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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

Vending Machines Sell More than Snacks

Vending machines are known as a quick place to grab a snack...but not a cupcake or underwear.

Vending machines are known as a place to grab a quick snack or drink. But not where you would expect to buy cupcakes or underwear.

It may seem like a dream, but the Sprinkles “Cupcake Automat” dispenses fresh cupcakes at the slide of a credit card. The vending machine sells about one thousand cupcakes a day at the price of $4.00 each.

“You have candy and little cheap snack bars but these are cupcakes coming out of a vending machine,” high school student Berkley Warlick said. Warlick visited the vending machine for the first time and said she was excited about the cupcake automat.

Others were just as excited.

“It’s a Sprinkles cupcake, I think it beats a regular vending machine,” community college student Jamila said.

But innovative vending machines don’t end with cupcakes. Electronics, skin care, DVD rentals and even underwear are also available without talking to a salesperson.

The MeUndies vending machine at the retail store Confederacy on Hollywood Blvd is the first from the underwear company. It sells men’s boxers, boxer briefs and briefs all at $16.00 a piece.

“It’s novel, it’s fun, it caters to the convenience component of our brand,” Co-Founder Barak Diskin said.

Along with his partner Jonathan Shokrian, the founders envision their vending machines in hotels, airports and gyms, places people may need an extra pair. After going on a recent trip, even the owner of an underwear company could have used an extra pair of underwear.

“At the airport, I could have used an extra pair on this trip,” Shokrian said. “I think it’s an item that lends itself to people who travel a lot.”

Industry Analyst Dale Schmidt from IBIS World says the location of vending machines is key to its success. Products unusual products in vending machines like electronics and underwear may succeed in airports but wouldn’t other places.

“If you put that same vending machine at a gas station, it’s not going to get any revenue,” Schmidt said.

While Americans may find underwear and cupcakes to be novel ideas, Japan is a few steps ahead with vending machines selling eggs, fortunes and live lobsters.

“They’re utilizing vending machines for a much wider selection and I feel that we will be moving in that direction over the past few years,” Schmidt said. “But there is definitely a limit to how far that will go.”

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