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Your Own Vending Business

WINK-TV, 4/12/2002

This article is reprinted without permission from WINK Television and Fort Myers Broadcasting under the fair use doctrine. 2002 Original url:

Fast, Easy Cash?

Fort Myers: We received an invitation to attend a seminar with "Natural Choice USA," a vending machine company owned by Antares Corporation of California. The company says their vending machines are "one of the most amazing business opportunities in America today." We went to their seminar to find out more.

The company brochure makes enticing references to "time, freedom" and "wealth." To take advantage of this vending business opportunity, you'll have to spend a minimum of about $18,000. Your investment gets you three machines, along with promotional materials and help finding places to put your machines. But is investing your money this way really "a way to make a living," as the company brochure claims? Undercover at the seminar, we questioned a natural choice vending machine owner who was there to promote the company. She admitted to us that her machines take in an average of $60. a week.

Local vending business owner Bill Demko says half the cash that goes into any vending machine is used to pay for more drinks and snacks. "This is a nickel and dime business," he told us. So if a machine does take in $60. a week, the pre-tax amount going into the owner's pocket is really about $30. That comes to about $1,500. a year, per machine. Since the initial cost of each Natural Choice USA machine is almost $6,000., it could take several years just to pay off each vending machine, before any profit is made. "It's a multiplications game," Demko told us. The reason Demko is able to make a living at vending is because he has a lot of machines - nearly 1,000. He adds "and if you have enough machines, you're gonna need somebody to answer the telephones, you're gonna need somebody to run the additional maintenance on it."

Demko says the small Natural Choice machines don't compete with his regular-size vending machines, but he is familiar with them: "We get so many phone calls from people who've actually purchased these kinds of machines and have gone into business like this, and are looking for us to purchase their machines." Demko and other local vending professionals told us they wouldn't buy a natural choice machine, but if they did, they might pay about $500. for one. "I guess the real trick of this is- you have to call other people who have invested in it, and ask them- what do they think, was it worth it?" The company did provide us with a list of names: ten people who have had success with a Natural Choice USA vending business. But the company admitted that everyone on the list was paid to talk about the company. We asked, buy Natural Choice USA wouldn't give us the names of any of their distributors they hadn't paid to talk with us. We found regular-size vending machines for sale for two or three thousand dollars.

Professional-size vending machines like Demko's are much different from the smaller Natural Choice machines. They include computers to count the sales, which helps owners keep track of money. A typical vending machine also holds a larger supply of snacks and drinks than the small Natural Choice machines.

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