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A Thousand To One

Vending machines have been making money one dollar at a time for decades. Now, imagine a $1,000 model.

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This story appears in the November 2000 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

In my latest book, I write about the application of variable pricing to vending machines. Coca-Cola had been experimenting with adjusting their prices based on variables such as the weather. When it's hot outside, the machines could automatically raise the price. Or, if there too many root beers left in the machine and it's still five days until the machine will be restocked, the machine could lower the price of root beer. The smart vending machine is clearly on its way. And it ushers in a new era.

One day, in a Wal-Mart parking lot, I saw a vending machine for bait. Ten dollars got you a container of dirt and earthworms...and it hit me! I was so used to thinking of vending machines as tools for low-cost items; why not make the $1,000 vending machine? And before we get to a cool thousand dollars, why not the $20, $50, $100 or even $500 vending machines? The $20 to $100 range has so many possibilities. Books, CDs and DVDs could easily be vendible, at least for a revolving list of the bestsellers.

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