The Ultimate Geek Vending Machine

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.

TOPICS: Hardware, Apple, Mobility


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 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.

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  • No problem.

    When you buy an ipod from an apple vending machine, you're under the hardware warranty. If it is DOA, you do have the right to get a replacement. Either go to an Apple store or call applecare.
  • It sounds intriguing but,

    I can envision having my newly purchased iPod getting caught up in the machine somehow (like a dangling bag of Doritos). And then while I'm seeking assistance, some kid comes along, nudges the machine, and walks off with my iPod. Or maybe I'm rushed for a flight, I push the wrong button, and wind up with a Zune or something.

    But the ultimate Geek Vending Machine question is: Did you catch what OS the machine is running?
    Mac Hosehead
    • The Zune is actualy pretty good

      you should try it before you knock it.
      The vending machine might actually be onto something!
  • Totally unrelated but

    I was searching for pictures of BLTs online for a poster mock-up and imagine my surprise when I found your name come up associated with BLTs!

    Dang, now I'm hungry!

    Oh, and no I probably would never buy an iPod from one of those machines unless I was REALLY desperate like around, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Xmas, or the ole' anniversary. ;)
    Kid Icarus-21097050858087920245213802267493
    • Yes, OTB is my food blog

      OTB has a lot of cooking and restaurant content on it. I'm just as passionate about cuisine as I am about technology.
  • Here's an even geekier machine for you!

    How about this super geek machine:

    Sponsored by Canonical, of course, as they are all in South Africa....
    • Clarification of the workings

      I realized that the workings of this machine may be unclear. It's simple: you bring your own CD-R's.

      Put in a blank CD-R and choose the Linux you want. The machine burns the iso, which is on it's internal hard disk, onto the CD-R. Done. :-)
  • RE: The Ultimate Geek Vending Machine

    that's cool but how do you upload media to your vending machine iPod before you get on your plane?
  • RE: The Ultimate Geek Vending Machine

    Of course I would, but I would want to buy the best portable media device on the planet, a Zune.