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Image: Cupcake Shop Installs 24 Hour Cupcake ATM On Manhattan's Upper East Side


Vending the rules: 25 weird, wild vending machines

Who says you need customer service when purchasing a luxury vehicle, a gold bar, a freshly baked cupcake or a live hairy crab? Strange as it may seem, you can buy all of these items and more straight from vending machines.

Image: Cupcake Shop Installs 24 Hour Cupcake ATM On Manhattan's Upper East Side

Cloudy with a chance of cupcakes!

By Laura T. Coffey, TODAY

Who says you need customer service when purchasing a luxury vehicle, a gold bar, a freshly baked cupcake or a live hairy crab? Strange as it may seem, you can buy all of these items and more straight from vending machines.

New York City got its first-ever 24-hour "Cupcake ATM" on March 25, 2014, and lines of people waited to give it a try. Launched by the Sprinkles Cupcakes bakery on the Upper East Side, the machine can hold more than 700 cupcakes. Sprinkles employees restock the machine multiple times a day to keep the offerings fresh.

Andrew Burton / Getty Images North America
Image: Live hairy crabs are displayed in a vending machine at a main subway station in Nanjing, Jiangsu province

Feeling crabby

Yes, it's true: You really can buy live hairy crabs out of a vending machine in Nanjing, China. The machine keeps the local delicacies at 41 degrees Fahrenheit — cool enough to make the crabs sleepy without killing them. If you do purchase a dead crab, though, don't worry: The company behind the vending machine will compensate you with three live ones. The crabs cost between $1.50 and $7.50 depending on size and gender.

Sean Yong / X02022
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Going bananas

Japan is a magical land of vending machines. The devices are everywhere, and they sell just about anything — including these chilled bananas, wrapped in plastic and sold at Tokyo train station by Dole Japan Ltd. Price: About $1.50 a banana.

Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP

Need a bike?

When hasn't this happened to you? You're running down the street, late for a meeting. You think to yourself, "Sheesh, I could reach my destination so much faster if I had a bike." Problem solved! The folks in the Netherlands who invented the "Bikedispenser" vending machine call it the "perfect bike solution" for anyone on the move.

Herman Van Ommen

It's an explosion!

Need some bling while you're on the go? Chris Dlugosz of Buffalo, N.Y., captured this image of a "Necklace Explosion" vending machine in the doorways of a highway truck stop. "I cannot deny I wish I had the hologram one," he posted on Flickr.

An Indian woman collects a packet of con

Safety first

Thanks to India's National AIDS Control Organisation, it's a little bit easier to practice safe sex in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The group had more than 10,000 condom vending machines installed in those cities in 2009. A pack of two condoms sells for about 10 cents.

Raveendran / AFP

It's so convenient

Detergent, soap and mouthwash are some of the items seen for sale by RedBox, an automated convenience store in Washington.

Lawrence Jackson / AP
Egg Vending Machine

Which came first?

Let's head back to Japan for more weird vend trends: Each compartment of this refrigerated vending machine contains a bag of 10 to 12 eggs from a nearby farm. An enterprising farmer stocks the machine each morning. Price: About $3 for a bag of eggs.

Visitorrs look at ZoomSystems vending ma

High-end electronics

Retail space and trained staff can be expensive — and because of that, more businesses are opting for vending machines in high-traffic areas to save money. ZoomSystems makes vending machines for the likes of Apple, Macy's and Best Buy, pictured here. Need a digital camera or another high-end gadget while you're on the go? Just swipe your credit card and ta-da!

Emmanuel Dunand / AFP

Flower power

If your significant other is annoyed with you for one reason or another, why not say you're sorry with some conveniently chilled flowers? From a vending machine? It's possible! Bush Refrigeration of Camden, N.J., makes handy "floral display coolers" that keep flowers nice and fresh.

French Fries cook up in 45 seconds inside a vending machine made by R. O. International during the National Automatic Merchandising Association show at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas Thursday, March 29, 2001. About 6,000 vending operators are attending the show at the Las Vegas Convention Center, where 250 exhibitors displayed their latest food products, trends and technology. (AP Photo/Lori Cain)

Fried goodness on the go

If fast-food restaurants just aren't fast enough for you, no problem: R.O. International created this vending machine that whips up French-fried goodness in a flash. The fries get cooked in hot oil before being flash frozen and stacked into the machine. When you place your order, the machine heats the frozen fries in an oven and serves them up to you in just 45 seconds.

Lori Cain / AP

More fried goodness on the go

Is that fried chicken you smell wafting from that vending machine? Karl Baron of Sweden snapped this image of a 24-hour fried-food vending machine. Options include fried chicken, fried fish fillets, French fries and ... hot dogs? Mmmmm!

Berlin's First 'Gold To Go' Vending Machine

Ron Paul would love this

Looking for an ultra-safe investment — via a vending machine? With the swipe of a credit card or a willingness to part with some cash, you can get yourself a bar of gold. This "Gold to go" vending machine in Berlin, Germany spits out gold bars ranging in weight from 1 gram to about half a pound.

Sean Gallup / Getty Images Europe
Hotel In Miami Sells Costly Luxury Goods Through Vending Machine

Buy a Bentley

An over-the-top vending machine in over-the-top Miami Beach made headlines around the world for allowing people to spend as much as $1 million on a single purchase. Items range from a yacht trip to a penthouse condo to a Bentley to a BMW motorcycle. Nope, the cars and yachts don't fit through vending-machine slots; instead, you get a bag with a voucher that can be redeemed for the item you bought.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images North America

Skip a trip to the pharmacy

Want to fill your prescription at the hospital rather than take a separate trip to the pharmacy? You can with these InstyMeds vending machines, which are popping up at hospitals all over the United States.

Scott Salisbury / Cody Enterprise
TO GO WITH AFP STORY \"Espagne: lait frai

Got milk?

Talk about a case of "wage against the machine." In response to falling milk prices, farmers in Spain took steps to cut out the middle man — by using vending machines instead. Fresh-milk vending machines, like this one near Girona, began popping up all over Spain and selling milk directly from farms in 2009.

Lluis Gene / AFP


Need a phone in a big, fat hurry? These Motorola INSTANTMOTO vending machines turned heads when they came online in 2006 and started selling phones, Bluetooth headsets, car chargers and other items in visible, high-traffic areas.

Image: Fresh Pizza, Italy

Let's pizza!

This "Let's Pizza" vending machine in Italy is so much more than a microwave. In just three minutes, it actually kneads dough, spreads sauce, adds cheese and bakes a hot, fresh pie for waiting customers. Price: About $7 a pizza.

Footwear in a flash

If you're on the run — as in, literally on the run — then this sneaker vending machine might be just right for you. It sells Onitsuka Tiger-brand sneakers — the Japanese footwear made famous in the movie "Kill Bill." The machine made a splash when it was unveiled in London in 2008.

Dentsu Facility Management Inc will start taking orders for the \"Chef's Farm,\" a small vegetable plant that can be installed in, for example, a restaurant, in June 2010. 

The vegetable plant, which will be released in the summer of 2010 in Japan, was exhibited at International Food Machinery & Technology Exhibition 2010 (FOOMA JAPAN 2010), which took place from June 8 to 11, 2010, in Tokyo. It is priced at about ¥8.3 million (approx US$90,552). Dentsu Facility Management claims that it is possible to harvest 60 heads of lettuce per day (20,000 per year) and recoup the investment in about five years.

Eat your veggies

Own a large restaurant? Want to be able to harvest as many as 60 heads of lettuce a day? The Japanese company Dentsu Facility Management Inc. says you can do just that with its "Chef's Farm" vending machine, which costs about $90,000. Dentsu officials say proud owners of the machine can expect to recoup their investment in about five years.

Rice, rice, baby!

Oh Japan, your vending machines are so much fun. This one sells 22-pound bags of rice for $30 to $40, depending on which of the eight rice varieties you choose.

All charged up

Maybe Japan has overextended itself a teeny bit on this whole vending-machine thing? Check out the feedback about this battery vending machine from Doug Mann of the PhotoMann Travel Photography blog: "The batteries on display in this machine must have been there a long time as they are visibly corroding. Hopefully the batteries bought from the machine are fresher!"

TP in an emergency

When you've gotta go, you've gotta go — and when you're paperless in Japan, apparently you're expected to fork over some cash. This vending machine at a Tokyo subway station charges about 80 cents for a small package of toilet paper.

It's raining, it's pouring

Don't get caught in the rain! This vending machine near the Tokyo Dome in Japan sells umbrellas for about $5 to $12 each. As Doug Mann of the PhotoMann Travel Photography blog notes, "You're paying for convenience since the cheap umbrellas can be found for much less elsewhere."

In this June 25, 2010 photo, a shopper inspects the wine offerings from the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's self-serve wine kiosk at a Giant food store, in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Bradley C Bower)

Fine wines

Yes, even the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board tried to hop on the vending-machine craze. It launched enormous self-serve wine kiosks at grocery stores in 2010, but pulled the plug on them a little more than a year later after they failed to click with customers.

Bradley C Bower / FR37962 AP