Consumer Buying Habits: Look How Far We’ve Come

Feb. 7, 2008
That's What I Think

I remember my mother’s reaction the day it came in the mail. It was the early 1960s and it was mailed directly to her without so much as a request. It just showed up in the mail box. It was a new “opportunity” coming to her from her local bank. They knew she would want it, everyone was getting one. Her friends and neighbors had one. You didn’t even have to fill out an application to receive one. It was … a credit card.


She was confused, upset and intrigued by the little white piece of plastic with the green bank logo. Confused because she didn’t completely understand the way this new card was going to work. Upset because by using this credit card she felt she would be telling everyone that she didn’t have money. As a child, she had grown up in the Great Depression and lived by the rule that you never bought anything unless you had the money to pay for it. And yet I know she was intrigued because this card would let her use next week’s money this week.


This first “opportunity” was placed back in the envelope. The envelope was closed neatly and placed on the top of the wall-mounted telephone in the kitchen. I’m not sure whatever happen to that first unsolicited credit card that my mother received, but I do know that she went on to become a multi-card carrying credit card user that relished in the freedom that using plastic wisely can offer.

I bring this up because today we are seeing these same reactions to “opportunities” that are being offered in the vending channel. New technology can be confusing to the end user and using a credit card to make a 55-cent purchase may seem embarrassing to some. But in the end, it’s really amazing what the little piece of plastic can do.

It’s no secret to those of us in the trade that vending operators are taking a cautious approach to installing credit and debit card readers.


It’s understandable not to want to invest money when you are unsure how long it will take to recover your investment. But at the same time, no one seriously believes that cashless isn’t changing the world as we know it.

Preschoolers use plastic to check out their library books. Elementary students use it to buy lunch. Teenagers and college students use them for everything. And whether it’s swipe, pass or tap, it’s all common practice to the next generation of consumers.

It may take some time, but cashless opportunities in vending will be received as well as the little plastic cards of the 1960s. Operators who position their companies and equipment as providers of this new opportunity will be ahead of the game.