This question was inspired by a 2014 case in South Carolina, where a man named Christopher Lewis was given a $525 ticket (later reduced to a warning) for refilling a drink at a VA Medical Center.

In Mr. Lewis' case, supposedly there were signs prominently displayed saying "No Free Refills." But the problem is that, in the vast majority of restaurants with self-serve drink fountains, there is no signage whatsoever about refills.

I know that normally you can't just take whatever you want for free, but I also feel like enough restaurants are fine with free refills that this could be considered standard practice in the industry.

Is there a default position on drink refills? Could you get in trouble for refilling if there is no signage?

  • Default is no free refills. When I grew up in the 70s in the US Mid-Atlantic, I don't recall it being common policy for free soda refills. Heck, self-serve soda fountains wasn't everywhere until maybe the 90s?
    – pboss3010
    Aug 13, 2019 at 18:40
  • @pboss3010 when I was younger, there was no free refills. The soda fountains were behind the counter unaccessible to customers. Then they introduced free refills because self-service soda fountains reduces labor costs. When they have self-service one-fill soda fountains, they are kind of using the honor system.
    – emory
    Aug 13, 2019 at 18:42


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