QR codes on vending machines. Say what?

I happened to be at Startup Weekend last month, and while they didn’t win, team Open Sesame has lingered on in my mind since that Sunday evening.

Basically, their business idea was to bring coin-operated vending machines into the 21st century by enabling mobile payments. There would be QR code stickers placed on the machines, which us 2.0ers would scan on our phones and use to pay via Paypal, credit card, Google Wallet, etc. (A little like this, this, or even this, but more seamless?)

English: YoZone Vending machine

This is genius. Also, potentially very dangerous to my wallet.

See, I have never been a frequenter of vending machines. Their wares are expensive, and I’m a frugalite. But also, I hate cash. I never carry hard money on me, let alone heavy, bulky coinage.

Back in high school, we had a vending machine in our common room/student lounge, where only the popular kids hung out. My friends would often stop in to grab snacks – particularly during the stressful exam periods – but I never did. I remember one conversation by the vending machine in particular, that went something like this:

Friend: You’ll go to a psychic, but you won’t spend $2 on a brownie?

My retort: I got PAID to go to the psychic. (Albeit, I had to wait for reimbursement, as you do. That was for a feature I was writing. Obvs.)

Likewise, my former newsroom colleagues often practically subsisted on vending machine fare on long days, even though we were in the heart of the city with the widest possible range of food options all around us. It wasn’t unusual for someone to do the rounds of the desks, scrounging up spare change to buy a pack of chips or a chocolate bar. Again, I never did, not in all my years there.

But remove the need for cash, and my iron will suddenly becomes more like pliable soldering wire. My willpower, when it comes to food, is pathetic. Sugar, in particular, is my Achilles heel. I won’t lie – there have been days that I would have given in and fed the vending machine downstairs if I had had coins on me.

So while I love the concept, and hope it catches on – ie, that they take it beyond Startup Weekend – I kind of hope it won’t be coming to a vending machine near me.

What do you think of the idea?

10 thoughts on “QR codes on vending machines. Say what?

  • Reply joy50teereblog July 3, 2012 at 02:23

    Change your phone to one that wont read q codes or buy another to take to work.

  • Reply John | Married (with Debt) July 3, 2012 at 07:09

    I saw one on a billboard. Really wondered how someone would scan a 10 foot tall QR code. I think they are ugly and am curious why the barcode needed to be made bigger and square.

  • Reply Allison @Insomniac Lab Rat July 3, 2012 at 17:38

    Interesting. We have some vending machines at school that take credit cards. I definitely spend more on vending machine food now (although I’m still pretty good about bringing my own food and not giving in to the junk food cravings), because instead of scrounging around for coins, I can just grab my card.

  • Reply Kellen July 4, 2012 at 03:19

    I know that in Korea, people use their cell phones to pay for everything (according to my Korean friends) – parking vending machines, etc.
    I think that vending machines are tempting enough once they set them up for credit cards, nevermind cell phones, and there are still tons of vending machines around here that aren’t even set up for accepting credit cards – so I’m not sure how quickly a more expensive QR system would need to take over.
    I would definitely buy more from vending machines if they did not require cash payment though! (Although I’d buy less from QR than from a credit card machine, since I don’t have a smart phone.)

  • Reply Jane July 4, 2012 at 09:45

    I love the idea, but hate what it would do to my wallet.

    We were at the zoo a couple of years ago. It was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and the vending machines accepted credit cards. Somehow, $4 for a bottle of water didn’t seem unreasonable at that point.

  • Reply Shawanda @ You Have More Than You Think July 6, 2012 at 04:22

    I think it’s a fantastic idea. I don’t visit vending machines often, but when I do, I don’t want to use my laundry coins to buy a bottle of water (or a bag of ridiculously fattening potato chips).

    I also think it’d be pretty cool if the QR codes and vending machines were set up to recognize when a payment was made, but the goods weren’t delivered. I hate it when vending machines steal your money. Usually, there’s nothing you can do to get your money back.

  • Reply fabulouslyfrugirl July 6, 2012 at 08:47

    I’ve been able to stay away from the vending machine at work, and I don’t think that an easier payment method would make it too tempting. I find that as long as I don’t “slip” and start using the vending machine, then I am able to stay strong. I think you can do it, but don’t beat yourself up, if you need a bite once in a while.

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  • Reply Vanessa August 19, 2012 at 06:33

    Hahaha, I hope that these never come to Canada. I never carry cash with me which is what prevents me a lot of the time from buying a $3 water bottle or a bag of M&Ms

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