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If consumer attorney Dale Richards is correct, more Americans lose money to coin-operated vending machines than lose money gambling or paying taxes to the IRS. What’s also astounding is that so few people rise above simple vandalism as a response.

Richards explains, “Many vending companies are quite liberal in their refund policy. They don’t question most refund requests. However, getting refunds is annoying to people, it takes time, and the machines shouldn’t cheat people in the first place.”

People who work for vending companies claim that customer vandalism is why the machines don’t work in the first place. Critics claim that vandalism-repair cost is built into the price for the goods and services you get from coin-operated machines. I’m not here to adjudicate this debate, but to pass along some alternative philosophy.

Abbie Hoffman says that every time you drop a coin down the slot of some vending machine you are losing money needlessly. There are many inexpensive foreign coins that will duplicate the American version and operate vending equipment. It may be tough to get some of these coins, because many legitimate dealers look suspiciously upon attempted purchases of large numbers of cheapie foreign coins. You could tell them that you use them for jewelry. Apparently, many coins dealers are establishment snitches, so be careful.

Here, according to Hoffman, are the more useful foreign coins. The Icelandic five-auran piece is the most effective substitute for an American quarter. They are hard to come by, since they are no longer minted. The Uruguayan ten-centisimo coin will also substitute for the U.S. quarter in a variety of vendng machines, parking meters, telephones, toll gates, laundromats, etc. It does not work in cirgarette machines. The Danish five-ore piece works in just about anything but pop and cigarette machines.

Dime-sized coins include the Malaysian penny, which works in a variety of machines and devices that take a dime. Some of the newer vending machines will reject this dime substitute. Another ersatz dime is the Trinidad penny.

You might be able to have friends who travel abroad get you rolls of these coins for collection purposes or to make jewelry.

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