DEAR Consumer Line,
With reference to your recent articles in Sowetan about the alleged unscrupulous behavior of a fellow competitor in the vending industry, I feel compelled to write in the interests of vending in South Africa.
I write in my personal capacity as an independent operator and vending machine supplier.
Firstly, not all machine suppliers in our industry behave in the alleged manner as described in your article. On the contrary, most operators and suppliers subscribe to a high code of ethics in a very competitive service-based industry.
While I have sympathy with your consumers, I must also add that buying a vending machine is a high price item that can generate a very good income over a number of years with a minimal amount of effort - but there is a distinct discipline attached to it.
Much like buying any business consumers have to do a thorough investigation of the industry they want to enter and, of course, the supplier with they have elected to use.
I can almost guarantee that the complainants never received three quotations or carried out a thorough investigation into the industry.
The first port of call is always the association that governs the industry and in our arena it is Vasa (Vending Association of South Africa).
Secondly, prospective consumers should receive all promises or obligations in writing and, thirdly, carry out independent research by looking at other vending machines (and suppliers) and phone them to garner a second opinion of the proposed equipment supplier.
While a company providing you with references is always a sign of confidence, dig a bit deeper and ask for a reference from a customer within the last 10 days of trading.
his will always provide a better sense of security and ensure that one is not receiving references from "dummy customers".
As in any industry, one will always find a few entrants who do not adhere to the required disciplines.
The onus is on the prospective customer to ensure that he or she is comfortable with the prospective supplier.
I maintain that the vending industry has, and will certainly remain, one of the most lucrative industries to enter since the returns are substantial, the hours flexible and the opportunity for growth enormous.
Another potential pitfall to avoid is the current trend of buying vending machines at auctions. While the auctioneers are oblivious to this new trend, consumers should be very wary of buying machines in this since a number of unscrupulous suppliers are "dumping" obsolete units on auctions and selling them to the unsuspecting public as working units.
In most instances the repairs to this type of unit outweighs the cost of purchasing a re-furbished or even a new machine.
My team and I have spent the best part of 11 years servicing this segment of the market and we find it completely and totally disappointing that one alleged bad incident should tarnish the image of an entire industry.
In the not too distant future our company will hold free vending seminars in the interests of educating and advising the public.
Managing Director TheVending Company
lThis letter has been edited.