Tuesday, January 24, 2006

They Dropped The Dime On Coinstar

So last night during 24, the Channel 11 News ran a promo saying something like, "You see those Coinstar machines everywhere, but how do you know you're really getting your money's worth? We put them to the test, tonight at ten."

And I thought, as I'm sure a lot of people did, "Well, they're probably off by a bit here and there, but what do you expect, you pay for convenience, who cares?" And I went about my business. God knows I wasn't about to watch the Channel 11 News. (As I always say, unless you like overturned tractor trailers or dead children, avoid local news.)

But the phone rang in the other room and when I walked back in it was just when they were doing that report. Here's what they did: They went to four different Coinstar machines with $195 each (not $200 for some reason), including 1500 pennies for each, and they dumped it in.

The result was thus: In the first machine, they got credited for a dime too much. In the second and third machines, the count was spot on. In the fourth machine, a dime too little. That seems pretty frickin' good to me.

They reported the results to Coinstar, and Coinstar -- having a zero tolerance policy for miscounts -- apologized profusely and immediately sent a tech to the fourth machine and found a damaged dime inside.

Okay, a couple of things. First and foremost, kudos to Coinstar, for being that rarest of birds: a company that does something well, and doesn't like to even be a little less than perfect at it. (Contrast that with, say, Radio Shack) They really are to be congratulated, and I'm only sorry their good citizenship seems so rare.

Second of all, a razz to Channel 11, for promos that left 24 viewers with the impression that this was going to be some shadowy sting operation on sleazy undercounting Coinstar. Since 24 has a far bigger audience than the news, I can't be the only one who was left with the idea, however subliminal, that the machines routinely undercount the coins. That's too bad.

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