A vending machine is a device that dispenses a product or service when money is put into it. Vending machines dispense many types of merchandise, including candy, cigarettes, chewing gum, and soft drinks. In some areas, drive-in vending machine centers are open 24 hours a day. They sell prepared foods, grocery items, and beverages.
Many businesses, schools, and hospitals use special types of vending machines in their lunchrooms. These machines dispense beverages, soup, sandwiches, desserts and even complete hot meals. Vending machines in some airports sell air travel insurance. Coin-operated washing machines and dry-cleaning machines are familiar service vending machines.
How Vending Machines Work
Most vending machines accept coins only. With some types, the user must insert the exact change before the machine will operate. With others, the user can insert a coin larger than the purchase price. The machine will refund the proper amount of change along with the item. Some vending machines, known as currency-changers, will even accept paper money and make change. Some vending machines can distinguish between bills of different denominations. They return the proper amount of change for each denomination that they can accept.
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A device that dispensed holy water in a Greek temple in Alexandria, Egypt, in the 200's B.C. is the earliest known vending machine. The first vending machines in the United States, chewing gum dispensers, appeared on New York City train platforms in the late 1880's. Cigarette vending machines first appeared during the 1920's. Since that time, vending machines have developed into a major U.S. industry. In the early 1980's, over $14 billion a year worth of goods were sold using vending machines.
The Vending Machine Industry is composed of manufacturing companies, operating companies, and companies that supply the products sold in the machines. The manufacturers produce the machines. The operating companies place them in suitable locations, and keep them stocked and in proper working order.
Operating companies can sometimes pay a fee to the owner of the location where a machine is placed for the use of his space. If so, the fee paid to the owner of the location is based on the sales the vending machine makes.