While doing a little research for a recent article about coin counting machines I stumbled across a rather interesting post. If you’re not familiar with coin counting machines you probably haven’t been paying much attention. They’re found in most chain grocery stores around the country (usually tucked right by the doors) as well as many other locations.
Although Coinstar is the most popular type there are other companies that provide these machines including Coinmaster. Both Coinstar and Coinmaster charge a service fee of 8.9% in return for providing the service of counting your coins for you. However, Coinstar allows you to purchase online gift certificates to companies like iTunes, DisneyShoppiing, Eddie Bauer, Circuit City and Amazon without a service fee.
Apparently, some people are so put out by the service fee that they’ve developed a way to manipulate the Coinstar machines into waiving it-
- Enter your coins and allow the machine to count them as normal
- When it’s time to select your payout choose one of the gift certificate options
- Quickly unplug the phone line going to the machine
The machine will attempt to dial out to Coinstar in order to create your gift certificate, be unable to do so, and instead give you the cash receipt. However, since you didn’t agree to the 8.9% deduction you won’t be charged for it and will instead receive the full value of your cash.
The problem with this is, of course, that Coinstar is now not receiving any revenue in exchange for the service it is providing. Should a large enough number of people use this little trick than these coin machines will start to disappear. According to the New York Times it takes more than two years for an individual Coinstar machine to turn a profit. So, while it may seem like 9% is a lot of money, would you rather have to roll the coins yourself?
My advice: go for the gift certificate – no fees, and if you’re reading this you probably shop online at least occasionally.
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