Because it is what we in the business call a slow news day, I dropped by the "Gratitude Tour," a one-day expo of new food and drink vending machines in Glendale, and, boy, folks were crabby with a capital C-R-A-B.
"How much does this machine cost?" I asked the representative of a digital vending machine that features a display that looks like a ginormous iPad.
"That doesn't concern you unless you're an operator. Now pick a snack."
"Wait, let's say I'm an operator. How much does it cost?"
"Oh, so you think you're an operator now? You call me and we'll talk. Now pick a snack."
Sheesh. Maybe the looming cloud of crank was the result of the event being located in Glendale's foundering Westgate City Center, or maybe because its stated target market, Gen Y'ers, didn't bother to show up. No, the small portion of closed-off street was semi-filled with the sad state of our current economy -- families and middle-class people stuffing baby strollers and tote bags with free chips, candy bars, and soda.
Or maybe it was simply because the expo wasn't very good. Most of the machines weren't very new or different at all, but there were a few worth noting, and (bonus) I did find out why the cotton candy vending machine guy thinks people who make it by hand are unethical.
There's a vending machine that asks for dietary preferences before offering a menu of health-conscious options. The representative told me they're trying to put one in the Mesa school system, but the requirements there are stringent.
Pepsi has a "social media" vending machine that lets folks connect with friends and gift them drinks (I wrote about it in April). I was told it won't be out until next year.
Another machine dispensed fresh Seattle's Best Coffee. Not serving the pre-made crap, this machine ground the beans and made my latte to order. Not bad. The representative told me there were a few of these machines on the "outskirts of Phoenix" but wasn't sure where.
Then there was the $3 cotton candy machine. After the representative told me there was one in Arrowhead Mall, I asked him who would win a showdown between the machine and a real-life cotton candy maker.
"The cotton candy maker, but he would probably cheat. He'd pull the plug on the machine."
"Are you saying cotton candy makers are unethical?"
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"Well, it's happened to me. The oldest trick in the book is for a competing vendor to pull the plug on your machine or stick an 'out of order' sign on it."
Still want to get your free bag of Funyuns? The Gratitude Tour vending machine expo at the Westgate City Center runs until 6 this evening.