Who buys gadgets from vending machines?

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This Best Buy Vending machine on display at Dallas’ Fort Worth airport caught my eye. Serious question: has anyone ever bought anything more involved than a cell phone charger or a pair of headphones from one?

Whenever I see one at Boston’s Logan Airport, most of the items on display seem to be things like PSPs, Nintendo DSes, iPods and the like. Clearly, they expect you to make an impulse purchase for in-flight entertainment.

Except let’s say you buy the iPod, hoping to listen to some tunes. You open it up on the plane. It’s completely uncharged. And there’s no songs or movies on it. Or a DS: not charged, no games.

I realize this is the “And what’s up with airplane peanuts?” of gadget posts. But I’m really curious who uses these and why. My suspicion: just to say that you once bought a luxury gadget from a vending machine. That’s certainly been my only temptation.

DFW Airport Has Best Buy In A Vending Machine [Aviation Blog via Gizmodo]

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23 Responses to Who buys gadgets from vending machines?

  1. guy_jin says:

    I would buy from ‘em if they weren’t in airports.

    Seriously, I would pay good money to not have to deal with salespeople.

  2. nairobired says:

    its cheaper than actually having a baby best buy in the airport, plus you’ll probably be able to find some ds carts SOMEwhere in the airport, considering all the other crap vendors who overcharge 60% on up. (at least in dfw)
    which ive never understood. why is it that restaurant chains and starbucks can seem to afford airport real estate, but hardly any major retailers?
    but yea on the ipods, impulse gifts, oh crap i forgot to get you anything while i was in spainrussia, heres an ipod. luvyabai.
    id think though the psp would be the most reasonable purchase, simply because of the its movie watching abilities, but then again i imagine most people who would be able to afford buying a psp and a charger and a movie/game already have a laptop. which is why ive never understood those dang things.

  3. chromal says:

    Tourists from overseas. They realize on the way out of the country they could buy a x for a fraction of the price they’d pay in their home economy, thanks to the depressed US$.

  4. technogeek says:

    What, you’ve never plugged your electronics into an outlet at an airport to recharge while you were waiting for a flight?

    Content is a more complicated question, unless it’s one of the players with built-in wireless LAN content and you’re planning to load it off the network.

    However… I suspect that the main buyers are folks looking for last-minute gift ideas, and that in fact the main benefit to the store is building mindshare rather than actually selling products. (And it obviously works, given that it got you to give them free publicity…)

    Now, as to why anyone would buy anything from Beast Boy through _any_ channel… (They ain’t my favorite nohow, though I admit there are worse.)

  5. Moon says:

    Who buys ANYTHING from Best Buy??

  6. zuzu says:

    Seriously, I would pay good money to not have to deal with salespeople.

    Hear hear!!!

  7. shMerker says:

    I was just thinking how my local Gamecrazy could probably be replaced by a vending machine and I really wouldn’t care. The people there are slaves to the computer anyway. They’ve lost my warranty information on two consoles and charged me for three months of preffered discounts I didn’t get to use(two simultaneous overlapping subscriptions) If you’re real live people fail to offer any kind of compensation or even sympathy for that you might as well replace them with machines.

  8. Reverend Loki says:

    I saw a vending machine like this in the Vegas Hilton earlier this year. There, I can see it getting some use… a great way to push the impulse buy at some lucky stiff who just hit it on the slot machines, 24/7. I recall it being loaded with an assortment of iPods, a few portable game machines, and a variety of cameras, still and motion.

  9. ninjamonky says:

    the vending machine pictured is made by Zoom Systems. they are located all over, including malls, and department stores as well as the prementioned airports.

    there site: http://www.zoomsystems.com/

    not having to deal w/ a store clerk and check out line would definitely drive me to one.
    next up? grocery vending machine please!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Can’t say for sure, but it seems plausible that the machines are little more than advertising for Best Buy. If you consider the amount of gawking this machine gets, coupled with the suggestion of “immediacy” a vending machine offers, you have what I imagine must be a successful billboard for a technology retailer.

  11. Garr says:

    Maybe it’s the brick&mortar retailer’s answer to increasing online shopping thats becoming their ruin?

  12. Halloween Jack says:

    Because they’re afraid that their electronics will be confiscated by crooked TSA agents, and they’re the type that are willing to drop that much on an iPod for the duration of the trip? I dunno.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I remember taking an Cook Strait ferry and seeing a video camera, a still camera (OK, those two are becoming increasingly fuzzy) and an iPod Nano in a games machine. Assuming your hand-eye coordination was up to it, and you had enough NZD$2 coins to keep trying, you could land a bargain. But as you suggest, it would probably have no songs and a dead battery.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I tried to buy an iPod Shuffle from a vending machine in Macy’s for sheer convenience. It was a Sunday afternoon, and Philadelphia seems to shut down at like 3 on Sundays. I decided I needed a music player to replace my previous one that was stolen, and remembered the crazy vending machine selling camcorders and sony gear.

    Except that they were out of the shuffles, and they only had them in 1gb anyway.

    I can understand people not wanting to deal with salespeople (I worked at a Game Crazy for two years, in fact!) – “No I don’t want your bonus card no I don’t want your credit card no I don’t want your extended warranty no I don’t want your NerdBatallion to plug in the cable for $200.”

  15. dw_funk says:

    I thought the primary customers were frequent flyer types who need to make up for their awful parenting by providing electronic goods. Sorry that daddy’s been in Hong Kong for a month; here’s an iPod!

    Really, quick entertainment like that just doesn’t work as a business plan. The only people who have the equipment to use on those gadgets wouldn’t have the CDs or MP3s handy unless they had a device to use them. If you sold pre-loaded MP3 players or cheap-o DVD players with a small selection of movies (or DS with carts, etc.) you’d have something that might sell pretty well.

    But then the junk technology would be as disposable as all the other junk that comes from vending machines.

  16. Emily (daturazoku) says:

    I had to buy my mom an ipod for a Christmas present and it was way cheaper in a US vending machine than anywhere in Japan :P

  17. themindfantastic says:

    Are these machines at airports inside or outside the tsa screening process? “But I just bought this at the machine like 5 minutes ago!” “Likley Story, fill out the form maybe you will get it back in a few weeks, or longer.”

  18. Narual says:

    Last minute gifts for family or bribes for clients. “Oh crap I forgot my _____”.

    And DW… dunno, I’d rather have a parent who had to be gone for a month at a time but cared than a judgmental chap who assumes people who have to travel are awful parents.

    As for the ipod issue, I’d expect you buy it, and it’s mostly charged (I’ve never bought one that wasn’t at at least 80% right out of the box), you hook it up to your laptop and load music onto it while you wait for the flight.

  19. Bugs says:

    I’ve always wondered a similar thing about phone shops in train stations. How many people actually impulse-buy a mobile phone?

    I can see the argument that foreigners just arriving in the country will want to buy a phone ASAP. However, I can’t imagine that their primary market is first-time visitors rich enough to buy a new mobile at the first shop they happen to see.

  20. Tubman says:

    Bugs, tourists don’t have to buy mobiles, they can buy SIM cards to save a shitload of cash on calls, or localized chargers too.

    Anyway, have you got anything better to do while waiting for your train? I’d rather windowshop in the relatively hygienic environment of Brain Tumours R Us than sit reading a paper downwind of some guy whose underpants stand up better than he does.

  21. torta10 says:

    Maybe people buy then when they go outside US, avoiding taxes and using currency advantage…

  22. Freddie Freelance says:

    Are Condoms considered Gadgets?

  23. yasth says:

    Actually at least one airport (I believe O’Hare) has a large kiosk style store that can transfer music you buy there to an iPod. Seemed modestly clever.

    And then they also have power points all over the airport so you could probably manage (besides don’t you have a laptop to charge them off of?).

    I mean in some ways it is as good as any place to pick up a rigidly price controlled device like an iPod. (A PSP or DS it is much more insane, but eh)

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