How to say "This vending machine ate my money" in Japanese / How to Use a Vending Machine in Japan

Sometimes, no matter how unlikely things will happen, it happens anyway.
Has your money ever been eaten by a Vending Machine? Things may vary from places to places, but here in Japan, you can get your money back easily and it is even more than the amount you lost sometimes! Let us show you how to do it.

Step 1: Look for the “Sticker” on the vending machine

It is not the owner of the location of the vending machine who’s responsible, but the operator of the vending machines. On every vending machine you see in Japan, there is a 管理者(かんりしゃ)ステッカー, a sticker which has the contact number of the company the vending machine belongs to. Moreover, a 管理番号(かんりばんごう), which can be directly translated into “management number” is also posted on the vending machine, it functions as an ID number of the vending machine and helps the operator to locate the vending machine.
An example of a 管理者ステッカー looks like this:
管理者ステッカー  vending machine company contact details

Step 2: Call the operator

The operator of the vending machine is who you should look for. You will have to contact them by calling the 連絡先電話番号(れんらくさきでんわばんごう renrakusaki denwabangou) of the operator. You may be asked to provide information such as the location of the vending machine, the 管理者番号 of the vending machine and how much money you put into the vending machine to the operator. In the Japanese language, there isn’t a phrase like “ate my money” instead, the word “飲む(drink)” is used.
For example,すみません、お金が自販機に飲まれた
(okanega jihankini nomareta)
The vending machine ate my money.
You can use this phrase to start the conversation with the staff, alternatively, you can also say:
(sumimasen, jihankini okaneo iretandesuga, nanmo detekimasen)
Excuse me, I put my money inside the vending machine but nothing came out.

Step 3: Wait for their mail

Usually, a QUO Gift Card (a gift card which can be used in convenience stores) or a small-amount check will be mailed to your address. As the minimum amount in a QUO Gift Card is 300 yen, depending on the amount of your loss, you may get more than what you lost. Isn’t this a good thing? So, do not feel hesitant to call the operators as it is their responsibility to pay for your lost form using their products.

Bonus: How to use a vending machine in Japan

Vending machines in Japan are like nowhere else in the world. You can find vending machines selling various products, from drinks, snacks, to toys, sim cards, and even edible insects! Moreover, the huge number of vending machines in Japan(2.41million as of the end of 2017) has made them visible everywhere. For those coming to Japan for the first time, let us guide you on using a vending machine in Japan.
vending machine
Let’s take a typical vending machine selling drinks as an example.

Step 1: Insert your money into the vending machine

The first step is to check the price of the drink you wish to buy and insert your cash inside. Usually, only 10 yen, 100 yen and 500 yen coins are accepted and 1000 yen bills are accepted. If you only have 5000 yen or 10,000 yen bill in your pocket, going to a convenience store is a better choice.

Step 2: Select the drink you want to buy

After you have put in your money, press the button under the drink you wish to buy. When the drink is out of stock, the word 売切(うりきれ urikire) which means “sold out” will be shown on the button. When you see this, you have no choice but to choose another drink or push down the お釣(つ)り(otsuri) /返却(へんきゃく henkyaku)lever to get your money back.

Step 3: Collect your drink

The drink you selected will drop down to the bottom after you have pressed the button. When collecting your drink, push back the plastic cover and grab your drink out horizontally. Do not tilt it vertically as it may get stuck in the receiver.

Step 4: Collect your change

Do not leave your money in the vending machine or forget to take your change. Usually, if the amount of money you put into the vending machine is only enough for 1 purchase, the change will be dispensed automatically after you have pressed the button. However, if the amount of money is relatively big such as a thousand yen, you will need to manually dispense your change by pushing down the お釣り/返却 (Change/return) lever to get back your change.

Using Suica

In Japan, there are more and more vending machines that accept payment through IC Cards such as Suica. It makes payment a more convenient process. You will no longer need to remember to collect your change and it saves the trouble of taking out a bunch of coins from your wallet. Moreover,  the way to use it is really simple, all you need to do is to select the product you want to buy and tap your IC card on the sensor.
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