CHICAGO _ When Andy Hauter wanted a cold drink, he used to drop two quarters in a vending machine and get a 12-ounce can. Now he often has to plunk down $1.25 for a 20-ounce bottle.
He doesn't want that much soda. Nor does he want to pay that much money. But he does it anyway.
"What choice do I have?" said Hauter, 31, a project manager in Elk Grove Village. "In the end, we do just what the marketers want us to do."
Indeed, one need look no further than the office, train platform, school cafeteria, gas station or convenience store _ anywhere single servings are sold _ to know that aluminum cans are getting tougher to find.
In 1996, about 29,600 vending machines dispensed plastic bottles. By 1999 that figure had swelled 900 percent, to more than 298,000, according to Automatic Merchandiser, a Wisconsin-based trade publication. As new machines continue to replace old ones, cans will become even more scarce.
"Five years from now, I don't even think you'll see them anymore," said Mike Boylan of Canteen Vending Services in Chicago. "Today, everything is bigger and better."
The 1-liter bottle from vending machines is not far off, he added. …