The Vending Machine 2 for 1 – Frugality or Stealing?

by The Happy Rock on June 19, 2008

vending-machine-stuck.jpgWe have all walked up to a vending machine and spotted a candy bar hanging on by a thread.  If it is something you like whatever, you feel like you hit the lottery! The cheapskate in me even considers buying something that I didn’t want just so I could get a two for one deal.    Occasionally, you can even shake it free without putting money in. For those that are afraid to shake the machines, just remember that they aren’t pinball machines, they won’t tilt.  You can really give them a shake.

Come on, you know you have had similar experiences.

It wasn’t until a few years ago that I stopped to consider that it might be stealing. Before you get too defensive let’s look at the definition of stealing.

stealing – to take (the property of another or others) without permission or right, esp. secretly or by force

I would say taking an item that someone else purchased without their permission from a vending machine would fits the definition of stealing.  There is a case to be made that it isn’t stealing, so I would love to hear your justifications.  The reason I think people often overlook that it might be stealing, is because there isn’t a clear cut course of action other than ignoring the situation which probably just means the next person will take it.

If you hadn’t though about it in this light before, then I accomplished my mission.

If you don’t care, put yourself in the shows of the person who spent there last dollar only to see the item get stuck .

If you agree that it is stealing, the next big question is who should we handle the situation?

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ed June 19, 2008 at 9:10 am

I have done the 2 for 1 before. I think of it more as “someone gave up getting their snack”. In that way it is more like, if someone retrieved their snack then just sat it on a counter and walked away. It sends the message, of “I changed my mind, I don’t want it”.

However, if MY snack got stuck in the machine, then I would probably hope that someone would return it to me.

I guess I have a contradiction. DANG! Thanks a lot Mr. Rock.


Tim Diehl June 20, 2008 at 8:40 am

Very thought provoking Hap. Another thought…somebody, somewhere is purchasing those snacks and trying to earn money based on the profits. Granted they may be overpriced, but isn’t our lottery their loss? It’s sort of the same principle behind whether or not you return to the store if you realize they didn’t charge you for a certain item. That being said, if you were going to purchase the hershey bar anyway and you’ve got a dangler that happens to come along with it, there’s not much you can do about it.


Ducreyi June 23, 2008 at 4:00 am

I experienced paying for sodas that do not come out. I also consider that stealing!


Raquel June 23, 2008 at 11:22 am

It’s definitely not stealing. Personally, I have lost $1 or $2 at a time for a measley bag of chips worth .75 cents. I’ve had my fair share of vending machine rip offs. In cases such as these I just feel as if I just got my moneys worth. I’m entitled to it.


Frugal Canadian Living June 24, 2008 at 8:32 am

The profit margin on vending machines is high. Most operators have factored in the cost of lost goods due to malfunctions. Even if you get two pops for the price of one, the vending machine operator is still making a profit.


Jeffrey June 26, 2008 at 12:02 pm

Sometimes the machines over-rotate after giving someone their item, so you aren’t harming the previous individual. The way I look at it, the machine has created the error. I might as well exploit it! The owner is responsible for the accuracy of his machines, so it’s his problem to fix.

I think have completely over-analyzed $0.60 candy now…


The Happy Rock June 26, 2008 at 12:48 pm

@Ed – Food for thought!

@Tim – I think you nailed saying that people don’t feel like there is much you can do about it. That is the crux of the problem IMO.

@Raquel – Is there a dollar amount that it becomes stealing?

@FCL – I agree profits are higher on vending machines, but I think we are talking about stealing something some other vendee paid for.

@Jeffrey – So by that argument its would be OK and legal to take extra money if an ATM gave you 4 times the amount you withdrew?


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