A few weeks ago, there was a mass exodus of vending machines; they were wheeled out of dorms and academic buildings alike with students, teachers and staff being given no prior notice.
Of the previously 39 machines on campus, 28 overall were removed, leaving 11 still in operation. The majority of Wittenberg found out about the removal when they noticed the missing machines.
The administration sent an email out to the students, staff and faculty a few days later, on Oct. 9. Randy Freebourn, Wittenberg’s vice president of finance and administration, said he didn’t know about the removal of the vending machines until someone else informed him about it. He said that he thought the removal was still in discussion, and that he was given no notice.
“I wasn’t happy,” Freebourn said. “I assume the students weren’t happy, but I like to think of people as business partners, and the word partner is very important to me, and it seems that they were not as much a partner as we thought.”
Freebourn said that the decision was solely on the part of Sheehan Brothers, the company that operates and stocks the vending machines. He said that he was aware of discussions involving the removal of several machines, but that the actual process was not made known to him. He said he has been denied any financial information on the machines.
Freebourn also stated in the campus-wide email that Wittenberg may seek out an alternative supplier, but any changes will occur slowly since the process doesn’t move quickly. He also said that the reimbursement of lost money from the machines would continue as far as he knows.
The president of Sheehan Brothers, Maribeth Sheehan, said that the plan to remove the vending machines was being talked about and in the works since 2014. Sheehan said they were in contact with Charlie McFarland, a member of Wittenberg’s senior staff. Their original plan was to remove them over the summer break, but they delayed in doing so at Wittenberg’s request.
Sheehan said that Wittenberg was provided a pull list in August via an email. The machines on that list were machines that they had decided that were preforming poorly and not paying for their own upkeep. The example Sheehan used was that a machine earned, on average, $13 a week. She also said there were issues of food being spoiled or going stale and having to be thrown away.
“The decision was all about economics,” Sheehan said, citing that some machines had less than 10 customers a week and were in buildings without students or staff in them.
After nearly 20 machines had been taken out and well over a week into the process, the company released a statement in the form of a letter dated Oct. 13 on the remaining machines in response to complaints.
The letter stressed the points Sheehan made while pointing out the previous 40 years the company had worked with Wittenberg. The letter cited a 10-year decline in sales and a change in the buying habits of the customers.