Vending machines are known for dispensing cheap treats such as candy bars, chips, and soft drinks. But all kinds of things can be purchased by feeding money into a machine and making a selection. In Japan alone, there is said to be a vending machine for every 34 people, and the nation has a reputation for selling a bizarre assortment of items through motorized boxes. It turns out the rest of the world also has its fair share of strange and fun vending machines. Here are 15 selling everything from books to baguettes.
15 Bizarre Vending Machines Around the World
This year, a New York butcher began stocking a vending machine in Accord, New York, with locally sourced and sustainably raised cuts of beef, lamb, and pork. He has plans to open additional vending machines in New York City. Surprisingly, he is not the first to come up with the meat vending machine idea. Similar machines have opened in Washington, Alabama, and Paris.
Although some readers may prefer digital text to physical books now, bibliophiles can still pick up the real thing from a machine. The idea goes back to the early 19th century, and today these miniature bookstores are often placed in airports or train stations. The Biblio-Mat vending machine located inside the Monkey's Paw bookshop in Toronto sells randomly selected, old, and unusual books for $2 each.
Want to withdraw something sweet? Sprinkles' pink "cupcake ATMs" are open 24/7 and in about a dozen U.S. cities. They are frequently restocked to guarantee freshness. Canine companions may be happy to come along: Some of the ATMs (which take credit cards but not cash) also have special doggie-treat cupcakes.
Need a bandage? Fourteen-year-old Taylor Rosenthal has you covered -- or will soon. The teen entrepreneur's vending machines will offer first-aid kits and select individual first-aid products. Rosenthal has reportedly raised $100,000 in angel investment and turned down a $30 million buyout offer. Although the machines are not operating yet, Rosenthal told CNN there is an order for 100 vending machines from Six Flags.
Are you screaming for premium ice cream and frozen yogurt? Ben Jerry's vending machines are stocked with frozen bars and mini-tubs of the sweet stuff. Scoopless Ventures, which sells the machines, says they are often placed in hospitals, colleges, country clubs, and recreational destinations.
San Francisco-based Benefit Cosmetics has vending machines that are hard to miss. The large, bright pink machines look like buses and can be found at major airports across the U.S. Each holds more than 30 different products to help travelers look pulled together even if they don't feel that way. Flyers can look for airport vending machines from the Honest Company and Sephora, too.
Located in malls and airports, Essie's Color Boutiques are brightly lit and offer more than 40 shades, including seasonal varieties. Shoppers can choose nail art patterns or individual polishes. However, flyers should consider that applying a strong-smelling coat of the stuff on a plane may annoy fellow passengers.
Vending machine food is often loaded with sugar, salt, and preservatives. Byte Foods hopes to change that with vending machines stocked with fresh salads, kombucha, wraps, and cold-pressed coffee. For now, look for machines in the San Francisco Bay Area, primarily in office buildings.
New York is pushing for better snack options by installing healthy vending machines at rest stops and state colleges through the Taste NY program. They are stocked with a mix of items sourced in New York, including cheese, apples, chips, cookies, and yogurt.
There are several varieties of pomme frite vending machines in countries around the world, including Slovakia, the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, and Israel. Some of the machines cook the frozen fries in vegetable oil or fat while others use hot air. Many dispense condiments, such as ketchup, mayonnaise, curry, or harissa with the fries.
Available in several cities in Australia, Smart Banana vending machines sell bundles of three or five bananas. The bananas are intentionally small, making them easier to eat or pack as a snack. They are wrapped in a special film before being delivered to the machines and should last about three to five days at room temperature.
Operated by the nonprofit Portland Hotel Society, a vending machine at the Drug Users Resource Centre in Vancouver sells crack pipes for 25 cents each. The pipes are made from Pyrex (which is less breakable than glass) and come with alcohol swabs, a cleaning brush, filters, and a mouthpiece. The vending machine, along with a needle exchange, detox programs, and supervised injection site, are part of PHS's harm-reduction programs.
In Seoul, South Korea, vending machines outside many of the restrooms in the subway system are stocked with an assortment of items for travelers who might be in a fix or surprised with unexpected plans. Vending options include sanitary pads, tissues, bandages, gummy candies, condoms, mouthwash, gum, lozenges, vitamins, and mints.
During the 2013 Quebec Beer Festival, Farmham Ale and Lager sponsored a beer-dispensing vending machine to promote its line of bitter beers. The beers were free, but to get one, attendees had to scream into the machine. The louder the scream, the more bitter the beer. Unfortunately this was a one-time-only promotion.
Stocked with dough by local bakeries, Compagnon du Boulanger vending machines bake and sell fresh baguettes. The machine has an oven that can bake up to six at a time and a storage compartment for 18 ready-to-go loaves. A similar machine operating under the Pani Vending brand was created by French baker Jean-Louis Hecht and promises fresh baguettes 24 hours a day.