The Wheel Of Death -- Be Gone

Sept. 19, 2012

Recently, I was enlightened by an industry member about the alternate name for a cold food carousel — "the Wheel of Death."

This person had reviewed two proposals, from separate companies, which both referred to fresh food machines as the wheel of death, inferring that the food sold from the machine is such bad quality, it can kill you.

There's even a wheel of death blog, which follows the poster through various foods purchased from the food carousel. The postings are mostly humorous and just as often positive as negative. Strangely, the postings stopped last year. And maybe that's a good sign that the phrase is fading.

I searched for other references to the wheel of death as it related to vending and came up with a blogger who wrote about it back in 2006 and 2008. Neither opinion piece was complimentary, but what I found interesting was the food offerings pictured in the blogs. In 3 years the food went from national brand sandwiches to commissary items with professional looking labels. While still trying to poke fun at the wheel of death, the blogger had a harder time making a salad labeled "Healthy Decisions" seem like a poor food choice that would kill you. And he hasn't written about the wheel of death since.  

Vending: positive image on the rise

The industry, including the National Automatic Merchandiser Association (NAMA), has done a lot to help the image of vending. It's a shame this phrase is still uttered by those inside the organization.  Operators who offer fresh food and carefully monitor dates should flaunt the fact. I say make it known you're checking. I've seen food packages with two-digit numbers stamped with fading ink, and I've seen professional looking labels that have clear, concise "best by" dates. One definitely inspires me to buy over the other. 

In fact, I was in the breakroom the other day, and came across a co-worker contemplating the fresh food carousel. Head close to the plastic slider, he was trying to see the food inside. He explained he was hesitant to buy food from a machine. I pointed out the expiration date, and it surprised him. He hadn't even noticed it was there. Later, he told me he was pleasantly surprised by the taste of the food.

Too many operators have committed money, time and their own sweat to changing the perception of vending food, so let's make a pledge to never use the phrase "Wheel of Death" in the vending industry again.