There was a time early in my studies when I was emptying a machine in front of a store, and I was emptying it completely by continually pressing the quarter button on the changer to empty it.
I was actually sitting on the ground inside the open machine door, and when I got up to close it, an employee of the business was there looking at me. I explained that the machine had been having problems, and that they should now be solved. I then got in my car and drove away. Another time a janitor walked up behind me while I was emptying the bills out of a changer. I proceeded to close the machine, and put a bill through to "test" it. I said out loud to myself, "Works fine now," and walked away.
Changing the lock to another lock of the same type. In one town there were two adjacent hotels, each with about eight machines. After about three trips, hotel A changed its locks. After the fourth trip, hotel B did the same. At this point, both hotels were keyed the same!
After the fifth trip, hotel A now changed to a different style lock, but hotel B is still on the same lock. In a similar vein, there was one location with four vending machines with the same locks, and a change machine with a disk tumbler lock. For some strange reason, the third time I visited that location, the change machine lock had been changed to a different lock. So I emptied all four and the change machine.
I hope you put some of this shared knowledge to good use. It may save your business from a major loss some day.
About the author: Lowell Johnson is a pseudonym for a convicted vending burglar. Automatic Merchandiser reviewed his court records and agreed not to use his real name.
Vending burglar's tips on preventing external theft
- Spend the money on a good lock, for which no pick is made. A simple Internet search for lock picks will give you about 500 websites, about half of which sell them. Many locks are just too easy to get picks for to use them to secure your assets. I would suggest either an electronic lock, which uses keys that are cut at angles and heights, or locks which use different key shapes and round tumblers.
- When in doubt, talk to a locksmith.
- Location, location, location. Yes, I'm sure you've heard it before. But you have to know that the only secure site is one under direct physical observation by an aware employee all the time. I have emptied many machines within 6 feet of an attendant behind a counter. But if they need to stick their head over the counter to see the machine, it's not really being observed. And I can be so quiet opening a machine that it sounds like I just bought a product.
- Put padlocks on the machine. But one word of advice. Padlocks vary in quality. A poor one won't take long to pick. It seems from my research that a good padlock will cost much more than a good lock on the machine to begin with.
- Use security cameras. But two points. Stay away from fake cameras (yes, I can tell the difference!) and mount them where they cannot be reached. I have occasionally walked into a location and reached up and redirected the camera away from the machines, or just unplugged it. If I go back later and nobody has fixed it, I know it's not looked at very often. And please don't mount a camera (as did one location) so that it could observe all the video games but not the change machine (which contained $1,400). Hidden cameras are not needed. The more visible they are, the better. And yes, after visiting one site for the fifth time, I thought the smoke detector looked different, so I made a loop of duct tape and covered it.
- Change your route schedules periodically. I can calculate your route service days. If you refill the machines and empty the money on Wednesday, sometimes I will visit on Friday or Monday. When you go on Wednesday, there are some bills in the machine, and (assuming I left the change) a bit of change.