When Georgia resident Marty Lock retired from a lifetime of working in the telecommunications field, he refused to take on the normal role of retiree. He was anxious to continue working, but at his own pace and direction. He began a new venture, called Oasis Vending, in 2009 thinking that starting a vending machine business could be a satisfying part-time career for him.
His father, a full-time firefighter, operates a similar business, so Lock was already familiar with the ins and outs of operating a vending machine business of his own. He started with three machines that dispense standard beverages and others that include microwaveable entrees. He has paid as little as $700 for a used vending machine and as much as $10,000 for another.
Lock credits his success to keeping things simple. He doesn’t have any contracts with vending machine manufacturers. This means he is responsible for any vending machine repair issues that arise, but at the same time he retains full control over the product in his machines. He also has very short term, 30-day non-binding agreements with the locations where his machines are placed. This arrangement works well for Lock and for his clients. According to Lock, “Most of them are just concerned with you taking care of the machine and responding to any issues that arise, if people don’t get their product.” Lock said that his most profitable machines are located in hotels. These vending machines produce the greatest revenues during conventions and seminars when customers are looking for a cold drink, hot coffee, or a quick snack between sessions.
Though it can initially be costly, Lock sees great value in retrofitting vending machines to accept debit and credit cards. According to Lock, “when you have a vending machine that will take a credit card, it increases the sales by 178 percent.” Lock sees less value in the newer software that allows owner operators to remotely track their machine’s inventory and sales. He prefers a simple spreadsheet to keep track of his data, but admits that other owners are getting real-time data on their vending machines delivered straight to their laptops and smartphones.
Lock has become a huge proponent of the vending machine business due to the availability of reasonably priced equipment and repairs as well as the solid revenue margins offered by the business. According to Lock, “I tell people if I was a younger man, I’d seriously consider doing this full time.”