May 22, 2014

Buy one, get one free

There’s a vending machine at work that I’ve come to refer to as the “magic machine.” It’s your standard office vending machine, full of candy and chips and on the surface it’s not unique in any way. But for the last couple of months I’ve discovered I have a talent for getting free stuff out of it.

The magic machine does not yield its free junk food easily but I’ve found that if I select something in a bag - chips, cookies, cinnamon rolls - more often than not I can get two for the price of one. It goes like this: I insert money and select, say, a bag of chips. The little curly dispenser thing (this is the technical term) spins a certain amount, bringing the chips forward. The chips wedge themselves slightly on the shelf of snacks above them and then pop free, falling down to the little door at the bottom...

...Except, sometimes they get wedged and stay there, hanging by a thread at the edge of vending machine oblivion. When this happens the machine displays an error message and refunds the money. From there all I do is put the money back in and order chips. The first bag drops free as soon as the curly dispenser thing starts spinning and before the machine can register that a bag has fallen, a second one pops free as well.

This has happened to me before at other machines, and I’m sure plenty of other people have had similar experiences at one time or another. My newfound talent seems to be examining the bagged snacks and determining which are most likely to get stuck. I don’t generally buy food from the vending machine unless I think I can get two for the price of one, and since January I’ve been successful on 19 out of 21 attempts, including a run of sixteen in a row. Since discovering my talent I've built up a nice stash of junk food at my desk.

I consider myself of sound morals, but I don’t think of this as stealing. It’s not like I’m reaching my arm up through the door and just taking stuff. I am, after all, paying for the junk food of my choice. If the machine chooses to give me two, who am I to argue? I already let machines like my phone, computer, and coffee maker dictate the rest of my life - with that in mind it seems rude to turn down a free offering by the vending machine just because of my clumsy human morals.

Even people with natural talent have off days, and I had one this morning. A cinnamon roll wedged itself at the end of its shelf like I had planned, but after hanging there for a second it gave and tumbled down to the bottom and the machine was able to register a sale before refunding my money. I’d be disappointed but clearly it takes some talent to score freebies out of the vending machine sixteen consecutive times.

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