Looking over vending machine manufacturer’s websites and resellers sites it seems as though the vending industry is filled with gleaming machines devoid of faults. However, this industry is full of machines that vary from the unintentionally bad to the downright deplorable. The following is the first part of a top 10 list of the machines that we think are simply the worst of the worst. Enjoy!
10: Glamour Buddy Flat Iron Vending Machine
The Glamour Buddy is a wall-mounted vending machine that vends a red hot flat iron so that women in bars and clubs can do their hair. Evidently at no point did anyone consider that mixing intoxicated bar patrons with what equates to a hot branding iron might turn out badly. Between the massive hurdles regarding fire safety, insurance, and securing power for something like this- any operator was looking at an uphill battle, with a high probability of winding up in trouble for having the machine at the establishment at all. Vilified by the vending communities, this machine lives on in infamy. Really, what were the designers thinking?
9: Peppermint Patty Vending Machines
While not outright terrible or life threatening, this machine was a product of it’s time and it hasn’t aged well. Starting as part of a business opportunity package (Biz-Op) these machines, mechanically speaking, are rather well designed. However, most of these Biz-Ops took place in the 1990’s and things have changed quite a bit since these machines debuted. Firstly, the “York” brand peppermint patty has changed shape and packaging quite radically to the point it could not be sold by bulk machines at all. Without a product to sell in them, these machines quickly became obsolete. Though there are a few conversion kits and smaller mint manufacturers that supply products for these machines, the operators of these machines are stuck between the allegorical rock and a hard place. When one is in a dynamic business like vending, this is never a good thing. The machines themselves started out just fine, but the world around them has evolved and they could not keep up.
8: Snack Rite, and other Mechanical Snack Machines
Full line vending (the sale of soda and snacks) continues to offer “mechanical” alternatives to the mainstay electronic machines. They come in every shape, size, style and color imaginable, but all suffer from the same inherent flaws and faults. The Snack-Rite was chose as it’s easy to find through simple web searches, and is still manufactured today, not because it is any worse than the others. The first major problem with mechanical machines is the space requirements. Despite offering fewer features than their electronic counterparts, the mechanical machines still demand a fair amount of floor space. Though some “narrow” or “upright” models do exist, the going design is for a large, rectangular metal box with Plexiglas windows on the front. The next big problem is user operation. Users will need exact change to operate the large, complex coin mechanisms, which vary in difficulty from “insert 2 quarters and 1 dime into these slots” to “Insert quarter into first slot, and dime into second slot, turn knob ¼ clockwise, insert second quarter into first slot, turn to complete vend”. Seriously. As a customer looking for a quick snack, I don’t want to have to read a wall of text just to pay a machine to give me a snickers bar. I also don’t want to sit there puzzling over it if it doesn’t have instructions. I know most are pretty straightforward, but when you take into account how often the price stickers wear out an get peeled off, customers like me look at it and have no idea even what the prices are. It’s a bad situation only made worse by that tiny window. Some machines drop the products out the front of the machine to the customer- however these are also notoriously easy to rob. Therefore, many more of these machines dispense their goodies to the back of the machine so that it slides forward to the guest. This sounds like a good fix to an old problem, but then you have to consider the window- the “best” windows cover a portion of the front and top of the machine, while the “worst” (like the 1994 “Snack King” machines) have one narrow Plexiglas window in the front. While I suppose a few kids might get a kick out of peering at their candy through the equivalent of a submarine periscope, I doubt this is how your customers want to get their candy. Like I’ve said, the Snack-Rite has a little of all of these problems included in it, and though it’s not the worst, it’s still a mechanical snack/soda combo machine, and those are bad news for vendors.
7: Dentyne Ice Machines
In the early 2000’s, Dentyne Ice Gum launched a business opportunity package using machines similar to Candy King Brand. The machines would be loaded with Dentyne Ice and would dive a few pieces for a quarter. As inflation rose, and the cost of the gum rose with it, Dentyne ceased it’s support for the program, and it’s operators were left with sub-par vending units and not much else. The machines themselves were plastic, and likely inspired by the Northwestern 60, though most of the components were plastic. The machines featured a lot of artwork from Dentyne and even custom stands in some cases. All in all the machines were bad, the program was bad, the whole situation was bad. Similarly, Altoids Gum launched a similar campaign around the same time, and it fared just as well.
6: Buzz Bites Machines
Buzz Bites are a caffeinated energy product resembling a small piece of chocolate. These are sold predominately through retail, but at one point through small vending machines reminiscent of the Peppermint Patty machines in operation. However, the company discontinued support for them, and this left operators with even less than the Dentyne operators, who could still theoretically dump Skittles into their machines. Buzz Bites are plastic mostly, with an oddly positioned coin mech, dispensing chute, and gear mechanism. After working with several vendors for about a month, we concluded that there was no easy way to get the odd square vending assembly to vend anything other than the Buzz Bites. The machines are still sold back and forth today, but in the end they’re only worth what the coin mechanism is worth, as there is no hope in keeping these machines in service.
We have 5 more terrible machines to cover in part 2, when we finally have a consensus on what machine is the worst of them all!
If you have a “bad” vending machine and need help, or just want to talk shop with vending industry experts, come and check us out at the Bulk Vending Forum!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed do not reflect the views of Reliable-Vendor.com, it’s sponsors, it’s readership or members, and is for entertainment purposes only.