Just how “passive” was the income?

Just before the pandemic hit, I had an idea to teach my Entrepreneurship students about passive income in a hands-on way. What is passive income? Passive income is money earned with relatively little to no effort. For a more detailed description, see Investopedia or read the infographic below for a comparison between Active Income and Passive Income from Mint.com.

Source: https://mint.intuit.com/blog/planning/passive-income-ideas


I wrote a project on Donors Choose for the Titan Triple Vending Machine machine that would live outside of my classroom. The project was funded very quickly but just around the same time that we were sent home from school for Covid-19 in March 2020. The vending machine and all of its goodies sat in boxes for quite a while until it was safe for us to use them in class.

The intent was for my Entrepreneurship students to decide on the types of candy and gumballs to stock the machine with, monitor the inventory, count the change, and learn about passive income. Sounds great, right? WRONG! The project was a disaster from the moment we set the machine up with marketing research product – gumballs, Skittles, and Mike & Ike candies.

The machine’s locks “stuck” the very first time we tried to open the main compartment to load more candy into the machine. It stuck so badly that BOTH keys broke inside the lock AND broke the lock itself. One key’s side nub sheared off. Another key cracked right down the barrel of the key. The lock itself was stripped. What? Where did that leave us? I called Gumball.com on 5/3/2022 and was met with initial concern for my plight and the promise to follow up on the issue with new keys and/or lock replacements, but that went unanswered for weeks and several follow-up emails from me. I eventually had to drill out the lock on the top of the machine myself. What an adventure that was! I broke 4 drill bits, destroyed the lock, and put a nice hole in the lid of the machine.

On top of it all, I had also reported to Gumball.com that the output of the machine was very unreliable. It dispensed such varying amounts of candy that I needed to monitor the machine if students used it. One of my students recorded 20 tests on the Skittles and Mike & Ike candies. I reported this information on 5/10/2022:

Number of candies dispensed per quarter:

  • Skittles: 3, 7, 0, 10, 7, 3, 10, 0, 11, 0, 9, 11, 10, 0, 11, 2, 8, 0, 10, 9
  • Mike & Ike: 7, 7, 8, 5, 5, 1, 7, 5, 6, 0, 6, 0, 3, 3, 7, 4, 5, 6, 5, 0

I was so frustrated that I couldn’t put the machine out for students to use knowing that so many wouldn’t get a fair amount of candy. I didn’t have the time to monitor its use throughout the day while I was teaching my classes. That much oversight is the exact opposite of passive income!

I called Gumball.com in June to inquire once more about the status of my case. I was told that no notes were in my account and new keys and/or locks had not been ordered as promised. To appease an upset teacher, I quickly received new locks after that phone call. I installed one on the top of the machine, and loaded more candy and gumballs in. We were ready for business! Not quite. Only about 1 in 5 students actually received a gumball. I did all of the checks that Gumball.com recommended to re-calibrate the gumball dispenser. I watched students use the machine; there was no abuse or funny business going on. The machine is simply a lemon and Gumball.com can’t or won’t do anything about it. It’s been too long since it was awarded to me via Donors Choose, despite it being delivered to my school during the pandemic when we were closed and unable to use it.  ::sigh::

What started out as an exciting project for my students ended up being such a disappointment. We just broke even on the candy purchased. I now have another “relic” of sorts for display in my classroom. I’d still love to have a real-time passive income project for my Entrepreneurship students to see in action, but I’m hesitant to attempt another vending machine again.

Oh well, all project ideas can’t be winners!