Friday, July 28, 2006

Mean machine

How difficult can it be to purchase, stock and maintain a sweet-vending machine? We have one in our office next to the watercooler and the microwave, around which vile vapours swirl. There used to be a coffee machine, but it croaked after six months, all its arteries clogged. There's also a Coke machine which seems to be lurking uneasily waiting for customers.

Anyway, about this sweet-vending machine: I suspect the bean counters bought it as a reconditioned unit from the Seventies. The choc bars and other comestibles are inserted into metal coils. When you put your coins into the slot, the coils turn and slowly expel your chosen bar, which then falls a long way to land with a thump like a suicide in a kind of trough. You then have to rummage around in this filthy recess to find your bar which is, natch, broken. All this is on a good day. In practice, several odd problems tend to thwart the purchaser.

1. The person who packs the coils has a policy of using up the old stuff while pushing the latest overstocked items from the canteen. So if you want, say, a mint Aero, you may find the new stock queued up behind a plain brown Aero and, say, a Mars bar. WTF? as they say.

2. The machine has a mercurial disposition when it comes to accepting coins. One two-rand piece might be accepted, the next declined. And so on. Or it takes the money -- and doesn't record the fact ...

3. OK, let's say the conditions are right, your payment is registered in the little display, and the bar of your desiring is available at the front of the coil. You press the tit. The coil slowly unwinds like a satiated snake; and jams with your Aero poised above the chasm.

This is where it gets interesting. Some people swear and shoulder-charge the machine. Others try to shake loose their choc. This is sheer macho overreach; the machine weighs tons, apparently. Yet others bang on the glass. Nothing ever works. You have to get on the blower to the canteen manager.

You report that the machine has eaten your money but failed to deliver on its side of the bargain. After a couple of hours, she comes down and says: "Who was trying to get a green Aero?" You trot up, get the once-over and finally the machine is unlocked and you are given an Aero. If you haven't gone for lunch or died..

I say again: How difficult can it be to purchase, stock and maintain a sweet-vending machine? And hasn't the technology progressed at all in the past, say, 50 years?


Blogger BiScUiTs said...

Those coil things are weird and annoying, in fact there's one at the train station and there's often a sign saying 'out of order' on it!

1:34 PM  
Blogger hendrix said...

"How difficult can it be to purchase, stock and maintain a sweet-vending machine?"

Obviously very difficult. The experiences you've just described are standard for just about every vending machine I've ever encountered.


maybe they were designed to work that way and so the problems not them - but us?

10:48 PM  
Blogger First Nations said...

oh yes, they cheaped out on you. over here those machines are 'maintained'(using the word loosely) by the bottom-rung catering services...the ones who turn in the lowest bids. git on the blower yourself and call a good company to send over a salesperson. they will be more than happy to hop on over without telling a soul who called. they'll underbid and you'll get nice candies. (take it from the lady who had to deal with this crap as a receptionist everywhere she ever worked until she wanted to scream and set things on fire because dammit this is not what i went to school for etc etc)

6:34 PM  
Blogger DavetheF said...

I'd do that if I didn't suspect that this is all connected to our el cheapo canteen provider. It's called Feedem. I never go there.

Hendrix, I have this sense that machinery is out to get me as well. My car is very treacherous. I have beaten household appliances to death in my time.

9:06 PM  
Blogger hendrix said...

The treachery of cars makes Macbeth look honest.

11:45 AM  

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