Is It Illegal To Shake A Vending Machine In New Jersey? Here’s What the Law Says

Vending machines are convenient, ubiquitous fixtures in our daily lives. They offer quick access to food, drinks, and other items, often 24/7. However, frustration can arise when a vending machine malfunctions and refuses to dispense the desired item after payment. In such situations, some may resort to shaking the machine in an attempt to dislodge the product. But is this practice legal in New Jersey?

This article delves into the legality of shaking a vending machine in New Jersey, exploring the relevant laws and potential consequences. It also discusses alternative approaches to resolve vending machine malfunctions and highlights the importance of responsible consumer behavior.

New Jersey Laws and Codes

Two primary laws in New Jersey can potentially apply to the act of shaking a vending machine:

  1. Theft of Property Less Than $500

This law defines theft as knowingly obtaining or exerting unauthorized control over property with the intent to permanently deprive the owner of its use or benefit. Shaking a vending machine with the intent to obtain an item without paying can be considered theft, even if the attempt is unsuccessful.

  1. Criminal Mischief

This law prohibits the intentional damaging of property belonging to another person. Shaking a vending machine with enough force to cause damage could result in criminal mischief charges.

Potential Consequences of Shaking a Vending Machine

  1. Civil Liability

If shaking the vending machine causes damage, the individual responsible may be held liable for the cost of repairs. This could range from hundreds to thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the damage.

  1. Criminal Charges

Depending on the value of the item attempted to be obtained and the extent of the damage caused, shaking a vending machine could lead to criminal charges such as:

  • Theft: The potential penalties for theft can include fines, probation, and even jail time.
  • Criminal Mischief: Depending on the level of damage, the penalties for criminal mischief can range from fines and community service to probation and jail time.

Alternative Approaches to Malfunctioning Vending Machines

If a vending machine malfunctions, there are several alternative approaches to resolving the issue before resorting to shaking:

  1. Report the Malfunction

Most vending machines have instructions for reporting malfunctions. Follow these instructions to notify the appropriate personnel about the issue.

  1. Contact the Vendor or Owner

The contact information for the vending machine vendor or owner is usually displayed on the machine. Contact them directly to report the malfunction and request assistance.

  1. Request a Refund

If you paid for an item but the machine failed to dispense it, contact the vendor or owner to request a refund. Many companies have policies in place to address such situations.

5. Responsible Consumer Behavior

It is crucial to practice responsible consumer behavior when interacting with vending machines. This includes:

  • Reading and following the instructions displayed on the machine.
  • Not attempting to tamper with the machine or force open its mechanisms.
  • Reporting malfunctions to the appropriate authorities.
  • Avoiding physical contact with the machine, including shaking or kicking it.

By acting responsibly, consumers can avoid legal consequences and contribute to maintaining functioning vending machines for everyone’s benefit.


Shaking a vending machine in New Jersey is not recommended and can have serious legal ramifications. It is essential to understand the relevant laws and potential consequences before engaging in such behavior. If a vending machine malfunctions, alternative approaches like reporting the issue and requesting assistance are always preferable. By adopting responsible consumer habits, we can ensure a safe and positive experience for everyone who uses vending machines.

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