Are Automated Kiosks The Future Of Retail Shopping?

In recent years, vending machines have gone from lunch room relics intent on eating your quarters and holding onto your Sun Chips to high-tech automated kiosks that sell everything from DVDs to ice cream, wine, beauty products, useless Farmville crap, electronics, designer bags and much more. But are they here to stay or is this just a trend?

For customers, kiosks provide convenience, instant gratification and a way to get out of dealing with potentially rude employees. They provide many of the benefits of online shopping with the added plus that you don’t have to wait for your purchase to get lost by UPS or FedEx.

Kiosks can also be a boon to operators of shopping malls and retail stores. According to the Houston Chronicle, these automated Kiosks can generate upward of $10,000/year per square foot, several times the average of $330/year for retail floor space in a mall.

Where do you see the kiosk trend going — Are there certain products that you can’t ever see being sold in this fashion? And what about the potential loss of jobs for those replaced by automated kiosks?

Automated kiosks take vending machines to the next level with a variety of products in malls, stores and airports [Houston Chronicle]

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  1. sock says:

    I’m sure the consumer will see the cost saving of not having a cashier passed on to them. Just like the cost savings of scanning our own groceries. Yeah right.

    • Bunnies Attack! says:

      You know, this complaint I don’t always get. Maybe implementation of these things didn’t drop the price but instead slowed the increase?

      1. Over time, margins get narrower and narrower
      2. Low profits spur development of innovations like self checkout, credit card scanners are gas stations, etc.
      3. Instead of raising prices sharply, innovations are adopted which bring original margins back in line.
      4. People complain that innovation didn’t drop prices.

    • dreamfish says:

      I have no problem scanning my own groceries. I especially like those stores that have hand-held scanners which allow me to (a) easily track my spend and (b) speed through the checkout.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        I don’t have problems scanning them. Where I lose my marbles is when I run out of bags on the carousel and try to put some of them in the cart, and the blasted abomination freaks out like I’m Al Capone.

        • George4478 says:

          I know what you mean. The ones at my Kroger sound like a retail version of Hannibal Lecter.

          “It puts the groceries in the bag!”

    • Destron says:

      Actually Self checkouts don’t save retailers money, they are a haven for thieves that use them to rip the store off for more money than they would have ever paid a cashier, that’s why you don’t see the savings passed on to you because there is no savings. Some retailers are even back tracking and taking them out.

    • JMILLER says:

      I would suggest you look at food prices against other items and the savings HAVE been passed on. You will never see an immediate 10% decrease, but milk is currently about $2 per gallon, bread is about $1-1.50 per loaf. What do you think the prices were before self scanners? Finally, why should there be a savings passed on to you? Retailers are in the business to make a profit. If they can reduce their costs and make money, they can actually open more stores, which creates more jobs, or they can actually afford to pay the staff they have.

    • sonneillon says:

      Yup me a ski mask and a brick will realize me some savings.

  2. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    They’ll be a trend when their “employers” can train them how to intelligently upsell, I guess. Amazon has it halfway down. But a real salesperson can sell based on someone’s appearance and actions.

    • SilentAgenger says:

      The pumps at the gas station I frequent are programmed to upsell…if you consider “upselling” to be making me watch an onscreen pitch for a Shell credit card, sometimes TWICE, before finally asking me if I want a printed receipt.

      • SilentAgenger says:

        …so I can see where any automated kiosk can force you to sit through any sort of upsell pitch before giving you the option to complete a transaction.

        • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

          It’s a felony to punch a human salesclerk in the face. Depending on how much damage you do to a mechanical gadget that won’t take no for an answer, you might be able to get off with a warning.

    • rayblasdel says:

      Don’t forget the additive upsell at some gas stations. I hate having to use pumps with those things. I just stand there punching the no button, while the stupid machine tries to guilt me and tells me to use it next time.

      • Destron says:

        Ya my local 7-11 gas pumps up sell, by offering you $2 off a car wash, or asking if you want an ice cold drink from the vending machine next to the pump – press yes and it charges your card and spits out a code to use on the machine or car wash.

  3. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Oh, and don’t let’s forget that where you have technology, you need a support person. Where you have valuables collected together in a small, accessible space, you need a security person. You still need stockers, drivers, money collectors, and manager administrators to plan the product campaigns. The only employee this does away with is the retail salesclerk, and it doesn’t do that spectacularly well.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      A tech support person? For some reason what pops into my head is the mystery guy in the movie, “Amelie”. He’s the guy that fixes the photo-shoot kiosk machines that get jammed from people putting slugs into the machine instead of coins.

  4. RandomHookup says:

    We’re turning Japanese, I think we’re turning Japanese, I really think so.

    • 451.6 says:

      Seriously, and none too soon. Being able to get a warm bottle of royal milk tea out of a vending machine here is a dream of mine. I can do without the panties, but I’m not even going to pretend that I didn’t buy a carton of eggs out of a vending machine just so I could say that I bought it. I was staying in a hotel so I gave them to a housewife.

      • ShinGetterPoPo says:

        To be fair, I didn’t see a panyt machine anywhere when I was in japan in june. They’ve apparently lost their appeal even there.

  5. Trollez says:

    I guess if they can sell gold bars overseas then they must be here to stay. Obama uses one to print money.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      I saw that goddamn thing while I was in Abu Dhabi last month. My gold is in a vault in New York City. If I had wanted gold I would have gone to Dubai, anyhow, and dickered for some jewelry.

    • Pinklette says:

      I would have sworn you said “I guess if they can sell gold bras overseas…” Made for a very different kiosk inside my head.

      • Trollez says:

        Is a Kiosk for bras any different than the bins at Victoria Secrets? Not that I wear anything from there but I have been in there for gift cards. Probably cleaner in the kiosk than a return tossed back in the bin. Just saying.

        • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

          What you’re really asking, I gather, is whether the clerks at your average Victoria’s Secret are any more intelligent than an automated vending machine.

          • hotcocoa says:

            Rude.
            I worked part-time while living in Manhattan to make ends meet after I graduated college. Aren’t people always preaching on here about taking any job you can to pay your bills? Just because one works in the service industry doesn’t mean they are stupid.
            Are you so ignorant that you didn’t know that, or did you just feel like insulting people?

            • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

              Would the fact that I once worked in a Victoria’s Secret (for a few months in college) realign your rancor ever so slightly?

              • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

                I suppose it would ruin things somewhat if I admitted that the experience of working at Victoria’s Secret was what forced me to conclude that the majority of the staff were cloned in the back rooms from the mannequins.

    • Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

      There.. you see him hiding in the underbrush. The Conservatroll is a wily beast, quick to take advantage of the slightest pretext to bash the Obama administration. See how his plumage allows him to blend in at the most garish Tea Party rally, while also proving aerodynamic and maneuverable enough to dodge any form of logic that is introduced in his vicinity.

      tl;dr: Can we please, for the love of Mike, stay on topic.

  6. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    A true kiosk system is confined to small items. And that presents its own logistical challenges, like how your item in the kiosk can get stuck in the machine and then you have to track someone down to get it out.

    • Dapper Dan says:

      At work, if you get a snack from the machine and it does not drop, the machine refunds your money.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      “If your 2017 Toyota Tundra becomes stuck in the Convenience Americaâ„¢ kiosk during purchase, please contact our automated Customer Relations line at 1-800-CA-KIOSK. Allow 4-6 weeks for refund.”

  7. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    if i can glare menacingly while purchasing to convince the machine not to try to upsell, i’m all for it

  8. mac-phisto says:

    even though i’m not averse to the use of vending machines, i must admit that my vending machine purchases are limited to the more traditional uses: sodas, stamps, fritos, tickets. i’m not one to buy, say, an ipod out of a vending machine. i’m not really sure why…i suppose that i feel i deserve a bit of personal contact when i’m shelling out a few hundred dollars for a new device.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      yeah i could see that for electronics but vending machines can’t take returns so might that not diminish the chance of getting a box of rocks? but then again you can’t do anything if you DO get a box of rocks except call the number on the front of the machine… hrm, double edged sword there

      • Outrun1986 says:

        I assume most of these machines accept credit cards, because no one is gonna be walking around with a couple hundred bucks for an iPod. So if it happened you could just call your credit card company. I would also assume they have cameras on these things so they can see if someone didn’t really get the merchandise they paid for.

  9. redskull says:

    So in a period when unemployment is at an all time high, we’re going to eliminate sales positions as well. Brilliant.

    I hope these kiosks will accept chickens, because no one’s going to have any money to stick in them.

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      I laughed, because I know exactly how disposable retail salesclerks are even when the economy is good.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        To clarify this for the twit above who believes I merely indulge in gratuitous insults against hard-working retail salespeople… the laugh was bitter, my friend, bitter.

  10. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    I can’t see it replacing butcher shops or bakeries. I can’t see myself buying towels out of a vending machine, or anything else where it’s important to touch the item before buying it. But then again I’m the kind of person who dumps out the bags of grapes and cherries and baskets of strawberries at the grocery store so I’m not stuck with the rotten and inferior fruit hidden at the bottom.

    I also had a very bad experience with a vending machine pastry where the “powdered sugar” on the bottom of the cinnamon roll… wasn’t.

  11. Cantras says:

    There’s a “shop” on our main bar street, a storefront that’s a room entirely vending machines. However, this is the US, so it’s just candy and chips and stuff. They’d probably make a killing on condoms, those cheap folding shoes (tired of walking the bars in your stilettos, ladies?), random “hangover prevention” snake oils….

    • jurupa says:

      There are “vending” machines that do sell condoms. Tho I have not seen one in a guys restroom for some time now.

      • Cantras says:

        Well yes. I was referring to the specific storefront, which does not sell condoms but would make a killing if it did.

  12. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Not to spam the thread… but I just thought of two more very important words.

    “Return policy”

    • Razor512 says:

      There will still be one, just like the refund policy of the vending machines where if it takes your money and doesn’t give you anything, you can send a letter to the company and it will be reviewed, then in 6-12 months, they may send you a check for a refund.

      I think some companies do it on purpose as it is profitable to scam you out of money, as long as it only happens once in a while.and because of the work needed to get anything done about it, most people will just accept the loss.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        You may have a point. I buy a lot online (to the point where my apartment manager asked me if I was a front for a reshipper, haha) and I had to learn to scrutinize the return policies very carefully. Amazon is tops, and allbrands.com is meticulous, but I refuse to buy from EBay sellers who are all “No returns accepted.”

        Some day, if this takes off, there will be a law passed that makes the vending machine owner post a legible sticker on the machine front in Spanish, English, French, or Chinese (depending where you live) detailing where and how to get a refund and providing a customer service number to a tech who can operate the machine remotely.

        • jurupa says:

          Uh all of the vending machines I have seen already have such stickers already. Most just say something like “Problems, questions? Call us at XXX-XXX-XXXX”. Tho this may be a California thing tho seeing how anal they are about consumer protection.

  13. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Yup. And here’s how it will work:

    You walk into a grocery store, grab a cart or basket and start shopping. When you place something in your cart or basket, a reader device automatically adds the item to your final bill, which you can see as you go. Put the item back, it deducts the price.

    At checkout, you pass through a doorway/metal detector-like thingy (one of a dozen or so) that reads your final total and asks you to confirm what shows on the receipt, scan coupons, etc. You can beep for assistance if something looks off or was priced incorrectly. Once you approve, swipe your card, bag your stuff and leave. No more slow cashiers, chatty folks that take an hour and a half to write a damn check, or waiting around for a price check on a day-old bouquet of ugly flowers. In and out and done.

    Oh, and if you try to steal anything by running through the checkpoint there will be a bored armed guard (or two, or three) just waiting to spray/Tazer/shoot you, so don’t be a dick.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      How do you ensure that items like produce are coded correctly for scanning in the manner you mentioned? And how do you ensure someone doesn’t move the scanning barcodes off produce to cheaper produce, or paste over more expensive goods?

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        They don’t make sure of it now, with human salesclerks. No salesclerk can do a chemical analysis to determine whether I’m buying the organic or conventional bulk flour, or care if I’m buying the large Delicious apples or the small, or know what the heck a kohlrabi is and how it’s different from a rutabaga. I don’t take advantage of it, but my mother was an ungodly thief in the grocery store.

      • wrjohnston91283 says:

        And how do you ensure someone doesn’t move the scanning barcodes off produce to cheaper produce, or paste over more expensive goods?

        That’s a problem even with live cashiers – when I worked at a grocery store we didn’t look at the screen after every item. As long as the machine beeped, it means it went through. Management wanted us to have an average time between scanned items of less than 2 seconds – we’re not verifying that the barcode is correct to make that time.

      • Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

        Good questions. I imagine some kind of micro-barcode stickers on produce that would activate alarms if removed. And cameras to use in court if someone strongly believes stealing is better than paying.

        If people weren’t so dishonest the whole process would be much simpler to implement. But alas, this is not the case, and so much R&D will need to be done before this even comes close to reality.

      • Grabraham says:

        Same way they do it with the Scan your own systems in Stop and Shop in my area. Random audits. I push my cart around the store and scan and bag as I go. Scan a barcode at the self checkout counter and my order is uploaded from the scanner to the register and I pay and leave. Occasionally the system will not allow you to pay until a smock jockey comes over and scans a handfull of items in my cart and as long as I was honest and had really scanned all the stuff in my cart I pass the test and can pay and go home :)

      • mac-phisto says:

        stores already make allowances for a reasonable amount of loss due to theft, damage & shipping errors. as long as the “shrink” remains within these pre-determined limits, stores are willing to accept that loss as a cost of doing business.

        most people are “honest enough”, meaning they either are morally opposed to theft, are too concerned about the consequences of getting caught, don’t feel the benefit is worth the risk or don’t care enough to try. really only a small number of shoppers actually attempt what you’re describing.

    • Southern says:
  14. Razor512 says:

    One thing I hate about vending machines is that even though they cost less to run, The prices are often much higher than normal.

    • Jfielder says:

      +1 In my office they even had to nerve to raise prices in the machine even further… Everything is over $1 now…. They can suck it, not a dime of my money is going into that machine now.

  15. valthun says:

    In the case of redbox I think they are great. i have seen them in airports selling small electronics and its fun to browse those, but the prices seem higher than retail. Granted that is probably because its in the airport. I also don’t see a need to purchase an ipod at the airport. Although a nice set of replacement headphones if my pair breaks or I forgot them at home is convenient. The kiosk tended to carry a better range than the shops in the airport.

  16. quail says:

    These are all over the place at Macy’s for selling electronics, which are a big theft item. Also the malls have them in the center aisles for selling acne wash, make-up, and other stuff. Much better than paying some kiosk worker to read a book all day I guess. (Worse yet are the kiosk workers who try to put warm pads on your back, spray you with fragrances, or sponge make-up on your wife’s face.)

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      Former Macy’s clerk here. Quietly and calmly ask, “Are you assaulting me?” Holy crap, do they back off.

    • Bohemian says:

      I would be all for mandating that all the mall kiosks must be vending machines instead of those obnoxious people that try to engage you in a sales pitch or outright stepping in your way.

  17. Big Mama Pain says:

    Shoes, jewelry and sunglasses are a few things I could never see myself buying out of vending machine.

  18. Speak says:

    Even though my state (PA) is behind the times with liquor laws, we are even trying out Wine Kiosks in some grocery stores. I don’t drink wine much, but it is an interesting concept because it is tied back to someone verifying that the person is over 21 when they buy the wine, so no jobs lost. Actually some jobs are created, like people to service these machines when they break and people to fill them when they get empty.
    I think it is possible to sell anything via a vending machine, the real question is what are people willing to buy?

  19. DavidNYC says:

    Thomas Edison imagined exactly this 100 years ago. Quoting him:

    “In the automatic shop of the future there will be no shopkeepers, no clerks, no boy to wrap up packages. On entering the shop, the intending purchaser will see no one, unless it be some other purchaser. There will be no counters, no scales, no shelves lined with goods, no showcases.

    “In the walls of the shop there will be dozens and dozens of little openings. Above every opening there will be a small sign. This sign will tell in a half dozen different languages what particular article that particular opening will deliver.

    “Suppose a patron wants beans. He will go to the series of openings that represent the vegetable department. He will look for the sign bearing the legend ‘Beans.’ He drops a nickel in the slot and a neatly tied package containing 5 cents worth of beans will drop through the opening…

    “Only one man will be needed to tend this store. All that he will have to do is keep the bins filled and the machinery oiled, and all the rest will be done automatically. He and his machines will be doing the work that in a present-day grocery shop it requires fifty men to do.”

    From “Edison Plans An Automatic Clerkless Shop” at http://sundaymagazine.org/2010/05/edison-plans-an-automatic-clerkless-shop/

    • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

      Edison’s bean example would work only if the machine was transparent, so that the bean buyer could gauge the type and quality of the beans and the size of the five-cent package. Not that it would be impossible, just unlikely.

      You’d think there would be a market incentive to always deliver a wholesome, clean, fresh, and high quality product, but in practice I’m afraid it would be a race to the bottom, with cheap and inferior goods being sold out of machines, and high quality goods being sold by humans (if only as a signal of their higher quality).

    • Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

      Thomas Edison was a thieving, back-stabbing douche bag.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        What’s more, he expected one single solitary clerk to monitor, stock, and maintain “dozens and dozens” of inidividual vending machines.” The job from Hell.

  20. lain1k says:

    As long as there is support for them, someone to repair them or resolve an issue I am all for it. I love scanning my own groceries at the store but the second that machine freaks out a employee should be there to resolve the issue (Ralphs near me has been doing pretty good, but other times I’ve had to wait and wander around looking for help).

  21. Southern says:

    I saw one a few months ago that sold “authentic Coach purposes” (@ $400-$500) and it was in a kiosk labeled “Powered by RedBox”.

    • Southern says:

      Here’s the story I was looking for. The kiosks (the ones I saw, anyway), are called “Chirp”, and are owned by the Coinstar company (which also owns Redbox).

      http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/7157804.html

      I can see them being used for speciality items (like iPods, or prepaid cell phones, or things of that nature), but replacing an entire department store with ‘em? Naaaaaaaaaaaaah.

  22. UCLAri: Allergy Sufferer says:

    But what happens when John Connor figures out how to hack the machines and take all the iPods? Where will we be then, huh?

  23. Rocket says:

    This is ok, I guess, until your DVD or iPod gets stuck, and the machine eats your money. Then you need to start kicking the machine and accidentally break something.

  24. MamaBug says:

    Odd timing. I passed a proactiv kisosk thingie yesterday. Thought it was the oddest thing.

  25. Rachacha says:

    I think a good application for these machines would be in retail stores where items are locked up behind a glass door and you need to find an associate to get the item that you want (iPods, Nintendo DSi, video games etc). If you could simply swipe your credit card and press the button, it would be much more convenient. It would be even better if when you pressed the buttons corresponding to the item, an image of the front and back of the retail package would display on a monitor so you could verify that it really was the product you wanted.

    • Southern says:

      Oh, yeah — and it would drastically increase impulse buying, too.. I can’t tell ya how many times I see a game at a store I’d like to buy, but hate tracking someone down to open the damn display case, so I always skip it and wind up buying it through eBay or something (and usually save money in the process anyway, so I guess that’s a good thing)..

    • yusefyk says:

      They have these video game machines already in airports, think I saw one in Seoul.

    • brinks says:

      Genius.

      At my last job, only the manager had keys…and I was usually busy being screamed at by someone about a price match or return policy issue and always had to make potential paying customers wait. I would have LOVED this.

    • jurupa says:

      I hope there will be a cash, ATM, and debt option to boot as well. As not everyone will have a credit card to use. Tho I do wish places that locked up their games had this tho.

      • Rachacha says:

        I would think so. I sometimes forget about cash as I almost always use a credit card, but definitely a cash option, or a machine that accepted cash and gave you a “purchase card” for use in the machines would be a necessity.

        When I was in college many many years ago, the school outfitted all of the vending machines with a mag stripe reader that interfaced with our student ID Cards. You would put money on your ID Card account and could swipe your card and make your selection…very convenient.

  26. Tatsujin says:

    Somehow I am reminded of Stuffer Shack in Shadowrun. The contents of a Wal-Mart crammed into a 7-11 and dispensed to you.

  27. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    It’s not completely automated (there’s still a human making the food) but I really like the made to order food kiosks at Sheetz.

  28. TheRedSeven says:

    Macy’s in Chicago sells iProducts from a vending machine. Presumably to reduce theft (by both employees and customers). There was a digital display that let you look at all the specs, etc.

    You couldn’t pick up a box to look at it, but not so big of a deal with that sort of thing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see other electronics (small size & high value = likely to be stolen) in a similar format… Not saying I like it, but it probably isn’t far off…

  29. JoeXJoe says:

    Less people employed means it’s the future, it’s better for the bottom line. Self-Scans at groceries were just one step along the way.

  30. roguemarvel says:

    Reminds me of Mass effect 2, all the stores where Kiosks but they still had a sales person, because it made people more comfortable to have a live person for customer service.

    • PlumeNoir - Thank you? No problem! says:

      Damn! I was JUST about to post the “I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favorite store on the Citadel” line, because it’s the first thing I was reminded of, as well.

  31. evnmorlo says:

    So much for our wonderful “service economy”. Guess there is always working for the government, though it’s too bad the US Congress can’t be replaced by a kiosk.

  32. Tom Foolery says:

    Try the Automat! The wave of the future!

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      When I was a kid and first learned about the Automat, I was DEVASTATED when I found out I couldn’t go there. I wanted to open the little window and get a piece of pie!

  33. HogwartsProfessor says:

    At the Jacksonville airport I saw a vending machine with bouquets of flowers in it. I don’t recall ever seeing that before, but I usually don’t pay attention to those. My bf and I laughed over airport flowers.

  34. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Nevermind the “potentially rude employees” – for the most part, I don’t want to deal with *any* store employees, up until the time that I need to check out.

    I honestly am really irritated by the retail sales schmucks who come up and “want to help.” I’m far too polite to ever say what I want to say, which is something along the lines of “you can help me by getting the $#%^ away” and rather just say “just looking” or whatever.

    The more “helpful” a store’s employees are, the less likely I am to go back. If I honestly need help with something…I’ll find somebody. Otherwise, leave me the hell alone so I can buy something.

  35. The Marionette says:

    Japan’s been doing vending machines for a while. A lot of stuff out there is sold in vending machines, we’re just catching up to it right now. That of course is due to far less crime out there than here.

    • YouDidWhatNow? says:

      …not sure we really need vending machines selling panties that young girls have, er, enjoyed themselves in.

    • jurupa says:

      You think vending machines here will reduce crime? You know how dam easy it can be to steal a soda can from such things? Hell breaking the clear plastic that are on some vending machines I doubt be that hard to do really.

  36. thesadtomato says:

    Beautiful R.E.M. reference! Made my day.

  37. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Ahhh. Kiosks. A life with no human interaction. Just what my introverted personality needs.

  38. Nighthawke says:

    For those that have gone through Sam’s Club and Costco have seen the light duty 12 unit vending machines they sell. Those run for 3,000 up front and can barely handle small chips and candy bars.

    Now if you want to vend something larger and still make a profit off of that single installation, the product weight just tripled as well as the bulk of it, necessitating the need for improved mechanics and a larger cabinet. At one point during the dot-com boom there were a few robo-grocers up and running at various testing locations. I do not know if they are still running or not. The bottom line is the cost-effectiveness of running a grocery automat capable of handling large items without breakdown for days on end? At this time, not really.

  39. webweazel says:

    I cannot be the oldest fart here to remember AUTOMATS? Eating establishments that consisted entirely of solid walls of special vending-type machines, and some tables & chairs. They had stacked circular trays that would spin so you could see the contents. Make your choice and a little door would open so you could grab your item. Loaded with sandwiches, snacks, drinks, etc. They even had good pie. (I don’t remember if they had hot food. I think they did.) I bet they would make a good comeback for convenience’s sake, and speed of worktime lunches.

    That is, if they even make those machines anymore.

    • bill8088 says:

      Automats still exist in some hospital cafeterias. You can get a variety of sandwiches, burritos, pies, and deserts. They are ideal for a place that has people that keep odd hours.