Collections Update: Trends in Cashbox Use and Security

Coin-operated machines appeared in the United States in 1898 when New York train passengers first saw gum dispensing machines on boarding platforms.  Several years later came machines selling measured amounts of peanuts.  By the 1950s, electromechanical machines selling all types of goodies and amusement had emerged.  In the ensuing decades, technology, such as microprocessors, enabled coin-op machine manufacturers to design equipment that offered multiple prices featuring a staggering variety of things.  Today these machines generate billions in sales.  And, although much of it is still coins and bills, electronic money has started to become more prevalent.
Machines collecting money, of course, have inherent risks, making cashbox security a concern for all coin-operated machine owners.  According to industry experts, safeguards include built-in features and aftermarket add-ons.  Both ways are designed to secure cashboxes from unwanted access by offering such things as improved mechanical locks, intrusion alarms, secure acceptors, tilt alarms, electronic audit features and more.
Anti-theft measures are typically focused on methods for securing and removing a portable cashbox.  This generally encompasses an outer housing, such as a currency processing device, and an inner chassis that mates with and retains the cashbox.  The factors that ultimately define security, though, are location and whether customers use coins and bills or electronic money.
“For street operators like us, it’s mostly coins and bills,” said Jim Brewer, the owner of B&B Amusement Company, which operates nationally from McMinnville, Tenn.  “I see a little credit and ATM card use, but I don’t see it as a major trend for street-type machines.”  But he noted, “That is not the case at the big FECs because most of that has gone cashless, which, of course, changes the way you collect and process the money.”
“Given the current economy, business is off and I think this slows change,” said Robert Baxter the owner of Baxter Entertainment in Knoxville, Tenn.  “So, it’s hard to tell what impact things like new machines with credit card capabilities will have – at least on the immediate future.”
In business for 44 years, Baxter said that the company carries a wide variety of amusement games like coin-op pool tables and music venues and further noted, “All of your manufacturers want to make big games for the FECs and large arcades, but we operate mostly street locations and with the exception of upgrades and a more modern look, I have not really seen a new game come out in several years.”
One trend, though, has been the migration from coins to bills.  “We just went through a cycle of modernizing our pool tables from coins only to coins and bills,” said Robert Blanken, the owner of B&K Enterprises, Inc. in Junction City, Kan.  “This has really helped sales because even though it is still cash it adds convenience to use it in a setting where customers may still be reluctant to use plastic.”
Yet, while street location machines lag the FECs in going cashless, there is a definite shift towards cards.  “We used to be a full line vending operator, but sold that division of the company off,” said Blanken.  “Prior to that, though, we were looking into going cashless on a lot of our major accounts.”
But FECs aren’t the only settings shifting to cashless.  “I see places like colleges going to cards,” said Donald Caiello, the vice president of B&C Vending, Inc., which operates out of Liverpool, N.Y. “University students may not have a lot of cash, but they are likely to have been given some form of credit cards by their parents and so it makes sense.”
Despite the differences between street and FECs and arcades, technology is still starting to shape the way customers use machines, especially for music. According to Caiello, “One thing going cashless is touch tune jukeboxes. For example iPhones has an app where if you sign up you can buy credits and access individual locations and use your credits for that.”
That is radically different from the past.  “I’ve been in this business for 48 years and have seen how things have been driven by technology and tastes over time,” said Bernie Krieger, the owner of Bernie Krieger Amusements in Johnston, Pa.  “These changes include things like music going from 78 RPM records – my dad had some machines that played them – to 45s to CD players and now Internet jukeboxes.”
Collection procedures have also evolved with time both because of technology and government regulations.  “I’m a second-generation route operator and my dad and I always went out and did our own collections, and when he retired I took over,” said Donald Gorbett, one of the owners of AVS Amusement in Rochester, Ill. “In our industry in this state the protocol for collecting has changed completely. With the new machines it’s a whole new ballgame. You have to have two or three collectors and a whole list of procedures that are mandated by the state of Illinois.”
Most of today’s machines are generally sleek and alluring, regardless of where they are and what they accept. But going cashless is definitely a trend – although progress in that direction is mixed, depending on where the machines are located.  In the meantime, coin and bill machines will continue to depend largely on mechanical and location security.
“We do have alarms in some of our machines, but not many,” said Krieger.  “We depend mostly on the locations where we place them to have alarm systems.”
One thing is clear.  That is, cashless changes all of that because it eliminates the need to collect and handle large sums of money.  But plastic presents other types of security risks and theft issues associated with doing business and billing with credit card numbers. –

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