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Getting started, location help

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For about a year now I've been telling myself I wanted to take up vending and see where it leads me. Initially my plan was to purchase an exsisting/route location from someone who was already established in the industry and take it over from there. I've had trouble finding people willing to sell their route/location. I discovered this site and now I want to buy my own machines and find locations myself. My problem is, I don't know exactly how to go about doing so. What approach did you guys take in asking companies to let you place a machine on their property? All advice is welcome, thanks in advance.

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I bought a couple stops off craigslist then offered $100 finders fee to people I knew for locations that I accepted and 10 years later I now have $55000 per year in sales. It was a slow process but I have now eliminated all the low accounts.


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Did you have to convince them to let you place the machines in your new accounts? And I've been looking into buying stops in Craigslist too, haven't seen many I think are worthwhile.

No they wanted vending machines to begin with I was just the one to offer to install and service them. Where are you located? I also see locations with machines at Merchant Mart.


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Starting might be the hardest part (same with any/all businesses). You need 10 or so just to rotate your product or your going to have a lot of stales. Try and find some decent cheap/equipment so you're not in over your head. A hotel or two would be a decent place to start as long as it's in a safe place near the front desk. Reason being, you can potentially have great margins and high foot traffic might prevent product from going out of date.

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The manager at the hotel to start with, but if it's foreign owned they will be wanting a cut from yea don't let them take more than 10%

If you get a hotel see if they will let you set some Gumball machine in as well, this way in the dead of winter when things are slow you can hit them to bring your sells up, don't touch them till things slow down, it's like a piggy bank

I have them at all my hotels n dealerships

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Save your money on buying Coke or Pepsi machines.  You can set up a 3rd party vendor account with either company and they loan you the machines for free.  There only requirement is that you buy your drinks from them and you need to average 100 cases per machine per year.  You wouldn't really want an account that does less then that anyways.  Most hotels have only Coke machines so I usually approach them and try to get them to get rid of half there Coke machines and put Pepsi machines in.  After 6 months or so and they see how good my service is I can usually talk them into letting me take over the Coke machines.  One thing I forgot to mention is since you are getting your machines from Coke you aren't suppose to go after there accounts so in that scenario I bought my own Coke machines to place in the hotels.  I usually buy them on Craigslist and refurbish them.  Mostly wants out there for sale are Pepsi machines so I would buy the DN 501 and replace the decals and the front signage with Coke and repaint them.  It is time consuming until you have done a few a have a method down.  I think the first one I did took me 2 to 3 hours to put the decals and signage on and now I can do the decals on both sides in under 15 minutes and the front signage in 30 minutes.

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I cannot speak for everyone here, but I am not the only one who feels like I got a lot better at finding and negotiating the purchase of machines or locations over time. What I felt was a good deal (and probably was a good deal!) last year is not as good as the deals I can get this year. Same story, year after year. Pro tip: When you have enough machines to have a good foundation of vending (might only take three or four machines to get there), then you do not feel as much pressure on yourself to make the next deal.


I am not the authority on such things, but there are a few things I would tell my younger self at the outset:


Product to Sell

-Not only is it hard to avoid stales with your first few snack machines, I would say that you should definitely expect stales throughout the first year. Pro tip: Stock what sells, but try to make those items snacks that you would not mind literally eating as a loss. A honey bun or three helps me drown my sorrows from a slower machine that I had to stock with short-dated honey buns to begin with.


-Sam's, Costco, and Wal-Mart to start. Get tax exempt status from each (Call or go to the customer service desk-no biggie). Move on to Vistar, Merchant's Mart, Restaurant Depot, or other local cash and carry wholesaler (many people on here are happy to share information). Pro tip: Try to have more than one supplier for any product you always want to have on hand.


Planning Ahead

-Get an accountant and/or a lawyer at the outset (or as soon as you can afford it). If you start some aspect of your business incorrectly, it could be a real pain to fix it later.

-Insure your walking-liability self. Vehicle and general liability insurance (including completed products coverage). Do not insure your machines (most of the time).

-Do not take legal, tax, or accounting advice from anyone who is not signing their name and professional license at the bottom of the page (that includes from me or anyone on this forum). Take their experiences and words into consideration, but follow the advice and counsel of someone who is signing their professional liability to your schemes.

-Do ask or search for what to expect in costs for accounting or legal counsel or for insurance. For that matter, ask about (or search) the cost of product, machines, moves, service, and parts on the forum.

-If you have any thoughts of growing to more than 20 machines, seriously consider keeping a spreadsheet (or a paper sheet) of machines, model numbers, serial numbers, coin mech model/serial, dollar bill validator model/serial and anything else you could ever imagine would become important. This should start as soon as you own your first machine.



-The best route vehicle you can start with is whatever is sitting in your driveway this very minute. Most customers do not care what you drive up in (especially if they know you are a hard worker, with a plan, and just starting out), as long as your machines, your product, and your self look presentable. I still use my Scion xB a lot ('sup AngryChris), but I have a great box truck and a few other vehicles, including my 75 Chevy Step-Van ('sup AngryChris). Just make sure you are not having to put your hands on the inventory too many times to move it from vehicle to vehicle. When you pick up a piece of inventory, the best place to put it is directly into a machine.


Get Machine-d Up

-Try to not be too rigid in strategy on buying new, used, refurbished, machines on location, in a storage unit, in a garage. You can miss opportunities if you skip over a newer soda and snack machine in a man-cave because you only buy warranteed refurbished machines.


-I would not tell anyone to not buy a combo snack/soda machine (because I own some, as do many people on the forum), but I would absolutely tell them to not expect one to be a magical pillar of revenue for their business. Seldom does placing a combo machine by itself (i.e. no full size machines elsewhere on the property) become a profitable move. More than just not holding as much inventory (ed. - But I can fill it every other day!), there are other reasons why combos are not a good choice.


-If at all possible, start with a machine that is set to sell single price 12 oz. can drinks. It does not matter if the machine has newer boards, software, and peripherals and can sell any type and size of drink. It does not matter if it is a 20 year old 'dumb' machine with no options for multiple prices or drink sizes. If it looks good, works well, and parts are available, it is probably good enough for you. Bottles are a necessary evil: that do not stack as well as cans; are not as readily available as cans; change design and shape (unlike cans); have a much shorter shelf life than cans; and a few blah, blah, blah personal preferences as to what I would like to stock for my business. Pretty and cool machines come later in the business life cycle.


-Learn to fix and service those machines, or find someone who can. Find a source or two for parts while you are at it. Something will break (sometimes with help from a passerby), and you want your machines to be selling (and seen in good working order). Pro tips: Search the forum, search internet for manuals, search for a local vending service and repair guy, search for AZVendor on this forum.


-If buying used from an individual or business, make sure that the seller has full and clear ownership of the machine (or be willing to accept the risk that they do not really own it). Many business partners have bought a few machines to put at 'the shop', one leaves in a huff, in a hearse, or in a hurry, and the other guy wants to stick it to him (or maybe cut his losses on the other guy leaving). Clues that ownership is in question include:

-being told to bring a drill to see the machine (Because I have no idea where that key went, but I really do own the machine)

-the machine has Coke, Pepsi, or Dr. Pepper in big graphics all over it (Look for an asset tag and phone number and call to see if that asset is no longer on the books of the original owner (Coke, Pepsi, or Snapple). The seller may think that he really owns that machine (or may be a dishonest person). A seller who has a signed letter from the bottler stating that ownership transferred to him is wonderful (I have never seen one of these elusive letters.).

-'Come at night and park in the back.'

-'Bring cash.' You may very well bring cash and intend to purchase that way on the initial visit, but...ahh, you should know how to safely deal on Craigslist.


Just be careful no matter how you go about buying used machines, younger self!


Bringing the Little Bundle Home

Many large metro areas have one or two refurbishers that sell to independent businesses. (Some only refurbish for a manufacturer.) Some other vendors in or around Houston can give great guidance on that. It can be worth a 200 mile trip to buy from a refurbisher if you have your own (or access to): truck/trailer; a real, vending machine-capable set of dollies or hand truck; and lift gate. If your equipment does not include those things and you do not have a feasible delivery plan/cost, weigh your options very carefully.



As for businesses to seek out for location, everyone has their own ideas and experiences of what is best. Generally, a busy auto shop, car dealership, medium-priced hotel (too high is bad, too low is very bad), or medium to large manufacturer/warehouse business is a good idea. Some like big churches, community centers, rec centers, gyms, outside of strip malls (choose carefully, or lose a good machine), apartment complexes, and schools (mostly private schools and teachers lounges).


-Talk with friends about where they work or places they go. (If you place a machine at a friend's workplace and it does not do well, it could be awkward when you decide you have to pull the machine.)

-Think about how you will answer the most common responses or requests.

-Try to put together decent-looking promotional materials to show potential customers.

-If you are pitching vending to a particular person, bring a few snacks that you sell to hand to the person with whom you are meeting.

-Cold-calling may not be for everyone. If you walk into a medical facility or hospital, car dealership, et cetera and see empty or damaged machines or machines stocked with stales, find out who can make decisions (or recommendations to decision-makers). Tell them that, if they are happy with their current vendor's service, that is great, but, if they would like to consider something better, you are always available. Some vendors make this sales pitch a bit aggressively, or you can be casual and seem genuinely willing to help (because you are willing to help, while you make a living). Expect to not to be super-successful at this in the beginning, but you can have enough success to build up a route.

-Read old threads about chain businesses that have national or regional contracts. There is almost no chance you can locate at these places, and you can save yourself the time and potential embarrassment of showing up to the big show with a much smaller, but earnest, show.


One last thing, younger self on a forum: Skip over most of the long-winded, entire life story posts from some unknown yahoo with a keyboard. It could be a bunch of malarkey from a maroon. That posing poster may not know squat about vending or business in general, and may not even be a vendor. (See previous 2,000 words.) However, after reading a lot of the posts here and there on the site, you can learn a lot of really helpful stuff from posts that can be long, short, misspelled, or weird. You have to dig. Pro tip: Bookmark or favorite the helpful posts. I am not a pro, but I got some of their tips!


(As an aside, it is kinda cool to see a forum member's posts over time where they have grown and become more successful and satisfied with their business.)


Well, now I am too tired to proofread. Glad there are always helpful people on forums to mock any misspoken thought! ^-^



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Of course, I forgot or left stuff out, but there are many people here with more and better ideas than mine, and there will always be new, good content from them.

One important thing I left out: Commission is a dirty word, and, unfortunately, too many potential locations will be dishonest with you and say they currently receive 20 or 30 percent (which is almost certainly false).

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True you cant get 3rd party in every region but I'm pretty sure you can in Houston.  The only areas you probably couldn't become a 3rd party vendor is if that area is a franchisee but one of the areas I am in is a franchisee for both Coke and Pepsi.  The coke does provide machines for 3rd party vendors but Pepsi does not.  This region is Asheville, NC and to top it off Pepsi is this area has 75% of the market.  They only charge 1.00 for 20 oz. bottles out of there machines.  It was tough for me at first trying to place machines at higher prices but I am succeeded and am getting referrals, I've even taken 30 or so Pepsi accounts with higher prices by still offering to put Mountain Dew in my Coke machines.  The franchisee here allows 2 non-coke flavors so I do Dr. Pepper and Mountain Dew.  my largest region I service is the Knoxville, TN area and I have no problem picking up accounts there.



One thing that is great about being a 3rd party vendor is all parts and tech calls/support are free.

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