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Owning a Vending Machine Business

Vending machines are practically everywhere -- and for good reason: they can sell products to consumers around the clock without the cost and hassles of a sales staff. The owner just maintains the machines (restocking the merchandise and collecting the money) on their own schedule.

If you're interested in setting up your own vending business, here are some tips:

  • Determine what products you want to vend. Vending machines sell drinks, candy, or snacks. Money can also be made on non-food items such as toys, trinkets, and costume jewelry, and cash.
  • Find busy locations where there is a need for your product such as offices and manufacturing plants; hotels and motels; retail stores and shopping malls; waiting rooms (at auto repair shops and dealers, hospitals, transit stations, etc.); gyms and athletic facilities, both indoor and outdoor; parks, beaches, and recreation areas.
  • Determine what government licenses you need to vend your product as there may be restrictions on what types of machines are legal in your area. In particular, be careful with machines that can be construed as offering games of chance.
  • Convince the owners of the locations you target to let you set up machines there. When you are starting out, you probably will have a higher success rate in dealing with other small businesses. The people who control the site may ask for a fixed amount per month, a share of the proceeds, a share with a minimum payment, or some combination thereof. They also may have some input into what they think is appropriate to sell, and they may set standards for your response time when machines are empty or malfunctioning.
  • Research your suppliers. Understand what terms they will offer you, based on the amount you expect to buy. The less quantity you sell, the thinner your profit margins, which will make recouping your investment in the machines unduly long.
  • Before buying a vending machine, understand the warranty terms, how much mechanical expertise you will need to keep it in working order, and what support the seller of the machines will offer you (and at what cost and timeliness) if you run into mechanical problems that you cannot fix on your own. Be wary of cheaply made machines with plastic parts in key mechanisms

    that experience much wear, such as the money collection system. Trying to cut costs by using less durable machines can create more headaches and expense in the long run. Look for vending machines that offer you maximum flexibility in interchanging products.

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