What it is like to run a vending machine business

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/10/06/what-it-is-like-to-run-a-vending-machine-business.html


I have a feeling that a regular job where someone pays you to work is a LOT easier.


As a child I worshiped the vending machine guy, who lived in a rich dragon’s den heaped with sugary pop and quarters


Maybe good as a side hustle if the time/money equation works. I can see it being a viciously competitive world, at least for the high turnover locations.

If you think the margins on the large vending machines are slim, you should watch the depressing video on the little quarter-machine gachapons or gumballs, or Homies.


All depends on what you sell. Smokes, guns, meth… lots of ways you can increase the profit.


Vending machine businesses are obsessed with quarterly profits.


That’s more than I make at a full time job. Of course, I imagine profits are down a lot for all of them thanks to the pandemic.

There’s something just so compelling about vending machines, on pretty much every level except the business side. Because, like, who wants to get into a business where you get paid in coins?

But within the last 5 years cashless vending machines have gone from pipe dream to viable to obvious, so I’m hoping it will trigger a vending golden age. You could now sell stuff that costs $5 or $20 (or much more, in secure locations), which would justify a much wider variety of machines, and I think it could become a virtuous circle. Plus there’s a whole ton of technical stuff that’s possible now. Like, I dunno, a 24h crepe vending machine tele-operated by live crepe artisans working from home in Manila or La Paz. Or a bookselling robot that can leaf through volumes before your eyes. Or just a regular candy machine but with all kinds of flea circus diorama type theatrics.


Don’t think it’s so true any more, but I’ve heard that back in the day the mob had its hands all over the vending biz. Not entirely sure the why of the matter, but I think they used vending machines as a front biz for laundering casino skim cash.

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All costs considered, an operator who makes $5k per month in revenue might take home something like $2k in profit

I knew a woman who worked as a nanny for someone who had a vending machine business. She got paid in rolls of quarters.
I imagine that the owner wasn’t paying taxes on some portion of that cash business.


iphones in airport vending machines are a thing

A receiptless cash-only business… I can’t imagine


One thing I’ve learned from people I know who are self-employed is that “your boss is a total slave driver.”


As alluded to by other posters, cash-only receiptless businesses are notorious for being used for money-laundering. Laundromats, arcades, small restaurants, and vending machines are prime candidates.

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My closest run-in with the business was in my elementary school years. An old couple lived right across the boulevard from my suburban primary school and took turns as crossing guards during school hours. The rest of the time, the ran vending machines around the city. Think of it as tax-free retirement income.

“On average, one vending machine brings in $309. but don’t forget the operating costs”

A professional copy editor on top of all the typos and grammar errors could also help with these sort of omissions.

Is that $309 a day? a month? a year? the lifespan of the machine?


Tax Free? how? you mean they committed tax fraud? neat.

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That was mentioned above. A cash-only business sans receipts certainly provides opportunities.

When I was a kid I worked at a pizza joint that had those twisting handle vending machines. We would have to fold boxes and where the doodad that pops out so you can open the pizza box out would pop a little round cardboard bit of refuse. BUT! They happened to be approximately the same size and thickness as a quarter and you didn’t even have to force it into the slot and twist the handle. It just worked. Boy was the vendor pissed when he would come to collect his quarters and out would drop nothing but cardboard circles.


Also, I would imagine that tax-free cigarettes played a role in that somehow.