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5 Weird Vending Machines
Weird American Vending Machines
I owned and operated an arcade for several years. As part of my day-to-day life, I kept up with new ideas in the coin-operated world. Some things quickly become apparent: the Japanese will vend anything from eggs and umbrellas to panties and sushi. What works in Japan doesn't work everywhere, though.
In my email inbox today was an article about what I thought was a weird vending machine. I did some head scratching and came up with 5 that are currently being used in the US. You may not see them on every corner, but they're out there.
1) Bike Fixation kiosk. Right now there's just one on location in Minneapolis, MN, but it has everything from tubes and patch kits to tools, water bottles, and energy bars. It also has a bike repair stand located next to the machine to aid in repairs. While I don't think I've ever had a flat next to a vending machine of any kind, I've known a few times when I would have paid anything for certain items.
2) Lobster Zone Crane. Take one of those claw machines, fill it with water, and stick some lobsters in there. It's a bit more complicated than that, but it's a crane with lobsters in it. When I was in high school a friend of mine worked at Red Lobster. I remember him having to fish out eye stalks when the rubber bands slipped of the claws and the lobsters went to fighting. I don't think I would want to get anything out of a crane that might get me. I actually saw one of these at a used game auction once. A friend of mine later kicked himself for not buying it. He said he needed a new aquarium.
3) Seedbomb. The little capsule vendors that every supermarket used to have, well, Commonstudio in LA has developed a line of 1.1 inch balls that grow into flowers when dropped in soil that will fit into those old machines. Instead of a bouncy ball, you get a clod of dirt with seeds in it. While it is a nice green idea, it's still weird. They're also $1, not a penny. In the picture, we see a suspiciously cute Asian woman. Did she sneak this idea in from abroad?
4) Shop24 Global has started rolling out robotic convenience stores. One of the first was installed at Cal State Fullerton. The giant vending machines sell everything from snacks and drinks to cleaning products. Pretty much, I see it as Japan come to the US. I also see them as a startlingly huge target for theft. If thugs knock over Coke machines for a few bucks, what kind of cash does an electronic c-store hold? Would Bender from Futurama vend the products and steal the money?
5) Intermatic Cotton Candy Vendor. While not super weird, if you've ever had to make cotton candy you know that it's messy, sticks to everything, and is a pain to deal with. The miracle of putting it into a self-vending kiosk is amazing. We actually have one of these where I work. It does a great job, with the caveat that you must clean it daily. When offered the choice between a bag of cotton candy in a flavor they like or watching an unknown flavor being made before their face, kids opt for the vending machine. Parents opt for the bag.
I grant you, these aren't as weird as the used panty vendors or umbrella vendors I've seen online, but these are all items that are in use in the US right now. Except for the Seedbomb, I tried to avoid regular machines vending strange items, except I thought this is a particularly weird idea. You can stick anything in a vending or crane machine. The key is to pick something that people want. Cranes with porn in, well, porn stores aren't particularly weird. Companies make kits to fill them with. Weird is relative: if your bike has stranded you in Minnesota, you may be dancing around when you push your bike by the Bike Fixation machine.