Consumers' Experiences, Opinions, Attitudes, Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction, and Complaining Behavior with Vending Machines

By Lee, Dong Hwan | Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior, January 1, 2003 | Go to article overview

Consumers' Experiences, Opinions, Attitudes, Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction, and Complaining Behavior with Vending Machines


Lee, Dong Hwan, Journal of Consumer Satisfaction, Dissatisfaction and Complaining Behavior


ABSTRACT

Despite the ever increasing presence and penetration of vending machines into consumers' lives, there have been no studies to date in the marketing and consumer behavior literature that shed light on consumers' experiences and consumption behavior involving vending machines. This study is the first of its kind to report, based on consumer survey data, consumers' usage behavior, and opinions and attitudes toward the services rendered by food and beverage vending machines. Consumer satisfaction/dissatisfaction and complaint behavior are also investigated. The results reveal that consumers consider vending machines as quite useful, beneficial, important, and meaning a lot to them - more so than TV or red wine! However, consumers generally give tepid evaluations about vending machine services, and their level of satisfaction starkly contrasts with their high involvement. Their experience with the vending machine is not up to par with comparable retail store shopping experiences. The inadequate system of requesting refunds and filing complaints, a chronic source of consumer dissatisfaction, emerged as the most serious drawback of vending machine services. Managerial implications of this and other findings, along with future research issues are discussed.

INTRODUCTION

More than two decades ago, Quelch and Takeuchi (1981) predicted that the vending machine would become one of the most important non-store marketing channels. Comparing the two million vending machines as cited in their article at that time, with the more than seven million vending machines in operation in the U.S. currently (Leaner 2002), their prediction has surely materialized. Presently, the vending machine business is a $41 billion industry (National Automatic Merchandising Association 2002) and one of the most pervasive retail business forms, though still low-profile.

Vending machines and many consumer products as consumer products have a symbiotic relationship. As more people have joined the workforce during the past several decades and their busy social life increasingly places more value on time and convenience, vending machines have become an indispensable part of many people's daily lives. They offer consumers a variety of products including foods, snacks, beverages, newspapers, cigarettes, laundry products, cosmetics, hosiery, personal care items, postage stamps, contraceptive devices, and even paperbacks and CDs.

Food and beverages account for about 85% of vending machine sales in the U.S., with vending machines accounting for about 20% of soft drink sales (Vending Times 2002). Vending machines also take on an ever-increasing role in serving employees in the workplace in the new economy. Since downsizing and workforce reductions have been accelerating in Corporate America, companies are increasingly reducing and replacing food service facilities and staffs with self-serving vending machines (Leisure Week 1999). Nowadays employees can find at their workplace almost any food and beverage item from pizza to frozen dinners. "Light" entrees, fresh salads, fruits, and dairy products are often part of their canteens and dining facilities.

Given the ever increasing presence and the pervasiveness of vending machines in the lives of consumers, it is surprising that there have been to date no studies in the marketing and consumer behavior literature that shed light on consumers' usage behavior, experiences, opinions, and attitudes, not to mention their satisfaction, dissatisfaction, and complaining behavior, with the vending machine services. This glaring lack of knowledge about consumer behavior regarding vending machine service is even more surprising, considering the fact that our knowledge and understanding of consumer behavior in the retailing field have dramatically increased during the past two decades. The present study is conducted as a first step to fill such a gap in consumer behavior and non-store retailing literature. …

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