The Halacha: Is Vending Machine Change Up for Grabs?


vending machineBy Rabbi Yaakov Rappaport

We use vending machines for all kinds of purposes, whether to buy a soda, coffee or snack, or even a newspaper or lottery ticket. Sometimes, a person tries to purchase an item from a vending machine, only to discover that the machine is broken. As he presses the coin return, he may find that he receives his change and the change belonging to the customer before him.

Does he have the right keep the lost coins from the previous customer? Does this coin have the status of an aveida, a lost object, and therefore he can keep it? It makes sense that the previous customer despaired of retrieving his money, and thus this seems to be a case of yiush.

But who acquires the lost coin, who is koneh it? Does it belong to the vending machine owner or can the finder keep it?

Kinyon Keilim derived from Kinyon Chotzer

The Gemara in Bava Basra, perek chamishi, Hamocher es HaSefina, Daf 85B discusses this issue. The Gemara says, “Omar Rebbe Yochanan, Keilim Shel Adom Koneh Lo Bkol Mokom Sheyesh Lo Rishus Lihanicho.” When an object goes into a person’s vessel, that is a maaseh kinyon, and he now owns it.

How does this kinyan keilim work?

The opinion of the Nemukei Yosef is that it works because of Meshicha i.e. pulling the vessel which contains the object. This opinion is not accepted in Halacha. The most accepted view is that of the Ritva, which can be found in Avodah Zora, Daf 71B. The Ritva explains that kinyan kli works because it is koneh m’taam chotzer, it has the same Halachic status as a courtyard.

This rule is found in the laws of geneva. The Gemara in Bava Metziah teaches that in Parshas Mishpatim it says, “Ki Motze Timotzei B’yado”. The Gemora says “B’yado” refers to Gagoi, Chatzeiroi and Karfifoi.” If a lost object is found in any of these domains owned by the robber, the thief must pay back double. The Gemara says that the chotzer is considered a kinyon. If the object is in my chotzer, it is in my domain.

Despite the fact that a kli is a moveable object, it has the same ruling as a chotzer. If the object is in my kli, it is in my domain. The owner of the vending machine would acquire the coins through the kli which he owns i.e. the vending machine.

In order to be designated as a kinyon chotzer, the halacha requires one of two conditions.

1. The chotzer must be guarded, a chotzer hamishtameres. This is a chotzer that is locked in all four directions and is inaccessible. Since there are four walls, anything that is left there is guarded, and one can be sure that the object is contained in that domain.


2. Even without four walls, the chotzer is considered guarded, as long as the owner is omed b’tzida. If the owner is standing at the side of the chotzer, he is watching over its contents.

How many walls does a kli need?

When it comes to a kli, does the vessel need the same requirements for kinyon as a chatzor? Does the kli also need either a chotzer hamishtameres, with four walls, or an omed b’tzida, with the owner watching over it?

The Sefer Hamakneh in Kuntras Achron in Hilchos Kiddushin, siman 30:9, says that the kinyon kli is exactly analogous to kinyan chotzer. The vessel either has to be locked, or the owner has to be standing right next to it.

However, when it comes to the walls that enclose it, a kli is different than a chotzer. Four walls can ensure that a chotzer is guarded. But a kli will still be accessible, even with four walls. Anyone can stick their hand in the top and take something. In order to make a kli as secure as a chotzer, you would need six sides, to put a lid on the vessel.

According to the Sefer Hamakneh, if the owner is not standing next to the kli, it would need to be closed in all directions and not accessible to anyone, in order to have a din of kinyon kli.

In the vending machine scenario, the machine would have to be closed in all directions, in order to utilize the kinyon of keilim.

The Nesivos brings a tremendous chiddush in Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat, siman 200:103. According to the Nesivos, every kinyan kli is learned out from kinyan chotzer, the din kli is only a yalfusa, it is being learned from chotzer, and it does not have to logically be like a chotzer.

The kli needs only to have the dimensions of a chotzer, with four walls. It is true that you can still get into it, but as long as it’s like a chotzer, it has the same din. According to this argument, even if the kli only has four walls and it still accessible, the yalfusa is so great, it is considered a chotzer hamishtameres – a guarded courtyard.

Who is koneh the lost coin?

With regards to the vending machine, if a coin comes out of the coin return, where was it lost, according to halacha?

If the coin was lost inside of the machine, it would be a sufficient kinyon kli, even according to the Makneh in which case the vending machine owner is the owner of the coin. The finder removed it by touching the coin return, but it was found from inside the machine. The person who finds the coin after pressing the coin return would have to call the machine owner and let them know that he found the money.

What if a person is just playing around with the machine, and he finds some coins in the change dispenser?

That would involve the machlokes between the Makneh and the Nesivos. According to the Makneh, there would not be a kinyan kli, because it’s not locked in, it’s easily accessible. Even though it has mechitzos, the walls don’t really work, because you can just push it in and take out the object. But according to the Nesivos, it would be a good kinyan kli, and the money would belong to the owner of the coin machine.

It is important to note, that even though there are times when you can keep the money you find in a machine, there is no right to bang on the machine to try to get extra change. Banging or tipping a vending machine is transgressing the issur of mazik.

Meseches Bava Basra has been produced and distributed in the merit of Moshe Chaim ben Yehudis, Avraham Yitzchak ben Basha Leah, Helene bas Laura, Alexander ben Helene, and Yaffa Shulamis bas Yocheved Leah. May the Torah that is studied through these shiurim be a merit for their success and wellbeing ad meah v’esrim Shana. Amen.


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  1. A nice analysis. However are we So desperate for a couple of coins we are willing to risk Gezel ? Why we dont we say, its not mine, I wont take it. Maybe the owner will come back or let a non-Jew take it ;.we are the Am Hanivchar.

  2. Above comment, what do you mean desperate? What do you mean you wont take it! What will you do with the coins!

    It happens all the time that a broken machine TAKES peoples money and will not return it. There is almost zero recourse. No phone #, no viable way to get your money back. And it is a big deal if that is YOUR 10 shekel coin and its a hot day and you don’t just want a drink, you NEED a drink!

    This happened to me just last week when I had to take a company vehicle to get tested. The office of the testing station had a drink machine, and it took my coins, would not give me a drink and then gave me back more money than I had put in.

    Believe me the lady at the desk, does not give a care so giving her the money to pass on to the vender is hardly an option, chances are even if she takes the money it will not find its way to the vender, and you thus if it is gezel at all, are now mishkshol and have caused her to sin!. And if there have been 20 litvaks in before me in the week before I got there, who wanted to drink, she will be tired of handling the venders money.

    In the above article, you point something out, and then don’t pick up on it! It is someone else’s money that the venders kli is koneh, it steals for him!!!!!!! I’ll say the person before, who had the money stolen gave up on it, and you have no way to know who is belongs to. The money is in your hands now, but you can do nothing but keep it. Why put it back in so the next arab or khiluni will simply keep it?

    The vendor is lucky if the person his machine is stealing from doesn’t give his kli a good thrashing! I doubt you will get any true answers from almost any Rabbi when it comes to this. The machine takes your money. Buddio’s kli has just stolen from you! Sometimes tipping the machine and smacking it around will dislodge your coins for you. I think go ahead. Of coarse out of anger you may wish to get back at the vender (who may be at no fault for the faulty machine), but this is a normal situation, if he has not left contact information or does not respond to calls, even if not at fault your machine is stealing!

    Rabbi Edinger you fail. You assume you are in a place of goyim and the machine perhaps belongs to a goy etc. You need more imagination, to look at all senarios. And the author above point blank claims it is assur to tip or bang the machine as this is mazik, well no it is not, if you do it right, and you may even get your coins back. If an owner of a coin has it stolen by a kli, how does kefel come into play? This you did not finish with.

  3. Don’t tip the machine – your going to get hurt if it falls on you c’v. I guess you can use the coins to call Hatzalah.