Can Vending Machines Become the Next Medium for Doing Good?

Not just for soda and chips, these machines are stocked with friendship and love.

Can Vending Machines Become the Next Medium for Doing Good? | Not just for soda and chips, these machines are stocked with friendship and love.

Let’s play an association game. What is the first word that comes to your mind when you hear the words “vending machine?” Are you thinking about coin slots, crumpled bills and cans of soda? In Japan, some vendors are working to change our associations. They hope for a future where vending machines are associated with altruism, friendship, collaboration, and maybe even love.

Japan: the vending machine capital of the world

Japan is known for its vending machines, as The Guardian reports. These computerized servers are ubiquitous, appearing on every corner, with one vending machine per 23 people in the country. 

You can buy nearly anything in a vending machine in Japan, from hot food to coin purses. And some Japanese vending manufacturers are getting creative and pushing the limits of what can be acquired at their machines.

Get to know your co-workers by sharing a drink
Suntory Beverage & Food is one of these vendors. Kyodo News reports that the vendor is introducing machines that will give free drinks to employees who swipe their card at the same time as a colleague.

These free drinks will be paid for by companies who choose to install the machine in their workplaces. However, companies can customize the machines to limit the number of drinks or the times of day when these free drinks can be “purchased.”

The Optimist Daily explains that this is an intervention to shake up the solitary work atmosphere created by the Covid 19 pandemic. Now that employees are getting back to the office, the goal is to get them talking and collaborating again. 

And these machines work. 97.8 percent of employees say they are fun and helpful at increasing communication in the workplace. 

Suntory hopes to be in 100 companies by the end of 2022.

Charity on the go
Japan’s vending machines aren’t just for taking, or even just for sharing, though. Sometimes they are for giving as well. The Japan News reports on charity vending machines.

Users can put their spare change to a better cause in these brightly decorated machines that display charity slogans and often stock drinks as well.

And because vending machine culture is so prevalent in Japan, using this medium for donations is a good way to encourage a culture of giving

Professor and Beverage Marketing Professional Kei Kurik explains, “When people see and use charity vending machines on a daily basis, it becomes a catalyst for them to think about social contribution in their daily lives.”

Although Japan has had these mobile collection boxes for a number of years now, 2020 saw nearly 500 new boxes installed by the Nippon Foundation which helps terminally ill children. 

This video shows how the charity vending machines serve up altruism alongside Dr. Pepper.

Love in a can?
What if your vending machine served not just Cola but a life partnerJapan Today explains that Matching Advisor Press hopes to do just that.

Its prototype machines allow users to select a can at random. The exterior of the can has messages like “I am advisor Ishikawa. There is a 27-year-old woman who wants to get married. Won’t you meet with her? I will advise you.” 

Inside the can is the contact information for a matchmaker, as Geek Culture explains. These cans are intended for people interested in a serious relationship or konkatsu (marriage in Japanese). The system isn’t yet fully operational, but hopes to go live in March 2022.

If you visit Japan, be sure to check out some of the unique vending machines and products that the country offers. You may find a cool new snack or a fun experience. But maybe, just maybe, you can also find a new friend or life partner.

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