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By the author of The Faithful Prepper and The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications.
I briefly touched on the concept of having your own vending machines in this post here, but I think this is a subject that the average Frugalite needs to know about. Can you make money with bubblegum machines? Are they worth the money and time?
Like the answer to a lot of questions in life: it depends. But let’s take a closer look at what it takes to make money with these devices.
You’ve seen these throughout the course of your entire life. Whether it’s in the front door of your favorite Italian restaurant, in the foyer of Walmart, or while you’re sitting in the waiting area at the barbershop, bubblegum machines are everywhere.
If you’ve noticed this as well and are looking for ways to make a little passive income on the side, you may be thinking about setting up your own. I ran, if I remember correctly, four locations with bubble gum machines all through high school. Here is what I learned.
If you’re not using Beaver brand bubblegum machines, you’re wrong.
I’ve worked with a number of brands of bubblegum-style vending machines, and I think without a doubt the best brand out there is Beaver. If you’re going to even begin to consider getting involved in this business, may I recommend you only start with Beaver brand machines.
They’re incredibly well-built, I enjoyed working with their customer service the few times that I needed it, and they look great. I don’t ever remember having one of their machines malfunction for customers, either. The only reason I contacted customer service was to make sure that I was buying the right parts for the guts of the machine so that I could sell different products.
I did have some non-Beaver brand machines as well, and though I don’t remember the brand, I did have occasional issues with their not dispensing product to customers. When little kids are routinely getting jipped out of a quarter, and the hope they had of a handful of M&M’s, the proprietor of your site location won’t be happy. It’s best to avoid that situation entirely if you hope to make money. That’s why I recommend Beaver.
Your location matters.
Some locations consistently did great for me. Others consistently did terribly. What I found was that the more truckers or little kids that came through my location, the better off I did. I think that the reason that truckers were such big customers was that they consistently have change on them. They run through tolls, buy food at gas stations, and regularly walk through parking lots where people drop coins.
Also, they tend to be a bit less restrictive with what they eat than the greater majority of the population. If you’re a trucker, I think you’ll agree with me. How many other people out there do you know that can make a meal out of a pickled egg, a $10 bag of jerky, and a Dr. Pepper?
I think that little kids are an obvious customer base here as well. If you want to focus on gumballs and little toys in little bubble containers, kids are your market. If that’s what you’re selling, you need to make sure that there are a lot of kids walking by your machines.
What you sell matters.
This goes hand in hand with the location. You have to match what you sell with your location. The majority of people who buy gumballs are kids. Likewise, if you’re going to sell Mike and Ike’s, toys, tattoos, or Skittles, you’re mainly going to be selling to kids.
If, however, you’ve placed your machine in a location where it’s predominantly adults, may I suggest choosing chocolate? Peanut M&Ms and regular M&Ms were my two biggest sellers at these locations. That’s something that anybody will buy. If I had put a gumball machine in my adult-predominant locations, I wouldn’t have sold anything barely.
What can you expect per month?
I would check all of my machines once a month. You don’t want empty machines for two reasons: that’s missed sales, and it looks bad. You have to get out there at least once a month, maybe more, depending on the location.
I had a mixture of machine types, but I averaged roughly $100 a month from four locations. This covered my cost for the product and regularly was around $60-70 net profit. The hardest part I noticed was the fluctuating price of M&Ms (yes, apparently, it’s a thing). While I bought in bulk from a bulk goods store, it was rather obnoxious to find out you were paying more this month than you had been last month.
How this will play out in modern-day society with rampant inflation, I’m not sure. Thankfully, candy stores pretty well, so you may be able to buy large purchases to tide you over for months.
The biggest factor today with bubblegum machines is inflation.
I still think that gumball machines and vending machines, in general, are worth talking about, but the single, largest hurdle you’re going to face today trying to run your own is tackling inflation. I can see how you would be able to better beat this if you were running soda and snack machines, but I’m not sure how coin slot machines would work with this.
The thing about soda/snack machines is that you can program in a different price for food. If the price of a Dr. Pepper goes up fifteen cents for you, you can quickly adjust for that with your machine. If you’re now paying $45 for a box of gumballs instead of the $33 that you’re used to, you still only have a slot for a quarter in your gumball machine.
There are always adjustments you can make with Beaver machines, but this then requires an investment in material and machine maintenance. That’s why I think the main answer to the question at the top of this article is: it depends.
Are bubble gum machines worth it? It depends on location, your customer base, what you’ll sell, and inflation. If you can nail all those variables down, I think the answer is ‘yes.’ But can you nail all those variables?
Have you ever tried making money with bubble gum machines? How did it work out? Do you have tips? Are you considering this added stream of income? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, The Faithful Prepper, An Arm and a Leg, The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices.