The Beverly Hills Caviar company has deployed not one, but three caviar vending machines throughout Los Angeles. We were incredulous over the initial reports so naturally we had to have a look ourselves.
One caviar vending machine is located in the spacious and elegant Westfield Century City, a mall so upscale that it doesn't call it a food court but rather, a "food terrace." Unfortunately there was a good deal of construction up on that food terrace and we walked by the machine twice before figuring out that it had been stashed in an alcove with the ATM machine. We likely would never have found it if we weren't looking for it.
The machine itself is a bit on the garish side with a display case of goods being presented under the ever changing glare of a rainbow of LED lights. We were more than a little letdown that, unlike a "real" vending machine, this machine didn't allow you to peer inside to watch your product being dispensed. Purchases are conducted via a touchscreen which helpfully groups products into categories like "Caviar Under $50" and "Caviar $300-500." Equally helpfully, the machine managed to display only one error while we tried to navigate the voluminous sub-menus.
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And those sub-menus go on for days. There's a staggering array of caviar on sale here, from $500 "Imperial River Beluga Caviar" to horseradish infused flying fish roe. Of course if you're going to drop $500 on a 1 ounce tin of caviar it'd be rather silly not to have something to eat it with. To that end this machine will also cough up mother of pearl serving spoons, mini blinis and dainty toast points. You can also buy containers of sliced black truffles and escargot in case you need to offer your guests a ridiculously decadent experience... out of a vending machine.
Unfortunately we did not try the goods out of this machine. Twenty five dollars for a tiny tin of fish eggs of unknown quality seemed a little steep for us. We do have to wonder what audience this machine is aimed at. We spent a good ten uninterrupted minutes gawking at this machine and messing with its menus. No harried executive cued up behind us to passively aggressively gasp when we wasted everyone's time by not buying anything. Their webpage lists these vending machines as "shops" so its clear that this is an effort to expand from online only to having a physical presence. But beyond that it's difficult to imagine what life a person would have to lead such that they would think, "Oh dash it all, I need to pick up some caviar for the soiree tonight, better nip on over to the mall and dump $500 into caviar vending machine." One would think that a person who could afford $500 worth of caviar could also to pay someone to take care of these problems for them.
Of course we're also confused by the iPod vending machines at airports so there is that.