Nanjing Subway
Nanjing Subway by vanhalligan (CC BY-NC)

You'll Never Believe What You Can Buy From These Vending Machines

View Slideshow
Nanjing Subway
Nanjing Subway by vanhalligan (CC BY-NC)

Beyond Soft Drinks

Vending machines are known for dispensing cheap treats such as candy bars, chips, and soda — but pretty much anything can fit in one. In Japan, there is said to be a vending machine for every 34 people, and the nation has a reputation for selling a wide variety of unexpected items this way. The rest of the world also has its fair share of strange and fun vending machines, though, and we list some of the oddest here, including one in Jersey that churns out fresh burgers.


Kris Scott also contributed to this story.


Related: Fast-Food Menu Items You'll Only Find Abroad

Roboburger
Roboburger

Burgers

Only in Jersey? One Garden State mall is offering up 24/7 burgers with the touch of a screen, no drive-thru (or human interaction) needed. Called RoboBurger, the machine offers customers a freshly cooked, customized burger that's ready in about six minutes. It has a self-cleaning system that keeps bacteria from raw meat at bay, and it will shut down automatically if the refrigeration stops working, meaning your burger might even be safer than had it been made by human hand.

Hot Pizza
LauriPatterson/istockphoto

Hot Pizza

In Rome, Mr. Go Pizza vending machines offer hungry customers four types of pizza for around $5 to $7. The machines knead the dough, dispense toppings, and a small window allows users to watch their pizza being cooked. Perhaps not surprisingly in a country known for its culinary prowess, Reuters reported that the machines are evoking "curiosity" and "horror." 


Related: The Craziest Pizzas in Every State

Pasta, Tiramisu, and Coffee
Kevin L./Yelp

Pasta, Tiramisu, and Coffee

Stellina Pizzeria in the Arlington, Virginia, neighborhood of Shirlington offers diners pasta, sauces, desserts, and coffee from a vending machine custom-made in California. During the pandemic, it was a safe way of previewing its menu while it prepared to open its doors to eat-in diners.


Related: Where to Find Good, Cheap Pasta in Every State

Flowers
Flowers by Matt Brown (CC BY)
Mashed Potatoes Vending Machine
Mashed Potatoes Vending Machine by Christian Heilmann (CC BY)
Cannabis
Nicole B./Yelp

Cannabis

A cannabis company called Kind Love just outside Denver allows customers to serve themselves. The kiosks require customers to scan their IDs to check for age requirements before allowing access to the menu. A state law approved the use of such machines in January 2020; similar vending machines exist in Illinois and Washington. 


Related: Things to Know Before Buying Cannabis in States Where It's Legal


Live Crabs Vending Machine
Live Crabs Vending Machine by vanhalligan (CC BY)

Live Crabs

If you're ever in China and in the market for fresh shellfish, don’t schlep all the way to a fish market. You can score a live crab from a vending machine at the Nanjing subway station. The vending machines are set to a temperature of 41 to 50 degrees, which keeps the crabs alive but in a dormant state. They're not just any crabs, either — they're top-of-the-line hairy Chinese crabs.


"0 Trans Fat"
"0 Trans Fat" by Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose (CC BY-SA)
Books
Katie S./Yelp

Books

Although some readers may prefer digital text to physical books now, bibliophiles can still pick up the real thing from a machine. The idea goes back to the early 19th century, and today these miniature bookstores are often placed in airports or train stations. The Biblio-Mat vending machine inside the Monkey's Paw bookshop in Toronto sells randomly selected, old, and unusual books for $2 each. A similar machine was installed in a Florida elementary school cafeteria. 


Related: Most Beautiful Bookstores Around the World

Champagne
Ashley S./Yelp

Champagne

If you're ever at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Las Vegas, bottoms up. One of the world's most recognizable brands of Champagne, Moet & Chandon, dishes up mini bottles of Imperial Brut and Imperial Rose — complete with a miniature flute topper for drinking on the go — at one of America's only Champagne vending machine. For the record, there's another dispensing only pink Champagne at San Diego's Morning Glory restaurant. 


Related: Toast-Worthy Sparkling Wines for $20 or Less

Caviar Vending Machine
Caviar Vending Machine by dj venus (CC BY)

Caviar and Escargot

Beverly Hills is a fancy town, so it stands to reason it would play host to a fancy vending machine. In 2012, a mall in the famously tony SoCal neighborhood unveiled a vending machine that dispensed escargot and caviar for hungry shoppers who simply won't settle for anything but the best. After expanding to two other high-end shopping destinations in Los Angeles, the machines were pulled from service, dashing the caviar dreams of many. The machines can still be rented for private events, and could eventually return to public locations


Farmer's Fridge Salad Vending Machine
Anthony M./Yelp

Salad

Healthy Chicagoans are indulging in a growing trend: Farmer's Fridge salad vending machines, which now number in the hundreds. The company has sold more than 1 million salads through them, which can be found at shopping areas, colleges, hospitals, and airports.

Condoms in the Vending Machine
Condoms in the Vending Machine by Kevin Hoogheem (CC BY-NC-ND)

Contraceptives

Vending machines in the campus rec and learning centers of Purdue University dispense emergency contraceptives, campus paper The Exponent notes. In addition to Plan B pills and pregnancy tests, the vending machines offer condoms and other sexual health products, and items such as cough drops, ibuprofen, and Kleenex.  


Cupcake ATM
Cupcake ATM by Jenni Konrad (CC BY)

Cupcakes

Want to withdraw something sweet? Sprinkles' pink "cupcake ATMs" are open 24/7 and in more than a dozen U.S. cities. They are restocked frequently to guarantee freshness. Canine companions may be happy to come along: Some of the ATMs (which take credit cards but not cash) also have special doggie-treat cupcakes.

Eggs
Grey R./Yelp

Eggs

Put a few bucks into the egg vending machine at Glaum's Ranch in California and you'll get back 18 cage-free eggs, not to mention a song and dance from animatronic chickens.


Related: Simple Ways to Cook Eggs

Bud Light Beer Can
NoDerog/istockphoto
Crack Pipes
IanMcD/istockphoto

Crack Pipes

Operated by the nonprofit Portland Hotel Society, a vending machine at the Drug Users Resource Centre in Vancouver sells crack pipes for 25 cents each. The pipes are made from Pyrex (which is less breakable than glass) and come with alcohol swabs, a cleaning brush, filters, and a mouthpiece. The vending machine, along with a needle exchange, detox programs, and supervised injection site, is part of PHS's harm-reduction programs.

Baguette Vending Machine
Baguette Vending Machine by davitydave (CC BY)

Fresh Baguettes

Stocked with dough by local bakeries, Compagnon du Boulanger vending machines bake and sell fresh baguettes. They has ovens that can bake up to six at a time and a storage compartment for 18 ready-to-go loaves. A similar machine operating under the Pani Vending brand was created by French baker Jean-Louis Hecht and promises fresh baguettes 24 hours a day.


Related: International Baked Goods to Try at Home, From Babka to Yorkshire Pudding

Ben & Jerry's ice cream vending machine
Ben & Jerry's ice cream vending machine by Like_the_Grand_Canyon (CC BY-NC)
Benefit Vending Machine, Fort Lauderdale Airport
Benefit Vending Machine, Fort Lauderdale Airport by Martin Lewison (CC BY-SA)

Cosmetics

San Francisco-based Benefit Cosmetics has vending machines that are hard to miss. The large, bright pink machines look like buses and can be found at major airports nationwide. Each holds more than 30 products to help travelers look pulled together even if they don't feel that way. Flyers can look for airport vending machines from the Honest Company and Sephora, too.

Kombucha
andipantz/istockphoto

Healthy Office Snacks

Vending machine food is often loaded with sugar, salt, and preservatives. Byte Foods hopes to change that with vending machines stocked with fresh salads, kombucha, wraps, and cold-pressed coffee. For now, look for machines in the San Francisco Bay Area, primarily in office buildings.

061516_cool_vending_machines_slide_9_fs
Tim UR/shutterstock

Healthy Travel and School Snacks

New York is pushing for better snack options by installing healthy vending machines at rest stops through the Taste NY program. (State colleges have had them too.) They are stocked with a mix of items sourced in New York, including cheese, apples, chips, cookies, and yogurt.

Essie Nail Polish
jfmdesign/istockphoto

Nail Polish

Located in malls and airports, Essie's Color Boutiques are brightly lit and offer more than 40 shades, including seasonal varieties. Shoppers can choose nail art patterns or individual polishes — though flyers should consider that applying a strong-smelling coat of the stuff on a plane may annoy fellow passengers.

IMG_3782
IMG_3782 by adaenn (CC BY-NC)

Emergency Supplies

In Seoul, South Korea, vending machines outside many subway system restrooms are stocked with an assortment of items for travelers who might be in a fix or surprised with unexpected plans. Vending options include sanitary pads, tissues, bandages, gummy candies, condoms, mouthwash, gum, lozenges, vitamins, and mints.


Related: Emergency Items You Should Put in a First Aid Kit

Banana Vending Machine at Tokyo Station
Banana Vending Machine at Tokyo Station by Jun Seita (CC BY)

Bananas

Installed in several cities in Australia, Smart Banana vending machines sold bundles of three or five bananas that were intentionally small, making them easier to eat or pack as a snack. They were wrapped in a special film before being delivered to the machines and lasted three to five days at room temperature.

Applestone's Meat Vending Machine
Asher W./Yelp

Fresh Meat

Though now just a memory, the Applestone Meat Co. was once the answer for people looking for a favorite cut of beef in hours when the local butcher shop was closed. Cooks just had to head to Accord or Stone Ridge, New York, and swipe a card at an Applestone's meat vending machine, what the company called 24/7 butcher shops.


Related: Places to Order Pork, Steaks, and Other Meats Online