Vending Machine Owners Fight Crime As Wireless Systems Respond When Thieves Grab The Bait

Tough economic times have spurred a rash of vending-machine thefts, prompting operators to fight back with sales-tracking devices and automated text-message alerts.

Theft rings have sprung up in Georgia, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi and New York, among other states. More schools, hospitals and other big vending customers are complaining of such break-ins, especially with outdoor vending machines, according to loss consultants and machine operators.

“My sense is that theft is on the rise as there are so many people in desperate times,” said Mark Manney, chief executive of Loss Prevention Results Inc., a Wake Forest, N.C., vending-theft consultant.

The industry already is struggling. U.S. sales fell 10% in 2009 to $19.85 billion, the latest data available, from $22.05 billion the year before, according to Automatic Merchandiser, a trade magazine. With profit margins as thin as 1%, losses from theft have an impact.

Others like Jodi Glimpse are cracking down on their own. “I’m starting to feel like my own personal detective service,” said Ms. Glimpse, owner of Camelback Vending Services LLC, which operates hundreds of vending machines in the Phoenix area.

 Ms Glimpse stated that for the most part the system is effective in sending her a real time text message when thieves break open the vending machine door and grab the bait.

  

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