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Money-grubbing Coke Machines

Written by: Skewer < >
Created Oct 19 2000, modified Oct 19 2000

Coke Machine Conspiracy

This really bugs me. I go to buy a Dr. Pepper out of a Coke machine. Sometimes, I will have to settle for Mr. Pibb, but that's beside the point. I put my money into the machine and commence to make my selection. However, the drink doesn't come out as expected. Instead, although there was no indication of it before I inserted my money, the machine was sold out, as displayed on the machine's small display. How could I have known that the machine was sold out? Until I entrusted my money to this metal cube-shaped thief, it looked just like any other fully stocked machine. The worst part is, while some machines will return your money, some won't, particularly when using dollar bills (considering how hard it is to get one in there, one might expect it to be easier to get it back out).

Could I have found out that the machine was sold out before inserting my money? Perhaps. I have done some research on machines that were sold out of my favorite soda selection, by pressing the appropriate button BEFORE inserting any money. How the machines behave when I do this varies greatly. Some machines displayed "sold out." Some did this, and also flashed a little "sold out" bulb. (Another interesting note, on one occasion, this bulb continued to flicker, indicating that the machine was partially sold out, but this behavior stops after the next purchase or insertion of money, so a potential solution to the problem ended up failing, just like everything else.) However, I did find a few machines, which displayed the price of the item in question before I inserted the money, while they still read "sold out" after inserting the money. Why do these machines attract customers using false advertising? Furthermore, how does this affect the restocking of the machine? Do vendors even know when the machine is sold out of a certain drink? Customers sure don't!

I have only noticed this behavior on Coca-cola machines. Pepsi machines, for the most part, use the old-fashioned system where each product button has its own "sold out" light. However, this doesn't help my solution much, as Pepsi machines rarely contain Dr. Pepper (and only in Colorado does Pepsi's version of the soft drink, called "Dr. Wells," exist). One question that pops into my mind: Why do Coke machines behave in this strange manner? I can only think of one reason why Coke would make these coke machines behave so strangely: It's a conspiracy. Coca-cola wants money. Coca-cola wants customers to buy drinks that they do not prefer. Coca-cola wants to empty their machines as quickly as possible. Why does the customer have to know the machine is sold out? What if every company adopted this strategy? What if you went to a car dealership and paid in advance for a Lexus, only to discover that they were sold out, and end up driving home in a Honda? What if you purchased a large two-story house, only to find out that it had been sold, and instead getting a trailer? It may seem like peanuts in comparison, but nobody likes to get bait-and-switched out of as much as a dollar. I'm also sure that this makes floor managers in various places real happy, having to hand out refunds to every customer who lost their money in one of these red, glowing bandits. Can't Coca-cola get their money through legitimate means, considering how large of a company they already are?

[This article was written by Skewer, author of Buyer's Box and IEN.]

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