May 3, 2007

Vandals Hit Vending Machines With Out-Dated Scheme

A pair of Memphis businesses would have been better off in the pocketbook if a would-be-thief had done a little research on his or her method of delivery.

The Memphis Police Department is investigating a pair of attempted thefts from vending machines in town.

Officer Terry Simerl reported the attempted thefts occurred during the evening of Thursday, April 26th or early the following morning.

K & M Automotive and Pepsi-Cola Memphis Bottling Co. reported damage to a pair of vending machines they own.

Simerl stated that the vandal(s) attempted to pour a saltwater solution into the coin mechanisms with the false belief it would cause a short in the machine, forcing it to spew out money or product.

But according to, an authority of such urban legends, the prospective thieves had little hope for success.

Snopes states the concept first appeared back in the 1990s after an episode of MacGyver revealed the trick. After the idea was tried successfully by others, the companies were forced to change the coin mechanisms in their machines after numerous problems in the mid-1990s with vandals trying their hand at salting, a practice in which injected saltwater was used to short-circuit coin changers. The saline would act as a conductor, causing the unit to jackpot both money and product.

According to, the vending machine companies improved the technology, moving the coin changer and creating a long, perforated channel so saltwater canít flow through it. Bill validators are often mounted above the slot, so nothing can gain access to it. Older machines were fitted with diverters that channeled fluids away from the coin mechanism but allowed coins to travel their usual smooth path into the coin acceptor and coin changer.

Unfortunately for the two local businesses, and prospectively for the would-be-thieves, they did not do their homework prior to trying the old technique. Simerl stated the vandal(s) is facing felony charges due to the amount of damage the saltwater did to the coin changer at the car wash and the soda vending machine located at Jís.

Anyone that noticed suspicious activity at either location on that evening, or who attempted to use the machines without success, is asked to contact the police department at 465-2612.

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