Yes, There’s A Vending Machine For That

August 17, 2018
By Chester (Bani x Vending Machine) [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Ever buy a snack from a vending machine? Well, it seems like snacks and vending machines go hand-in-hand, but how about other things like vests, makeup, shoes, and small electronics?

Recently, more vending machines have been popping up around the Bay Area, offering nontraditional vending machine items. At the San Francisco Airport (SFO), there’s a vending machine that allows people to buy puffy vests! To some, it’s a hilarious sight. After all, it’s become somewhat of a joke that the uniform of those working in the Bay Area is—you guessed it—the puffy vest. But all joking aside, does it make sense to fill a vending machine with puffy vests at SFO? Well, let’s examine this for a minute, shall we?

If you live in San Francisco, you know the rule: Always, always wear layers because you never know when you’ll need that sweater (pesky microclimates!). As a tourist, however, you might mistakenly think that San Francisco is the land of endless sunny beach days. Wouldn’t a quick trip to a puffy vest vending machine help an ill-prepared tourist? Perhaps, but why not just get a vest from a store? Well, you can, but let’s examine the idea of the vending machine a bit further.

By Tokumeigakarinoaoshima [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons
First, if you saw a vending machine selling something other than snacks at an airport, would you stop to check it out? It’s more a phenomenon than a norm these days, so you just might. Let’s face it, most of the time you’re waiting to board your plane anyway, so checking out what’s around the airport doesn’t seem like a horrible idea. Second, how much space does a vending machine take up compared to a store? Much less, right? What else? How much does it cost to have a store versus a vending machine at the airport? Well, for a traditional store, you pay for the space (or rent), employees, stocking the store, and regular maintenance for things that might break down, like the cash register. For a vending machine, you pay to be at the airport, someone to stock the vending machine when supplies run low, and maintenance for when it breaks down (‘cause let’s face it, vending machines can break down!). So do vending machines just make sense whether it’s selling snacks or other items? They do in Tokyo, Japan, where vending machines can be found throughout the city, selling all kinds of things.

What do you think? Are vending machines a trend or are they here to stay? What are some pluses and minuses to shopping at a vending machine versus a store? Personally, we’re pretty smitten with this cute little ramen-making vending machine that will serve up a piping hot bowl of traditional Japanese ramen in less than three minutes. Yum!