If you've done your research on bulk vending, or vending in general, then you've read at least one article with promises of "thousands of dollars with no effort needed!" Well, you won't find those claims in this article because I'm going to tell you the truth and break down exactly how that truth works. Don't worry, this isn't a doom and gloom article! It is very possible to do well in bulk vending; work is involved, know-how is involved, and a few tips and tricks won't hurt either. So continue reading if you are ready to be one step closer to starting your own business and making your own progress which will result in a rising cash flow.
So, you're ready to get into the bulk vending scene, but you're asking yourself "where do I start?" The starting place should NOT be in a retail store or a catalog looking at brand new machines. Buying bulk vending machines new can keep your business finances in the red for a long time.
Search for your beginning machines on ebay.com, craigslist.org, sometimes even amazon.com will have some good deals. Ebay and Craigslist are loaded with excellent quality machines from sellers who gave up after reading articles telling them how rich they would be in three months and when it doesn't happen, they sell out. These barely second-hand machines will match the quality of a brand new one for less than half the price. A lot of these people just want out and want the equipment out of their garage taking up all of the room. Not to sound callous or cold hearted, but they WILL take less than asking price. Depending on the number of machines, you can easily work the deal to your favor.
I would never pay over $100 for a triple head bulk vending machine and never over $50 for a single head with a stand, and it better be nice for $50. I actually prefer to use triple head machines since there are a few options there to play with. With that said, singles definitely have their place and will do very well too, but more on all of that later.
Now you have your first gently used bulk vending machine for less than $100. What is going to go in this thing?? This is where it can get interesting and take some strategy. Yep, candy involves strategy! Let's say you've purchased my go to machine which is called a "1-800 Vending". Don't let the poor choice in name fool you, it's a solid machine and has made me a lot of money! The 1-800 has three heads so you will need to choose 3 different products after determining what location this machine will be in.
There are a couple of ways to obtain locations for your bulk vending machine. Some people prefer to use the most cost-effective way and go door to door themselves and simply ask business owners if they would like to place a vending machine in their lobby as an added service for their customers to enjoy. But, some people like to avoid the high failure rate of the self locating method and hire a locating service that specializes in locating vending machines. These services are essentially telemarketers who call business after business in your predetermined zip code until they get a yes and then charge you between $25 and $35 for the service.
After trying self locating several times, I decided that I prefer hiring an outside locator for a couple of reasons: First, it's tough to get out there as often as it takes to get a good amount of positive replies. Not that you will be chased out with a shotgun but people are generally skeptical of things that won't cost them money to have and just get stuck on saying "no". Secondly, locating is very time consuming and if you are like most people with a full-time job with vending on the side then that time just isn't there and you can hire someone else to work for you while you work at your 9 to 5. Locator fees usually are around $30 per triple head machine give or take $5 depending on what company you choose. If you select your locations carefully and give the locator specific directions on what kind of business you want your machine in then you can recoup that $30 in 1 to 2 months or less. If you are REALLY tight on funds then give the self locating a shot. You never know, you might be an excellent sales person and get "yes's" left and right.
Choice in location and what product/machine combination to use there is the strategic part. You want to identify your target customer. Will you be placing this machine in an industrial mechanics shop or a family restaurant? I've had both locations and the customer's taste varies quite a bit. In my mechanics location I tried running candy at first because that was one of my first locations and I thought candy is what had to go in vending machines. A couple of items did well, but the skittles did not move at all, maybe one or two quarters in the tray. I switched out the triple head machine for a single head with cashews, which run a little bit higher of a cost but they sold very well, made me money, and free'd up one of my triples for a location it could be of better use.
On the other hand, cashews would not work well at the family restaurant. They might have done better than skittles at a mechanic shop but still not well enough. So, instead I ran candy items and gumballs there and the gumballs were almost empty every month.
A lot of my locations just took a little but of experimentation to figure out what the good sellers were in that market. It doesn't hurt to ask the people working there what they would like to see in the machine, either. People love to have a choice in these things and that will almost guarantee you better sales.
After my bulk vending machines were placed came the easier part of the business: upkeep. Once a month I visit each machine, clean it, refill it, and of course collect the money. Most workers in the businesses pay no attention to who I am or what I am doing so it doesn't take much on a personal skill level but it never hurts to be friendly with the people providing your machine a place to stay!
Doing a monthly function on each machine is important. You do not want to fill a machine up that has been vending more than the selection you made when placing the wheel or one that vends nothing at all, both things will make you lose money and customers. Feed a quarter through each wheel to make sure it works correctly, doesn't feel like it's about to break, and isn't jamming. The whole process from walking in to walking out takes 5-10 minutes.
Now the important part- money! My highest grossing machine is a triple head 1-800 that averages $39 per month and requires, on it's own, 5-10 minutes of work per month. The averages of all of my machines is just under $15 per month per machine. So, vending can be kept as a part time job/hobby or you can expand expand expand untill you have a route of 400 machines making you $6,000 a month. That's only servicing 100 machines per week at let's say 8 minutes each is only 13 hours of work per week.
It will absolutely take time to build a route that large, but depending on where you live there are routes for sale everyday (craigslist) and I have had friends expand like wild fire by acquiring routes. All it takes is a little bit of drive and you can build your own vending empire.
Vending can be fun, and very profitable. You can manage to get the $100+ per month locations but don't believe the people telling you that they are easy to obtain or that every location is like that. Take it one step at a time and put effort into it, like anything else, and you will be rewarded. Feel free to leave comments on this article and I will get back to everyone. Good luck!