How to Use a Vending Machine

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Chips, candy bars and sodas are the most common products in vending machines.
Chips, candy bars and sodas are the most common products in vending machines. (Image: chips image by Bruno Bernier from Fotolia.com)

Vending machines don't always supply the healthiest snacks, but they are indispensable resources for college students and night owls looking for something to tide them over when the nearby stores and restaurants are closed. Vending machines are very easy to use, and within seconds you'll be able to purchase your snack of choice.

Using a vending machine

As most vending machines take cash only, make sure you have the funds necessary to purchase the snacks inside. Most vending machines allow you to use any combination of one-dollar bills, quarters, dimes and nickels to purchase your snacks. Larger bills, pennies, Sacajawea dollars and other odd bits of change are generally not accepted.

Look at the snacks and/or sodas inside the vending machine, or, if the actual snacks cannot be seen, the pictures and/or lists of available snacks and/or drinks depicted on the machine. Each item will have a price listed next to it. Decide which item you would like to purchase, and take out enough money to pay for the item. If the machine indicates that you must use exact change, count out the amount exactly equal to the price listed next to the snack. If the machine has no such indication, you will usually be able to pay an amount more than or equal to the listed price.

Insert your money into the vending machine. The machine will have a marked slot for coins and, if it accepts dollar bills, a separate, lit up, large horizontal slot for dollar bills. If you have a dollar bill you wish to use, make sure it's smooth, as vending machines often reject wrinkled or torn bills, and feed it face up into the horizontal slot. If the machine doesn't take your bill, try using coins instead, or smooth your dollar bill a second time. Feed any coins into the coin slot. Sometimes your coin will be rejected, and will fall down into the change dispenser near the bottom of the vending machine. If this happens, tap your coin onto metal and try again. Continue feeding bills and/or coins into the machine until you have paid the necessary amount to purchase the product. The machine will usually have a digital display to indicate how much money you have paid.

To tell the machine which product you want, you will either have to type in a number or press a button. On most soda machines, different types of sodas are marked on their own button. Press the button that goes with your beverage of choice. Most snack machines have letters and/or numbers that correspond to each snack. Look at the snack you want, and type the letters and numbers connected with that snack into the keypad on the front of the vending machine.

If all goes well, your snack will dispense. You will usually be able to see or hear the snack falling into the retrieval unit near the bottom of the machine. Push in the door of this retrieval unit, if a door exists, and retrieve your snack or drink.

Tips & Warnings

  • Sometimes, after paying and selecting your snack, the machine will indicate that they are out of the selected product. In this case, you may select an alternate snack using the money you have already paid, or you can hit the coin return button to get your money back.
  • Sometimes a snack will get stuck in a machine during the dispensing process, after you've already paid for it. In this case, you may write to the manufacturer listed on the side of the vending machine to request a refund.

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