I’ve got a bagful of change on top my dresser, and every so often, when that bag gets a little
full, I head on down the street to my local Safeway grocery store. I dump the bag into one of those change machines that accept coins for a voucher I can exchange for the paper form of currency.
There’s one problem with this arrangement: I get charged a fee for converting my coins—almost nine percent. So when I read that
machines would now
let me exchange my loose change for credit on the iTunes Music Store
—all without a service charge—I was pretty excited. (In addition to eCertificates and prepaid Gift Cards for the iTMS, Coinstar machines also offer credit for Amazon.com, Starbucks, Borders, Pier 1 Imports, and other outlets.)
I decided I’d give it a try, but since not all Coinstar machines offer the same options, I typed my address and what I was looking for into
Coinstar’s advanced machine locator
to find the nearest locale. The closest market was about a mile away, so I took my change and headed out for some iTunes walking-around money.
I found the Coinstar machine near the entrance to the market and started the button-pushing process. You need to choose which product you want (cash, eCertificate, Gift Card, and so on) and then slowly dump all your change into a very narrow opening. Many coins didn’t get counted the first time, requiring me to feed them in again, with the machine whirling and churning the whole time. When I was done, I had dropped in 190 dimes, 109 nickels, and 433 pennies for a grand total of $28.73. Not a huge sum, to be sure, but better than the $26.17 I would have received in cash after the service charge got deducted. (Apple and the other companies wind up paying Coinstar a fee or small percentage from the gift certificate I receive.)
Once the money was all counted, I pushed the button to retrieve my iTunes eCertificate and… got an error. The machine was unable to process my request. I pressed the button again, and the same thing happened. Then I tried canceling the whole thing and starting over (but with my money still inside)—and it worked. It took a few minutes as the Coinstar machine presumably contacted some Apple server somewhere to issue me a redemption code for the amount I’d plopped in the machine, but when it was done, out come a very long receipt (shown on the right) with the 16-digit code I’d need to redeem my money at the iTMS, as well as instructions on how to use it.
So I now had a piece of paper in my hand that promised me around 28 songs (or half as many TV shows or music videos)—but would it work? After I made the journey home, I fired up iTunes, typed in my code, and then watched a box appear to the right of my account name with my $28.73 worth of credit. It felt a bit like the end of John Huston’s 1981 movie
Victory, in which Michael Caine, Sylvester Stallone, Pele, and the rest of an allied soccer team (made up of actual European soccer players) play a German team to a draw (also real footballers) in Nazi-occupied Paris to cheers of “victoire!” from the crowd.
Well, perhaps not that dramatic, but it was still pretty cool.
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