Free refills and self-serve haven't always been a thing.

When I was a kid, I'm pretty sure you didn't get free refills at Mickey D's. Maybe eventually, but I feel like there was a small fee for a refill. Over time, almost all fast-food chains pretty much adopted a self-serve model, letting people help themselves as much as they'd like.

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But then you see threads on social media, with people describing how they scam the self-serve angle, by simply keeping a McDonald's cup in their car. They'd just walk in and refill, and no one would question it. I'm sure seeing things like this online over the years has caused McDonald's to make some changes in the months ahead.

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It all started with saying locations may do away with self-serve.

McConnell Adams, Townsquare Media Lansing
McConnell Adams, Townsquare Media Lansing

Granted, it's going to be a very slow burn, but last year McD's announced they'd be phasing out self-serve drinks by the end of the decade. Some folks have even reported on social media that those changes have already gone into effect in some places, though not in Maine, according to WGME.

Photo by YUE LIU on Unsplash
Photo by YUE LIU on Unsplash

Now, it looks like McDonald's is also loosening up on franchisees who may want to return to the old days of charging for refills. It won't necessarily be a full-on corporate rule, but corporate may give individual locations to charge customers. There's even speculation that if McDonald's follows through, other chains may do the same.

Photo by Ismail Hadine on Unsplash
Photo by Ismail Hadine on Unsplash

Is this going to happen in Maine, for sure?

It's hard to say, at this point. Given that it doesn't seem to be a corporate rule, it may not happen right away. But if you're a business owner and you discover a new opportunity to make money, you'd think twice before not doing it. It's kind of like the fuel service charges that were supposed to go away 20+ years ago from delivery companies. It's just now part of the deal.

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Just by eliminating self-serve, probably many of these locations will see a huge savings, just from limiting how people get their beverages. Or buying a small, knowing they can refill it as many times as they want. Although nothing in life is truly free, it's certainly looking like your refills won't be either.

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