The AFTERLIFE EPITAPH – Nov. 3rd, 2008 #1, Vol.1
There is so much talk about the election and will the voting machines work. Will they switch parties? Will they keep an accurate vote count? Will they go berserk and elect an evil robot overlord? Calm down!
Machines are a boon to humankind. They give us money, keep us alive, clean our homes, help us exercise, have sex with us and issue us goods and services. Children still enjoy putting a quarter into a machine at the supermarket and receiving a plastic egg with a toy in it. There are vending machines that have the equivalent for adults.
In this issue of the Epitaph, we look at vending machines around the world and explore some uses you might not have seen.
Starting with simple, hot food, large offices can offer a healthy alternative to workers with variety. When I was a child, I was taken to an Automat in New York City. Behind the doors of the food selections, you could see dozens of workers stocking the selections from the kitchen area. I have always remembered that visit to Horn & Hardart and always suggested these machines at places I have worked.
Jumping to the other end of the spectrum…it’s not food, it’s not something for everyone; it’s a used underwear machine. Yes, the land of the rising sun has a certain love for used panties and where people might feel odd walking in to the used panty store, here anyone can just step up, feed in their yen (forget any puns in this passage) and enjoy a good packaged pair of women’s panties! Notice all the styles available. There’s nothing like a great selection available 24 hours in a local vending machine!
Not to be outdone by the panty machine, sometimes you’re just in the mood for a good surprise! Also from the land of Bushido comes the blind vending machine. Maybe your drink will be strawberry? Maybe it will be mango? Maybe it will be used panty flavored? The best thing is, look at the photo and reach in to extract your surprise drink. I hate to think of other flavors that might be available.
If you like surprises but have loftier ideas of taste, then perhaps the Artomat is more in keeping with your vending needs. I have seen these and they are wonderful! Local artists create small pieces of art that are placed in cigarette pack-sized boxes that are vended from old cigarette machines. For about five dollars (US), you can not only support local artists, but also amass quite a collection of mini art.
Naturally, art comes in many forms and perhaps having tons of small pieces, collecting dust just isn’t your preferred artistic expression. Some people are really into performance art. There are vending machines for that, too. Personally, I used to love some odd, out of the way arcades in New York City’s Chinatown section. You could play tic-tac-toe with a chicken or even watch a chicken dance to some unidentified tune (it stood on a wire grid that apparently had a small electric current run through it so the chicken would “dance.” I had heard that after about a week, the chicken went insane and was “retired” and served at a local dim sum place and a new “performer” was put in the machine.
BUT, getting back to performance art without running “a-fowl” of the health inspector, here’s a machine that allows you to break things. Feed in your money, choose a piece of china or other breakable and watch it move forward and drop onto a slab of concrete and smash. Surprisingly, it does make you feel much better!
And feeling better is another advantage to vending machines. There are some tests being done with using vending solutions for certain prescription medications.
Sometimes little Billy and Mary Jane need a different type of prescription, so, in Southern California, where medical marijuana is legal (I guess because I wouldn’t know…HONEST!) there is a vending machine that uses the prescription holder’s finger prints to identify the dispensing to the correct individual. Never mind that you could easily lift a fingerprint from a glass with simple cigarette ash and a piece of cellophane tape and place it over a latex glove and use the fingerprint that way.
Why, it’s almost the same way Japanese youngsters learned to trick these interactive cigarette machines. The machine has a camera that views the buyer and determines their age by certain features of the face. The only problem was, young, tech-savvy Japanese youth learned they could just hold up pictures of models in magazines in front of the camera. Oy vey!
Feeling good also comes in liquid form as a vending machine for fine wines offers instant service for last minute purchases or out of the way places that may not be open at convenient times. Night Train will always be available at the gas station, but what if you’re willing to spend more than $2 (US) on a bottle of spirits?
Vending will also make you feel better on the outside. Fake nails, hair straightener and a suntan oil dispenser are just a few of the examples we found to show that the right product, in the right place can have a large financial impact on your product sales.
There is also the need to feel good on the inside. Something the “Prescripto-Mat” or “Marijuana-Vend” just can’t provide. That’s why this futuristic “Vendo-Shrink” listens to the level of anxiety in your voice and issues the “proper” amount of ice cream to the “patient.” What would Freude make of this? Well, sometimes an ice cream cone is just an ice cream cone!
There are transportation solutions. We’ve all rented the luggage carts at the airport or train station but how many of us have rented a bicycle from a vending machine or bought spare parts (would Japanese machines have used bicycle seats?) or swiped a credit card for a quick getaway in a $20,000 (US) Smart Car (watch out when it rolls out of the chute in a plastic egg!).
Of course there are the vending machines that deal with food and items. Some machines offer gourmet selections…
…vending machines manned by real humans…
…and humans using vending machine costumes for urban camo (see the shoes appearing under the front of the disguise?).
Sometimes, vending machines become part of a bigger message with guerilla marketing (push for change button has Obama sticker placed over it).
For fun, the old photo booth has given friends and lovers memories that can last a lifetime. My friend Christine and her friend Emilie dropped $50 into what they called a “crazy Japanese photo booth.” Who could turn down such a chance at this kind of memory?
But my personal favorite, is the rogue vending machine that not only attacks consumers that buy competitor’s products (he tries to pinch your head), they come with a line of licensed products!
I once suggested a mall and supermarket card Kiosk for a greeting card company that would either allow the consumer to purchase a card and output it with a stamp, ready for mailing, or take a photo of the buyer, print it on the card and output it for sending, or place the image on an e-card and send it at that very moment. It hasn’t hit the market yet and when it does, I doubt I’ll get the credit for the idea, but the fact is, that 1.) eventually it will become a reality and I’ll know who had the idea first and 2.) it shows that you can bring anything to the consumer in the form of a vending machine…except, maybe another vending machine.
Here at The AFTERLIFE we are experienced with concepting the use of new media, marketing initiatives and other unique ways to reach your target consumer. Want to arrange consulting or brainstorming? Just go to the SEANCE page to contact us.
– Jonathan Schneider, Archangel of Creative