Here in Australia, the vending machine is most commonly used for soft drinks and snacks. You’re most likely to find them at a train station or even in your office kitchen as an emergency resource for salt and vinegar chips and Coke. This comes particularly handy during those 3pm slumps.
In the wildest of cases here, you can get items like Havianas thongs, freshly squeezed orange juice, and charged-up portable batteries or phone cables. But overseas, and particularly in Japan, you can get a whole lot more than that.
From cool novelties like hot coffee in a can and board games to live bugs and even worn underwear, if it fits inside the shelf of a vending machine, then it’s likely you can get it.
Below, we take a closer look at the coolest and quirkiest things you can get in vending machines around the world.
A vending machine in Rome has recently popped up making freshly kneaded and cooked pizzas in three minutes, starting from around $7. Customers choose from a small menu before the machine kneads and tops the dough before cooking it on the spot while you watch from the glass window at the front. The vending machine has received mixed reviews, with one customer saying it’s “acceptable if you’re in a hurry”. There are others around the world too, including this very cheesy looking snack in Japan.
There are a small number of vending machines in Dubai and Abu Dhabi handing out actual gold. The price changes every hour according to the rate at that time, and you can buy 24-carat gold bars weighing one, five, and 10 grams from the ‘Gold to Go’ machines.
Not at all similar to those instant coffee machines you find in hospitals, but coffee vending machines are huge in Japan and serve up both hot and cold cans that come out at the perfect drinking temperature, and for around $1.50.
US chain Sprinkles Cupcakes has a handful of ‘Cupcake ATMs’ across America. The baby pink machines allow you to choose your flavour before a fresh cupcake is distributed through a little chute at the front.
There’s a vending machine in Osaka, Japan containing live lobster, but only if you can catch it. The machine works quite cruelly in the same way as the old school claw machines in game arcades. While having a go is cheap at ¥100 (AU $1.15), it’s somewhat unlikely you’ll ever get a grip on these poor guys. We’ll spare you the photo on this one.
60 different luxury car models are stacked in this 15-storey car vending machine in Singapore (below). And it’s not the only one in existence. There’s another car vending machine in Houston, Texas, also stocking actual cars, that buyers pick from a mini vending machine nearby with tiny to-scale versions of the same cars.