Money Flop #3: How I Lost $400 On A Failed Vending Machine Venture

money flop vending machine route

In Search For Passive Income, This Vending Machine Route Proved Unsuccessful Due To Little Returns and Far Travels

All of us are seeking the holy returns of passive income.  And I’ve tried many roads and avenues, from selling my self-published book, to earning returns on investments.  But then I came across an opportunity to acquire someone else’s vending machine route.  I discussed it with my wife, and pursued the opportunity.  After acquiring this 3-location vending machine route for $450, I was ready to begin earning my passive income.  But what actually happened was I only earned about $2 a day for a laborious activity that included excessive travel and care.

  • The Loss: $400 – Between nearly 3 hours of travel, unreliable machines, and uninspiring returns, I quickly lost interest in the route and earned nearly nothing.

  • The Hard Lesson: Estimate how much time a passive income venture requires.  Because if you’re spending between 2-3 hours a week for only $20, then you’re better off doing Craig’s List gigs.

The Story:

Back in August 2013, I was a man of pursuit.  I was working on a mud run series (which is soon going to be a new addition to the Money Flop series).  I was dueling with 2 part time jobs, and I was juggling a 1 year old daughter with my wife.  Things were hectic and exciting, but we were always looking for extra income.

So while browsing Craig’s List, I came across an ad for a candy vending machine route.  The route included (3) locations.  2 of the locations had vending machines similar to the one in the picture above.  And the last vending machine was a giant orb with the face of a flamingo glued to the front.  The flamingo was intentional, because it went with the theme for its location: Isaac’s Deli.

I contacted the seller.  He informed me that the vending machines will typically make about $2 a day, but they can make as much as $5 a day during the holidays.  After getting the locations, I gave each vending machine a visit, to make sure they operated properly.  And not only was I happy to report that they were operating well, they were also filled with fresh candy, suggesting that they’ve been routinely serviced.  After consulting with my wife, I agreed to purchase the seller’s vending machine route for $450.

After consulting with my wife, I agreed to purchase the seller’s vending machine route for $450.

Here is a picture of the route:

vending machine route

Taking On The Vending Machine Project

So everything started off without a problem.  My wife and I made it a priority to check the vending machines every Sunday.  We would pack up our 1 year old, and head out to the 3 locations, and fill out pockets with quarters.

The first trip was exciting!  We approached each vending machine cautiously, unsure if our unfamiliar faces would make anyone suspicious.  But we stopped at each location, popped the top to each vending machine, and secured out loot!

The 2nd week was just as exciting, with the same caution and optimism!  But then came week 3, and 4, and 5, where the project quickly lost its thrill.  At this point, it because obvious that driving for nearly 3 hours, over the course of 70 miles was beginning to loose its attraction, especially for $14 in quarters (avg. $2 per day).

So we went from traveling every Sunday, to every other Sunday.  But even at this rate, we still weren’t impressed enough to continue this bi-weekly trek.  So then our trips slipped to every 3 weeks, until it became inconsistent.  It got to the point that we had to force ourselves to travel 3 hours to the locations.  And had we not forced ourselves, we could have easily neglected the responsibility.

But then we took a big hit.  It had been nearly 6 weeks since we checked on our machines.  I had to beg my wife to take our daughter on a journey to collect the loot.  But at the first stop at Isaac’s Deli, our vending machine was missing.  After some questioning, my wife found out that the store manager had thrown our vending machine in the trash.  We were devastated.

But then we took a big hit. . . my wife found out that the store manager had thrown our best performing vending machine in the trash.

I tried calling the store to speak with the manager, but was only successful in securing his email.  So I wrote him an email.  And this was his response:

greg drake money flops

What a crock of shit.

So this prick decided to toss out my vending machine.  Now, maybe he did provide fair warning.  Maybe he did give the previous owner plenty of leniency with his constant demands to remove the vending machine.  But I was not made aware of any of this, which ended up costing me those most valuable vending machine.

Moving Forward…

Between the exhausting traveling for little return, and the loss of the top performing vending machine, we had to shake things up.  So we uprooted our remaining 2 vending machines from their locations, and brought them to some closer locations.  Our new route included 2 well known pizza parlors in our county.  The new route only took about 25 minutes to travel, with was a lot better than 3 hours.  So the traveling was looking better.

But after months of inconsistent check-ups, we quickly learned that we were never going to get more than $1 a day.  These locations performed worst than the others.  So instead of looking for new locations, we declared it a defeat.  We threw in the towel.  This business venture was clearly a flop.

We lassoed our vending machines, and placed them on Craig’s List.  But no one wanted them.  We reposted them on and off for years.  And not until May of 2016, were we able to sell them both at our yard sale for $10 a piece.  And that’s how we lost nearly $400 on our vending machine route.