In the first century, Hero of Alexandria was presented with a problem — worshippers were taking too much holy water at Egyptian temples. The Greek mathematician and engineer developed a coin-operated urn. Thus, the vending machine was born.
When you pass a vending machine today, chances are it’s stocked with soft drinks or snacks. Yet, there are a number of unconventional products that are sold in machines around the world.
If you’re in need of a bra in Shibuya, Japan, there are several sizes and styles from which to choose. For those with bored and unruly children, visit the Munich, Germany, train station and stock up on Legos to keep the little ones entertained. Or, if you need a gift for the person who has everything, buy a gold bar at the machine in the downtown Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Ray Steele of Gill, Mass., brought to our attention on FarriersForum.com that there’s even a vending machine that caters to farriers.
“Our owner Jack Roth travels a lot,” explains Sunny Page, store manager of Purcell Farrier Supply. “He noticed a lot of companies using vending machines to sell a variety of products. So, he came up with this idea.”
While the machine only accepts credit cards, it operates similarly as others. After swiping your card, select the product and it’s delivered to the box at the bottom of the unit. Yet, it’s not as simple as just picking up any old snack machine and putting a few horseshoes in it. The dispensing mechanisms in traditional snack machines can’t support the weight and size.
“Jack worked exclusively with a company for about 6 months on developing the vending machine,” she explains. “They were designed specifically for us and these products.”
Even the simplest of snack machines have their hiccups, though. I can’t count the number of times I’ve bought a Snickers, only to have it hang up in the machine.
“We’ve never had that problem,” Page says. “We tested it to avoid those situations because it’s such a unique product.”
It’s a little early to determine how successful this new venture will be, but the folks at Purcell Farrier Supply are hopeful.
“We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on it, so we’re going to try it for awhile and see how it goes,” Page says. “If it works well, he’s considering putting them at other racetracks.”
Hero might just marvel at how far his little invention has come.