Although there are almost unlimited potentials to vending, the most common things being sold out of machines is food and drinks. I expect that in the not so distant future this will begin to shift and the shift has already started. It’s possible to find machines selling phones and iPods in airports.
The Standard Hotel, a trendy boutique hotel, teamed up with Quicksilver to sell retro board shorts and bikinis at $75 buck a pop out of vending machines at several of their hotels. Redbox, the movie disk vending company, is the latest and greatest vender to hit the market. They’re changing $1 a night for recent releases for 24 hours, the machines are virtually everywhere, McDonalds, Walgreens and grocery stores nationwide, you can rent from one machine and return to another machine. With their low overhead, it’s impossible for traditional storefront video rental businesses to complete.
The Japanese vending business is much more developed than ours; it seems that there is almost nothing that the Japanese consumer won’t buy out of a machine. Not only are machines found almost everywhere, they are filled with strange and unusual products that the average US consumer probably wouldn’t consider buying out of a machine. Plus for legal reasons, I’m pretty sure we won’t see vending machines selling alcohol anytime soon, but these machines are common in Japan and other countries.
Apparently they have a way to read ID, but it still seems like a potential liability problem. Some of the stranger offering being sold out of a vending machine include: fresh flowers, vegetables, bags of rice, umbrellas, porn, hot ramen noodles, shoes, electronics and eggs.
Here in the United States, it’s still primarily soda, bags of chips and millions of gumballs but I’m sure we’ll eventually see more and more things vended out of machines. We already have the capability to vend almost anything, now it’s basically just a matter of consumer acceptance.