A Thousand To One

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

This story appears in the November 2000 issue of Entrepreneurs Start-Ups magazine. 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.

But let's take our thinking to the next level. How would we make a $1,000 vend attractive to consumers?

Let your own imagination go to the land of possible high-ticket vending items. While you're there, try this one on for size: For the first time in history, our possessions can become artifacts while we're still alive. I wish I had my old Rin-Tin-Tin lunch box back-it's worth $4,000! Why not take our artifacts and sell them in vending machines? Baseball cards, Star Wars toys, hard-to-find Pez dispensers-you name it-are all viable as vended items. Look at your old tools in a new light and see just how innovative you can be.

Watts Wacker-lecturer, bestselling author, political commentator, social critic and CEO of FirstMatter-is one of the world's most respected futurists.

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