Monday, February 14, 2011

What the Change?

Vending machines fascinate, vex and confound me. For such a ubiquitous and long-lived technology, vending machines never seem to quite work. Soda machines keep the sodas too warm (or, rarely, dispense a can or bottle of solid ice). Sometimes, you press a button and nothing comes out. Other times, you press a button and something other than what the button is labeled with comes out. The "sold out" light for your preferred item shows up with far too great a frequency.

Perhaps the most confounding and annoying is the coin return. Many times no change is returned. Often, incorrect change is returned. And, even when the amount returned is correct, it's never returned in an ideal mixture.

Case in point, today at work. Our soda machine charges $1.35 for a 20oz bottle of soda. Fortunately, it generally accepts dollar bills. Today was one such lucky day. I put my two dollar bills in and hit the button. I heard the familiar churn and thunking-tumble of the soda's fall (it always sounds like it's falling from the TOP of the machine). I waited a few more seconds to hear if it was going to try to give me my change. Eventually, the coin return mechanism began to churn. It sputterd forth my 65-cents change. However, when I looked in the return slot, I found nothing but nickels. Awesome.

Other times, I have the joy of having to get my money back after it tells me that my soda choice is not available (what happened to the individual "out of selection" lights for each button just staying lit?). Given the price of the sodas, it's generally a case of shoving two dollar bills into the machine. However, when you have to get your money back, instead of simply returning the two dollar bills, it spits back an array of coins. Dammit: I don't need money for the laundromat and I don't need money for parking (many locations around here have switched to centralized parking kiosks that take credit cards - at $2/hr for street parking they kind of have to). So, why does my selection-bereft soda machine insist on giving me coins back for my dollars??


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