Sunday, November 27, 2005

Grocery Store Artifact: Stuff in the dirt tray

Generic Coinstar images courtesy of the Inter Nets

The store where I work has one of those Coinstar machines where for a fee you can turn in your spare change and redeem all of it for cash or, if you are so inclined, give it to charity. When the machine jams I have to fix it and get it running again.

It jams about once a week and 99% of the time it is because of dirty money. Now, technically all money is filthy, but the coins people bring in even more so. Chewing gum, wax, plastic, corrosion and glue among other unidentifiable substances are often stuck to the coins and impair the machine's functions.

Today, some guy tried redeeming a 5 gallon plastic water bottle about half-full of coins* that had sat in his garage for a while. Some liquid like soda had spilled into the bottle and on the coins sometime in the past because they were sticky, corroded and kept jamming the machine. Eventually I managed to get the customer's coins swapped out for a voucher but I had to do a good spot-clean of the feed tray and hopper to remove all the tacky residue. Some of the coins remained stubbornly fused together or stuck to the sides and bottom of the water bottle and the customer abandoned them. I had advised the customer he could recover the remaining money by cleaning the interior of the bottle with some hot water, but he declined. The bottle went into the trash with about $6 in coins still glued to the interior. That's okay, it's his money.

In cleaning the machine I dumped the dirt tray into a small trash bag to check for and recover any coins. The store gets credit for lost money returned and it adds up over a year. The dirt tray catches some (but not all) of the debris that is dumped along with the coins that are poured into the hopper from boxes, bottles, overnight cases and bags.

Here are the things I found in the dirt tray and coin-sorter bin today:

  • Safety pins
  • Corroded coins (returned to customer)
  • Nails
  • Lint, dirt, bits of stuff
  • Button
  • Little wooden dot that goes on a cabinet door
  • Shiny metal bullet-shaped slug that looks like a bullet and says '38' on the bottom
  • Washers
  • Springy barrette
  • O-rings
  • Paperclips
  • Staples
  • Hair of many colors
  • Yes, there are two press-on fingernails in there

* Optimistic, y'know

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