The Ultimate Geek Vending Machine

Summary:Imagine my surprise when I spotted this vending machine on a recent trip to Minneapolis. Stationed in Concourse E of the Lindbergh terminal of Minneapolis-St.


Imagine my surprise when I spotted this vending machine on a recent trip to Minneapolis. Stationed in Concourse E of the Lindbergh terminal of Minneapolis-St. Paul International, this machine has been in operation at least since late 2007.  Although this machine is missing the essentials such as Diet Mountain Dew, Red Bull, Penguin Mints and Doritos, its got everything else -- racks of iPod Touch, iPod Nano, iPod Shuffle and iPod 80GB Video, Sony PSPs and bluetooth headsets which can be delivered to you using a high-tech robotic arm, with just the swipe of a credit card.

One would think that these machines only make a few sales a week, but some of these units actually pull in pretty decent bank. One particular machine, based out of Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport, did $55,000 in sales in one month alone, based on a December 2006 report. Arguably, the current economy is probably a bit less conducive to these sorts of impulse purchases than it was over a year ago, but you never know. Those darn Europeans have lots of money to burn these days.

I did actually contemplate picking up an 80GB iPod for my wife, Rachel, who has been asking for a portable media player for a while. The vending machine price was $249.00, which isn't bad considering the Amazon price pre-shipping was the same up until about a week or two ago. I didn't consummate the deal, though -- my plane was going to board within 5 minutes and I was in a rush.

Of course, what do you do if the device is defective? Who do you call? It's not like you can walk into a local store of a major retail chain or can call Amazon. According to Anita Leopold, owner and Executive VP of Business Traveller Services, who runs several machines out of Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, the receipt has contact info for Zoom Systems, the company which franchises the machines and is the inventory supplier, so the purchased product can be exchanged or replaced if there's a problem.

Would you ever considering making a major consumer electronics purchase out of a vending machine? Talk Back and let me know.

Topics: Hardware, Apple, Mobility


Jason Perlow, Sr. Technology Editor at ZDNet is a technologist with over two decades of experience with integrating large heterogeneous multi-vendor computing environments in Fortune 500 companies. Jason is currently a Partner Technology Strategist with Microsoft Corp. His expressed views do not necessarily represent those of his employer... Full Bio

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