Today’s news that Best Buy is to put vending machines into airports got me thinking about these automated, mechanical stores. Vending machines can be incredibly useful if they are put in the right place, and sell the right things. They are available 24 hours and can empower even the shyest of shoppers to buy normally embarrassing items (toilet paper, anyone?)
Best Buy has it right, loading up on the kind of things every traveler needs -- cellphone chargers and travel adapters, for example. But for every beverage machine in the gym there is a surreal counterpart, sometimes handy, and sometimes just plain nutty. And as you expect, most of the machines on this list come from the spiritual home of the vending machine: Japan.
Where? California, of course. The marijuana is for medical use, and you can’t just walk in, drop a few coins and roll out with a bag of weed. The machines are situated in dispensaries, and surrounded by armed guards. We suspect the latter is to stop the machines getting ripped off, not to harass the legitimate users.
So how do you get your fix? You need to be preapproved by your doctor and then give a fingerprint. After that you get a card detailing your prescription. Head to the machine, 24-7, and pick up your baggie. Neat, and surprisingly civilized. We hear that the sales in nearby candy machines have almost quadrupled since these were installed.
Convenience rating: If you can remember where it is, 10/10
World’s First Weed ATM [Thrillist]
This is one of the more sensible machines. Put these at the exits of every Tube station in London and you'd make a killing. This one, from Tokyo, sells two sizes of brolly, although only the small folding one seems to be suited to automatic vending. Even with the long, opening doors on the front, moving umbrellas around the internals of the machine without jamming can't be easy.
Convenience rating: If it's raining, and you can find a working machine, then 9/10
Vending Machines of Japan [Photomann]
You knew this one was coming. The possibly apocryphal machines which dispense sealed tubes of pre-worn schoolgirls' underwear are the most famous kind of automat in the world. According to Snopes, they were real, but only existed for a few short months back in 1993.
The operation was shut down by invoking a law concerning antiques dealers: It said that anybody selling second-hand items needed permission from local authorities. Apparently worn panties can still be had in porn shops, but if you're looking for a more anonymous solution, you're out of luck.
Convenience rating: As finding one will be impossible 0/10
The Love Machine [Snopes]
What? Why? Given our criteria for a vending machine to be either very handy or a way to avoid looking a shopkeeper in the eye, the egg vending machine (from Japan, of course) at first looks rather pointless. After all, who needs to make an emergency omelet at 2 a.m.? A closer look shows us that this is simply a high-tech version of the farmer's roadside stall. The farmer fills the refrigerated machine with fresh eggs every morning and passersby can buy them, certain that they are still safe to eat.
Japanese farmers should stop showing off with fancy gadgets though, and take care of the packaging first. These eggs are in bags. C'mon, guys, what about egg boxes? You do have egg boxes, don't you?
Convenience rating: For city dwellers, there's a corner store. For country folk, don't you all keep chickens anyway? 0/10
Egg Vending Machine [Flickr/Josh Berglund]
On the face of it, a book vending machine seems smart. You're stuck in an airport or railway station, your plane/train/automobile is delayed and you have nothing to read. I agree with the commenters on the Flickr page, though: RellyAB says that "you shouldn't judge a book by its cover but you haven't got much choice there!"Found this Post interesting? Discover more Curious Reads.