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Power play hits drinks

Two things troubled visitors yesterday during the hottest day so far at the World Expo site: their thirst for drinks, and some seemingly brand new Coca-Cola vending machines around restaurants taunting them with a notice saying "out of service."

Some visitors, feeling the heat as temperatures soared to 37.4 degree Celsius and irritated by the "broken" machines, had to purchase expensive beverages at restaurants as no drinks can be taken into the Expo site.

They all came up with the same question: why has no one spent time to fix the vending machines? The surprising answer is that the machines are never broken. They are simply unplugged by nearby restaurants.

The restaurants cut power to the machines claiming they are paying the power bill to keep them running. And the machine's owner, Coca-Cola Company's local bottler, Shanghai Shen-Mei Beverage & Food, didn't pay enough of the electricity fee, according to Ling Shengyong, director of the Expo Bureau's commercial management department.

Ling said about 20 vending machines around restaurants at the Expo site have been switched off and labeled as "out of service" due to the conflict in commercial interests between Expo restaurants and Coca-Cola bottler since the start of the World Expo.

According to Ling, most of the machines in Zones A and C are now operational because Shen-Mei is working on a plan to cover part of the restaurants' electricity expenses.

Talks between restaurants and the company are on-going in Zone B where some machines remain "out of service."

Some visitors are voicing their concerns via the Internet, wondering whether the vending machines were shut off because the restaurants wanted to earn more money from visitors' wallets.

A writer shared a view in his blog on, saying he had "seen a dozen vending machines 'out of service' at the Expo, though they actually all work fine."

He believed the restaurants were playing a trick to get visitors to buy Coke from them, with prices up to 25 yuan for each bottle compared with 4 yuan from vending machines.

However, Expo official Ling denied the shutdown of machines was a careful plan by greedy merchants. He insisted the problem simply resulted from the electricity bills.

Wang Wenqiang, whose job is to check and maintain all Coca-Cola vending machines in Zone A and B, said that of about 100 machines in the two zones only one or two would break down each day.


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