Do you need a permit to sell through a vending machine?

Winny

Well-known member
Oct 30, 2023
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I live in Michigan and I was looking through Facebook marketplace the other day and noticed someone selling a vending machine for soda. It was a pepsi branded one, and It got me thinking. If you have a vending machine that sells items like pop or sells other items, is a permit required for that sort of thing? I imagine you are required as a business to file a permit for it, but what if you don't run a business and just put one near your property? Is there any permit requirements to put up a vending machine?
 
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Michigan, United States

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A vending machine in most locations would likely need a seller's permit. I checked, and in Michigan you do need at least a seller's permit. According to the doc I found below, in Michigan, you also need a Sales Tax License in order to run vending machines.

You might also need a Food/Beverage Service License depending on what you're selling food or beverage wise. Along with that, you will have to follow the FDA's rules and guidelines if it involves food. The vending machine will also need to be accessible to everyone, so in line with what the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) states.

More on vending machine rules here - https://vendingmachineinsider.com/do-you-need-a-permit-for-a-vending-machine/
 
I can tell @Winny's from Michigan because she's looking to sell "pop" from her vending machine. As a fellow Michigander I can attest that is the one and true word for soda btw ;).

I'm actually staying in Ann Arbor right now (Go Blue!) and was at the local arcade, Pinball Pete's, yesterday. Winny's post got me wondering about the permit process for arcade games. Seems like that would be a fun/easy business to run, doesn't it? I assume the requirements would be the same as vending machines but obviously without the food/health approvals. Based on that super helpful article @Jake shared, I noticed I'd need a seller's permit to operate a machine in California (where I usually reside), just like Michigan. Interestingly, if the machine costs less than 15 cents, then California apparently doesn't require any permit at all. Maybe I could make money off dime plays of old school Street Fighter/Simpsons/NBA Jam or something, and skip the permitting?
 
A vending machine in most locations would likely need a seller's permit. I checked, and in Michigan you do need at least a seller's permit. According to the doc I found below, in Michigan, you also need a Sales Tax License in order to run vending machines.

You might also need a Food/Beverage Service License depending on what you're selling food or beverage wise. Along with that, you will have to follow the FDA's rules and guidelines if it involves food. The vending machine will also need to be accessible to everyone, so in line with what the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) states.

More on vending machine rules here - https://vendingmachineinsider.com/do-you-need-a-permit-for-a-vending-machine/
Thanks for clarifying. I didn't even think about the FDA, especially if selling pop or any food related items. That's good to know.
I can tell @Winny's from Michigan because she's looking to sell "pop" from her vending machine. As a fellow Michigander I can attest that is the one and true word for soda btw ;).

I'm actually staying in Ann Arbor right now (Go Blue!) and was at the local arcade, Pinball Pete's, yesterday. Winny's post got me wondering about the permit process for arcade games. Seems like that would be a fun/easy business to run, doesn't it? I assume the requirements would be the same as vending machines but obviously without the food/health approvals. Based on that super helpful article @Jake shared, I noticed I'd need a seller's permit to operate a machine in California (where I usually reside), just like Michigan. Interestingly, if the machine costs less than 15 cents, then California apparently doesn't require any permit at all. Maybe I could make money off dime plays of old school Street Fighter/Simpsons/NBA Jam or something, and skip the permitting?
Haha yup, I grew up saying pop majority of the time, now I'm in a weird habit of calling it soda pop haha. And that's awesome, I live in Upper Michigan around Marquette myself.

I really like the idea of an arcade, but I don't know how popular it would be. We had an arcade pop-up here a few years back, but it closed down fairly quick. An uncle of mine ran a short run arcade in my hometown back before I was ever born. And hey, if you don't need a permit for games under 15 cents, I say go for it. :)
 
I really like the idea of an arcade, but I don't know how popular it would be.

True, I think it is a hard business to make work. Pinball Pete's is highly valued by college students in Ann Arbor but seems to have questionable financial viability. The place was about to go out of business a couple years ago but the community saved it after raising $87,000 via a GoFundMe fundraiser. More recently there have been efforts to demolish it and replace it with a high-rise residential building. It's interesting because it's such a cherished cultural landmark that adds so much character and culture to a university town but it just doesn't make enough money to be a sustainable business model, at least compared to potential residential uses in that downtown area. They also don't serve food there, which I can't quite understand...it seems like the only successful arcades these days are ones like Dave and Busters that make money off food and alcohol, and where the arcade is more ancillary as far as profits are concerned.
 
Based on that super helpful article @Jake shared, I noticed I'd need a seller's permit to operate a machine in California (where I usually reside), just like Michigan. Interestingly, if the machine costs less than 15 cents, then California apparently doesn't require any permit at all. Maybe I could make money off dime plays of old school Street Fighter/Simpsons/NBA Jam or something, and skip the permitting?
Starting an arcade would be awesome. I grew up a massive gamer, and remember attending a few arcades growing up, but sadly I don't see them around anymore. I'd love to see arcades make a comeback, especially since nostalgia has been hitting me hard as of late.
 
Starting an arcade would be awesome. I grew up a massive gamer, and remember attending a few arcades growing up, but sadly I don't see them around anymore. I'd love to see arcades make a comeback, especially since nostalgia has been hitting me hard as of late.
I wish it was popular. The one my uncle started I believe was in the late 80s, it unfortunately did not last long. He decided to turn the place into an auto repair shop, but that didn't last too long either until he sold it and it became a pizzeria later haha.

As for starting an arcade these days, I imagine it's quite hard. I can see it working if you're in a highly populated areas, but you'd need to be in a mall or at a bar even. One of the community centers here back when I was a kid, had a couple arcade cabinets and I always wondered how much they made from kids playing there.

I miss arcades. :(
 
As for starting an arcade these days, I imagine it's quite hard. I can see it working if you're in a highly populated areas, but you'd need to be in a mall or at a bar even. One of the community centers here back when I was a kid, had a couple arcade cabinets and I always wondered how much they made from kids playing there.

If I ever got into the arcade business I'd probably try something along the lines of what you envisioned above with your vending machine idea. I'd buy one as cheap as possible off FB Marketplace/Craigslist - something known/popular like the classic Konami X-Men game - and then see if there are any businesses that would let me place it in their building somewhere. I'd maybe check car dealerships or airports or something...i.e., establishments where ensuring customers can wait around comfortably is a necessary part of the business.
 
I am not sure about the requirements for vending machine permits but I guess it varies by locality. Installing a vending machine is a business, and all businesses need permits. Therefore, I believe you may need a permit from local authorities even to install vending machines in your property.
 
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