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9 vending machines with eclectic inventory

By: Matt Hickman on Jan. 30, 2012, 8:40 a.m.
row of vending machines in Japan

Photo: ZUMA Press

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Something for everyone

Remember when your typical vending machine sold Doritos, Diet Pepsi, Dorals and Doublemint Gum? And when they (gasp!) accepted only nickels, dimes and quarters? As eating and other habits have evolved — and junk food has become less of a 24/7 self-serve munchie-machine staple — so too has the vending machine industry. Things that you thought you’d never be able to purchase out of a giant rectangular box plugged into the wall are now available — whenever you need them. (Case in point: the morning-after pill uproar in Pennsylvania.) This trend goes way beyond apples, baby carrots and whole grain crackers. We’re talking about live crabs, gold, acne medication and swim apparel. These odd vending machine items aren’t just in Japan, a vending-crazed nation that boasts one machine for every 23 people, selling such useful items as electronics, umbrellas, rice, eggs, instant noodles and “used” women’s panties. Vending machines with decidedly eclectic inventory are sprouting up in North America, too.

Here you’ll find nine vending machines from around the world that offer more than a bag of chips or a cold soda. Have you stumbled across — or even used — a vending machine that you found peculiar? (Text: Matt Hickman)