what happens in your restaurant.

      Seriously-employees that work in places that have self serve drink fountains are not paid enough to give a crap whether people are taking free refills when they shouldn’t.

      • JennQPublic says:

        That’s exactly why, if you want your business to succeed, you’d better run it yourself.

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        Not paid enough? Typical American attitude. It’s not the amount of money but your attitude that will get you your success. If you cannot respect the cost of doing business, helping customers, aligning your objectives with the restaurant and the owner and practices, you shouldn’t be there. Being young and working at a fast food restaurant isn’t difficult and no, it does not pay much, but the work output is dependant upon a worker’s character, attitude and work ethics. If you don’t care about being a great worker making $5.00 an hour, you won’t care about your work ethics making $50,000 per year.

        • FrugalFreak says:

          You get what you PAY for. People’s Time is worth more than $5. Your need for profit doesn’t overide The need for workers to get paid a living wage. Wan’t cheap slaves? Of course you do!

        • shepd says:

          You have to give respect to get it. In the business world, you can either give respect by letting the job be ridiculously lax (which would be illegal where you serve food) or you can give respect by paying well.

          You don’t give it you don’t get it and that is the way the world works everywhere. And yes, someone has to give respect first. That should be the one in power, in this case, the employer.

        • kujospam says:

          Thats completely untrue. If you said here is 5 dollars an hours to cook burgers, ok, I’ll cook burgers. But wait, now you want me to clean the floors. Now you want me to refill the ice? You just keep adding things on and not paying more. This is how all American businesses work. The more work I do the less I get paid, and the more you get to keep. If you want the employees to care, give them a monthly bonus for how well the store does. Owners seriously complain too much, and don’t do enough to help our their own business.

          • arcticJKL says:

            If I hire a person to be a ‘fast food employee’ I expect them to do whatever task that entails, mopping, cooking etc, I expect them to do it to the best of their ability.

            How much I pay them is irrelevant.
            However, I understand that at $5/hr I will get less effective workers than if I offered $20. But if you don’t care about the business you will not last long. If they work hard and help the place grow their salaries will increase as profits do.

            • markhp34 says:

              I’m sorry but that’s just not correct. The salary may not matter to you but to them it’s a livelihood. I am currently working in the service industry and I have to say that there are certain things you draw the line at.
              I am not going to throw my entire effort into a job for $5/hr. If you’re going to hire cheap you’re going to get cheap labor. If you are not willing to expend money why must I expend all of my energy/intelligence/emotion into completing this task for you?
              Even if I were to work my butt off and throw everything I had into it, I do not see any more money from the profits of a business. Maybe in startups or small businesses, but in retail chains or anything of the like you won’t be paid by performance. You will be given staggered raises that have been set in place by corporate.

          • Griking says:

            Some people need to understand that they’re paid by the hour regardless of what they’re asked to do in that hour. In a fast food restaurant you may be asked to work the grill at 3:00 and then work the drive thru at 3:30 and then told to clean the lobby at 3:45. Again, paid by the HOUR.

            • jeff_the_snake says:

              For your $ per hour you get to make me do various labors. Caring enough to say something to the bum stealing a drink costs a lot more.

        • angienessyo says:

          Oh goodness, I feel like I’m watching an after school special.

  6. Southern says:

    I’ve seen a few of these in local McDonalds, also.

    Apparently it’s (getting?) to be a problem.

    • ShadowFalls says:

      Probably end up with too many just walking in to refill and not buying anything. Or they will buy like a cookie and get like 5 refills.

  7. Bizdady says:

    LOL we used to do this as Kids back in the day at Costco. Oh ya Pizza and soda for 2bucks lol

    • danmac says:

      What a ripoff…a soda and hotdog at our Costco is $1.50 :)

      • Dutchess says:

        Costco Hotdog and a Soda is a LETHAL combination….they result in what I call….Costco Burps….

        The burp where the smell of the half digested costco polish dog is strong enough to melt plastic….I gag thinking about it.

        • The hand that feeds, now with more bacon says:

          I go in there for the 60-cents-after-tax drinks all the time.

    • econobiker says:

      I’ve also fed my son’s and I on my weekends at the Costco pizza joint…

  8. shangyle says:

    This is getting pretty common, in the metro area where I live. Apparently the homeless do it all the time. The dig in the trash for an old cup and go get a nice cold Coke on a hot day. Some places ask for a receipt. Yikes.

  9. LatinoGeek says:

    A solution although, it’s not always feasible due to space constraints, is to move the fountain so that it’s behind the counter. Most places that have this arrangement don’t always offer free-refills.

    • FigNinja says:

      I would imagine it saves them more having people serve their own drinks than they lose from the cheap ass bastards who steal.

  10. smo0 says:

    Alright…. I actually have personal experience with this…..

    Generally… actually… I only drink unsweetened iced tea if I go out to places like this – Subway in this case.
    As with other places, if I can do a self refill, I do so before I head out.
    I was only told not to, once…. at a Subway…. and I wasn’t even leaving yet. I went up to the machine to get refill of my tea – and was told by one of the workers there that I could not.

    There wasn’t a sign either, and last I time I was at a Subway, I was allowed to refill my drink – that time, on my way out the door.

    So the whole “duration of the visit” thing is subject to interpretation…. and if the manager or any of the workers choose to act like dicks… they can stop you.

    As far as your own cup goes? I gotta say, they are behind the times.

    Most places sell store-branded reusable cups, granted… you might not find them at Drive-Thru places like Wendy’s or BK, but most of the sit-in places like Panera, Starbux, Einstein’s, etc have their own branded cups… in which – you pay for the drinks, but at a discounted price….

    This should be a step in that direction….

    • chefboyardee says:

      If they have a sign anywhere that says “free refills”, i don’t see how they can be a dick and stop you. The contract you agreed to upon purchase of the soda was that you can refill your cup, at the very least while you are in the store on the same visit. Tell them to call the police.

      • Trick says:

        My workplace cafeteria does that… it is a college cafeteria so they don’t offer re-fills to the thirsty students but offer discounts on re-fills. However they don’t care if you bring your own cup in. So I keep a big 44oz Coke cup at my desk and will take that when I am in the mood for a soda. It is larger than the biggest sized cup offered and it only costs $.75 to fill up.

      • smo0 says:

        There wasn’t a sign either way…..

        it’s like the whole U-turn arguement….

        if there’s no sign posted either way… it’s fair game.

  11. danmac says:

    The only thing wrong with this sign is that it begins with the word “sorry” instead of the word “assholes”.

    • DaveWW says:


      Everyone knows when they game the free refill system that they’re being dishonest and stealing… any argument against is just trying to rationalize that internal dishonesty. Just because you can get away with it doesn’t mean it’s right to do it.

  12. Dover says:

    I know people who have used the same Sam’s Club cup for months. IMHO, buy a soda on the way in, enjoy it while you shop, refill it before you leave, pitch it when you’re done. It’s only 88¢, geez!

    Though, it is a bit wasteful to throw the cup away. How about letting people bring their own cups in and give them a discount on drinks, à la Starbucks?

  13. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I’m going to poll the Consumerists here: Say you’ve only consumed a small portion of your drink – is it uncouth to top it off before you leave? Does that constitute as a full refill?

    Have you done this and if so, has the restaurant gotten stern with you?

    • NarcolepticGirl says:

      I don’t understand? Why would anyone care if you top off your drink before you leave? You paid for it. If you’re able to do it yourself, that probably means “free refills”, right?

      • Kibit says:

        We have done this a few times and have never had a problem. I rarely refill it if the cup is empty, but that is because I don’t drink a lot of soda and one cup is more than plenty for me.

        If a restaurant doesn’t have a sign that says free refills I always ask before I get a refill.Every once in a while there is a charge (say $0.50), but most often there isn’t or they will waive it because I asked. I started asking after an employee at a restaurant yelled at me for getting a refill while I was still in the middle of the meal,.I never ate there again. :)

    • Muddie says:

      I think topping off your drink is absolutely fair and within your rights of a free refill.

    • Martha Chang says:

      I do this all the time when I eat at Subway. They actually have a very similar picture to the one in the OP. I’ve never gotten any grief about it, and the way I see it, it’s like when you’re at a more formal restaurant and the waiter tops off your glass of water.

    • cynical_reincarnation says:

      Most of the time if its not self serve I ask the counter, and I cannot even remember when I had a problem.

    • Cyniconvention says:

      I personally wouldn’t bother to exert the energy to refill my soda to full capacity by a half ounce, but since you paid for it and haven’t left yet, there’s no problem.

    • zt says:

      I’ve never seen a place that has self-serve fountains and no free refills (at least as far as I know; I’ve never really checked, assuming that if such a restriction existed it would be posted at the fountain), so I’ve never had a problem with it.

  14. Muddie says:

    Everyone knows that the serious font is Comic Sans. Sheesh.

    I can understand this being a problem and I can understand that stores are taking steps to stop it. You know when what you’re doing is wrong, and if you aren’t refilling a drink you bought during the current visit, it’s stealing.

    It doesn’t matter how much profit a company makes — that doesn’t make stealing the product any less of a crime.

    It’s so sad that it has come to this.

  15. NarcolepticGirl says:

    Well, uh, I’ve seen signs like this since I was a kid.

  16. MyTQuinn says:

    Add me to the list of those who don’t understand what the problem with this sign is. I understand that there are people out there who will bring in a cup from the outside for a free drink – including some homeless. But is there really anyone who thinks doing so is not stealing?

  17. milkcake says:

    It’s stealing. Pretty simple.

  18. Kibit says:

    So, why aren’t they calling the police to report the theft?

    I understand this may seem unreasonable and a waste of the police departments time, but it is theft.

    People will do this over and over again until they get caught and in trouble for it.

    On another forum that I read a women casually mentioned how she goes in to Mc Donalds (different ones in her area) every day before work with her plastic “Super Size Me” type cup (she would buy a new cup every month or so to stay current) and fills it up with soda WITHOUT PAYING and then leaves and drives to work. She does this because she “can’t afford to buy it”
    EVERY DAY, 5 days a week! People on the forum jumped in her shit about it and she still did not get that she was stealing all she cared about was getting her diet soda fix and that she did it because she couldn’t afford to buy it!
    I do not know how employees didn’t recognize her, however she did say that she went in the mornings when they were busy with the breakfast crowd and sometimes when they were busy with lunches. She most likely wouldn’t have gone to a grocery store and stolen a 20oz bottle of soda, but she saw nothing wrong with stealing soda from Mc Donalds! Ugh!

    • Smashville says:

      Because then we get the Consumerist story by Phil about how Subway prosecutes customer for theft for bringing in a cup from the outside.

    • common_sense84 says:

      The police would never even show up. They would require you to come to them to fill out paperwork and then toss it in the trash.

      They are not going to arrest someone over a 5 cent soda.

      Now if you had a repeat offender, you ban them from your store and if they come back, the police will arrest them for trespassing and theft.

  19. dg says:

    Free refills would be generally thought to apply to the current visit only. AKA – you bought your sandwich, you’re eating it – you run out of soda, you refill. You finish eating, you refill, you leave (or maybe you don’t refill).

    You don’t buy a sandwich, fill up, leave. Come back 4 hours later and refill – at least not unless you buy another sandwich…

    Bringing in your own cups – they’re doing that because they want to:

    a) Limit the portion sizes. They do that by giving you a specific size cup – depending on what you purchased.

    b) Want to keep schnors from coming in off the street and filling up their own giant tub…

    That said – any place that charges for refills on drinks isn’t one I patronize… And if I happen to be really hungry and in a hurry and in one of those cheapass joints – then I ask for the drink w/o ice so I can maximize my drinkage…

  20. arizonaadam says:

    I am disgusted by thieves, be they corporate of petty.

  21. Jerem43 says:

    It is stealing, period. The free refills policy is for the same visit, not forever.

  22. Straspey says:

    Hmmm…let’s see.

    So, you’re standing at the counter, reading the menu up on the wall, as you give your order and you see where it says something like:

    32oz Drink…………$1.39

    So you order the 32.oz drink and the guy gives you an empty 32oz cup, along with the rest of your order.

    Now – here’s the critical part – is there a sign anywhere which says “Free Refills” ?

    No ?

    So, that means you’ve purchased a 32oz drink for $1.39 and that’s all your entitled to…32 ounces of your preferred beverage.

    As soon as you take that 33rd ounce without paying for it, your stealing. Period.

    And no amount of rationalization about how “It only costs the restaurant a few pennies per soda” or “If drinks are self-serve, that automatically means free refills” changes anything.

    You took it without paying for it. Sorry, that’s stealing.

    • DrRamblings says:

      Offer/Acceptance/Capacity/Legality are all straight forward here, though Consideration and Intent are a bit fuzzy. I’m not a lawyer, though I’d think that there is a general acceptance of needing to buy a drink to have access to the fountain machine. I’d also think that using external containers would fall outside of the initial offer/agreement. The duration issue is probably best explained by physical presence during a set period (“lunch”). I am sure 1 in 100 will set up camp and do work at a McD’s (I did it once for the WiFi), though most people eat/drink and then leave.

      The bottom line is that there will always be people looking to work the system, and each private business needs to figure out how they want to handle these people. I happen to loathe people who try and find the loopholes (countless abuses of contests/sweepstakes), though there are still legitimate cases out there (Toy Yoda / Toyota case).

    • zt says:

      But, as far as I know, it is a widespread practice that, when there is a self-serve fountain and you buy a soda, you are allowed free refills of that soda for the duration of time in which you are in the store eating your meal. Taking the 33rd ounce in your 32 ounce cup is not, generally, stealing. I’ve never known anyone to specifically look for a sign mentioning free refills, but I don’t know anyone who was ever informed that this was not the allowed.

  23. Supes says:

    A sign almost exactly like this is at my local Subway in the DC metro area.

    I understand the purpose behind the sign, and have run afoul of it before as an unintended victim. I always carry around my own bottle for drinks, trying to cut down on waste. I was at this Subway about a month ago and asked if I could pay for a large soda and fill it up using my own bottle. The cashier referred to the sign and said “no.”

    Now obviously my purchase would only benefit the Subway, as my bottle was smaller than the large size regardless and they would not have to pay for the cup. But following the strict policy I was denied, so I took the cup instead. I understand the cashier was only “following the letter of the law,” but at some point common sense should rule the day.

    • smo0 says:

      Which comes full circle to my suggestion store branded reusable cups…. Subway… get on this!

  24. UnicornMaster says:

    I’ve seen vagrants pick up a [fast food] cup in the trash outside and walk into the store and fill it all the way up with sugary beverage. I mean if you’re homeless you need to get your calories somewhere.

  25. AngryK9 says:

    Yeah. Okay…so…….Exactly where is the problem here? This is a perfectly fair and sensible policy.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      I’m hoping the OP was being sarcastic. Since Phil refers to it as scamming I assume he’s siding with the Subway.

  26. Blueberry Scone says:

    If they are using the paper cups, wouldn’t the cups start to lose their shape and “hold” after a while? You can only refill a paper cup so many times before the glue starts to give. So, not only are folks stealing by coming in and using their own cups from wherever, they could have a mess on their hands if their cup collapses.

    • econobiker says:

      See posts above about vagrants and the lady reusing her monthly cup purchase. Plus some places use styrofoam for the “vat o’ soda” cups which are huge cups with the small cup holder fitting bottom section so these degrade somewhat slower than the paper versions.

  27. vastrightwing says:

    Problem: People refilling their own cups using soda fountain in the lobby.
    Solution: move fountain where only employees have access to it.

    Cost to implement: $0.00

    • Polish Engineer says:

      Except for the cost of disassembling, moving, reinstalling, refinishing the place where it used to be, and the extra thirty seconds of time it takes to process each order from here to the end of time. Other than that… it’s free.

      • EmDeeEm says:

        Then the should have put it behind the counter in the first place. Don’t make me do the restaurants work of filling my own cup and not compensate me with a discount or free refills. Why not jump behind the grill and make my own lunch too, that would save the employees all sorts of time!

        • Polish Engineer says:

          The sign says you can have refills. The limitation is you can’t mozy back in a couple hours later or even the next day with the same cup. That is all. You have your precious discount for filling your own cup. This is geared toward thieves who come rolling in and take soda that is “so cheap it’s practically free”. This is a perfect example of assholes abusing the honor system and causing problems for everyone.

    • Jeff_Number_3 says:

      That’s actually a pretty high cost. You can’t just pickup and move those things. This would be a pretty significant remodel to the store (pluse all the space behind the counter is already taken up) and a loss in productive time for the shift workers filling everyone’s cups.

    • econobiker says:

      The cost of labor is much more than the cost of waste, spillage, and free drink theft. At least until now. Subways are also all owned by franchisees so they have reason to be sharp with their costs.

  28. TheoSqua says:

    These cheap people just need to go find some 6th grader and give them $10 for their DARE card. Free sodas at McDonalds for life.

  29. Polish Engineer says:

    Honestly, I can’t even imagine a situation in which I would require a refill at the majority of fast food restaurants. The “medium size” at Wendy’s is about the size of my head and doesn’t even fit in the cupholders of my car. If you need that much fluid you are probably diabetic from all the soda you drank when free refills were available.

  30. DrRamblings says:

    Offer/Acceptance/Capacity/Legality are all straight forward here, though Consideration and Intent are a bit fuzzy. I’m not a lawyer, though I’d think that there is a general acceptance of needing to buy a drink to have access to the fountain machine. I’d also think that using external containers would fall outside of the initial offer/agreement. The duration issue is probably best explained by physical presence during a set period (“lunch”). I am sure 1 in 100 will set up camp and do work at a McD’s (I did it once for the WiFi), though most people eat/drink and then leave.

    The bottom line is that there will always be people looking to work the system, and each private business needs to figure out how they want to handle these people. I happen to loathe people who try and find the loopholes (countless abuses of contests/sweepstakes), though there are still legitimate cases out there (Toy Yoda / Toyota case).

  31. Matzoball says:

    While a bit older and wiser and I try not to drink soda anymore with my meals…when I was a kid I remember when soda fountains began to be placed in front of the counter my first recollection of free refills was Carl’s Jr. or maybe Burger King. No wonder my GF says I have a memory problem but I digress. A growth spurt and a slowing metabolism later what I once thought was liquid Disneyland looks more like an extra 40 pounds.

  32. RandomHookup says:

    I am amazed that a fast food place is able to post a locally made sign free of grammatical and spelling errors.

  33. satoru says:

    Please remember that these places are franchises. Which means that they’re run by regular people trying to run a restaurant and make a decent living. They are not soul-less corporate entities dropping a restaurant out of thin air. With your lease, utilities, wages, and the up the ass costs of being forced to buy your food and other stuff from ‘approved’ vendors that charge you 2-5x more than going to Costco yourself, your profit margins are pretty slim. Depending on the area, these kinds of signs are common and understandable.

    Not sure why people get upset over these things. To me it’s similar to the ‘$10 or more for using a credit card’ kind of thing. Yes it’s not ideal, or allowed under the service agreement, but the service charges the credit card companies charge make it unprofitable for the place to do so. I’d much rather people save their vitriol for actions that actually impact customers directly.

  34. CaptCynic says:

    I think it’s a shame that people would think it’s ok to bring a cup back the next day and get refills in perpetuity.

    When I worked in a mall in the early 90’s, you could tell all the mall employees because they carried Chick-fil-a cups everywhere. CFA gave refills for a quarter as long as you brought your cup, of course, it was a brilliant business move for them, since it encouraged us to buy food from them as well… oh, man, now I want me one of their golden delicious sammiches…

  35. odarkshineo says:

    Logic would say if you pay for a drink someone would hand you a drink. Big business says, here is a cup get your own @#$% drink.

    This practice saves businesses more time and money than it will ever come CLOSE to costing them.

  36. svengali84 says:

    A McDonald’s by me has this sign as well. It’s unfortunate that people steal soda, but I wouldn’t punish the paying customers by putting the fountain behind the counter. I like the convenience of getting my own soda and putting as much ice as I want in it.

  37. TVGenius says:

    Here in the hot desert, people do it all the time for just ice and water, but if it weren’t for that, our homeless population would be dead from the 115Ëš heat.

  38. bigd738778 says:

    Really. People have to be told what stealing is? Just because you buy a drink one day does not mean it is a month long pass no matter how much it may or may not cost the restaurant or store. My parents would never allow me to get away with this and I never allowed my Son to do anything like it. Stealing is stealing no matter how you justify it.

  39. savdavid says:

    Drinks are dirt-cheap to the restaurants. Soda is mostly water, some fake or real sugar and a tiny bit of flavoring. They aren’t suffering. However, stealing is stealing so I agree Subway has a right to stop this practice.

  40. Wysguy says:

    If the fountain is out in the dining area, free refills are fair game, including the one I take with me on the way out.
    I will add that when travelling and nature calls, I will buy something on the way out, as a “thank you” to the place who hosted the facilities, but that’s me.

  41. Retired Again says:

    Another example of stupid folks that think they are “entitled” or “Geez, it’s just a soda” mentality.
    Go to their house, open fridge and take some food out …. watch them freak … Ohhhhh that’s different.

  42. stock2mal says:

    When I worked at Chick Fil A in high school, we had these two old ladies who worked at Hill’s in the mall who would save their styrofoam cups for iced tea and bring them in daily. These cups were brown around the edges if that gives you an idea of how old they were. We were finally told by the owner who was a complete douche-nozzle (for other reasons) to start writing the date on the bottom of their cup with a Sharpie.

  43. econobiker says:

    Don’t try that at some truck stops as truck drivers have some mugs of truly mammoth proportions try 52 to 70 ozs:

  44. sunniapocalypse says:

    I work at a restaurant where we charge the refill price if someone brings their own cups.

    Im with the people who get mad about people taking water cups to get soda. The place I work is locally owned and operated and we havent been busy lately. So for my boss money is important. I politely asked a guy who I saw get Sierra Mist TWICE if next time he came in to pay for a soda if he wants one. I wasnt saying give me $1.10 now, just be courteous NEXT TIME. He told me that he didnt have to do what I said that he only wanted half a soda so he shouldnt have to pay for a one. What kind of logic is that? So if I only want half of a Chipotle Burrito I shouldnt have to pay for it?

    Working in the food industry makes you immensely dislike people.

  45. outoftheblew says:

    At a Subway inside a Walmart, they had a similarly-designed sign stating that once you left the Subway, you could no longer get free refills. I’d be annoyed, too, if someone came into Subway for a drink, walked around doing their shopping, then came back for a free refill. Then again … you’re a soda/sandwich store INSIDE ANOTHER STORE. Maybe you should expect that customers of the bigger store would want to do that.

  46. enomosiki says:

    This kind of scheme isn’t just limited to Subway. Starbucks baristas also have to deal with cheap assholes exploiting the refill pricing all the time.

    It used to be that stores would be lenient towards people bringing back Starbucks cups for refills, but the practice got completely out of control when people started to bring in cups that were literally weeks old and on the verge of falling apart.

    So, a few months back, there was a notice sent out to stores that reiterated the policy regarding refills, and baristas were ordered to follow them–refills were only granted for coffee, iced coffee and iced teas for customers who have stayed in the store up to 30 minutes.

    The cheapskates tried to come up with a few excuses, mainly along the lines of “you guys have been doing refills for years and I have never heard of this policy”, and there were times when things got a little heated between the employees and customers because of this.

  47. JMILLER says:

    For those who question the cost peer ounce of soda, here is what the state of Iowa pays for coke syrup WITH the yield cost per ounce

    This is the amount a state pays. An independent restaurant will generally pay between $50 and $60 for the syrup. McDonald’s will be pretty close to the state contract price. A large soda is no where near 5 cents as those who think they know it all claim.

  48. Sardis says:

    Stealing is bad folks.

  49. areaman says:

    I’m waiting to see a post about the same type of sign at a buffet. LOL

    But seriously people will abuse this type of thing regardless of signs, etc.

    Wonder if this kind of abuse will go down if the cost of a small drink goes back to $0.89, med to $1.09, and a large $1.29?

  50. NumberSix says:

    I’m pretty cheap, but I’ve always thought bringing the cup back after you’ve left was a bridge too far.

  51. Buckus says:

    I’ve seen homeless guys come into a McDonald’s/Burger King/Jack in the Box and rummage through the trash until they found a cup, then use that to get a free soda. Gross…

    I was even in one and someone told the person at the counter that a homeless guy was about to do that…they employees didn’t do anything, homeless guy got a drink. At the least they could be like “We’ll let you have a drink, but, here, please use a clean cup”…

  52. crazydavythe1st says:

    The worst thing about many people is that they just default to trying to scam restaurants by stealing drinks, using outside cups, etc instead of just communicating what their wishes are.

    Let me explain. First you have the people that try to steal drinks by using a water cup. Half of these people are ordering the cheapest stuff on the menu, granted. But there was often another group of people that would order everything a la carte, and then ask for a water glass to steal soda. These people, in many cases, could have had a legit soda for 10 or 20 cents more. They are just so caught up in the “steal, pillage, plunder” mindset that they refuse to see that they can often work within the bounds of the law and get what they want at a minimal additional cost.

    Then you have the others that bring in outside cups. Some have a giant one gallon container stuffed under their coat, order a $1 drink, and then fill up their gallon container. Then you would have sweet, old ladies come in saying that they were on a road trip, and would ask if we could accommodate their need to fill up their gallon container. and you know what? Managers, and even the store’s general manager would usually say “go for it this once”, especially if you were ordering other food. I mean, these signs were posted, but it isn’t like we would say no if you were polite and explained what you were doing. Also, by explaining what you were doing, we could let you fill up your container instead of giving you a cardboard cup. Everyone knows that the expense is in the cardboard cup. Heck, we were probably MAKING money off people that would bring in their own containers. As long as people politely communicated what was going on, it was absolutely no big deal.

  53. MNGirl says:

    Does anyone remember when Subway had the Comeback cup? A plastic cup that you paid about $2 for, then eveytime you went back to Subway, it was only like 50 cents to refil? I remember selling those about 4 years ago when I managed 3 Subways.

  54. Carlee says:

    I see nothing wrong with the sign. I’ve seen signs like that at fast food places around here. I’ve seen a lady and her kid eating Subway sandwiches inside a Burger King, with cola in a water cup. It didn’t look like they bought anything from BK (no wrappers, bags) and I bet the cola came from BK. Scammy…

    I forget what the policy on coffee refills at Starbucks is, but it’s pretty widely known in downtown and near where I work, homeless people pick out cups from the trash and go back to Starbucks for a refill. Even though the baristas know this, they still give it to them.

    It doesn’t matter how much the soda costs – it could cost the store next to nothing. It’s a matter of principle for me. If you want soda, pay for it. Otherwise, you get nothing.

  55. OnePumpChump says:

    Poison is in the soda.

    Antidote is in the cup.

  56. jojobreckinridge says:

    Screw ’em all…I drink water pretty much exclusively. Except when I go to McDonald’s I have to take my own since they no longer give out water cups. Asshats.

  57. masso says:

    When I first came to US to study, I was very amazed and confused the first time I see self-service soda fountain.

  58. P_Smith says:

    I’ve got absolutely no problem with the sign. If someone opened a bottle at 7-11 and drank from it, leaving the bottle behind without paying, would that be acceptable? How is that any different?

    Drink “poaching” is theft, pure and simple. What sort of cretin does someone have to be to try and steal drinks in the first place? Even if soda is actually of little value, when it comes to paying it’s about the principle, not the principal.

  59. DovS says:

    It’s probably less about the free drink than it is the type of person who is most likely to want a free drink: the homeless.

    I’ve seen more and more downtown fast food chains enacting new policies to try to keep out the homeless. Since the homeless have nowhere to go, many chains have a rule demanding that all customers leave after a maximum of thirty minutes, to prevent homeless people from squatting in the dining area all day while nursing a single cheap drink.

    Having a rule specifically to keep out outside cups is probably the result of homeless people bringing their own cups to get a drink that they can’t afford. But the chains don’t want homeless people in their restaurants since they can make higher paying customers uncomfortable.

    I am not suggesting that this policy is good or fair. Simply that it’s probably motivated less by the cost of a drink than you might think.

  60. Ronstar says:

    I checked this story because I was nearly sure it was going to be the Subway at my local mall. The mall is so old there was never a food court built. They are trying to fix that by putting a bunch of tables out in the center of on open area where they used to have a fountain. The Subway has I think 4 LITTLE tables inside. I mean like if you sit 4 people to a table, people have problems getting around you.

    SO, as long as you are in said tiny, tiny closet free refills! Leave to go to the open eating area? No refill for you.

  61. Beardo says:

    I know the owner of this Subway. He runs several in the Tampa area. They ALL have this sign.
    He’s a big cheapskate.
    On the sandwich counter there’s a sign that reads: “Forks, spoons, napkins, salt, pepper, etc, are for SUBWAY CUSTOMERS ONLY!!!”

    To be 100% fair, the location in the picture is inside a WalMart, where there must be lots of moochers.

  62. pot_roast says:

    I’ve seen this many places, especially places where homeless people frequent. You’ll usually see a “30 minute maximum” sign too. It’s to keep homeless people from digging cups out of the trash and sitting there all day drinking soda from the fountain. (The McDonalds in the Parkland Hospital in Dallas, TX has several such signs – and there are plenty of homeless people hanging around that area.) And yes, I realize that it’s kind of strange to have a McDonalds in a hospital.

  63. physics2010 says:

    So to answer the posed question the mall dates their cups, at least in the summer time.

  64. haggis for the soul says:

    I just can’t wrap my mind around somebody thinking it’s okay to bring in a cup and score some free soda. Do they bring their own bags to the grocery store and try to walk out with free groceries? What the hell, people.

  65. Krang Krabowski says:

    stealing is stealing. face it.

  66. edrebber says:

    The trouble with this is you could drive off paying customers. Yes they might “steal” a drink sometimes, but they also return to buy food. I think the hostility of busting people for “stealing” drinks would also be bad for business. Customers might get the impression that the restaurant is not a safe of pleasant place to eat.

    Suppose the employee is mistaken and busts someone who is entitiled to the refill and the restaurant loses that person’s business.

    Also, minimum wage is $7.25 per hour or 12 cents per minute. The free drink costs 5 cents. It doesn’t seem like it’s cost effective to enforce the policy. You’d have to bust more than 2 people per minute to make this policy profitable.

    I could see cracking down on the vagrant who never buys anything, because just their presence probably drives away business. In this case you are probably generating more than just the 5 cents.