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If someone buys something from a vending machine and two items accidentally pop out (due to some error in the machine), is he/she allowed to keep the extra item? And if not, what should he/she do?

For example, if someone puts a $1 bill in to a vending machine to buy a can of soda, and two sodas fall down, what should he do?

Also, since the halachos of "mistakes" are different for Jews vs non-Jews, would the answer to this question depend on whether the owner of the vending machine is Jewish?

  • possible duplicate of Receiving Too Much Change – DanF Oct 31 '14 at 14:10
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    @DanF, there are practical nuances between this situation and receiving too much change from a cashier that may have Halachic implications. I don't think it's a duplicate. – Isaac Moses Oct 31 '14 at 15:08
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    I once attempted to contact the owner of a vending machine. It was a great exercise in futility. – Y     e     z Nov 4 '14 at 21:03
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Halachically Speaking quoting the Business Halacha Institute says that in such a scenario it is subject to the laws of Hashavas Aveida. (see page 11 scenario 4 and explanation to scenario 4 on page 13). Thus it should be returned even to a non Jew as it will cause a Kiddush Hashem.

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This Dinonline article, discuses that if you received too much change from a purchase, then you must return it as it is considered something lost by the owner and taking the freebie would hurt his business.

I'm inferring that too much change (money) has the same concept as too much "merchandise". You're receiving something that the owner did not intend you to have.

As to HOW you would do this with something bought from a public vending machine, esp. if you don't know the owner and have no means to find out - that needs more research.

  • There's usually a number. Also it is an issue to return a lost item to a nochri. – user6591 Oct 31 '14 at 14:40
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    You make it sound like the article you link to discusses vending machine freebies directly. AFAICT, this is not true. You may want to consider editing to clarify. – MTL Nov 2 '14 at 4:19
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    Not only, as @Shokhet points out, does the page you link to not discuss machines, it also doesn't discuss receiving too much merchandise. -1. – msh210 Nov 2 '14 at 16:55
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The halachah is that they may take only one can, as the other can does not belong to them. Taking an extra can is a violation of three mitzvos—the positive and negative commandments of hashavas aveidah, returning lost objects, as well as the negative commandment of “Do not steal.”

The person should call the owner of the machine and inquire how to return the extra can or how to pay for it. If the identity of the owner cannot be determined, and the machine is located in an area frequented primarily by Jews, they should affix a note to the machine describing what happened and include their contact information. If they already drank the soda, they still have to pay the owner the value, following the procedure described above. If the person still can’t reach the owner, they should record the details and the cost of the extra can, so in event that they are contacted by the owner they will know how much to pay him.

If all attempts to reach the owner have failed, the equivalent of the extra can should be given for tzarchei rabim, communal needs, to atone for the aveirah of stealing, as is done when one cannot identify the owner of goods that have been stolen.

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If something is valuable, then you must try to return it to it's owner. However, soda costs about 10 cents a can at most for the vending machine owner, and since its not something they would run after (if one can dropped down a well or something for example, they wouldn't try to retrieve it), you may keep it and drink it. If there was a number on the vending machine you could call them and explain. That way, you know %100 they want you to keep the drink

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    Hi Wandering, welcome to Mi Yodeya! Thank you for your answer :) .....I hope you don't take this personally, but since I have no idea who you are, I can't just take your word for something if you don't provide a source for it. See the discussion here for more info. I hope to see you around Mi Yodeya! – MTL Nov 3 '14 at 0:30
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    To clarify: I did NOT mean to imply that you are a dog....I just meant to say that for all we know you could be a major poseik and we still couldn't take you at your word because we have no way of knowing who you are. I apologize if I insulted you in any way with my previous comment. – MTL Nov 3 '14 at 0:42

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