Weird and Wonderful Vending Machines Around the World

They provide us with tabloid newspapers, second-rate coffee, fatty, salty, sugary bites in a pinch and, yes, when the occasion calls for it, contraception. Ah, vending machines. Is there anything they can’t do?

Perhaps more aptly, the question is, is there anything they can’t package, stuff into and sell from a vending machine? As we uncover below, the answer seems to be a strident and emphatic “no”.

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Shanghai hairy crabs
Where: Nanjing, China

The Nanjing Metro serves some 1.1 million commuters daily and, from time to time, a Shanghai hairy crab. No need to use strong language to jostle for space on the subway car, apparently, when you can pop a banknote in a machine on the platform and procure a crustacean with furry claws. A live crustacean with furry claws. A deterrent and dinner all-in-one … how nice.

Where: Beverly Hills, California

The absurd cupcake fad has surely jumped the shark now that a posh purveyor in Beverly Hills is offering the carbtastic morsels via shiny ATM, with or without sprinkles. Hey, we can hope, can’t we?

Los Angeles City Guide

Where: Italy

You’d think that Italy, a land of regional culinary purists, would shun a robotically-manipulated pizza. But then you suddenly realise that close to 40% of Italian children are now overweight or obese. They’re eating like Americans, in other words. Suddenly the success of Let’s Pizza vending machines in the land that gave us the Slow Food movement makes sense …

Where: Japan

Parents: have you ever rushed out to run an errand with your little one and forgotten … everything? Sippy cup, change of clothes, favourite toy, books, or, worse yet, diapers? Japan, the world-leader in vending machine technology and ubiquity, has the solution. Diaper vending machines! On subway platforms, street corners, close to playgrounds and, presumably, wherever mums and dads gather with their tots.

Tokyo City Guide

Mashed potatoes
Where: Singapore

Now this is an idea whose time had come. How often, after all, have we been stranded on a sidewalk, waiting for a bus or cab, and suddenly had a crushing yen for puréed tubers? (Answer: rather often, surprisingly). Thank goodness, then, for enterprising Singapore.

Singapore City Guide

Toilet paper
Where: Japan

If any country deserves two spots on this illustrious list, it has to be Japan. We covered diapers. But what about when the kids have grown up a bit and no longer require the aid of disposables? Well, as all parents know, even then you’re not entirely safe from accidents. Moreover, not every public toilet in Japan is, shall we say, equipped in the manner of a Western-style restroom (to say nothing of the appaling lack of high-tech Washlets). Not a problem in the likes of Tokyo, Osaka or Fukuoka, as you might have guessed, where toilet paper vending machines are just as common as beer vending machines, noodle vending machines, farm fresh egg vending machines or love toy vending machines … (you get the picture).

Where: Netherlands

Only in the Netherlands, a land where Royal Dutch Gazelle and herring reign supreme, would you find a vending machine that dispenses bicycles.

Amsterdam City Guide

Live worms
Where: Poland

You’re on a fishing trip in Gdansk. You’re out of live bait. What to do? Boom – live worm vending machine. Fishing trip saved.

Where: Spain

Savvy Spanish dairy farmers, in response to what they saw as unfair government intervention, recently took steps to cut the middleman and deliver milk directly to consumers … via vending machines of course.

Prescription Meds
Where: United States of America

If you live the U.S. and have a college-age child, you may want to rule out pharmacy school. More and more clinics, it seems, are installing “Prescription Medication Dispensers” courtesy of a company with the spiffy name of InstyMeds. The corporate website says it all: The InstyMeds dispenser combines the safety and security of an ATM with the simplicity of a soda machine!

More Xanax please.

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