The quarters flow in: a "twinkle
box" arcade in Rockville, Md.
|"ONLY $729" gives you
control over "3 VIDEO GAMES" . . . Earn a "safe, high cash income with a
minimum of time & money" . . . "unheard-of returns" . . . "PRIME
LOCATIONS" . . ."complete guidance."
are excerpts from ads trumpeting a way that housewives, retirees, executivesjust
about anybodycan cash in on the video game craze, or try to. It sounds like an easy
road to riches: Buy or lease a few coin-operated video game machines like Pac-Man or
Donkey Kong; arrange to set them up in bars, motels,
|convenience stores, arcades and
such; then come around every few days and collect bags of quarters, which you split with
It's no secret that a lot of
quarters are clinking into these "twinkle boxes"$5 billion in 1981 by some
accounts. "Their high profit potential has made these electronic games an attractive
investment," asserts a guide to getting in on the action.
But missing from this beguiling picture is the fact that
an array of booby traps awaits unwary investors.
- Advertising in the Wall Street Journal
And there's certainly more to it than
just collecting all those quarters people are feeding the machines.
and hundreds of other newspapers, Jerlor Marketing, Inc.,
of Cincinnati promised maintenance, high-quality equipment and profitable locations in
theaters, skating rinks, shopping centers and airports.
William Waters, 61, a San Antonio retiree, paid $18,000 to
Jerlor for six machines featuring a game called Circle of Fun. He got neither the machines
nor his money back.
"Only a few buyers ever received a machine at
all," and they had to install them themselves in poor locations, says Kenneth H.
Fletcher chief inspector for the U.S. Postal Service. The two Jerlor promoters were
caught, convicted of mail fraud and sentenced to four years' imprisonment. Their victims
lost more than $230,000.
- The principals of Marketing Associates, Inc., a now-defunct
Denver operation, vanished just as the Federal Trade Commission moved in with an
injunction. Many of the company's known customers (about 50) received nothing for their
money; some got machines but no help in locating them, as had been promised. The average
loss was $10,000. The head of the company, William E Beilman, had previously served two
jail terms in Colorado for theft.
- David and Sue Reed of Arlington, Va., lost over $18,000 on
five pinball machines. One was damaged when they unpacked it; the others broke down soon
The seller was Fascination International, Inc., of
Schaumburg, Ill. The company has been accused by California authorities of failing to
register its offerings and lying to customers.