Can I get accused of stealing if a vending machine breaks and dispenses everything for me?

Can I get accused of stealing if a vending machine breaks and dispenses everything for me?

You can check the answer of the people under the question at Quora “a vending machine dispenses coffee into

0 thoughts on “Can I get accused of stealing if a vending machine breaks and dispenses everything for me?”

  1. Is it theft? Morally, and in the very strictest sense of the word, it is. Will you be accused of theft in a court of law? Most likely, no (some countries/places might have a zero tolerance policy, so this is not a blanket statement). For Instance, the person before you paid for an item and it was left there, hanging by the edge of the wrapper. You pay and enter the same code and you get the other person’s item plus the one you paid for. Both items are paid for. If the other person is still there, you should offer them the one they paid for.
    Exceptions. You MIGHT be accused of theft if you are using an exploit known to that machine and do so repeatedly. For example, if there is a lengthy test key that you enter for a machine to place it in a diagnostic mode, then use it for your benefit to steal vends every day. (I do not know if such a key exists, and if it does, I would hope that it would also require you to open the door first and flip a switch only accessible to those with a key.
    You might be accused of theft or fraud if you service the machine as part of your job and you set the machine up to double dispense on first use of a particular item.
    Both of these exceptions are a case where there in an intention to steal goods vs just having a random malfunction.
    You might be accused of theft if the coin return dispenses a significant amount of money that was not yours, but that will probably depend on the situation. They are not going to accuse you over a dime, but if you put a dollar in a change machine and it drops 200 bucks in change, they might.
    You will be accused of theft if the “vending machine” is an ATM and it dispenses money beyond what you requested and you try and keep it. For example, if it dispenses 500 dollars and you requested 20. If you go in an report it and return the money, that’s fine. If you run out and spend it before the bank catches on, you will still be required to pay it back and might be charged with theft, especially if you fight them on paying it back. They WILL go back and review the video, they WILL see your reaction, they will see the malfunction indicator that goes off when you are standing in front of the machine, they WILL find you (after all, you just used your ATM card linked to your account with all your personal information on file.)
    Best bet, if it dispenses everything, or gives/returns money it should not, then report it to the appropriate person and just take the thing you paid for. That much sugar will just give you a bellyache anyway.

  2. Yes, because you are expected to be a Resonable Person
    As much as cynics like to claim otherwise, Common Sense does exist in law. Only that it is not called Common Sense but instead Reasonable Person .
    What Reasonable Person means is that the law will not require more — nor less — of you than common sense dictates.
    “Why did you not report that crime to the police?”
    “Because I was scared and fearing for my life, thinking the criminal would take out revenge on me if I did!”
    “How do you figure?”
    “Well, it was my spouse your honour, and I was the only witness… they would know if the police showed up”
    You — as a reasonable person — know very well how a vending machine works: you pay for one item, and you get that one item.
    So, if you pay for one item, and suddenly get all items… then you know “This was not supposed to happen”. You cannot claim “I thought that was supposed to happen. Sure, it surprised me, but I saw nothing wrong with that”, because that is not what a Resonable Person would do.
    You know that if you grab more than your allotted item, then someone somewhere is out of an item that you have not paid for. Their loss, your gain. To purposely cause loss for someone else in order to gain for yourself, is theft.

  3. Yea that happened to me once,
    I went and put in a buck to get some candy out of the vending machine, and all the wires began turning at once and everything, absolutely everything just dropped, my first response was ok, whatever. I called the vending machine guy at my work, he immediately demanded that I hand over everything I purchased, which I was just holding my 3 Musketeers I purchased with a dollar, I explained I had paid for just that one item when the whole machine went screwy (No pun intended – no I am kidding I totally intended that pun).
    He took it from me and proceeded to fix the machine, all the while keeping me there under the threat that he was going to call the cops for rigging his machine.
    We have surveillance equipment looking down at those machines at the time it happened, and they had audio, suffice to say, he did call the police, they investigated for a whole 30 minutes, and found that he had illegally re-appropriated a purchased item from a customer after a machine fault, I did not get anything beyond what I had punched in, and subsequently we got a new vending guy within a week.
    I think in his mind, he thought it was stolen and it could have gone his way if I was not telling the truth. But just because a vending machine breaks, does not give people free reign to just pick through it like its a jackpot.
    Think of it like a day you leave your door unlocked, and the door opens to the wind, do you think everyone walking past your open door will think, Oh Jackpot. Its not right to invade someones home under the pretenses of a accident, its the same in this case.

  4. Not quite an answer to your question, but one day during college I was needing some change. I was in pharmacy school at the time, and we had both men’s and women’s locker rooms. At the time, our college pharmacy school was old, and still had lots of the original building in tact. I don’t know why you’d ever need a locker in pharmacy school but never-the-less we had one. Anyway, no one ever used these lockers, but in this small locker room there were both soda and food vending machines. So, I put a dollar in the vending machine and then immediately requested change, by pushing the lever down. Instead of change, my dollar rolled b…

  5. I’ve come across a soda machine that spits out two to three cans per one sale price. Months passed and it continued to spew like that. Not many people either knew or didn’t care.
    So one day someone watches me as i enter my money and get extra sodas with my one soda i paid for. they approach me and ask me if i’m going to share the extra drinks and if i don’t he would report me to the store manager.
    My response: “Good luck. extortion and bribery doesn’t work like that”
    the person demands i stay put as they get a store manager.
    Manager: “Did you enter money?”
    Me: “Yes.”
    Manager: “Did extra soda cans come out with your purchase of one can?”
    Me: “Yes”
    Person: “So that’s considered stealing, right?”
    Manager: “No. We cannot control when the vending machines malfunction.”
    Person: “But its stealing. He paid for one, and is walking away with 3”
    Manager: “What do you want me to do, call the cops on petty theft over a vending machine malfunction? Whats your goal here anyhow?”
    Person: “to get this guy to share one of the drinks with me”
    Me: “Uh, in my defense, he tried bribing/extorting me to share before he called you over.”
    Manager: “Oh, so now this comes a bit more clearer. As far as i’m concerned, young man, all 3 soda cans are yours. You jack-potted the machine. And you,(referring to person) for wasting our time don’t bother try harassing customers again, or the cops will arrest you.”

  6. I almost got expelled out of high school. The vending machine coin entry was stuck and coins were sticking out. I tried to put my coin to see what will happen. My coin got stuck too. Clever that I was I used a metal pin to unhook my coin. As a result few fell out and much more into the outlet pocket. I gave some of the money to bystanders who claimed they had inserted money in vain. Put the rest in my pocket.
    Couple of days later this scenario repeted. So far I did this trice.
    I ended up in director’s office and I admitted what I did. I was accused of stealing and they voted if I should be kicked out of school. Thanks God two teachers voted against that. May Jesus bless my history teacher.

  7. If you take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to pay and take more than what you have already paid for then, technically yes. Someone at the location of the vending machine should be notified that it is malfunctioning.

  8. Once When I was in highschool, I needed to use a change machine (to turn a $20 bill into $1 coins for a vending machine). The machine continued to dump loonies like I’d won a jackpot at the casino slot machine… so I did what any teenage boy would do all alone and unwitnessed… I filled my backpack with hundreds of dollars worth of loonies and was never short on change for a vending machine (or fast food, or a little cafeteria lunch) for pretty much my entire stay in highschool. Was it legal? Absolutely not. I probably should have called the vending company (using their change in the pay phone, since cellphones weren’t in every kids pocket back then) and reported the malfunction. But, I didn’t think of the consequences back then, and there weren’t any. I think it’s a risk vending companies take when they enter the line of business. It’s also probably the reason a chocolate bar or can of pop costs vastly more out of a vending machine then it would at your local 7–11.

  9. “Can I get accused of stealing if a vending machine breaks and dispenses everything for me?”
    It sounds like you’re asking if you could get accused of stealing if you take these items.
    Well, if you take these items, then you are stealing. So if you were accused of this, it would be a correct accusation.
    I don’t know whether you’re asking this as a real-life situation, but one way to reduce the chances of an accusation (again assuming you didn’t actually take any) would be to look for a sticker on the vending machine which shows the contact information for the vending machine’s operator, and tell them what happened. If your report is recorded somewhere, it would be harder to be accused of stealing.

  10. Kind of similar situation
    So my school got new vending machines. I go to buy some sun chips w/ 50 cents. Well they get stuck. The machine is “smart” and tries to keep going to push out another one. IT gets stuck ALSO. So it gives the 50 cents back. I, of course, go to buy the sun chips again. It drops out the first two stuck bags… then the OTHER bag gets stuck. Repeats again, and I end up almost walking away with about 6–7 bags in the end…. and then the lunch lady saw me and ended up taking all of em besides one :/

  11. Don’t take anything and tell someone working there, and you won’t be accused of anything. Take items from a malfunctioning machine, and not only will you be accused, you ARE a thief. Just because the machine is broken doesn’t mean you can take things you did not pay for.

  12. Yes. Taking something you know you should not have is stealing, both morally and legally.
    While you are unlikely to be prosecuted even if caught, you may well be cautioned and a record kept of your activity, and face other consequences – if this was in a mall you may be excluded, if in a workplace you may be sacked.

  13. It cost one young man his entire military career. At the Air Force Academy, a cadet realized he could get a soda by pressing the machines malfunctioning button. He took more than the one he paid for. This was considered stealing and he was kicked out for an “Honor Violation.”
    His opportunity to be a leader among the worlds best…vanished.
    It wasn’t t…

  14. This happened on January 1, 2001 at my work and I’ll never forget this. The snack machine just displayed “no money required” and started to empty everything out if the machine. We literally took the machine which was recently stocked and put everything on the break room table. By the end of the day everything was gone. Later that week when the vending machine company came out to service the machine they were pissed because the guy who stocks it had to account for the missing money.

    Eight O’Clock

  15. “Can I get accused of stealing if a vending machine breaks and dispenses everything for me?”
    Not just accused, it IS stealing
    You paid a dollar for a can of coke, walking away with three cans of coke means you stole two cans of coke.
    You wouldn’t buy a pack of gum off the counter, and pocket two more whilst the shop keepers back was turned.

  16. Can I get accused of stealing if a vending machine breaks and dispenses everything for me?
    Wording is everything : )
    Can you be accused of stealing? Yes… of course you can. You can get accused of stealing, whilst just walking down the street minding your own business.
    Is taking improperly dispensed goods actually stealing? Well, it depends.
    Obviously – If you did anything designed or intended to disrupt the normal functioning of the machine, then you can be found guilty of attempting to steal whether you got your hands on the items or not. In much the same way that placing expensive items into a foil lined bag and trying to sneak it through a supermarket checkpoint is likely to be grounds enough to assume an intent to steal the items.
    That’s not the case here.
    In the context of the question, here is the point that needs answering :
    When you took the items, did you have reasonable belief that the items were obtained fairly?
    If not, and you took them anyway, then you are guilty of theft. This is true in most countries who’s justice is based on English law.
    Theft: “To take with the intent of permanently depriving the rightful owner thereof”
    The specific phrasing of the question : “…if a vending machine breaks…” is enough to show that the poster would indeed be committing a crime if they took the items. A broken machine does not convey ownership… in the exact same way that a broken store window does not.
    Can there be mitigating circumstances? Sure…
    For example, if there was a loud fanfare, flashing lights and a confetti cannon went off – you might be able to hold an honest and reasonable belief that you had won some sort of random reward!
    But here’s the thing… a court would not typically concern itself with what you believed or did not believe. They would instead consider the belief of a fictional third person : “the reasonable man”
    So, they will instead consider: Were the circumstances such that a “reasonable person” would likely believe that they had legitimate claim to the items?
    And here’s where your case collapses :
    Since your question admits belief that the machine was “broken” then you’ve answered the question – and we do not have to consider the expectations and assumptions of fictional persons ; )))
    So, yes, it would definitely be theft to take away goods not purchased (incorrectly dispensed) with the intention of permanently depriving the rightful owner thereof. As any reasonable person would know that items put up for sale have value, belong to someone else and that this is not how vending machines behave.
    But surely, you don’t need Quora to tell you this : )

  17. I would just share the news with friends – nobody will accuse you that way.
    The vending in my first year dorm had a malfunction, and each item on the top two rows would only cost 10 cents.
    The vending-machine man would refill the machine, and we would fill up a waste basket full of chips for $10. The room with the waste basket became a lot more popular.
    One day I walked by the vending machine as the vending-machine man was refilling it, and heard him complaining over the phone about how the top row was always out (then he figured out why). It was good while it lasted.


  18. Do you think the owner of the machine would authorize you to take all of his/her merchandise if your scenario actually happened? If not, there’s your answer. Getting creative about what constitutes theft is a good way to a theft charge.

  19. We had a coffee machine that when I’d put a dime in it then hit the coin return right away, it would dispense a cup of coffee and give 15 cents change!

  20. UK answer:
    Commercial ‘theft’ of any item valued under £10 is not a criminal offence, but a civil matter. Firstly, that means that any company wishing to fight you on this would likely need to take you to small claims court.
    Now does that mean they would win? Depends on the judge. Arguments in their favour would include the fact that such machines are designed to dispense one item at a time, and that using the machine could invoke a contract to respect this fact. Counter arguments to this case would include the idea that these machines sometimes don’t dispense any item, and so might be treated as a chance game similar to slot machines, and that if a machine does dispense an item that is the equivalent of a gift, rather than a transactionary matter.
    It would be a very interesting case, but really, it would leave little reason not to take the items, as at worst you could be ordered to return them or pay their value, and at best you would indeed get them for free; the chance of any company actually taking this to trial is near nil.

  21. I have often tried to get 1 item from a vending machine, the kind with a screw spring like action, that when you pay it moves the item forward. And gotten nothing. which forces me to spend twice as much as I intended to get my product. Granted the second deposit will almost always give me 2 of the item, but I only wanted 1.
    If I see an item that looks like it is ready to fall, I will try to knock it loose buy buying the item above it, so that when that item falls it loosens the item below and it falls as well.
    Vending machines are not perfect, so if for some reason you get 2 items instead of 1, it is probably O K to take 2, since I am sure there have een times where you didn’t get any item at all.

  22. There was no malicious intent on your part. There’s no way to get that item back into the machine so that the vending company can profit from it.
    I feel that leaving the item or taking the item is exactly the same, to be honest. The people who should get paid won’t be paid so what does it matter who gets it?
    These machines will occasionally give extra items, these odds are considered in their margins and are still determined to be cost-effective. Buying an item gets you a shot at an extra item. In a way, it’s very similar to the lottery. Just accept one of the few bits of kindness life has to offer before it decides to start screwing with you again.

    Can I get accused of stealing if a vending machine breaks and dispenses everything for me?

  23. When I was in the Air Force this exact thing happened to a guy in my squadron. The vending machine in our dormitory unloaded everything. He grabbed some empty boxes and loaded up.
    He got caught was prosecuted for theft and accepted non-judicial punishment (Article 15).

  24. This depends on your local area’s laws, and also if you take it or not. Most likely, your best choice is to take the stash and walk away with a smile running from ear to ear. I would also suggest buying a lottery ticket.

  25. Well yeah. Your only suppose to take whatever you paid for. Or if it is the same price as what you paid for you can take that instead. But if you take more than you paid for, it is stealing. I doubt anyone would go after you for it considering they are literally worth a dollar and they are tiny on top of it.

  26. Only if you take it. Kinda like money falling out of the Brinks truck,,,,it’s not yours. Nobody really cares if you get a second candy, though. They would like to know.


  27. Reply
  28. I’ve lost so much money in vending machines and try and get your money back. You can’t. So if they dispense some items without charging I would take it. Lol I guess it can be viewed as stealing because it’s not yours to take. But I’d still do it.

  29. Yes, because the machine did not dispense everything for you . It malfunctioned and dispensed everything, but what it dispensed does not belong to you.
    Can you get accused of stealing if a vending machine breaks and dispenses everything for you?


  30. From a common law country and I can tell you, even picking up something on the ground and appropriation of it is considered theft. Have seen court cases about it and one of them the defendant claimed he threw the wallet away and was still found guilty because you can only make that decision to throw it away if you consider the thing is owned by you.
    These are called opportunity theft, you are in a situation where you did not plan to steal but the circumstances provided you something you do not own, and you take the item(s) without doing the right thing: Handing it to the police or return it to the rightful owner. Another situation that will land you in the same charge is taking money from an ATM machine where the previous person forgot to take the money.
    There is one possible defence, you reasonably think the item is abandoned.(say, you went through the dumpster for it or it was found next to the dumpster damaged) but this question obviously cannot fall into this situation.
    So yes, you CAN get accused of stealing.

  31. There was a machine that would spit out everything and only 1 guy (a big fat guy, now long gone) turned it off and called the vending company every time. I shouldn’t have accepted the free candy, I gained a lot of weight working there. (By the way, I don’t mention his weight to be mean; he was a nice fella. I just find it amusing that the one guy against a machine that gives out free candy, even though the company didn’t care; was a big fat guy.)

  32. I’ve had that happen where I got a two for the price of one. On the flip side I have gotten none for the price of one. If it kept happening where I was the loser, I simply unplugged the machine.

  33. There is a flaw with that machine. You did not cause the machine to malfunction so if you got a free product, it is yours. Your intention was to pay for it. I was in the hospital visiting my sick g/f. I noticed the machine used those spiral springs that spin and they drop the candy bars or bagged snacks as they spin. There was candy bar stuck on the bottom of the spring. The machine had malfunctioned. I took a chance and I ended up getting two for the price of one! No one claimed it so it was mine.

  34. This is known in the industry as “jackpotting” and it actually happens in particular machines in certain circumstances.
    It’s usually with a model that has a self-test mode and instead of sending a slight pulse of electricity to the vend motor, they just all run simultaneously and result in all of the items being dispensed at once…..

    Can I get accused of stealing if a vending machine breaks and dispenses everything for me?

    If you are ABLE to get a product out, I really don’t think any one is going to notice, but chances are you won’t be able to get the delivery door to open because its jammed with product.
    If the machine is mostly empty when it jackpots, you might be able to get something.
    Technically it’s theft because you did not pay for the item, but it’s petty theft at best AND you’d have to be caught doing it.

    Victor Allen’s

  35. Most likely yes. You can only take what you paid for. If you see a bunch of merchandise on a table unattended, it’s still illegal to take it. Same thing applies here. Taking unattended merchandise that you didn’t pay for is theft, whether it’s from vending machines, an unattended table, or from boxes.


Leave a Comment