The vending machine survey pt.2

Thanks for your participation. There were 265 responses with everyone answering every question. That’s helpful. Below are the results from yesterday’s entry followed by discussion.

1. Whether one would try another purchase with quarters:
Yes: 48%
No: 52%

2. Whether one would try another purchase with a dollar bill:
Yes: 57%
No: 43%

3. Business profile
Business owners: 34%
Not: 43%
Planning to be one: 17%
Former business owner: 6%

4. Age:
0-29: 22%
30-39: 31%
40-49: 20%
50-59: 18%
60-69: 9%

5. Sex
Female: 92%
Male: 8%

Off the bat, I was very surprised that the difference of a dollar bill increased the yes responses (#2). I’m not sure what that means but I welcome your ideas. He who shall not be named said people have a different relationship with dollar bills, that the relative value is perceived to be less than coinage. He predicted this result before the responses started coming in. He’s so smart, I’m glad I married him.

Comments were great, you always make me smile and lighten my day. Jay: I’d look good in a goatee and white suit but not wild on taking up chicken eating. Natasha: I want to sell you whatever it is you want. Always. Nikki: You’re on target, what I was looking to measure (however imperfectly); Alison implied the same. Jennifer: percussive maintenance was priceless. Ditto for Penelope’s brick suggestion. Alessandra: Cálmate, vending machines are deadlier than sharks. Sandra/Liz: I have no idea what they cost. I’m hopelessly addicted to club soda and buy it in 5-10 case lots; they don’t sell it in machines. If they did, my response would have remained no and no to 1 & 2 -ditto what Barb said. Tricia/Oriole: crap shoot duly noted, uncertainty and intermittent reinforcement is an interesting twist. Mary sets a limit on sunk costs; another interesting strategy. Lisa: the Japanese really will sell anything in a vending machine. And Stuart ties it all up neatly. In fact, I’d rather he write this entry.

The purpose of the imperfect survey was to get a sense of how willing people are to throw good money after bad. The real life scenario I had in mind was working with a contractor or related party. How do you know when to stop throwing money at the problem? What is your loss tolerance? What is your risk aversion? It matters when considering financing.

The relative low cost shouldn’t have been a factor. Or rather, I didn’t want it to be a factor because it loused up my results. Buying a second soda with a dollar represented an escalation of costs, specifically 33% higher than the original “quote”. That’s a lot. And a lot of people do that everyday with contractors. The issue is, you’re not likely to get the value of the sunk costs ($1.75) when the job value was originally 75 cents. The former figure amounts to 133% over estimate for which you get zip.

Stuart said there’s a cost associated with not solving the problem -and don’t we know it. This is why I liked Mary and Stuart’s idea of capping their losses before moving on. Setting a limit means you’re willing to take risks which you must do in business (you can’t be too risk averse) but also being able to walk away to look for another solution. The sad thing I see all too often is people sinking 200%, 300% or even 400% more into a relationship that isn’t going to pan out. I really think this is due to Tricia/Oriole’s mention of the affect of uncertainty and intermittent reinforcement. There is no more effective kind.

Your further comments are appreciated.

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  1. brigid says:

    What I would like to know please is whether there was a difference in the responses of the males versus females (admittedly, there were very few of the former so probably difficult to determine statistical significance) and whether business owners/older folk were less likely to try again than their counterparts not in business??? etc etc

  2. sarah says:

    Actually, I voted no on more quarters and yes on the dollar (assuming I am desperate and don’t see another machine to try), because in my real world experience w/ machines, often the change sensor is not working but the bill sensor is fine (although usually you get your quarters back and then have to try paper). I would have hoped that the bill slot was still working and tried that. If the bill slot was also broken I would quit there. (Sorry to be so literal in my answers!)

  3. Linnet says:

    I too, was interested in finding out the relationship between the responses and whether respondees were business owners or not. And whether age or gender wa a factor (although it sounds like you may not have had an adequate sample of men in there to tell).

    Personally, I am unlikely to hire a contactor again if the work was shoddy. On the other hand, I have been on the other end. A manufacturing business I ran years ago had a short run of t-shirts to make, and the employee who made them didn’t notice that there was a burr on the needle of the coverstitch machine. We ended up with a large proportion of units with nasty holes that were only going to get bigger when washed. We managed to retain that client, due to the manner in which we dealt with the problem. We acknowledged and agreed with the client that the result was appalling and apologised, off the bat. Then we negotiated a deal with the client that involved them not paying for the spoiled t-shirts (though they could by rights have charged us the wholesale price on them) and a discount on future orders.

    I should mention that of course, there was no way at the time to obtain more fabric to make more units.

  4. Yeah, what sarah says (about more yesses for bills). I said yes for both, but it makes sense to abandon an ineffective strategy (coins) and try an alternate strategy (bills) before giving up.

    My thinking when saying yes for both was simply that I’d rather run out of money than die of thirst.

  5. I didn’t see this yesterday, but my take on using a dollar after the coins failed is that I would do that because maybe that’s a DIFFERENT part of the machine being used and it might not fail. I would not be surprised to not get change, but I might get the drink. It’s only because you said it was hot and I was tired that I’d even think of buying a soda anyway.


  6. Jay Arbetman says:

    Hi Kathleen, “the Colonel” Fasanella,

    Are you a veg? If so, do you know about the wonders of Rapini and Swiss Chard?

    So when I was very young (just started shaving), I got married to a very young woman. Things were not going well (in fact, we divorced in under a year but I got the special rate for minors). One time, we were at a hotel and she put 50 cents into a coke machine and nothing came out. She got the most evil look in here eye and started hissing and a bottle of coke rolled out of the machine.

    Oh great. I lived with Satin herself. So is there a category for finding my first wife and having her scare the crap out of the machine and make it bend to her will. I haven’t talked to her in 35 years. I wonder if she is still the Goddess of hell’s fire? She is probably a factor for a textile company.

  7. Susannah says:

    Another vote for the “trying a different strategy” mechanical reasoning behind putting in a dollar bill. Also, in that situation, considering there is nothing else to spend the money on and all I want is a drink, the quarters/dollar (“good money”) are valueless (“bad money”) EXCEPT insofar as they can prevent me from dehydrating.

  8. Liz Pf says:

    Like Sarah, I chose No/Yes because the sensor mechanisms are different, and it’s worth trying a second time, just like I may try a second vending machine.

    I almost never use vending machines though … I find them horribly overpriced with a selection I don’t like. But the scenario you chose, where I am horribly overheated and too tired to hunt around, coupled with a very low cost of drink, would lead me to try the machine. And in that situation, I’d certainly consider a drink worth $1.75.

    Now, if the machine cost $1.50, and I put 6 quarters and got nothing … I would probably walk away before trying again. Especially if it only had cola — I hate cola.

  9. Gini says:

    I wish I had seen this in time to respond although I doubt my answers would have beefed up the results much. I would not have spent more money, but then I’m not thirsty at the moment! I wish I could say the same for not throwing good money after bad in my business experiences. It has been all too easy for me to think I am persevering in the face of adversity when in retrospect I just stupidly persisted rather than stopped to think. Thanks for some questions I could answer (and ponder), Kathleen!

  10. emily says:

    I’m with Alison, I answered yes to both due to the description of the desperation – to weary to keep walking suggests that any amount of money would be well spent so long as I got the drink.

  11. Linda says:

    I was too thirsty to not try again. I didn’t pay much attention to the”bill” part because here in Australia, $1 and $2 comes in coins…..

  12. anne says:

    See, this is what mattered most to me: “It is a hot sweltering day, you are very thirsty and too weary to continue walking”…, not the money. I couldn’t imagine walking on with the image of a nice cold soda or water tormenting me. I might try even one more time after that, depending on how much farther I had to walk. Just imagining the scenario made me thirsty; luckily we have a nice, no charge water cooler at work!

  13. Bo Breda says:

    The problem about contractors is that I always had to work with them through a production man. After 20 years in the garment center in NYC I became cynical, believing that the production men were all on the take and in collusion with the contractors and, therefore, not to be trusted. It seemed that the contractors and production people were on one side and the designers and owners were on the other. Even when I confronted production men with my accusations, they would sometimes tell me that it was necessary for them to appear to be on the side of the contractors in order to get cooperation from them. It didn’t make any sense to me, but I was seldom in a position to exercise veto power regarding which contractor to use. Later when I became a consultant, I could make judgments from an outside stance and influence the choice of contractor regarding quality, but ultimately the owners often made their decisions based solely on price.

  14. Marian says:

    I answered yes to both, i’m female, 50+ and a business owner. I said yes because like others, if I had the cash, great thirst and fatigue are so uncomfortable that i would pay what it takes to relieve them. I would have added a max of 3 more quarters, though, and if that didn’t work, I’d quit. Also one bill, possibly two. If that didn’t work, I’d find some shade, sit for a minute and try to think about what to do next. If I was truly desperate and there were NO other options I’d find a way to gain access to the drinks (fiddle with the door lock, use a rock to break the window….)

    I think my behaviour with people would be way different than with vending machines. A vending machine is uncomplicated — it works or it doesn’t. Sometimes it works, but needs encouragement (more coins, a jiggle). And if it doesn’t work and I have to break it to get what I need, well, it’s only a machine. I don’t have to worry about whether or not it has an ulterior motive in withholding a drink from me. People are a whole different matter. I’ve lived long enough and dealt with enough people to be able to figure out the kinds of things I’d need to know: can I trust this person to want to help me or is this person mainly concerned with him/herself? is this person careful and responsible or sloppy and disorganized? what is the history/patterns of this organization/person? what is the cause of the problem? I mean, if I need something from someone who has a history of reliability and they tell me that everything fell apart in their shop last week because their mother suddenly died, i would try again with them, if I could. But, if a mother dies one week, the kids get sick the next, a neighbour stole the order the following week, whatever, then no, I would just tell them that I’m sorry to hear that things are so difficult for them and take my business elsewhere.

    Unfortunately nothing is simple when it comes to people and if we are kind we want to give them the benefit of the doubt at least once, but hopefully over time we learn.

    Heh heh. I like surveys but I’m not good at them — one word answers are not usually possible for me.

  15. Tammy says:

    It’s funny about dollar bills versus coins, since I feel like dollar bills are worth more than coinage, so by impulse it is easier for me to spend coins than bills. But this could be an age thing too, so I grew up in the age when coins weren’t worth much anyway (I was born in the 1980s).

    Strange thing happened when I lived in Japan though- they have the equivalent of a $1 and $5 in coin form. It felt so nice being able to buy a nice dinner with extra “change” left in the bottom of my wallet- couldn’t do that in the US!

  16. Wyncia says:

    Thinking about it after answering, trying the dollar after the failed quarter purchase makes logical sense. The machine now has quarters (you just gave them to it) so could make change from the dollar. You have not yet attempted to get the dollar reader thing to work, and it might. So logically it is the next best chance of success.

    Interestingly, since I do not drink soda as a rule, I imagined myself in great deal of discomfort to be putting any money in the machine. That is why my brain was not functioning, and I kept shoving quarters in it! Tee hee. Wyncia

  17. ruth says:

    hello kathleen
    well i would have put the coins in but not the dollar bill and this accurately mirrors what i do in business. i have a rule that the first time you don’t pay me is the last because i don’t accept any more work from you. New customers, with no track record of paying us – no references from banks or accountants accepted, have to pay cash up front before i send them out a terms and conditions of business letter. i have a business and after imposing this rule receipts stayed the same but work went down 50 – 60%. That is to say, my paying customers were no longer paying me to attend to someone who had no intention of ever paying for the work i did.

  18. Britannica says:

    Do you have the data itself? Out of interest, I could do a chi-squared test of independence to see if there was a significant difference in the responses of business owners versus non-business owners if you like (or also according to age or sex if you like). :)

  19. Cackle – my response to such contractors would still be brick-related…

    But I tend to demand new behaviour from suppliers before I send more business their way. I’m tolerant of faulty thinking only up to the point that they have been made aware that it’s faulty. After that they can change or sink.


  20. I answered no/no. I would have rested a bit so I could seek another more favorable solution. If I put some money in a vending machine for soda, I was already settling for something I really did not want but was the closest thing available to satisfy my immediate need. I would have rested to be able to continue on to seek out my first choice, water as it would have been worth the wait to get what I really wanted. It is a supply and demand, quality over quantity thing sprinkled with personal tolerance.

  21. LisaB says:

    I answered no to both. I definitely would not try the exact same thing again, and I’d be too skeptical about the dollar bill working. Like Paula, water would be my first choice, and I’d be more likely to hold out for that somehow. I can’t stand soda, and it’s about the last thing I’d want under those conditions.

    The FAIL blog has evidence, though, that money isn’t necessary. See this short video. :-)

  22. Natasha says:

    Someone brought up a good point. I would much rather not get anything that get something I don’t want. Say a regular coke versus diet coke. That would be torture.

  23. Marie-Christine says:

    Another sheep here with Sarah.
    I’d like to say that your results are further skewed, not just because the sums involved are small, but because of the emphasis on how hot and desperate we were supposed to be. Normally I wouldn’t throw good money after bad in a vending machine, but I were that hot and desperate I might just try with the different path.

    But then again, normally I’d die of thirst rather than drink soda :-), and normally you wouldn’t have either correct change or dollar bill on hand if you were truly desperate, so who knows..

  24. Kate Rawlinson says:

    The real-life scenarios I was imagining were a) continuing to buy ready-to-wear and b) continuing to buy clothes/shoes online. Because both of those are a triumph of optimism over experience.

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