Between the comfort food and the free-spirited partying, New Orleans is certainly a city that knows how to make visitors feel at home. Now, its cabbies are encouraging travelers to kick back and relax with a refreshing drink via new in-vehicle vending machines.
For 99 cents, those traveling in a local taxi are able to purchase a can of soda on the spot. Using a seat-back media screen, passengers can choose from a range of drink options before swiping their card to make the payment. Within moments, a cold can of soda is ejected from the back of the passenger seat.Simon Garber, who owns the New Orleans Carriage Cab and Yellow-Checker Cab companies, came up with the vending machine concept after his son suggested the idea. It took him four years to fine-tune the drinks dispenser, which works by connecting to a fridge holding several dozen cans of soda.
So far, Garber has installed the drink machine in 40 New Orleans taxis, but he hopes to expand the service to other cities including Chicago and New York. Garber says one day, the technology could also be used to sell cologne, umbrellas and other travel necessities.
You’ve probably heard of the vending machines in Japan that sell used panties supposedly worn by schoolgirls. It appears Japan isn’t alone in having sexual vending machines in public places. Not far from my home in Santander, on Spain’s northern coast, I came across this innocuous-looking little cubbyhole. Its vending machines offer hot food, soda and snacks 24 hours a day.
It’s in between a bar district and the residential neighborhood where I live, so I popped in here one night for some potato chips to absorb some of the wine I’d drunk. It turns out I could buy more than potato chips. Further inside, out of view from the street but still completely open to the public of all ages, was a vending machine selling sex toys.
The picture is on the next page, and no, it’s not work safe (duh!).
Whatever entrepreneur thought this up was a genius. When you’re coming back from the bars late at night you always need something. If you’re a married guy like me, it might be something as mundane as a snack. If you’re getting lucky with someone you met on your fifteenth round of sangría, you might need some flavored condoms. If you didn’t meet the person of your dreams, you can at least cuddle up to a giant black dong for only €16.50 ($21). Just don’t forget the lube for €6.50 ($8.29) or you might wake up the next morning with more than your head hurting.
This isn’t the only dildo vending machine in Spain. A friend of mine came across one in a youth hostel where she was staying with her two little daughters. The girls saw it first because they were attracted by all the shiny colors. They asked what the dildos were and their mother, quite wisely, I thought, answered honestly and with just enough information to satisfy their curiosity. They shook their heads at the weird things adults get up to and soon forgot about it.
Spain isn’t some decadent place full of loners seeking out dirty vending machines. You can also find vending machines selling books. So far I have yet to see a vending machine that sells books and dildos. I’ll be sure to tell you if I do.
For many travelers, a baguette loaf of bread is synonymous with France. A new innovation could make getting a fresh French baguette easy and accessible 24/7 to anyone with a Euro coin. French baker Jean-Louis Hecht has developed a baguette vending machine capable of taking precooked loaves and producing piping hot baguettes in seconds. So far, he has two machines installed near each of his bakeries in the northeastern town of Hornbourg-Haut and Paris and hopes to expand operations throughout France and Europe.
The baguette is a quintessential part of any French meal, yet many bakeries shut down early and for much of August for vacation, depriving many of a fresh loaf on demand. Hecht’s machine could serve as a solution for small bakeries who want to maintain business without being open all the time. Hecht’s machines have sold up to 4,500 a month and he reasons at that rate they pay for themselves in one year. The French may be buying, but they’re still skeptical. “It’s definitely convenient – but it’s just not quite the same as fresh bread,” said Parisian customer Tiphaine Ath. “Five seconds and it’s ready? I have my doubts.”
Safe sex is going high-tech in Beijing. The old, bright yellow coin-operated condom dispensers were finally ditched by the city’s authorities. They will be replaced by state of the art vending machines that look more like touch screen ATMs than the final stop for those who are about to get their naughty on. The government has installed 411 of the machines already. thousand’s more will be popping up over the coming months. They will be located near bars, nightclubs, in hotels, and adjacent to construction sites.
The Beijing AIDS Prevention Committee has made a deal with the city’s public transportation arm. All you have to do is swipe your OneCard (used for bus and subway fares) and out comes your prophylactic (which costs 5 yuan). And it talks too. (No, not the rubber, the machine). The brightly lit LCD screens will broadcast safe sex and anti-AIDS messages throughout the day.
Passengers at Dallas-Forth Worth airport arriving or departing from terminals B or E can now purchase a select assortment of electronics from a Best Buy branded vending machine.
The machines are developed by San Francisco based ZoomSystems who already have over 650 locations throughout the country.
The Best Buy express vending machine has some of the best selling portable electronic products from a regular Best Buy store, including digital cameras, Bluetooth headsets, Bose noise canceling headphones and of course a selection of Apple iPods.
This newest machine marks the 11th ZoomSystems vending machine at DFW airport. Previously, machines were installed to sell Sony products, iPods and Proactive cosmetics. An overview of all the ZoomSystems vending locations can be found here.
Unfortunately, neither Best Buy nor ZoomSystems have issued any more information about their newest partner, so until I pass through DFW, I won’t know more about the prices of the products on display.
If you ever wondered whether these machines are profitable, back in 2006, an iPod vending machine at Atlanta airport was selling $55,000 a month in iPods alone (that is about 7 iPods a day). People clearly find that buying high tech gadgets from a vending machine is worthwhile (or just plain cool).