Sunday, April 26, 2009

Theft and vandalism prevention for vending machine owners

Have you ever had a vending machine stolen or broken into? I have and it can take the fun out of owning a vending machine business. In my case, someone decided not to steal the stands, just the vending machine heads themselves by unscrewing them from their bases. The amount it cost me to replace the machines was less than the deductible and could have protected my investment with a little ingenuity.

Physical Security

If I had made it difficult to unscrew the vending head off the stand by drilling the parts of the stand where pieces met, then securing with some form of screw, bolt or weld, it would be more difficult to separate the head from the stand.

I should also have made it more difficult to move the stand itself from where it was. I could have achieved that by drilling bolts through the base down into the floor below. I could also have used a much larger stand. Getting permission to put bolts in floors is often difficult unless you're willing to compensate the business for the repairs up-front.

While locating stands in a location that's visible to employees of the business can be a harder sell, that can go a long way to deterring theft. If someone wants to try stealing your machine(s), they would want to do it when nobody else can see the theft in progress. The main drawback to this, however, is the potential loss of opportunity because of limiting the hours of availability of your vending machine(s).

If you own the business, these barriers are often minimal. For example, car wash owners often embed certain types of vending machines in the walls of the building. That protects the machine and makes maintaining it relatively simple from the back side of the wall. Installing security cameras or adding the vending systems to the security system then become relatively trivial.


If it is possible to get your vending machines added to the building's alarm system, that's the cat's meow. Unfortunately, this is often a pipe dream. Other deterrents are available, however.

An alarm specifically for the machine may sound a bit extreme, but is possible. Use of such a system could pay for itself fairly quickly if designed properly.

Another option is placement of real and/or fake security cameras to monitor your system. Even putting signs on your machines stating that your system is being monitored by surveillance cameras can deter casual criminals. Placards stating that the system has an alarm on it can also be effective. If you have a real camera pointed at the system, you'll want to make sure it has good visibility in low light situations in case the theft happens after-hours. If the system is motion-detecting, that's even better.


In many states, vending machines are required to carry some form of identification letting the user know that the vending machine belongs to a certain entity and that the state authorizes sales from that system. These stickers / placards are nice, but it's better if you can do a little engraving on each system in an obvious and an obscure place so that if it is stolen and found, your business is clearly associated with it.


Vandalism is difficult to guard against in any location except one that's in front of others, preferably someone who is employed at the establishment. That won't protect you from vandalism of employees, but a good relationship with employers will help you there.


Business insurance covering your systems can be a very inexpensive way to cover from significant losses and protect you from lawsuit if product from your system ends up hurting someone. The problem is, in order to justify the insurance, one must be able to sell enough product over a year to cover the cost of the insurance. For example, a randomly sampled insurance company detailed it would cover $2,500 worth of machines against theft and vandalism plus cover the business for $500,000 against lawsuit for damages caused by the machines or product sold in the machines for under $300 in my area. So, just to break even in a year, I'd have to make more than $300 profit (after the cost of the goods sold and taxes) off the sales from my machines just to cover the expense of the insurance. That doesn't cover paying someone to keep those machines filled.

Costs of protection

Each of these methods of protection have a cost associated with them. Some are minimal and one-time. Some are on-going. Placement of vending machines is critical to driving sales. If machines are inaccessible, your machines aren't working for you. If your machines are stolen, they're not working for you either. Placement may also demand more compensation to the business owner. Some machines may require less security protection than others, but typically will require more up-front expense for the machine when it offers greater security.

What's next?

How do you protect your systems from theft and vandalism? Has this article been helpful to you? Please feel free to comment.


  1. Are there any legal actions that can be taken if you find the individual who vandals the machine? Example every other week my dollar bill collector is forcibly pushed in.

  2. Sorry for the *very* late reply. Whether or not you can take legal actions depends on what proof you have of the actions. If you have video of the incident, that would be evidence that you could use both with the police and in civil court.

  3. Sorry for the *very* late reply. Whether or not you can take legal actions depends on what proof you have of the actions. If you have video of the incident, that would be evidence that you could use both with the police and in civil court.


Remember - be considerate