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Beverage vending machine issues frustrate University students

| Tuesday, January 25, 2022

College students rely on vending machines for a less-than-nutritious meal in a pinch or a late-night caffeine surge, but some of the drink machines on the Notre Dame campus have been less than reliable in the last few months.

Refrigerator parts are “on order,” says a scrawled note on a piece of paper taped to a drink vending machine in the basement of Mendoza. The note, signed “Coke,” has been there since October 2021. 

Maggie Eastland | The Observer
A beverage machine in the Mendoza basement specifies at least two different parts on order.

Some Notre Dame students also cite problems with card readers on the drink vending machines that often display an “offline” error message.

Junior Patrick Lomeli said he uses the vending machines in Keenan Hall or DeBartolo Hall about two times a week, but that, recently, he has not been satisfied with his experience.

“For the drink vending machines, the card reader is always offline,” Lomeli said. 

Maggie Eastland | The Observer
A vending machine in Pasquerilla West Hall displays the card reader “offline” message.

Sophomore Elysa Ng said she has also had some trouble with a Farley Hall drink vending machine, which would not accept her quarters. Ng said she received a full refund from her dorm rector for the coins she spent, but still finds the vending payment methods inconvenient.

“It’s kind of weird that we can’t use Flex points,” Ng said.

Of the 99 snack vending machines scattered around campus, senior director of Campus Dining Luigi Alberganti said all machines were operational, as of his knowledge last Friday.

One of the snack machines, a pilot for a possible future vending program, offers cold items like sandwiches and salads. The rest offer shelf stable foods like snack bars, pretzels and chips, making them easy to maintain.

“It’s very rare that we have a machine that is down,” Alberganti said. “We have the ability to swap machines if something goes down.”

Student anecdotes align with this statement, as most voice issues with the drink machines. Those machines are operated and serviced by Coca-Cola Co., not the University or Campus Dining, Alberganti said.

“Any beverage machine is actually served by the Coca-Cola Company,” Alberganti said. “So, the inventory, the price and the programming, the service of the Coca-Cola beverage machines would be done by Coke.”

He added that once Campus Dining is aware of a drink vending machine problem, they do reach out to Coca-Cola to report the problem. Alberganti said the repairs may be slower due to supply chain interruptions.

“Anything that has to do with parts and refrigerated parts and technology has taken a back-burner status for certain items, so, yes, we’ve seen a delay on repair,” he said.

Staff shortages, particularly for commercial drivers, have likely impacted Coca-Cola’s service, Alberganti added.

As the drink vending machines charge nearly $2 for most beverages, some students also say they notice vending prices rising.

Alberganti confirmed that Coca-Cola increased prices generally in response to recent inflation. He said snack prices will remain stable at least as long as current inventory lasts.

“I foresee that once we deplete the current inventory and we get a new one, probably the price will rise,” Alberganti said.

Looking ahead, Alberganti said he hopes to improve communication with Coca-Cola in terms of vending services.

“I think there’s always opportunities for improving that,” he said. “What is most important is collecting the feedback that we can get, so we can address it with them.”

Students who would like to request a vending refund or have an issue with a vending machine should report it to [email protected] or submit the problem to the vending website. Alberganti asks students to send a photo of the machine or information about the location of the issue.

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About Maggie Eastland

Maggie Eastland is an Observer Assistant Managing Editor majoring in Finance and minoring in Journalism, Education, and Democracy at Notre Dame. When she's not writing business news, you can find her reading a book, going for a run, or carrying around a bottle of Heinz ketchup.

Contact Maggie