When three o’clock hits and our stomachs start growling for a yummy pick-me-up, you’ll most likely find us making a beeline for the vending machine in our office complex. While most vending machines in America offer tasty high-calorie snacks to hungry patrons, not all of them are limited to stocking candy bars and potato chips. Here are 15 wacky vending machines — serving up treats from mystery antique books to hard-to-find luxury sneakers —from around the world to search out on your next globetrotting adventure.
1. Short Stories: If you’re looking to pick up a local read during your next trip up north, stop by the Edmonton International Airport and make your way over to the Short Story Dispenser. This machine offers one-, three-, and five-minute short stories by a local Edmontonian authors and, best of all, it’s completely free to use! They’re made by the startup Short Edition — the company has currently placed over 150 Short Story Dispensers around the world in places like Hong Kong, France, and various locations around the US. (Photo via EIA)
2. Origami: Japan is known for being the vending machine capitol of the world, and this cute machine in the rural town of Uchiko is definitely one of our faves. Here you’ll find a beautiful collection of origami, including flowers, cranes, and crisply folded boxes for anywhere from 10 to 50 yen (or about 10 to 50 cents US). According to a Japanese news website, the origami is folded by a 61-year-old woman who runs the shop behind the vending machine. (Photo via @bon_chic)
3. Sprinkles Cupcakes: If you’re in Beverley Hills and don’t stop by the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM, did you really go to Beverly Hills? At this world-famous vending machine (there are also various locations scattered throughout the country), you can grab a freshly baked cupcake with just a swipe of your credit card any time you have a hankering for something sweet. Taking an adorable Instagram is practically required!
4. Contraceptives: The brainchild of former student Parteek Singh, a Wellness to Go vending machine was recently introduced to the University of California Davis break room. The machine is currently stocked with a ton of useful essentials, including condoms, tampons, pregnancy tests, Advil, and Plan B pills. (Photo via Alexa Fontanilla/Aggie)
5. Champagne: If you’re celebrating anything in Vegas, you need to stop by the Mandarin Oriental in Las Vegas and check out their Moët and Chandon vending machine. Guests can purchase a special Moët gold coin at the front desk for $25 (you must be over 21), then choose from either an Imperial Brut or Imperial Rosé. A total of 320 mini bottles of Champagne can fit in the machine at any one time, so you never have to worry about running out of bubbly during your luxurious Vegas vacay. (Photo via Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas)
6. Diapers and Baby Essentials: We see you, Jessica Alba. Alba’s eco-friendly brand The Honest Company is getting into the vending machine game in five major US airports: Atlanta, New York, Dallas, Minneapolis, and Houston. Each machine is stocked with diapers, wipes, baby swim trunks, lotion, and other essentials that you and baby might need during your travels. “I travel a lot, so I know how frustrating it can be to forget or run out of something you need,” says Alba. “That’s why I’m happy that travelers can have their needs covered with our new Honest on the Go vending machines. You can count on Honest for everything from toothpaste, deodorant, and sunscreen to diapers and wipes. It’s quick, safe, and sized for TSA approval!”
7. Neckties: We’re not quite sure when you’d need an emergency necktie (perhaps a spontaneous board room presentation or meet-the-parents dinner?), but if you find yourself without the proper attire in Kyoto, Japan, just head on over to the necktie vending machine. Located outside the entrance to Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion Temple), this vending machine will make certain that you’re always dressed to impress. (Photo via Andjaswahyu’s Weblog)
8. Fine Jewelry: Tired of buying jewelry the old-fashioned way? Jewelry designer Marla Aaron has recently installed a fine jewelry vending machine in the Brooklyn Museum where customers can choose from seven different items, ranging in price from $100 to $1,500. As she explained to The Adventurine, “Two years ago, when I was in Japan, I was struck by the colorful vending machines everywhere, selling all manner of goods. On the plane home, I started searching for a company to help me make one.” I guess we’re not the only ones obsessed with Japanese vending machines! (Photo via Marla Aaron)
9. Luxury Sneakers: While it’s technically more of a claw machine than a vending machine, we couldn’t leave this popular experience for sneaker buffs off of our list. At Urban Necessities in Las Vegas, spend $5 for a single attempt at winning luxury kicks, including several illusive pairs of Yeezys. So far there have already been 1,400 winners… could you be next?
10. French Fries: A company based out of Perth, Australia has created a specialty vending machine that heats and dispenses pre-fried frozen fries, reports Vice’s Munchies. According to Hot Chips’ website, the company is currently seeking partners to become licensees in the UK, Canada, EU, and Asia… fingers crossed that these delicious snacks may be coming to your office complex soon! (Photo via Hot Chips)
11. Antique Books: An indie bookstore in Toronto called The Monkey’s Paw has introduced a revolutionary way to find your next great read. Nicknamed the Biblio-Mat, this coin-operated vending machine dispenses randomly selected old books for just a toonie per book. Now that’s a bargain!
12. Cars: Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba has plans to create a gigantic vending machine designed specifically to alleviate the stress of booking test drives. In a new video, they demonstrate how this vending machine will work — which includes snapping a selfie in the app and picking up the car using facial recognition technology. “The so-called vending machine model will allow consumers to browse vehicles on their smartphones and purchase a new ride in only five minutes,” says the Alibaba Group. (Photo via VCG/Getty)
13. Marijuana: Now that the sale of medical marijuana is legal in 29 American states, a steady stream of new dispensaries is popping up in urban hubs in the country. But folks in Vancouver have streamlined the process even further: The BC Pain Society has created Canada’s first marijuana vending machine (you still need to show your medical marijuana card to enter the shop). “It’s packaged up and sealed professionally,” says Chuck Varabioff of the BC Pain Society. “So you come in, you buy your product, it’s fresh, it’s quick and easy, and you’re out [of] here in minutes.”
14. Uniqlo Cold Weather Gear: Forgot your cozy winter jacket at home? Thanks to these new Uniqlo To Go machines, you’ll be able to buy cold-weather basics from myriad locations within the US. According to The Wall Street Journal, these machines are already up and running in malls and airports in New York, Houston, and Oakland, among other cities. (Photo via Uniqlo)
15. Gold Bars: With locations in New York, Las Vegas, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and more, Gold to Go vending machines are a global enterprise. After being rigorously tested in Germany, the first machine debuted in Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace hotel, with shoppers being able to purchase anything from a single gram gold coin up to a 250-gram bar. To make sure that the exchange rate is always accurate, a computer inside the machine updates the prices every 10 minutes to reflect fluctuations in the market. (Photo via Gold to Go)
16. Pizza: Let’s Pizza makes pizza from scratch, in under three minutes. The vending machine kneads the dough, adds the toppings, and bakes the pie on the spot. You’ll have to travel to Europe to experience it for yourself; the vending machine was originally started in Italy and has now expanded to the UK. (Photo via Let’s Pizza)
Which vending machines would you add to this list? Tweet us by mentioning @BritandCo.