I, like most people, generally don't think much of vending machines, they are just not on my radar of interests, indeed why would they be? Recently however I have had a number of 'run-ins' with faulty vending machines I am starting to think that they are a scam.
As everyone knows when you buy something from a vending machine you get charged an extortionate price for the convenience of the 24x7 access, but you accept that because it is usually all there is and it's usually a one off treat, however when that very same machine then fails to vend and you've no more money then you just think you've been done, and probably like most write it off as back luck.
If you are a consumer who likes to stand up for yourself like me you've probably noticed the sign on the machine, you've probably telling you who to contact to get your money back, and you'd expect them to be willing to provide cash, or check as a refund. This is where you'd be mistaken. I don't have any qualms about naming and shaming Selecta Vending, Basingstoke as one my least favourite companies, having placed numerous request for refunds due to failed attempts to vend products from their machines at Royal College of Art and as a regular train passenger. Selecta's policy and attitude towards customer service is diabolical.
What's the problem?
1. Premium Rate Phone Number – The number provided to call them is a premium rate phone number 0844 7360 204, what's more they don't even have a record on Say No To 0870.
2. No cash refunds under £10 – They flat out refuse to refund customers unless it's over £10, instead offering to send postage stamps to the value.
3. Staff Attitude – When you ask them if they think this is acceptable they are quite happy to fob you off and say 'most people accept this', and no wonder, there isn't another choice, either take the stamps of you're S.O.L.
4. Designed to fail – Most modern vending machines are equipped with a sensor that detects when the product falls through to the collection bin, however despite the fact Selecta is a big company with many vending machines across the rail network and beyond, I have yet to see one machine which has a sensor, easily recognisable by the reflective pad near the collection bin.
I personally feel that Selecta, and no doubt others in this industry are deliberately taking advantage of the fact that their machines fail to vend by not upgrading their machines with vend sensors to give refunds if the product doesn't vend, by only providing a premium rate number to call for a refund that is only open office hours, and by not offering cash refunds and staff that take a long time to enter all the details and deal with the issue further increasing the phone bill.
I for one am sick of Selecta and I think they need to do a better job of improving their vending machine stock to ensure it isn't breaking all the time, install sensors to make sure customers get their products, and switch to an 03 number and provide a free website to make your claim. They should also offer cash refunds to customers or perhaps they could have a coupon that can be accepted by the vending machine.
Either way, I think' I will be writing to trading standards and watch dog about this as I am kinda sick of it now, it's certainly a case of "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I should learn the lesson not to use the machines, but they should treat customer with respect and they need someone to expose the scam that is going on here.