7-Eleven’s Big Gulps and Super Big Gulps are one of the great things about America. And judging by the number of hits this site gets from people searching for information about them, they are something that Americans—or the small subset of Americans who wind up visiting this blog—really care about.
Of course the great thing about the Big Gulp is the, shall we say, visionary sizes it comes in. The Big Gulp itself is 32-oz, the Super Big Gulp is 44-oz, the Double Gulp weighs in at an impressive 64-oz (2 l), and for the truly thirsty there is the 128-oz Team Gulp. (I’ve never seen a Team Gulp myself, but Wikipedia says it exists.) The Big Gulp line serves up soda in such massive quantities that they almost make free refills unnecessary. Of course for those patrons for whom 44-oz is not enough, most 7-Elevens offer reasonable 79 cent refills if you bring your cup back. They don’t offer free refills as they are a convenience store, and who stands around in a 7-Eleven and drinks 44-oz of soda?
But of course the Big Gulp’s very strength—its vast size—is also its weakness when it comes to the soda tax.
As Philadelphia’s proposed soda tax is written, merchants would have to pay a tax of 18 cents-per-ounce of soda syrup. Most soda mixtures call for one part syrup for every five parts of water. Here is what you’d pay in taxes on a typical Gulp product (assuming you didn’t use any ice).
Big Gulp: 32-oz, Taxes: $1.15
Super Big Gulp: 44-oz, Taxes: $1.59
Double Gulp: 64-oz, Taxes: $2.30
Team Gulp: 128-oz, Taxes: $4.61
So if passed, the Philadelphia soda tax would more or less double the price of Big Gulps and other Gulp products. And it would probably mean the end of the 79 cent refills—just as it would likely end free refills in restaurants.