Vending machines are coin-operated machines that can dispense snacks, drinks, sandwiches, coffee, tea and other products. They are an extremely convenient outlet for the industry known as automatic retailing. You might find these machines in public buildings, transportation hubs and subways, at gas stations, courthouses, hospitals, and the local automotive repair shop. Any place that people gather, pass by, or must wait, is a good location for one.
Vendors who install vending machines take care of keeping them supplied and operating properly. In return for revenue collected, the vendor pays a monthly fee to the owner of the property at the installation site. This arrangement benefits everyone — vendor, property owner, and consumer — alike.
Though vending machines provide 24/7 service to the public, not everyone is pleased in all cases with their offerings. Many school districts came under fire in the United States for providing them on school grounds that offered high-sugar, low nutrient snacks and drinks. The contents were cited as a possible aggravating factor to potential teenage medical concerns regarding obesity and diabetes. As a result, several schools districts switched to those that offered healthier alternatives.
Cigarette vending machines, once ubiquitous in the United States, are now fairly uncommon due to concerns of underage buying. For this reason some require the swipe of a card to verify age. Photo booths are also vending machines, and other types commonly found in public restrooms might dispense personal hygiene products or condoms.
These machines are probably used more in Japan than in any other country. The Japan Vending Machine Manufactures Association reports just over 5.5 million in the country, or a machine for every 23 people. Here you can find a wide variety of items for sale this way, from underwear to compact discs and jewelry.
Invention of the first vending machine is credited to Hero of Alexandria circa 215 BC. It accepted a coin and dispensed holy water in return.