Claw machines: The most enjoyable way to get scammed

Kai Ryssdal, Mukta Mohan, and Hayley Hershman Jun 26, 2015
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Claw machines: The most enjoyable way to get scammed

Kai Ryssdal, Mukta Mohan, and Hayley Hershman Jun 26, 2015
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Phil Edwards has loved playing the claw machine since he was a child. It was this love that led him to look into how these machines actually work and what makes them so tricky. He wasn’t sure at first what he’d find. 

“I thought that maybe these stuffed animals were packed really tightly, or that the claw simply didn’t work at all,” he says. “But it turns out it’s a lot more insidious than that.”

The truth was that claw machine owners could manipulate the machine down to the smallest detail. Edwards found claw machine manuals that instruct operators on how to control the strength of the claw. What’s more, they can also manipulate the claw’s “dropping” ability.

“People thought I was naïve, and I had a suspicion that there were just bad claw machines, or claw machines that just didn’t work well, but I didn’t think they were rigged so precisely to maximize the profit,” he says.

Operators can also randomize the claw so that you can’t tell which round will be the winning one. Edwards describes the whole operation as a smart system, which he says is “trying to manipulate you as delicately as possible into spending more money.”

But will this deter him from playing anymore? Doesn’t seem likely.

“I’ve already spent a dollar in those things,” since the article came out, he says. “And now I have the added benefit that every time someone wins a claw machine prize, they let me know immediately.”

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