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10 Bizarre Things You Can Get From A Vending Machine

by Shawn W. Larson
fact checked by Jamie Frater

We’re all familiar with the machines that distribute soda, snacks, or hot coffee around town or in the workplace, but the latest advancements in technology, backed by a surge of new ideas, have ushered in a whole new era in automatic vending. Retailers are discovering that virtually anything can be sold by machine, reducing both manpower and operating hours. And inventors have hopped on the ball, too, making a once-limited industry a plethora of potential for not only products, but now services as well.

Some of these new concepts for vending machines border on the brilliant. Others? Well, they’re just plain bizarre.

10 A Doggy Bath

Washing your pooch is no longer the wet, messy job you once had to do by hand, thanks to French entrepreneur Romain Jarry, inventor of the Dog-O-Matic. The machine offers a full doggy wash, complete with shampoo and gentle water jets, followed by a drying session with warm air. And as long as you don’t mind parting with 25 Euros (that’s around $35 US), you can open a sliding door, place your dog inside the cabin, and let the machine do all of the dirty work. A full bath job takes around 30 minutes: five for the wash, and an additional 25 for the drying job.

And what if your dog gets a little too excited or upset by the whole process? Jarry says that while most dogs usually calm themselves after a few minutes, you still have the option of opening the door and removing your pet if things get too nutty.

9 A Quick Wedding

Wanna get married to someone without it actually being . . . legal? Like, just for fun? Well, Concept Shed has just the machine for you and your insignificant other. The AutoWed offers a simulated wedding between two parties, complete with audio prompts, a pair of rings, and even a printed marriage certificate. Just step up to the machine, type in your names via the steel keyboard, and off you go to the land of marital bliss.

The first prototype of the machine was placed in a museum in Michigan, and stores that carry the AutoWed are offered the added incentive of having their flyer or business card printed opposite the wedding “certificate.”

This machine looks like a fun, safe alternative to the real deal, which includes depression, alimony, and homelessness.

8 Live Lobster

Ready for a new take on the traditional claw vending machine? Me too. I’m still waiting for one that has a bottom full of Rolex watches and Lamborghini car keys. But at least progress is being made with . . . live lobster?

Meet The Lobster Zone. It’s a lot like the claw machines you’re familiar with, only the prize is a live saltwater lobster instead of a teddy bear. It features a thermally insulated marine tank, sealed in double-paned glass, and employs a pneumatic claw capable of dipping into water. Its target market is primarily restaurants and sports bars, and offers quarter-pumpers the chance to pull a live crustacean from the water and either have it cooked or cook it themselves. The cleaning chemicals for the machine are cheap, and it costs around $10 per lobster to keep it stocked with live prizes.

Oh—and The Lobster Zone’s claw is designed to look like, you guessed it, a lobster claw. Go figure.

7 Bike Parts

You and your buddy Moe are out on a midnight bicycle run to catch up on some exercise after a few burgers. Moe’s bike breaks down, but you spot a Bike Fixtation vending machine around the corner. Moe is clearly all set, so you decide to keep moving.

In addition to vending snacks, the Bike Fixtation offers spare parts for stranded bicyclists. It comes stocked with inner tubes, patch kits, U-locks, and all sorts of tools needed to do the job. Moe should be back up and running in no time (provided he didn’t leave his credit card at home).

And shame on you for leaving Moe behind. Some friend you are.

6 Hot Pizza

Having a pizza delivered can take up to an hour or more, but thanks to Let’s Pizza, you can get the same fresh ingredients with the added convenience of having it made on the spot. The company’s product info says:

“Let’s Pizza is the only vending machine able to create pizza by kneading it on the spot, mixing the freshest ingredients and adding selected toppings. Whether you choose Margherita, Pepperoni, Ham, or bacon (with or without tomato), our pizzas are healthy and delicious.”

The machine stocks enough flour and tomato for 100 pizzas before needing refilled, and has a built-in oven that does all the cooking. It also features a CCTV camera to prevent vandalism.

5 A Hairdo

Ladies who left the house loving the hairdo they spent hours curling only to have it quickly demolished by the elements will probably dig this bizarre machine from Beautiful Vending. It offers the temporary use of a straight iron to fix your messy mop, in exchange for quarters. And thanks to the constant heat, the ceramic tool remains sterile, ensuring you won’t end up with the last customer’s lice problem.

If the company has its way, these things will be popping up in the ladies’ rooms at clubs, bars, gyms, and shopping centers all over the place. Great! Another excuse for women to flock to the restroom in herds of 20 at a time.

4 Gold Bars

If you happen to find yourself in a foreign country where gold is the primary currency, you won’t have to resort to kicking the nearest rapper in the mouth for his 24-karat teeth, thanks to Gold To Go. The vending machine takes a credit card swipe and spits out the monetary equivalent in gold, with the average user spending an estimated 400 Euros or more.

Two machines have already landed in the US: one in New York, and the other in Las Vegas. Visitors to Dubai, Lisbon, or even Abu Dhabi won’t find themselves hard up for gold, either. Perfect for when I need to buy dinner for diplomats in Berlin . . . which is never.

3 Baby Goods

babyHappy Baby Vending has released a semi-useful line of machines for parents of infants and toddlers. Forget the diapers at home? No problem. Just swipe your credit card in the machine, and you’re good to go. Forget the wipes, formula, and baby powder, too? This machine has you covered. It also carries snacks, toys, and other “baby essentials.”

Forget the baby at home? The machine can’t bail you out of that one, dummy. But the applesauce, pacifier, and teething biscuits are all within reach, via this pretty nifty mommy-machine.

2 Books On Demand

Operating somewhat like a jukebox (minus the intangibility factor), the Espresso Book Machine allows you to choose a book from its extensive list of titles and prints out a quality hard copy for you on the spot. Aspiring authors can even bring a copy of their PDF file to the machine and get an instant, bound copy of their work for sharing.

Over seven million published titles are available to print for avid readers, and it takes the machine only minutes to complete an order—a pretty solid way of keeping the demand for printed books active in the digital age. There are currently around 70 of them available for use in the US, and they’ve been strategically placed at libraries, universities, and bookstores.

1 Swapped Things

The Swap-O-Matic is not only ingenuity at work, but also makes a good case for humans using technology for the greater good.

It works like this: You bring your unwanted, slightly used items to the machine to donate. The machine then gives you a certain amount of points per item donated, and you can later use those points to buy an item that interests you—something donated by someone else. It’s an eco-friendly concept that promotes recycling, with a touch of paying it forward.

The company states: “Through the power of design and technology we’ve taken something as timeless yet simple as swapping and made it into an event that’s exciting, playful, inspiring, and memorable. The goal is for users to use the machine, and remember the experience and start to rethink our current consumption habits.”

Bravo, Swap-O-Matic. Excellent concept, although there’s no way of telling just what sort of bizarre things might end up donated in the machine.

Shawn Larson is a former music producer who now spends his time writing, mastering photography, and raising a family.

fact checked by Jamie Frater