Electrical difficulties with new vending machines

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New Pepsi vending machines in Manzanita Hall are experiencing electrical problems, prompting faculty and students to complain of machine malfunctions, warm drinks, and unrefunded purchases.

Due to the miscommunication between the Pepsi Corporation and the University Corporation regarding vending machine amp requirements, electrical problems resulted, said Dave Nirenberg, director of Commercial Services with the University Corporation.

“It wasn’t the machine’s fault,” Nirenberg said. “It was electrical problems. Since (the new machines) draw more amps, it’s like a bigger hair dryer. We have not heard lately that it had problems.”

There have also been complaints of unstocked machines around campus.

Stania Wright, senior psychology major, was on the first floor of Sierra Hall when she encountered a problem while trying to purchase a drink.

“I’m going (to the machine), I’m thirsty, and then I put my dollar in expecting to get a cold beverage, and the light starts flashing saying it’s not available,” Wright said. “So then, I try to pick a different selection and lo and behold, the light starts flashing again. Then, I’m like, ‘F it.’ Not only am I still thirsty, but I just lost a dollar. Vending machines should be designed better so even if you do not get anything, you at least get your money back to go elsewhere.”

Customers are advised to call the toll-free number on the machine, said Peter Montez, a Pepsi employee who is in charge of restocking and collecting machine revenue. Addressing a problem takes service employees anywhere between 24 and 48 hours after the phone call is made, he said.

“A lot of people don’t call the number, and just fight with the machines,” Montez said. “Every week, we check if it’s running smoothly.”

Pepsi monitors the use of every machine and has repair service employees on campus twice a week, Nirenberg said.

“I’m unaware that we have had any stock problems,” Nirenberg said.

Vending machine revenues go to the University Corporation and to the Commercial Services budget, which is returned to the university, Nirenberg said. The University Corporation supplies the president’s general fund with approximately $600,000 a year, and a portion of that comes from vending machines, he said.

According to Montez, on average, he collects $70 from individual machines each time he visits different campus buildings.

Students and faculty may notice a price difference in Pepsi brand beverages sold at vending machines versus retail locations like the Sierra Center on campus.

Pepsi and the University Corporation determine prices mutually, but products sold at the vending machines differ than those at retail locations, due to the different cost components, such as employees, Nirenberg said. As of Jan. 1, the University Corporation signed a 10-year contract with Pepsi, and part of the agreement was to upgrade all the vending machines by the end of the month.

The list of Pepsi products sold on campus include Aquafina, Fruit Works, Gatorade, Cherry Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Lipton Iced Tea, Mug Root Beer, Starbucks Frappuccino, Tropicana, Quaker and Frito Lay.

“They are just newer machines, work better, have less problems of delivery, (and) probably market themselves better,” Nirenberg said. “It’s sort of like a new car. It’s nice to have an updated version.”