Canadian Vending

Features Payment Technology
From the Editor: March 2007

April 1, 2008
By Cam Wood


Vending, as an industry, has often been a frontrunner in bringing some
of the latest dispensing technologies to the general public.

Vending, as an industry, has often been a frontrunner in bringing some of the latest dispensing technologies to the general public.

And while we here in Canada tend to be a tad slow on the uptake of some of these, the latest vending technology out of Japan has us scratching our heads.

The human vending machine.


Located just outside Hachiko Square in Shibuya, this machine has been drawing an awful lot of attention in the technology-mad society. From an industry perspective, it essentially break two key rules of Japanese culture – it serves food, which the Japanese will not often buy from a machine because they do not like to eat and move at the same time, and, more importantly, lacks some of the sophisticated electronics used to vend the products.

No, this machine relies on … a human.

The machine, which has gained most of its notoriety from the Internet, appears to be more of a gimmick than reality. A candied-corn vender, the inner workings have been stripped to make room for a person, who passes the purchased goods through one of two windows. Some here have already said there’s a better way to describe the idea – a convenience store.

But the move by the Japanese company is no less intriguing, to say the least. Effective? Perhaps, not so much.

The real value behind this latest twist in the industry is that the candied-corn manufacturer has looked at ways to push aside cultural convention, attract some interest, and by all accounts, turn a tidy profit. Long lineups have been reported, and if nothing else, the world is talking about this bizarre spectacle.

In Japanese culture, vending is virtually everywhere. From potted plants to blue jeans to olive martinis, there seems to be a limitless range on what they will vend.

So, the question is, how do you stand out among the thousands of competing machines?

The human vending machine is not likely to catch on in Canada. It bears an unfortunate resemblance to those “he-man/she-woman” cutouts at the local church fair … you know, the kind where the face is cut out from the poorly painted plywood and you stick your head in for some embarrassing photo that will resurface years later in a prankish newspaper birthday announcement. And we’re pretty sure labour issues might play a key role.

But Canadian operators can still take the message and find a solution that does work. As the industry continues along its evolutionary path, the need to be creative and stand out among the masses will remain as important as ever.

What marketing strategies have you considered for this year? Is it the same, old, reliable plan as before?

The change in cultural tastes, conventions and even product standards need to be challenged in our new economy.
And if that fails, just cut a couple air holes in that old glass-front in the warehouse and grab a box of candied corn. You might just find yourself becoming a global celebrity.

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