I have been a part of the vending industry for the better part of this year now, gaining much of my knowledge from reading many articles and communicating with vendors, writers, and thought-leaders. I have a good friend who is a vending machine operator, as well, so I get a lot of great information from him about what it takes to run a vending business, the challenges vendors have to face, and all the hard work that goes into being a route driver.
Since becoming a part of Parlevel Systems, part of my job is to become an expert in vending, and in reading articles and talking with people, I would be able to accomplish a part of that. However, there is a part about vending that only vendors really understand, and that is the day to day work that they must do in order to build a successful business by serving their customers.
In order to fully address this, I asked my friend, the vending machine operator, if I could shadow him for some time and perhaps take over a route while he took a much needed vacation. I did not think he would allow me to take over the route, but to my surprise, he fully agreed to it and was thankful for the help.
Thus, this begins my adventure in vending. For this series of blogs, I will discuss some of the challenges and difficulties I will come across while learning the business and share some fun and interesting stories of things that happen along the way. This adventure will last me about a month, so I will not fully understand everything about vending, but I will be getting a crash course to start me out.
Before I get into this vending adventure, I want to share some of my expectations of what I think is going to happen.
I have worked in a variety of places, such as Blockbuster Video, Apple, and a couple of schools as a teacher, among others. Out of all of those, teaching in Korea was probably the most difficult and challenging because the hours were long, and it was rather tiring trying to keep all of those kids together to teach them English. It was a fantastic experience, but it is not something I plan on doing again. I fully expect vending to be much more tiring with its longer hours, if I am doing it wrong, and a lot of heavy lifting. Cases upon cases of sodas, snacks, and pastries will need to be loaded in the truck every morning and loaded out as the day goes by. This will be a great physical challenge for me.
Speaking of challenges, I am not sure how accurate I am going to be with loading product into the machines. My friend told me that there will be some training I will have to go through in order to learn how to handle a route on my own, but I wonder how I will figure out how much to load a machine at a time. My friend has about 300 machines in town and a few in a nearby city. How am I to remember the optimum level of each machine without having to do this multiple times? How do vendors do it? Is it just memorization and command on his or her route? For me, I fully expect there to be a lot of guesswork.
In terms of dealing with customers, as a route driver, I imagine I would be doing less of that than I would working in a retail store, for example. My main responsibility would be to go to the locations, collect the money, restock the machines as quickly as possible, and be on my way to the next location. I do not expect much customer interaction unless someone had a complaint. How would I deal with customer complaints? What is the policy with refunds? I am sure I will learn about these things during training.
Finally, I fully expect that this experience will give me much insight into the vending business from an inside perspective. It would be the difference between reading a travel book about a faraway country and traveling to a faraway country. I could read and talk to people in the industry and learn a lot from them, but there will be some things that will mean a lot to them that will not make much sense to me unless I were to have a similar experience. I hope that this experience in vending will allow me to bridge that gap between vending machine operators and me. This will be a tremendous learning experience.
In closing, these are some of my expectations going into this new adventure. I am excited about this because it is an opportunity to learn so much and do something I never thought I would do before. I want to sincerely thank my friend for allowing me to run a route and training me to be successful in the vending business.
I also want to thank you, the readers, for following me on this adventure. It is going to be a ride, and I hope you will follow me on it.
Keep visiting us at the Parlevel Systems Vending Resources to find out what happens to me during my endeavor. Thank you for reading!