Why I love vending machines

There aren’t many things that get me really excited. I’m a generally happy person, easily pleased and convivial in social situations, but I’m talking about things that get me reeeally excited. Think 14 year old girl backstage at a Justin Timberlake concert and you’ll getting somewhere close to what I was thinking.

But vending machines (of all things) do get me excited, especially odd and unusual ones. I don’t know why. I find them magical. There’s something tantalising about the glass screen. It makes everything look shiny and new. I see the same packet of Nacho Cheese Doritos I’ve passed 1,000,000 times in Sainbury’s trapped in that steel box and they seem so much more appealing (maybe I have a hero complex and must save everything, even tortilla chips?). I don’t know why it intrigues but I’m the kind of person that enjoys being bewildered.

Japanese vending machine dispenses QR codes that recipients can use to download books to their E-reader (via Digital Reader)

Whenever I contemplate the subject I am reminded of Rory Sutherland’s TED Talk and the impact of perceptions. My leading theory is that vending machines work in the same way that a beefed up bouncer and a velvet rope does at a night club. Making it seem (more) forbidden or exclusive.

I think a lot of people would question my fascination. VM’s don’t really do… well, anything. They’re a little bit unnecessary. But not a lot of things besides H2O and good ol’ oxygen are necessary. Everything else is there to add colour to life and make it a bit interesting.

Cupcake Vending Machine

Sprinkles Bakery in Beverly Hills has made a vending machine that dispenses cupcakes so you get your fix of sugary goodness 24/7 (via Design Boom)

Beyond sheer excitement I think they play an important part in my life. Seriously. I am one of 3 billion people growing up in the western world and this more-things-faster culture we’re swirling around in. Admittedly, some things – such as filling out tax forms and getting vaccinations – do need speeding up but (in my naive optimism) I think that that’s missing an opportunity. Everything now seems to be about streamlining and immediacy, but that takes away the magic.

I like the magic.

Science says the magic is good too. According to happiness psychologists anticipation for things leads to greater happiness. True story. Look, it’s written here, ok? Schooled.

One of my favourites machines is this device from South Africa. Rather sweetly named Tweet for Sweets, this vending machine gave out sweets when passerbys tweeted something that made them smile with the hashtag #etiossmile. The machine was constructed from discarded and secondhand objects, and created a whimsical obstacle course for the absconding treat. An nice ‘n’ easy way to make people smile. Approved.

As far as branded machines go, I find this machine from Deloittes most curious. The tyrannous machine issues challenges to the public in an investigation into how far they will go for fantastic Delites. Apart from showing the potential fun I could have as a cruel dictator, it also gave out some good food in exchange for (mostly) fun participation.

Shimmying away from branded machines, Swap-O-Matic is a fun exchange vending machine where people can trade items they don’t want with other people’s unloved possessions. To play, you just insert your teddy/novelty lamp/giant sunflower into one compartment and remove an item from another. Simples. While swapping has a warm gift-giving vide, I consider it a form of recycling (“Hooray” says the environment) and that’s lovely too.