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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: Disgruntled Location Owner Tells Why Bulk Vending Equipment Isn't Welcome At His Brooklyn, NY, Store

Posted On: 3/19/2007

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NEW YORK CITY -- Most every operator has run into a location owner who doesn't want a bulk vending machine in his or her store for any reason. In some cases, this is because these owners don't feel bulk vending fits in with customers or decor, but other times this hostility toward the industry is based on a history of unpleasant experiences.

Some disgruntled location owners have sworn off bulk vending forever, and VT recently conducted an exclusive interview with one who takes this stance. His mom-and-pop store, located in a prime corner in Brooklyn, NY, is by every standard an excellent bulk vending location, except that he routinely turns down offers to place any type of coin-operated equipment, including bulk vending.


VT: You have what we call in New York, a bodega, basically a grocery store. How would you describe the store and the customers?

MARIO: It's nothing special, a neighborhood place. We have close to 1,500 sq.ft., which is about average, a little larger. The customers are mostly neighborhood people, a lot of kids and families. In case you didn't notice, this is a Spanish neighborhood.

And you hate bulk vending, right?

I don't hate it, I mean, it's a machine, right? It's one of those deals that seems like it should work, but it doesn't seem to for me. I showed you the machines in the basement. I have four machines -- two of those little plastic ones, a big one with seven machines on it, and another with nine machines on it. The guys just left them here.

Abandoned them?

Right. They just stopped showing up. So, when the machine gets empty, I put it in the basement. Each time I called a couple of times and only got an answering machine. A couple more weeks and I open them for the money. I got a couple hundred dollars out of the big ones, maybe $20 or $30 out of the little ones.

So, that's your complaint? Abandoned machines?

It's a lot of stuff. One guy, I could tell you his company, but I won't, he was a racist. Somebody broke one of his machines. That kind of thing happens here. And he starts in on me about how I have to watch them better, then he starts in on one of my customers with "What's wrong with you people?" stuff. I told him to pack up, right then.

Another thing is that the machines break and nobody comes out to fix them for a month. I end up giving away quarters in refunds. Another guy, when the machines were empty -- I mean right down to the metal -- he gave me $25. I saw what he took out of there and it was nowhere near what we agreed on. That's when those little Homies dolls were big. After school there'd be four or five kids lining up to buy them. My own kids bought a couple out of the machine. The guy was stealing from me. I told him to take the machines out and he acted like he didn't know why I was mad.

How many guys have you had in here with machines?

We've been here almost 20 years, I'd say six or seven. The last was the last one. No more. For the money I'm getting back, it isn't worth it. 

What would it take to get another bulk vending machine in your store?   

A gun, maybe. If I ran my business the way some of these guys run their businesses, I wouldn't have lasted. If I call to say that a machine broke, then return the call. Tell me when you're going to be out to fix it or tell me how to fix it. If I call my beer distributor, he's out in a second -- before I hang up the phone. Same with cold cuts, ice cream, anything. I know with the vending people it's not as much money, but make an effort at least, right? Make an effort.

Any other complaints?

Dozens. How many do you want? You know the plastic capsules the toys come in? One guy wouldn't clean them up. It's not a big deal, I clean them up every day. But he comes, collects the money, puts new stuff in the machines and he's stepping on them. He could have picked up a couple, thrown them away. Good manners, you know?

How about giving advice to the other bulk vendors out there to keep their accounts?

How about they show up on time, pick up around the machine, answer their phones and don't try to rip me off? I was moving the big machines into the store at night and out in the morning for them. And they're going to steal from me? I don't think so.   

That, I think, falls under the "service" category.

It's called doing your job.