Strange Vending Machines From All Around The World. Part 1
These machines, known as Rollasoles, were previously located in London’s Carnaby Square but now in Liverpool and are currently to many of the U.K.’s train stations and airports this summer, as well as nightclubs in New York, L.A., and Vegas.
Found mostly in nightclubs, these machines offer comfy-but-flashy flats for ladies who have had it with dancing in stilettos and sell these items in all sized that come in four colors: Hi Ho Silver, Gold Digger, and Back to Black and Pink; afterheels are similar rollable ballet flats that also sell for about GBP 5 but have, according to the company, the added feature of being sustainable. The bodies of the shoes are made from natural materials and the polypropylene insoles are fully recyclable and each pair is sold with a matching bag so women can tote their tortuous footwear home.
Fresh Pizza, Italy
The “Let’s Pizza” machines are vending machines that makes fresh pizza from scratch, by combining water, flour, tomato sauce, and fresh ingredients to make a pizza in approximately three minutes. The device was invented by Claudio Torghele, an entrepreneur in Roverto, Italy.
This vending machine is found in a few shopping malls and airports, such as Trapani in Sicily, Malpensa in Milan and Palermo and it even allows customers to see through a window how the pizza is made. You have to push a button for your desired toppings, like tomato, bacon, ham, or fresh vegetables, and after three minutes during which the pizza is cooked in an infrared oven, you can get to taste your desired pizza for a price between $5 and $8. Sounds like a pretty cool idea, especially when the hunger strikes hard!
Gold Bars: Abu Dhabi, Frankfurt, Bergamo, and Moscow Airports
Gold to Go is a product brand of the TG Gold-Super-Markt corporation designed to dispense items made of pure gold from vending machines, and that basically means that in the case when the dollar or euro fails during your flight home, you can always shore up your assets by picking up a few gold bars at a Gold to Go vending machine.
The first gold-plated vending machine, located in the lobby of the Emirates Palace hotel in Abu Dhabi, dispenses 320 items made of gold, including 10-gram gold bars and customized gold coins, but this whole idea debuted in the above airports in May 2010 after a successful 2009 test run at Frankfurt.
The “gold ATMs” are covered in gold leaf, also featuring a touch screen, cash and credit card slots, and a lighted display showcase, and was designed to be placed in shopping malls and airports in Switzerland, Austria, and Germany. From these vending machines you can buy Canadian maple-leaf coins, South African Krugerrands or even a $100, one-ounce Australian Kangaroo coin and are meant to make ordinary people comfortable with the idea of investing in gold.
The vending machines update their prices to market value every ten minutes over an internet connection so the prices for each sold item will fluctuate. The machines are fitted “like an armored vehicle” and tested with explosives to prevent theft, and include surveillance cameras that record all transactions, while users must scan identification for purchases exceeding 100 Euro, and any single user may only access the system three times in one day before an enforced 48 hour break to prevent money laundering.
Raw Eggs, Japan and California
Vending machines are incredibly popular in Japan so it should not surprise us if you hear about vending machines that exclusively sell bags of rice or bags of fresh eggs.
These machines are set up by local farmers along the side of the road, but you should also know that it is not necessary to travel all the way to Japan to see these interesting metal pieces. At Glaum Egg Ranch, outside Santa Cruz, for nearly $3 you can buy 24 cage-free-chicken eggs, accompanied by a “live show” performed by dolled-up stuffed chickens.
Gold Handcuffs, Miami’s Mondrian South Beach Hotel
If you think that the hotel gift shops are so old-school than head to the chic South Beach hotel where one full wall of the lobby is taken up by the Semi-Automatic, an enticingly mod, purple vending machine which sell items such as a $28 T-shirt emblazoned with the word recession, a feather vest for $400, or the 24-karat-gold handcuffs for $350. You can even rent a 1953 Cadillac DeVille convertible or buy a nearby condo with prices ranging from $10 to $1.2 million; for these extremely expensive items you will first have to pay a deposit, which you lose if you later opt out.
Live Bait, Across the U.S.
PA Live Bait Vending owner Gary Harsel bought in 1993 from fisherman Joe Meyer a converted old sandwich machine to a bait machine and sold it to a shop owner, who now has now 30 machines and sells 10,000 night crawlers every week.
Placed in fishing-friendly locales across the U.S.—with several in Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, and Illinois—these 24-hour machines have filled a gap left by bait and tackle shops that went under due to competition from big-box stores.
These strange machines also carry non-living items such as hooks, bobbers, sinkers, motor oil for boats, and, of course, frosty beverages, but also offer live minnows, crayfish, bloodworms, and leeches. This idea may seem weird but their success is real, as all fishermen get up early to go fishing or probably earlier than any bait shop owner prefers.
Bicycles, the Netherlands
The Bikedispenser machines, currently found at railway stations in Arnhem and Nijmegen and coming soon to Delft, Duiven, and a dozen more locations by 2011, are urban bicycle-rental stands that rent out bicycles for up to 20 hours, for pricing ranging from $16, if it is your first time, and $4 for each rental during the following 12 months.
When you’ve finished your business you just have to bring them back to the same station. The Bikedispenser machine is one of the winners of the 2007 Spark Design & Architecture Awards and each rented bike is equipped with RFID chips to help keep track of them.
Books, England and France
A Novel Idea company came up with the idea of placing vending machines that sell books in many airports around England, such as Heathrow, but as well in hotels such as Radisson Blu at London’s Stansted. The book vending machines offer a variety of titles, from best-selling authors such as Maeve Binchy and James Patterson to puzzle books and kids’ titles.
The machines are also heading to Australia and Asia but on the European continent they can also be found in France, or better said, in central Paris, in four busy Metro stops and a chic street corner. Maxi-Livre’s distributors were designed to bypass the characteristic vending-machine-drop, which can be punishing for books, and they often contain 25 of Maxi-Livres best-selling titles, from classics like “The Odyssey” by Homer and Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” to “100 Delicious Couscous” and “Verb Conjugations” books.
Fresh Bread, Belgium
You can find more than 7,000 fresh-bread vending machines scattered around Belgium, many of them sitting near boulangeries that stock them with the same baguettes and sliced loaves you’ll find inside. The French also had the idea for developing this types of vending machines and for a price of about $4 you can buy any product you like.
Prayer Candles, Little Havana, Miami
At St. Michael the Archangel in Miami’s Little Havana, you can light prayer candles 24 hours a day in the church’s grotto so the idea of installing a vending machine that offers round-the-clock prayer votives made sense.
At Barcelona Cathedral you can find a similar vending machine.
Toilet Paper, Japan
Again we’re talking about Japan and their weird ideas: off all the great things that are free in this world, the toilet paper certainly isn’t one of them here. There are many options offered in Japan when we talk about the necessity of having a toilet paper near you whenever it is needed: for example, in Kyoto people were handing out plastic-wrapped packets of toilet paper with advertising on it but in Tokyo, at the very large and prominent Yasukuni-jinja shinto shrine a toilet paper vending machine was placed.
In the rare chance that the toilet paper isn’t provided in Japan’s public restrooms, it is advisable to look for these little machines selling TP, presented in small packets not unlike facial tissue at convenience stores.
Wine by the Liter, France
If in the U.S., shoppers can fill their jugs with purified water, in France, a few French supermarkets have wine vending machines that for a price of approximately $2/liter will bring your re-sealable bottle of choice, being either red, white, or rosé wine. Afterwards you’ll have to pay the bought liter at the cash register.
Custom-Mixed Ice Cream, New England
The MooBella machines, found at places such as Boston’s Museum of Science, offers 12 delicious flavors of ice cream, ranging from vanilla to cake batter and white chocolate raspberry, and three “mix-in” options, M&Ms, chocolate chips, cookies, scooped and mixed in 40 seconds, for a price of approximately $3.
Beer, Czech Republic
The beer vending machines have become increasingly scarce all around the world just because a machine that can reliably check IDs has bedeviled manufacturers. But in the Czech Republic, where the drinking age is 18, Pilsner Urquell has developed a machine that can scan your ID (even a U.S. passport) before issuing you a cold can of pilsner; the machines even recognize ID cards issued by European Union states and if the prospective buyer’s ID indicates that he or she is underage, the money is returned and the vending machine voids the sale of the ice-cold brew.
They’re found at the Pilsner Urquell brewery tour in Pilsen, hostels, sports venues, and even dorms and all the different machines will carry different types of Pilsner Urquell beer, depending on the location, with the prices starting from around $1.50, which is less costly than the prices found at the 24-hour stores in Prague, which charge something of a premium.11