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How Can Vending Machines Become Part of a Healthy Office Culture?

 Posted 19.04.2017     Matthew Taylor

A professor from Rush Medical College in Illinois has come up with a counterintuitive way of improving vending machines. Brad Applehaus’ plan is not to make vending machines faster and quicker to use – but quite the opposite – he suggests adding a 25 second delay on purchases.

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A time-tax?

The professor of preventative medicine believes a 25 second delay on the purchase of unhealthy snacks can encourage people to choose healthier options that have no delay. Putting the theory to the test at Rush University, he was proved right somewhat. The installation of vending machines that warned people they would get a 25 second delay when selecting an unhealthy snack, and a chance to re-select for something healthier, produced some positive results.

Over the course of the study, it was found when the delay was in place, healthy snack consumption increased by 5 per cent. Not ground-breaking numbers, but proof that the psychological tactic of a ‘time-tax’ can have some influence. In fact, the study showed it had just as much effect as offering discounts on healthy snacks. However, the time-tax option encourages more healthy consumption without hurting the profits from the vending machine.

Professor Applehaus said:

“Unlike the discount, the delays didn’t harm the overall revenues of the machine. Places want people to have more nutrition, but they don’t want to lose revenue. So, the time delay might be a nice way to have it both ways.”

Speed it up, slow it down

We strongly believe here at BioStore that good nutritious food and a healthy eating environment are things that organisations should strive to achieve. Particularly in schools, encouraging healthy eating is very important. The delay in the distribution of unhealthy food would hopefully sway children to choose a healthy option, either when using the machine or in the future choices.

On the other hand, here at BioStore, we try to improve vending machines, not by making them slower, but by making them quicker and simpler to use. We understand the benefit of a healthy eating delay – but we strive to remove any time delay or frustration when it comes to paying for your snack. Either with brand new machines, or the modification of existing ones, we can make office, or school, vending machines part of our cashless catering solution.

That means staff or students can use vending machines even when they don’t have spare change on them. All they need is a form of authentication, such as a fingerprint, smartcard or passcode. This authentication could also be used for all kinds of solutions around the office or school, from gaining physical entrance, to computer log-ins, collecting a print job or paying for lunch.

The future of vending machines could be all about speeding it up in some instances, and slowing it down in others it seems.

NPR: Forcing People At Vending Machines To Wait Nudges Them To Buy Healthier Snacks

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