The Green Sheet Online Edition
June 22, 2009 • Issue 09:06:02
Don't kick the machine - call a number
The days of cursing and punching vending machines might be coming to an end. A product from USA Technologies Inc. called ePort EDGE is designed to make it easy to retrofit old machines with a credit card terminal, allowing consumers to use plastic for purchasing a soda pop, among other things.
"It works with vending machines and other self-serve opportunities to allow for credit cards," said George Jensen, Chief Executive Officer, USA Technologies. "It's a total turnkey program. It's wireless, and it even comes with over-the-air updates for any software upgrades it enables."
Jensen said USA Technologies has a contract to install its product in a number of Coca-Cola vending machines, as well as with Starbucks, which is preparing to unveil a new line of vending machines for machine-brewed coffee on the go. More generally, the product is applicable anywhere within the self-serve market, including kiosks and laundry machines, Jensen added.
The terminal is a wireless, "all-in-one" device; the card reader and payment application are both built into the same piece.
For a monthly fee, the product also includes the "USA live network," a service that provides wireless online updates to vending operators, including notification of software upgrades and a data monitoring program to track the flow of money, which would "stop employee theft," Jensen said.
Ending the frustration
For a consumer, using a payment card also guards against what is historically the snack machine's most notorious pitfall: having your money eaten, as when the coins don't go through or a product stays lodged on its perch.
"That's the advantage here - when you use coins and bills and the product doesn't drop, you're out of luck," Jensen said. "With us, you just call our 800 number, and we give you your money back." Not to mention, unlike a rumpled dollar bill, cards aren't likely to be rejected for their tactility.
The ePort EDGE is modeled after the company's flagship product, the ePort G8, which is configured to take contactless payments - both via contactless cards and near field communication cell phones. The ePort EDGE, however, is the less expensive of the two and easier to install, Jensen said.
"The significance of the ePort EDGE is it's a one piece design, and it installs in 10 minutes," Jensen said. "It's simplistic for our customers. You just take it out of the box, open up the machine door, you knock out the little three-by-five plate, put the terminal in, plug it into the ... power supply, and you're done."
Jensen said there has long been interest in fusing electronic payments with self-serve machines of all kinds, adding that he expected the ePort EDGE to quickly proliferate.
"We just now unveiled the product - we started installing it last week - but there's really a pent-up demand," he said.
USA Technologies Inc.
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