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Human beings are constantly inventing and developing new ways to do things and products to make life easier and more exciting. The vending machine is one such fantastic invention which the human race can boast about.

The term vending machine refers to a machine that dispenses items such as drinks, snacks, alcohol, cigarettes, lottery tickets, cologne and other consumer products, usually in return for money in the form of cash or credit card.

The vending machine as we know it evolved in the late 18th century at the birth of the Industrial age. The first vending machine dispensed postcards and was introduced to England in 1880. We’ve not looked back since! Several companies jumped on this innovation to maximize the sales of their products. By the end of the 19th century, vending machines had emerged almost all over the world, vending a wide variety of products ranging from hot meals and beverages to mobile phone accessories.

Beautiful vending

The vending mechanism has not always been as complex as it is today. You may be surprised to know that the use of vending machine can actually be traced back as far as the 1st century. Hero of Alexandria, a mathematician and engineer born in the 1st century, used a vending machine to dispense holy water.

The Hero of Alexandria’s vending machine required a coin to be inserted in order to dispense holy water. The inserted coin fell upon a pan attached to a lever, and the lever opened a valve which let some water flow out. The pan continued to tilt due to weight of the coin till it slipped down. At this point a counterweight snapped the lever and closed the valve.

The mechanism of modern age vending machine depends upon the product. For certain fast moving consumable goods, the product falls in the open slot after the payment is completed by the customer. For drinks and beverages there are knobs which when turned, activate a process whereby the drink will be poured into the glass put below by the customer.

Some products need to be freshly prepared like hot snacks, and tickets are printed on the spot. For all these products metal coils are used.

 

Advantages of Vending machines

Vending machines has given an altogether new meaning to the retailing business. Some of its advantages are as listed below:

  1. A vending machine in restaurants and shops can cut down on the manpower needed to cater to customer needs. It’s an easy self service machine.
  2. Since it is an automatic machine, it counts currency quickly and accurately itself.
  3. For the customers, the products available in vending machines are relatively cheap compared to full meals prepared in restaurant kitchens.
  4. Lastly, vending machines are now easily available wherever you are, be it home, office, market, railway station or airport. They are the most convenient way to quickly purchase the product you need.

Disadvantages of Vending machines

Along with the many advantages there are few disadvantages of vending machines.

  1. Vending machines can be very bulky and heavy when fully loaded. When the currency is inserted, the product falls into the open slot from a height. In this case if the inner lever tilts to 20 degrees then the whole machine can fall on the customer. There have been a few cases where customers have either died or survived with major injuries.
  2. Due to technical faults customers can occasionally get the wrong product for the currency they put in or the selection they make. In such cases there is not always customer support to help them.

Richard Woods is a writer for KLIX, the hot drinks vending machine division of Mars Inc.

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