My informant heard this urban legend when she was around thirteen, from a friend who was a few years older than she was and had gotten an email about it. She says that after hearing this, she was afraid to retrieve the change from vending machines, pay phones, and anything else that involved reaching into a small enclosed space. The urban legend is as follows:
“My friend told me that there was a new kind of bioterrorism or something, where drug users are getting rid of their used needles by sticking them into the change boxes on soda machines and stuff. It seems crazy, but just crazy enough to be true. So people are getting all these diseases like HIV, hepatitis, and lots more because the needles prick them when they go to get their quarters back.”
This is a great example of a “friend-of-a-friend” story, because my informant learned it from a friend who also heard it from another source. It undermines the credibility there, but most people are more easily swayed when information comes from a “reliable” source such as a friend. In addition, a story like this makes the “incident” easy to avoid because all the listener has to do is stop retrieving their change from vending machines and they will never experience what the urban legend warns against. Therefore, there is no way to prove or disprove such a story. In addition, I believe that some people may have started doing this after hearing the story, which makes it difficult to discover whether the story came before or after the event. I’ve heard this legend as well, and honestly it stopped me from ever taking change from vending machines or anything without “checking” the change box first. I was about seven or eight when I heard this.