Vending Machine Operator

What They Do

Insider Info

Vending machine operators manage, control and supervise the workings of vending machines. They may maintain the machines, rent them out to businesses, install them, provide customer service, research potential locations and perform an array of other duties.

There are basically two routes you can go to get into the vending machine business. You can work for an already established company, or you can head out on your own, purchasing vending machines and finding the most profitable locations to store them.

First, you've got to decide what type of vending you want to get into. Among the types of vending now available are coffee, soda and candy. Advances in technology have expanded available products to include hot canned food, refrigerated sandwiches, dairy products and even frozen food.

According to the National Automatic Machine Association, vending dates back to 1888 when the Adams Gum Company installed a penny gum-dispensing machine on train platforms. Gum candy is still popular, even today. It is classified under the term "bulk vending," which includes those novelty toys kids love to handle in grocery stores.

Once you've chosen your vending machines, you need to find the best locations. The product offered must match the needs of the people who are going to see the machine. A vending machine that offers stuffed animals and plastic toys won't make much money in the lobby of a law firm!

Servicing the machines is an important step that can't be forgotten. This means more than just dropping by every month or so to pick up your change. An ugly, dented vending machine doesn't attract customers. It's even possible for a poorly serviced machine to hurt the businesses around it. Shop owners have been known to pay a competitor to get the eyesore off the property.

Coins must be collected from machines; merchandise needs to be restocked; labels for new products have to be changed; and temperature gauges require adjustment to keep items fresh, in accordance with public health guidelines.

Most machines are pretty straightforward although this largely depends on the product. Repair work on a machine that dispenses potato chips is far less complex than work on fancy cappuccino dispensers. For most machines, repairs would involve testing the handles, springs, plungers and the chute, along with the coin operation itself.

Sometimes faulty parts are fixed on site, but other problems may have to be fixed at the company shop.

Most large vending machine companies are located in major metropolitan areas. There, employers will likely look for students who have completed high school and can be relied on to turn in the huge amounts of cash these machines generate.

Personal characteristics that are useful in this career include being able to get along with others and having a tidy professional appearance. You'll also most likely need a commercial driving license plus a solid driving record.

Vending machines are quickly being installed in all kinds of buildings, and technology is allowing them to contain an ever-increasing variety of products. If North America goes the route Japan has already taken, we may end up seeing everything distributed through vending machines -- even alcohol, soap and books.

Vending machines will continue to become more automated. Some new machines will even be able to signal the vending machine company when they need to be restocked or repaired, allowing service workers and repair people to be dispatched only when needed.

The National Automated Merchandising Association (NAMA) warns people looking to get started in this career to watch out for scams. Investigate any companies that you deal with. NAMA provides a list of authorized vending machine companies, and they also post warnings about scams.

In particular, NAMA warns people to be wary of business opportunity ads, locators (people who charge fees in exchange for finding the perfect location) and "warehouse club" machines. Above all, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That said, the majority of those involved in this industry are honest and trustworthy.

At a Glance

Maintain, service, sell, stock and market vending machines

  • Location can be key to a successful vending machine
  • Some technical knowledge is important
  • People can either own their own business or work for others