Shortchanged? The accuracy of coin counting kiosks in question

Tuesday, March 1, 2016
VIDEO: The accuracy of coin counting kiosks in question
Armed with hundreds of dollars in coins, we tested 17 machines.

It's supposed to make counting your loose change both convenient and easy, but an investigation conducted by sister station WPVI in Philadelphia is calling into question the accuracy of some coin counting kiosks.

Armed with hundreds of dollars in coins, we tested 17 machines...and only one was accurate!

Matt Ventrella and his husband Fred say they were saving their every penny to bring the magic of Disney World to their four kids.

"We have a big jug that has a built in counter on it; our entire family has been collecting it," Ventrella said.

And they say they saved up enough change, $248 by their counting, they hoped to use for souvenirs.

But when they dumped that jug into the Penny Arcade at TD Bank in Royersford, they got $204.

A $44 difference.

"I thought about it and started thinking, 'well, how often does that machine get checked,'" Ventrella said

We also wanted to know just how accurate these coin kiosks were.

So we took $100 of rolled coin across the Delaware Valley to various TD Bank Penny Arcades, PNC Bank Change Depots, and Coinstar machines which lease space in some grocery and big box stores.

The results?

Out of 17 kiosks Action News tested, only one gave us back the correct amount of money that we put in.

First up, Coinstar where the machine at a Save-A-Lot was right on the money.

But, at a Walmart on Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia, we were shorted 17 cents.

We also lost 10 cents after dumping our change into a kiosk at the Walmart in Maple Shade.

And inside Giant in St. Davids, it was once again off, this time by a quarter.

At TD Bank's Penny Arcade, the kiosk on Street Road in Warrington came up $2.33 short.

In Abington, the bank's coin counter was 21 cents off.

And the City Avenue branch in Philadelphia actually paid us three cents extra!

Finally, at PNC Bank on City Avenue, the machine returned an extra nine cents.

We spoke with Scott Traynor of the Camden County Department of Weights and Measures, the agency responsible for testing coin kiosks in New Jersey.

"Anything that is off even by a single penny, we will fail it," Traynor said.

But on all three of their tests we witnessed, the Coinstar machines passed.

Consumers can look for a N.J. Weights and Measures sticker to be sure the coin counter they are using passed the New Jersey inspection process.

"That means that it has been tested by the state and it is accurate," Traynor said.

But Jersey inspectors are only required to test machines inside stores and accessible to the public, not those at banks.

And more troubling, we learned in Pennsylvania, there is no state oversight on kiosks.

"I feel like maybe this is flying under the radar," Ventrella said.

After they say they were shortchanged, we had some good news for the Ventrella family.

Following our call to TD Bank, they were refunded their $44.

"It is just nickels, dimes and pennies, but it sure does add up," Ventrella said.

Keep in mind there are also large fees attached to this convenience.

At Coinstar, it's 10.9 percent. If you don't belong to TD Bank, you'll pay an 8 percent fee.

Both the banks and Coinstar tell us they have their own team of inspectors who regularly test and calibrate the kiosks.

All the companies say they will work with any customer who believes they've been shorted.

Statement from TD Bank:

We pride ourselves on being the Human Bank - placing our customers at the center of everything we do...We maintain all of our Penny Arcade coin counters on a regular basis throughout the day, from cleaning and calibrating the machines...

TD Bank also provided the following tips for using their Penny Arcade:

-Make sure your change is free of lint and dust
-Penny will count any U.S. coin except for the Eisenhower dollar or silver coin dollars
-Consistently add coins into the counter after you begin. If there is a lapse in time, the counter may complete the transaction sooner than you intended. If this occurs, Penny will give you a receipt , and the next time you add coins it will go towards new total
-Questions or concerns can be addressed by a TD Bank representative

Statement from Coinstar:

Its number one goal is to provide its customers with a satisfying and reliable has refined technology and implemented regular maintenance schedules to service, clean, calibrate and test the machines to ensure reliability and high accuracy levels...rigorous testing has delivered extremely accurate coin counting and more than 95% machine uptime.

Statement from PNC Bank:

PNC says its coin counters are calibrated and inspected twice per year to ensure that all key components are functioning properly. On an ongoing and regular basis, the individual locations maintain, clean and perform the basic upkeep of the machines that may be required. The individual locations also have the machines serviced if they become aware of any functionality issues.