October 04, 2005

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A heartbreaking decision of staggering genius

This is a tale of a vending machine, Kate Moss and irrationality.

Important update at the end of this post

We have a vending machine at work. It has proven extremely popular with the staff, especially as the drinks are provided gratis. This has provided material for an interesting experiment. Now that price has been removed from the demand equation, it can be safely assumed that other factors will come into play. Taste is one, packaging another, familiarity (i.e. advertising and experience) yet another. The machine has two rows of 8 selections. The selections were:

(Top): Coke x2, Lemon Diet Coke (why?), Diet Coke x3, Aloe Vera Tea (again, why?), Lemon tea.
(Bottom): Bonactive (I think it's water in a can), Soda Water, Soda Water, Bonactive, Orange Juice and three variations of iced coffee.

Bear with me here. Inevitably the first drinks to run out are Coke and regular Diet Coke (there's always lemon Diet Coke left, even when everything else has run out, as you would expect). Naturally you would expect the bottler to realise that Coke and Diet Coke are the most popular drinks and some of the lesser variations should be dropped to make more space for these drinks.

You would be wrong.

In a decision that can only be described as incredible, the machine has had its two lines of Diet Coke cut (insert Kate Moss joke here) and replaced with Bonactive and Soda water. Why? It makes absolutely no sense at all.

Yes, I think I work in the Twilight Zone.

Update (10/5 @ 17:08)

The machine has been refilled and restored to its natural order, with 3 lines of Diet Coke back in place.

Obviously either someone complained, someone came to their senses or the evil conspiracy unravelled thanks to this blog post.

I like to think it was the latter.

posted by Simon on 10.04.05 at 04:57 PM in the Personal category.


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Weren't you banging on about this before, old chap?

posted by: fumier on 10.04.05 at 05:32 PM [permalink]

Yes, something similar. But seriously, how can you replace the popular product with those no-one touches? It just defies reason.

posted by: Simon on 10.04.05 at 05:43 PM [permalink]

I think Bonactive is some "ion supply drink" in the same vein as Pocari Sweat...

posted by: spacehunt on 10.04.05 at 05:54 PM [permalink]

Don't get me started on Pocari Sweat...

posted by: Simon on 10.04.05 at 05:56 PM [permalink]

That's right, Bonactive is some kind of isotonic drink. Just what a bunch of sedentary office workers need!

I think Diet Lemon is alright...but I actually preferred a Diet Lime Coke I bought once from Great (which must be a rich field for experimentation).

I do agree though, demand should trump supply in this case eh?

posted by: HK Dave on 10.04.05 at 06:02 PM [permalink]

Potential Answer:

The company that stocks the machine is sold out of the popular products and has no choice but to stick you with left-over inventory no one wants.

posted by: Gaijin Biker on 10.04.05 at 06:14 PM [permalink]

GB - that's our theory. It's rational, but sucks.

posted by: Simon on 10.04.05 at 06:29 PM [permalink]

Parallel to this, or not, at the place where I work, if you buy a certain snack, and come back the next day, the price on the snack has increased!

So, by that logic, I won't buy more of it. Why would you do that to me, salesman?

posted by: doug on 10.05.05 at 12:46 AM [permalink]

"The company that stocks the machine is sold out of the popular products and has no choice but to stick you with left-over inventory no one wants."

Which raises the question of why said company hasn't yet managed to figure out that its stocks of certain products are always the ones which are last to sell out. There's no excuse for this, it's simply poor inventory management.

posted by: Abiola Lapite on 10.05.05 at 07:59 AM [permalink]

What makes you think they didn't do it on purpose to save money, precisely because those ones were so popular? You're not paying for them, but obviously someone is.

posted by: Matt McIntosh on 10.05.05 at 09:17 AM [permalink]

Matt, a good point, but if that was the worry they'd start charging for all the drinks, not just pull the popular lines.

Fumier is right, this has happened before. Last time I actually complained and within a couple of weeks all was restored. This time I'm going to wait to see if anyone else can be bothered doing something about it. In the interim, my secret stash of Diet Coke is secure.

posted by: Simon on 10.05.05 at 09:21 AM [permalink]

Maybe you are overlooking a more obvious answer. The drinks are provided to you for free, but cost the company money. The more you drink, the more it costs the company. By stocking unpopular drinks, the company can boast it provides free amenities while reducing costs by providing amenities nobody wants....

posted by: Paul on 10.05.05 at 04:10 PM [permalink]

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