Trials And Tribulations Of Vending Theft: Part Two

Dec. 12, 2013

Last month we reported on the types of vandals that cause the vending industry a lot of money and time. In this next post, I’d like to discuss the most common types of vending theft, the process after a theft has occurred and some technology operators have that minimizes their risk of theft.

Common types of theft and contacting the police

For starters, the majority of vandals will target the cashbox. The “how” part is where it gets both complicated and frustrating. “They’ll pry open a door, they’ll take a torch to it – I had a guy who took a blow torch to the bezel and it was a metal bezel and the thing still worked,” said one technology manufacturer. Vandals will oftentimes drill a pin hole into the key handles and pop the lock. “It will do damage to the t-handle,” an Arizona operator said. “We haven’t seen that lately, fortunately.” To get to machine products, however, the Arizona operator mentioned another alternative: “They’ll drill holes in the top, too. We train our route driver that if they see coat hangers around the machine, to start looking for holes. Those are everyday, normal thefts.”

So what do you do when this happens to you? Although it may seem fruitless to call the police, do so. “Just get a record. It’s worth reporting because it’s a felony if they do over $1,200 of damage.” In addition, most companies do their own investigation by taking a service technician out to the location.

For most operators, drilling out locks and t-handles are the most common types of thefts.

Importance of location

Location also plays a huge role when placing machines and can also heavily impact theft to your machine. “Placement is very important. We try to veer away from the locations high in theft, but it doesn’t completely go away,” the Arizona operator said. “When we are choosing to service a location, the neighborhood and crime rate is a huge factor to whether or not we put one there.” He continued saying that in his experience, vandals have most often targeted his machines in apartment buildings and hotels. He recommends putting in cages or security to deter thefts, but ultimately, believes that if they aren’t generating enough revenue, get rid of the machine at that location or, in the case of motels/hotels, move to cashless vending. “The worst part of vending vandalism is the damage criminals generate. They can cost $1,000 in damage and get only $200 in product and/or cash,” he continued.

Technology and security

Integrating technology that is readily available can play a huge role in securing your machines. For a Phoenix-based operator, text alerts to her phone - using Cantaloupe technology - have saved her thousands of dollars in vending damage and helped her catch multiple criminals. “There are a couple of us in the organization who have text alerts. I’ve been with Cantaloupe since 2005.” She began working with Cantaloupe to set up text alerts directly to her phone. “When I get an alert, it wakes me up and I have a way of catching them. It’s only been four years since I’ve had this, but we’ve put probably a dozen people behind bars because of [the technology].”

Before the text alerts, the operator described her machines as “sitting ducks.” With no way to view when doors were being opened, the operator said that her business was reactive when it came to vending crimes, but there was no way to catch the criminal and she was just losing money.

“Vandalism comes in waves. It’s not a big deal for us. It’s nice when we know it happens, though. With text alerts, we can get a guy out there to fix the vandalism and no one knows that it even happened.”

Additional operators install video surveillance in and surrounding machines.

Do you have a vending theft story that you’d like to share with us? Feel free to call or email me at [email protected] or (920) 563-1651.

About the Author

Adrienne Klein | Contributing Editor

Adrienne Zimmer Klein is a freelance writer with a background in the vending, micro market and office coffee service industry. She worked at Automatic Merchandiser and from 2013 until February of 2017.