Saturday, September 15, 2007

Thanks for the gumball!

I remember that old commercial that used to be on TV when I was a kid, and how I always wanted my own gumball dispensing machine, particularly the one with the Mickey Mouse head like on TV. Unfortunately Santa Clause never came through on that wish for me, and I never got the opportunity to thank Mickey for the gumball!

Now that I'm older, and I've got over the need for my own gumball machine at home, but I do still take notice of the vending machines at the local supermarket and shopping centers. I don't think I've ever passed one where some lucky child is getting the thrill of turning a coin for a treasure to pop out of the slot, whether it's a gumball, a handful of sweeties or miniature bobble head packed in a plastic capsule.

I find most of these machines you see all look the same, just with different fillings, but the design of the actual machine itself is the same in the supermarket here as the one in the shopping center over there. That's because most of them are vendstar
machines. Vendstar is the largest bulk vending machine manufacturer in the world.

At my previous job, we used to have a few of these machines in our establishment, and got to know the girl that owned these machines. Her husband had started this little side business when he invested in a few machines, but had passed away suddenly, and she had taken it over. She used to come in once a week to empty the coins, refill the goodies that needed filling and polish the machines. Although she left with a only a small bag of quarters, that was only one of her stops, and she told me it was one of her slower spots (this was a gambling establishment with no children to spin quarters in the machines), she said she was making a decent monthly profit from the 20 or so machines she had in various locations around the area. And the thing she liked about it, was that she set her own hours, so she could work around her children's schedules with school and sports activities. I think a small business like this is great for people like her -- moms with small children, retirees and even people with disabilities that disallow them the opportunity to take on a position with another company. Those quarters add up fast when you're rolling them, and when you roll in to the bank with ten rolls, that's a $100 bill in your pocket!


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