Marie Elysee, a 21-year-old North Campus student, was rushing to class on Sept. 13 when a vending machine in building 4 refused to dispense the soda she paid for.
“It’s the only dollar I had in my pocket. I put my money in and got no drink. When I dialed the help-line number on the machine, no one answered,” Elysee said. “I left my name and phone number and no one returned my call. Do you know how thirsty I was? And no, they still haven’t returned my call.”
Stories like Elysee’s are not uncommon.
On average, college-wide, Miami Dade College disburses about 300 refund vouchers a week, according to Gilda Rosenberg, president and owner of Gilly Vending, the company that operates 195 machines at the College.
The machines carry a variety of items including sodas, potato chips, ice cream bars, coffee and candy bars.
When a customer has a problem with a machine, they can go to the bursar’s office, sign a log, and retrieve a refund voucher.
Vouchers are shaped like dollar bills and entitle customers to “one free vend.”
“Vending machines are supposed to be a quick in and out, and if you’re in a rush you just got to go,” said Jonathan Alvarez, a 23-year-old student at Kendall Campus. “I don’t have time to go to the bursar’s office. If I’m hungry, broke and in a hurry, you best believe I’m going to be in a bad mood.”
According to Hannibal Burton, the College’s operations manager, each campus is given 150 refund vouchers, weekly. Fifty dollars in cash is also given to each campus to cover higher-priced items such as ice cream bars and frozen food items.
Rosenberg, who has owned the business since she was 19-years-old, admits that the machines have their bad days, but overall, she believes they are top notch.
“There is always a vending supervisor on campus. Once a machine does not function more than three times, an alarm goes off and lets us know, so we can go fix it,” Rosenberg said.
She says that just because a voucher is refunded, doesn’t mean it’s the machines fault.
“We care about the student body. We are the ones that bought you Coke and Pepsi in the same building,” Rosenberg said. “I am aware of students going and getting vouchers that they don’t deserve. At the end it’s a theft of corporate funding, and fortunately we have a budget for that.”
Irmina Diaz, a teller at the North Campus bursar’s office, says the vouchers always finish fast. She said that on Sept. 8, 22 vouchers were requested in less than two hours.
“It really depends on the day, but the vouchers always go quickly,” Diaz said.
However, Rosenberg says the machines are of high caliber.
“Its a computer, you cant blame a company over a technological glitch,” Rosenberg said.
Elysee says she has reduced the amount of items she buys at the vending machines.
“I don’t have time for it,” Elysee said. “I also can’t afford to be left dollar-less every time.”