December 27, 2000, 2:30 PM —
LATE AFTERNOON.Your tongue feels like a bloated ball of silicon. Your eyes long to close. A 20-ounce bottle of soda, that's the cure. All you have is a new $5 bill, the kind that looks like play money with an off-center Abe Lincoln head. Incredibly thirsty, you hurriedly push the green paper into the slot, and you don't get a drink. But $10 in quarters plop out.
Well, not for the vending-machine owners. They have had to spend considerable money to accommodate the new bills. Honest Abe's makeover, Hamilton's overhaul on the sawbuck and the introduction of the dollar coin forced the people behind your soda and food source to get busy retrofitting machines or putting up "Out of Order" signs.
For about five months and $50,000, Reading, Pa.-based Goodman Vending Service has been reworking its machines with new recognition chips that scan the bills inserted for payment. After a technician had upgraded all the machines with the new bill changer model, called Rowe BC1200, Goodman's vendor reported that the new chips were inadequate. And, indeed, defects appeared -- resulting in some customers receiving $20 worth of change for a $10 bill and vice versa. "The customer doesn't want to hear that it's going to balance out," owner Bill Buckholz says.
In addition to the vendor's oversight, the older machines needed new boards along with the chips. Eventually, the vendor gave Goodman the new replacement chips, and the technician began the upgrade process again.