The Wild World of Vending Machines

Modern technology. Ain’t it grand? The machines spawned by our collective ingenuity have made our lives longer and better. They’ve made our lives easier and allowed us to do tasks faster. But every so often, you find technology that makes you scratch your head and ask…WTF?! In this article, I’ll highlight an unheralded machine that we all probably use on a regular basis: the vending machine. Here’s the twist: these aren’t vending machines that simply provide you with snacks and soft drinks. Oh no! People have recently taken these simple machines and outfitted them to provide a wide variety of strange things you didn’t know you needed on the go. So go ahead and have a chuckle. Or find some peace of mind knowing that if you need to pick up crabs for dinner, you don’t always have to find a grocery store.

Live crabs: That’s right. Live crabs. These vending machines found in China dispense live crabs at a price ranging from $2.50 – $7.50. They even guarantee that if your crab isn’t alive, then you will receive 3 more at no cost! And if you’re worried about the ethics of sticking live crabs in tiny spaces for extended periods of time, rest assured that the refrigerated machine keeps the crabs in a state of hibernation. They don’t even know where they are!

Live lobsters: Your wife calls back to say that the recipe actually calls for lobster, not crab meat! What do you do? Find the Sub Marine Catcher, Lobster Zone or other specialized vending machines, which not only let you take a live lobster home for dinner, but also provide a bit of fun. See, they work just like those claw machines that let you try your hand at getting a toy or other prize. Who knew that getting dinner could also provide some entertainment? While you might find these vending machines in Las Vegas, Korea, Japan, and other locations around the world, something tells me you won’t find them at Red Lobster!

Gold: As you are traveling, you realize that the whole financial system as you’ve known it is really flimsy, moving your investments up or down on the confidence or fears of other investors. You want a solid investment that will withstand the test of time. So if you find yourself having this epiphany while staying at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, Las Vegas, or dozens of other locations with Gold To Go ATMs, grab some gold bars from the vending machine in the lobby. You can purchase 24-carat bars ranging in size from 1 – 10 grams at the current market price. Now, you can sleep.

Gold To Go
If you’ve got some extra cash, why not pick up some gold?

After-party shoes: This is one that I’m sure the ladies will love. Everyone knows (through either experience or after having to hear the constant complaints) the pain that comes from wearing those designer heels to a club or bar. Sure, they look good, but they never feel good. So ladies, once the pain of wearing the heels supersedes how great you look wearing them, pick up a pair of these ballet flats from Rollasole and give your feet a break! That is, if you are enjoying the nightlife in the UK, Netherlands, Belgium, US, and Australia. That is where they are currently available.

Anger release: Are you one of those people who finds it strangely satisfying to break china? Are you having a terrible day and don’t know how to find some relief? Then you should hope to find a copy of the moving sculpture known as a “Passive Aggressive Anger Release Machine” by Yarisal and Kublitz. For a small fee, a piece of china will fall from the shelf and shatter, providing you with some relief of your anger. I personally would prefer to throw and break the china myself, but it’s likely that giving angry people access to china could result in some injury/liability issues. Just let the machine do it!

Passive Aggressive Release Machine
Nothing like breaking china to help relieve some stress.

Get intoxicated: Maybe you’re one of the people who would much rather pop open a cold one or pour yourself a glass to get over the stress of a long day. And you’re concerned that going to the same store for the 5th time this week might make you look like you have a drinking problem. Well, find yourself one of these machines that dispense beer, liquor, or wine and forgot about being judged! If you’re more into herbal stress relievers (and you have a medicinal marijuana card!), go for the pot vending machine instead! I wonder which vending machine has more security features, the one selling pot or the one selling gold?!

Beer and Liquor
Pick your poison!
Vending machines were never so classy.
Vincent Mehdizadeh, owner of a Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary, poses here with his pot vending machine.

Clothing: So let’s say you imbibed a bit too much after discovering the alcohol dispensing machines mentioned above. And you wake up somewhere strange, missing one or more articles of clothing, Hangover-style. Have no fear! Find one of these vending machines to grab a new pair of jeans, socks, a tie, a t-shirt, even sneakers! You can pretty much get a whole outfit, without the hassle of dealing with store clerks and lines at the register.

Closed jeans
Closed brand designer jeans from Hamburg, are easy to buy, but expensive.
You know, because sometimes you need a tie and a disposable camera in the middle of nowhere.

Quality Electronics: Sometimes you need a candybar, sometimes you need a new iPod. In airports around the world we’re starting to see high end electronics dispensed out of their own specialized vending machines. Are vending machines going to replace traditional brick and mortar stores? Stranger things have happened.

Best Buy Expresses have been in airports for three years now!

So there you have it. Some of the world’s strangest vending machines, providing everything from food to clothing and everything in between. While some of these might seem silly, some are decent ideas that actually meet a need. What crazy things have you seen in vending machines, and what new items would you like to see available? Let us know in the comments below.

[Sources: Gizmodo, CNET, MSNBC, tcritic, Monoscope, Toxel, Associated Press]
[Image credits: Yarisal and Kublitz, Closed Jeans, Wikimedia Commons, Gold To Go, Andjas Wahyu, Tiger]
[Video credit: Associated Press, Kuromatsuri, NBC News via Rollasole]

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