By Sharon Bohan
You might think it an easy task, but choosing the right vending machine for South Shore Conservatory (SSC) was definitely not a walk in the park. And, having it installed was even harder! Let me start from the beginning though, so you can get the full picture.
We’ve had a vending machine in the reception area of our Hingham campus for longer than I have been employed here. The popular machine was used by everyone: staff, faculty and students alike. It was particularly popular during the summer months, as summer programs and concerts drew larger numbers of people into the building. Keeping it well stocked was a large part of my weekly workload, and involved going to BJ’s Wholesale Club to buy snacks and drinks, and then filling the machine. It was extremely time consuming.
I tried to buy snacks and drinks that were healthy and peanut-free, but finding healthy items in BJ’s that would fit nicely into the slots in our machine became more and more impossible. Over time, the drink section stopped keeping drinks cold, and the machine’s limited change-making function made extra work for those of us at the front desk. I was constantly clearing out the bills and coins, then refilling the coins. It gradually got to the point where this was becoming the focus of my life!
In September 2015, we reached the end of an era. I simply had to stop refilling the machine so I could concentrate on other areas of my job. The machine lay empty for the next few months. During this time, I heard comments such as “oh, it’s still empty,” and “looks like it’s all sold out again.” It was time to look for a replacement.
We had a few important criteria to consider: snacks and drinks had to be in the one machine (as we have only one available space); the machine had to be small enough to fit into the space; snacks and drinks had to be healthy (and peanut-free); refilling the machine had to be the responsibility of the vendor; and the service would need to be free, as SSC is a non-profit and could not afford to pay monthly fees.
Finding a supplier who could meet all of these requirements took longer than anticipated. I contacted four local healthy snack vendors. None of them were able to fulfill all our criteria.
I had just about given up hope when I received an email from KarmaBox, a Californian-based company with local franchisees. I checked their website and saw that they met all our criteria. I met with their local representative, Nancy McAloon, and discovered KarmaBox was a perfect match for SSC! They could provide us with the vending machine of our dreams. We had a few problems actually getting the machine installed (broken pallet jack, snowstorms), but on February 15 our machine was fully operational. And we love it!
The computerized machine lets Nancy know an item is running low, so she can immediately restock it, and the machine accepts credit cards as well as bills and coins. Nancy has already made a new friend – one of our young students, who was mesmerized with our KarmaBox. Stocking the machine, she answered his many questions concerning healthy snacks, but didn’t quite know how to reply to his statement, “using your credit card is not good for your bank account!” I’m not sure how I’d reply either, but I do know that having a grumbly belly is not good for a productive afternoon. I’ll use my credit card!
Sharon Bohan is South Shore Conservatory’s Hingham Campus Manager.