It’s kind of strange, when you think about it, that vending machines don’t sell just about everything. They’re mostly used for snacks of course, But why couldn’t they sell… I don’t know, hats? Or cat food? Or cheap paperback novels? If you go to certain places in the world, however, you might just stumble across a vending machine that catches your eye for being a bit strange. A bit quirky. A bit full of utterly mad products. Here are some examples:
Live Crabs: A vending machine perfect for when you’re feeling lonely in Nanjing, China and want an instant crustacean pal to keep you company. The machine is kept at a cool temperature which keeps the crabs alive but in docile hibernation. If a dead one is spat out to you, you’re compensated with three live ones! Jackpot!
Holy Water: This is believed by historians to be the oldest vending machine in the world, dating back to the 1st century. The idea of holy water is slightly cheapened by the idea that it can just be dispensed from a rudimentary machine by pulling a lever, rather than being given to you by a human being with a claimed profound connection with God. The machine was invented because people were taking more holy water than they were paying for, which seems a cynical way for a religious organisation to operate. But it’s no use getting angry about something that happened 1,900 years ago, give or take a day.
Shoelaces: This machine was in use sometimes in America sometime in the 1940s, and that’s pretty much all we know about it. Inexplicably, it’s shaped like a lighthouse. What’s the connection between a lighthouse and shoelaces or a shoelace vending machine? We don’t know. That’s the most unbelievably dull product a vending machine could offer you. Still, for fans of shoelaces and lighthouses and literally nothing else, the 1940s were a golden decade.
Gold: GOLD. Would it surprise you if I told you that one of these machines was situated in the lobby of the decadent Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi? This is absolutely perfect if you’re disgustingly, nauseatingly rich, and you’re swishing around the lobby of your hotel and you realise you don’t have any gold on you. This would also make being a swashbuckling pirate with a parrot and a peg leg so much easier.
Crack Pipes: Seriously. These have been put in place in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside neighbourhood to stop people from using old ones that might shatter and slice the user open and allow disease to spread. A noble medical goal, but it will take a lot for me to get over the idea of a vending machine in the civilised world that dispenses crack pipes, of all things. I’m not what’s worse- this one, or the gold one. The gold one, probably. At least this crack pipe one has a reason to exist…