Industrial Espionage In The Cola Wars

Vending MachinesNo Respect

Vending machines never get any respect. If you’re a YouTube aficionado, you have probably seen a video like this one, on how to hack a high-tech vending machine.

When I was a kid, there were still a few of the old single door vending machines around. You would put your money in, open the door, grab your choice of soda and pull it out. With a little finesse, you could grab 2 sodas and wiggle them both out for the price of one.

The Value of Vending Machines

Branding. Instead of paying for advertising, vending machines let you put lighted signs up all over the place, and YOU GET PAID for advertising your brand from the profits the machines make. There are a lot of more profitable venues as far as ROI is concerned, but the free advertising bonus that companies get from these machines is well worth the effort.

A Real Life Espionage Story

First off, no … this is not how I suggest you zoomstart your business. It’s just a funny story and it really happened. It’s funny because what these guys did was so ridiculously simple.

The story involves two cola giants; Coke and Pepsi. I heard it a few years ago so I forget exactly who was on the receiving end and what the exact prices were, but it goes like this:

Most vending machines today have digital displays that show you the pricing. A number of years ago they just had a sticker on the front that told you the price. At this time let’s say the price of a soda from a vending machine was 85 cents.

A couple of salesmen from one of the above companies printed up a bunch of stickers that said 75 cents and they went around putting these stickers on all their competitors machines. Now you have a situation where people are putting 75 cents into a vending machine and getting nothing because the machine is still waiting for that last 10 cents! You know that’s going to tick off some customers and make them hate your brand.

On the flip side, the next person would plug in their 75 cents, get a soda and 65 cents in change back. It’d be like playing a slot machine … ding ding ding ding ding! Then the cycle starts all over again.

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