On the Vending “Crisis”

On the one hand, we live charmed and uncommon lives in the scheme of things, ones in which we have ready access to many relative luxuries, including food, at nearly every turn. There is no reason to complain . . .

On the other hand, the vending machine represents an invention, and by extension an industry, which has a staggering failure rate; I’m shocked HBO or Netflix has not done an exposé on this – if anyone has contacts at HBO and/or Netflix, this issue sells itself, and I’ll split the profits with you 30-70-0 (30% to you, 70% to my wife and kids, 0% to me).

In my life, I would estimate that at least one out of every five times I’ve tried to use a vending machine, it hasn’t gone well.  Either it decides to keep the money, as if my 65 cents never existed, or it makes a half-hearted attempt to release the snack I’ve paid for only to hang onto it at the last minute, either by turning that metal corkscrew a fraction of a centimeter too little, or by dropping my candy bar directly onto a  bag of Grippos that the vending guy had no business trying to squeeze into the rack.

My point is this: the SOLE purpose of vending machines, and thus the vending industry, is to deliver a snack and/or drink to hungry/thirsty/bored/stoned patrons for a clearly-agreed-upon price.  It’s a simple transaction, the ONLY transaction their business model is based upon.  Let me say that again in a more direct and condescending way: this is ALL they do, trading snacks and drinks for hard currency.

japan-682010_1920A row of virtually useless vending machines

Yet, for decades, perhaps even half-centuries, this industry has not been able to achieve better than an 80% (purely anecdotal) success rate.  By contrast, my daughters, who I must remind you are mere children, have in the past sold candy bars for fundraisers (an activity I like to call “pretty darn close to hell on earth”), and I have not once observed them take a person’s dollar and then immediately be physically unable to hand over the candy bar.  Am I suggesting that a person should be stationed in my workplace’s kitchenette to hand me a Zagnut in exchange for 7 dimes? Maybe I am.

An example of a product with only a 80% delivery rate (purely anecdotal)

I’ll leave you with this: If this were happening in any other industry, say real estate, it would be a worldwide crisis:

“Well, honey, they cashed our down payment check, but apparently they are keeping our house. No, no, I can see it right there, but unless we are going to try to get a second loan to see if we can dislodge it, I guess someone else will get it.  Yes, of course I shook it. It ain’t going nowhere.  Oh, I’m leaving a note!”

We can do better!

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