Arwin was aware that vending technology was evolving, but he realized the technology was expensive. He wasn’t looking to offer cashless readers when he got a call from an account with 100 employees who asked him if he could provide credit card readers.
The account also wanted OCS and point-of-use water coolers, two things Arwin was not offering at the time. He decided it was time to learn about all three of these areas. He told the account he was interested in providing all of these services.
The account had also met with some larger vending companies, but Arwin offered something unique; the owner’s (his) cell phone number. Hence, he won the account.
Arwin installed USA Technologies readers, along with $5 bill acceptance and dollar coin payout, on the snack and beverage machines. This was his first exposure to cashless, and he was pleased with the results.
He wasn’t sure there wasn’t some cannibalization of cash sales, but one thing he noticed for sure was the higher priced items sold better than in accounts that didn’t have cashless readers.
Little did he know at the time that the account was about to increase its staff sevenfold. Arwin now has vending banks on four floors for this company.
The positive results with the cashless reader encouraged Arwin to offer cashless to more customers. Since he installed cashless, he has increased his higher ticket offerings in his machines, such as $2.50 energy drinks. Most of his glassfront beverage machines now have a full row of energy drinks.
New cashless concept emerges
In the meantime, a local technology company developed a cashless vending product using Bluetooth technology and was searching for vending operators to test its new concept. Arwin’s USI distributor, Sunstate Vending Equipment Co. in Apopka, Fla., referred the company, Coin Free Inc., based in Winter Park, Fla. to Arwin. Coin Free designs and distributes devices to support the acceptance of credit, debit and loyalty cards.
Coin Free developed a Bluetooth/wi-fi reader that communicates payment authorization through both serial (multi-drop bus machines) and electromechanical (older machines) systems. Customers can make purchases by downloading an app to their mobile phone, select from a list of products and prices on their phone, authorize the purchase on their phone, then make their selection from the vending machine.
The screen that appears on the phone gives a list of generic product categories, i.e., chips, and a price point. Once the customer has selected the category and the price, the credit or debit authorization is communicated to the Bluetooth modem on the machine. The customer then selects the specific product on the machine keypad. If the customer selects a product priced lower than the authorized amount, their account is credited the difference. If they select a product priced above the authorized value, the sale is denied.
The mobile phone needs to be within 30 feet of the modem to activate a cashless purchase. The device sits on the front of the machine above the keypad. The circuits inside the device connect to the machine’s MDB or, in the case of an electromechanical machine, to the vending machine controller. Arwin has the device on both MDB and electromechanical machines.
The cashless vending product, called the virtual universal wireless interface (VUWI®), can handle up to seven separate credit/debit or loyalty cards.
The last item on the screen is the entry of a personal identification number to be associated with a credit/debit or loyalty card. When activated for a given card, each time a purchase is made using that card, the system sends an email with details of that purchase to the given email address.
All VUWI data is stored on the Coin Free PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) compliant server, not in the customer’s phone. This way, the information is secure, should the customer misplace their phone.
There is no swiping the VUWI device on or near the machine. Hence, the device does not need to meet government reach requirements like controls on the machine.
The front of the device has a Bluetooth adapter. There is a label on the front of the adapter that says “Use your cell phone to make a purchase. No cash. No card. No problem.” A flashing LED light draws attention to the VUWI.