Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Pouring salt water into their coin slots will induce vending machines to dispense free product.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 2001]
Origins: Free soda, you say? All for pouring a little salt water into the coin slot?
Possibly thanks to a suggestion made on an episode of MacGyver (an action-adventure U.S. television series that ran from 1985 to 1994), teens in the mid-1990s were inspired to try their hands at salting, a practice in which injected salt water was used to
Illegal or not, that looked too good an opportunity for any number of youngsters to pass up. In June 1994, three youngsters arrested and charged for salting in Macomb County, Michigan, had
Each case of such vandalism was estimated to cost about $600 in loss of money and product, damage to the select panel and coin changer, sales downtime, and the cost of repair. Those "free sodas" were proving to be expensive.
The vending machine companies fought back the only way they could: They improved the technology. Salting was eliminated by moving the coin changer to a different part of the machine. The channel is now long and perforated so salt water can't flow through it; the bill validator is mounted above the slot, so nothing can gain access to it. Older machines were fitted with diverters that channeled fluids away from the coin mechanism but allowed coins to travel their usual smooth path into the coin acceptor and coin changer.
Bathing the coin slot of a dispenser with a salt water benediction to gain a freebie is now a thing of the past. Very few machines that could be influenced by such a baptism are still around, making this a pointless exercise in futility. It's still one that will get you in trouble with the law, though.
Besides the risk of being caught and charged with theft, those who engage in salting may put themselves in other forms of jeopardy. On
Barbara "intent to swill" Mikkelson
Last updated: 21 July 2007
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