Monday, August 25, 2008

Be Your Own Vending Machine At Work For Fun and Profit

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: , ,

comic 53 - vending genie

Long-time readers will know that I have a penchant for eating. In fact, I just finished eating the entire country of Denmark. Okay, perhaps not Denmark, but a much smaller country nobody really cares about. Suffice it to say I like the yummies.

Usually around mid-afternoon at work, I’ll get the craving for a snack. Over the years, I’ve dealt with this craving in a variety of ways, including:

  • Ignoring it. This is what I do about 98% of the time. Part of this is due to my desire not to gain 300 pounds, and part of it is due to my desire not to lose 300 pounds… sterling. Get it? It’s a currency joke. That would have killed at the World Bank. Anyway…
  • Being prepared for it. A couple of years ago, I usually made sure to have a supply of snacks on hand at work for when this craving called. My favorite emergency food supply consisted of a six-gallon tub of assorted snackery including pretzels, cheese puffs, and other stuff with no nutritional value whatsoever. I had to give up this plan, however, as I would sometimes polish off the entire tub in one day if things weren’t going well at work.
  • Giving in to the vending machine. This is probably the worst way to deal with mid-afternoon snack cravings. I’ve only done it a few times in nearly five years and always because my brain and stomach just wouldn’t shut up otherwise. I try to keep my wallet low on cash just so I’m not tempted to go the vending machine route at work.

There’s one more snack-attack counterattack tactic that I’ve been employing for the last couple of years: giving in to the communal snack box. Working in a computer lab environment, the head of the lab often goes out and buys snacks for everyone else who works there, usually asking for a small donation put into a change bucket to cover the cost of the snack. For instance, our current “Lab Daddy” purchases boxes and boxes of packages of pretzel bites and requests a donation of 28 cents each time you take a bag to help cover his costs.

It occurred to me earlier today, while eating my sixth bag of lab pretzels in as many days, that this little enterprise is quite ingenious and perhaps a bit profitable. Where does the profit come in? Consider how the normal computer lab pretzel exchange works:

  1. Choose your snack. Several varieties are available!
  2. Put 28 cents in the Pretzel Fund.
  3. Oh wait, all you have are dollar bills.
  4. The Lab Daddy just saw you take some pretzels. You better put in something or you’ll look like a cheap jerk.
  5. You repeat this each time you go for a bag. The 28-cent requested donation becomes 72 cents of profit for Lab Daddy.

Now I know Lab Daddy isn’t really out to make a profit on this; he’s just being really nice and saving us from having to spend a dollar on the same bag of pretzels in the company vending machine. And despite the “honor system” in place, I’m sure not everyone is putting in their 28 cents per bag. A more sinister person, however, such as yourself, might see this as the perfect opportunity to squeeze a few extra pennies out of your day job. Assuming you have trustworthy co-workers, it just might work too!

Oh, and in case you ever find yourself on the other side of this delicious scheme, here are a few strategies to help make sure you’re not putting extra pennies in your Lab Daddy’s pockets:

  • Use exact change, or take more than one. For pretzels that run 28 cents a bag, either put in a quarter and three pennies, or take three bags and hide the other two for later.
  • Announce your intentions. If Lab Daddy is watching your pretzel pickup, and you only have large bills, toss one into the donation bucket in plain sight and say something like “That should cover me for the next X bags.”
  • Bring your own snacks. This way, you know you’re paying 28 cents a bag for your pretzels. Just don’t forget them at home, and don’t go through them faster than you would the communal stash.
  • Open a competing snack shack. Beat Lab Daddy at his own game by starting your own vending service. If necessary, price below your cost to start and you’ll drive Lab Daddy out of business. Of course, if you ever need Lab Daddy’s help with your work, expect him to change your account passwords and delete your files at random.

A word of caution before starting a communal snackateria at your workplace: Be sure to keep it on the down-low. Otherwise you might risk people from other departments sneaking through for a freebie. Or you might earn the ire of your workplace’s vending contractors who could see you as stealing their business; don’t blame me if you leave work late one evening only to be blocked in by 12 Coca-Cola machines.

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