You can now buy your soda with a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay at vending machines on Georgetown University’s main campus and the Georgetown University Law Center.
Previously, vending machines only accepted cash or GOCards as forms of payment. The change, which began in October, is the result of a collaboration between University Information Services, Auxiliary Business Services and the companies that own the vending machines — Coca-Cola and Canteen.
So far, all 95 Coca-Cola vending machines on the main campus and the law center have been upgraded. Of 49 Canteen machines on the main campus and the law center, 33 have received new payment capabilities. The upgrades will be finished by the end of November.
Auxiliary Services Director of Business Operations Loren Sumerlin said the primary reason the university added new payment capabilities was to make it easier for those who may not carry cash or their GOCards.
“The majority of our entire community, whether it be students, faculty or staff, don’t carry as much cash on them anymore,” Sumerlin said. “The idea is to try to make [vending machines] more accessible to the community as a whole.”
UIS Chief Engineer and Senior Director of Enterprise Services Marty Johnson said the process of updating the machines was complex. In fact, the vending machine changes spurred an upgrade to Georgetown’s GOCard system earlier than anticipated.
“Any time you integrate two different computer systems, it’s fairly complicated,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot of potential for errors. We actually had to upgrade the GOCard system itself to pull this off.”
New card readers on every vending machine allow for the integration of new forms of payment, according to Johnson. Each payment reader needs to simultaneously transmit information to a GOCard server and a Coca-Cola server that processes credit card transactions and other forms of payment. UIS collaborated with Coca-Cola and Canteen in order to integrate these two systems.
“Previously, the readers on the vending machines directly integrated with the GOCard server. … [Now] there’s a new reader that Coca-Cola [and Canteen] installed in those machines,” Johnson said. “It’s a fairly large effort.”
The cost of the new readers will fall on Coca-Cola and Canteen rather than Georgetown. Associate Vice President for Auxiliary Services Joelle Wiese said she is unaware of the exact cost of the upgrades.
Part of the reason Georgetown began discussions with the companies to upgrade the vending machine payment capabilities was a desire to stay up-to-date with technology trends, according to Wiese.
“[Replacing readers on vending machines] is identifying a problem and meeting the needs of the students,” Wiese said. “This just provided an easier option and it’s keeping up with technology. … There’s no cost to the university.”
Wiese said that over the past few years, vending machines have experienced flat sales around campus, necessitating the removal of a few and adding to the decision to install new payment capabilities. However, despite a lower number of vending machines, Wiese noted that new food options like The Hilltoss and Bulldog Tavern have opened to replace them.
“With the removal of some [vending] machines, you also have a proliferation of food services,” Wiese said. “If you’re walking around and want something to eat or drink, there are more options to do that.”
So far, there has not been much feedback for the new credit card readers, according to Summerlin. However, he said that from everything he has heard, as well as his own experience with the machines, the reception can only be positive.
“The only thing that we’ve heard so far [is that it’s been easier],” Sumerlin said. “I think it’s pretty cool. I haven’t tried using my phone yet, but I’ve used a credit card and debit card and it’s just a lot easier.“
According to Aditya Pande (SFS ’18), the new readers on the vending machines appear to take more time to process, but the increased convenience is worth the delays.
“I think the new readers on the soda machines are rather helpful,” Pande said. “It does take a little more time to process my transaction, but it’s marginal relative to the rest of my time, so it’s fine.”