Canadian Vending

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Guest Column: Blue Sky


December 3, 2009
By Neil Madden

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Most industries have their scam artists. In fact, movies have been made around many of these shady characters. Think of how many used-car movies or portrayals of shady used-car dealers you have seen. In fact, the car industry took the bulk of this abuse for many years. But with the proliferation of on-line internet scam sites, some offshore, some within Canada, the Buyer Beware cliché has become that much more important.

Most industries have their scam artists. In fact, movies have been made around many of these shady characters. Think of how many used-car movies or portrayals of shady used-car dealers you have seen. In fact, the car industry took the bulk of this abuse for many years. But with the proliferation of on-line internet scam sites, some offshore, some within Canada, the Buyer Beware cliché has become that much more important.

Being in the vending industry, most of us have scoured the Internet to see where and if our company shows up. By simply googling the word “vending” your doors open to a wide array of websites and very legitimate looking companies. Some of these companies are hard working entrepreneurs that have nothing but the best intentions. Regrettably, however, others have a different plan in mind.

A recent call to our CAMA office highlights this growing trend. A non-member operator purchased equipment out of the U.S. and when this started breaking down he found that he couldn’t obtain parts and the equipment was 26 years old.

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Without knowing what to do he called CAMA. This story has been told 1,000 times. I recall receiving many phone calls about eight years ago from people in similar situations who spent money buying vending machines at special “invitation only” seminars. I recently have seen an ad from a company pitching special guest speakers that were well know rock stars. While I cannot comment on the credibility of these seminars as I have not attended, they do beg the question.

What does a rock star know about the vending industry? Chances are he did not become famous from vending machines.

Another way to put this in perspective is to think of the way you buy other products. Would you buy a fifteen year old laptop? Would you buy a laptop from an online store that you have never heard of and a name brand you know nothing about? Probably not.

The same should go for vending machines. You need to do your homework. In the world of instant gratification, many people are fooled by the legitimacy of phony marketing campaigns and promises of riches. Here are some things to avoid if you find yourself considering the vending business.

1. Any company that holds special seminars at hotels on how to get into the vending business.

2. Ads in the newspaper claiming “Start your own vending route” with only a 1-800 contact number.

3. Branded machines. Even though they may seem legitimate, usually the companies that sell the particular brand of gum, chip or whatever are not involved in the vending industry. The exceptions of course are Coke and Pepsi and a few others. But do your homework first.

4. Special deals for today only.

5. Guaranteed routes – there is no such thing.

6. Locations provided – This may sound good but do you really want to invest thousands of dollars in a location with three people. We have seen it happen.

7. Exclusive territories – I can pretty much guarantee you this: I can buy whatever you are selling and put it in a machine in your area and there is nothing you can do about it.

8. Deals that are too good to be true. I know of a person who purchased a route only to find out that what he bought was not even for sale and did not belong to the person that sold it to him. The machines belonged to someone else.

9. Financial projections. This is very hard to do in this business as it can change from day to day based on wages, location, ethnicity, sex, and even the weather. There are no guarantees. You need to learn for yourself how to get the best accounts.

10. People with no physical office. You need to be able to go to a place of business to see that it exists. Do not simply meet at a hotel or at a restaurant. Any legitimate business will at least have an office.

Let’s re-iterate the old saying “Buyer Beware” But more importantly lets look at the resources available to anyone interested in getting into, or purchasing a vending machine.

CAMA, The Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association Since 1953, is the only association representing the interests of vending operators, machine manufacturers, and product and service suppliers in Canada. Our mission statement is to advance and promote the vending and office coffee service industries in Canada. With a newly created ethics/complaints procedure, CAMA members are your best source for honest information regarding the vending industry. For more information about the association please visit our website www.vending-cama.com.

NAMA, the North American Merchandising Association. NAMA is the national U.S. trade association. Its membership is comprised of service companies, equipment manufacturers and suppliers of products and services to operating service companies. NAMA supports, with administrative, logistical and financial assistance, a network of 30+ affiliated state councils encompassing 36 states, where the vending and coffee service industries focus on local issues and concerns as well as gathering frequently for networking opportunities.

Don’t hesitate to contact these associations or any of the advertisers in this magazine if you are looking for legitimate companies in the industry to do business with.


Neil Madden is the vice-president of the Canadian Automatic Merchandising Association, which serves professional vending and office coffee retailers in Canada.


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