Vending machines have been undergoing dramatic high-tech upgrades in recent years.
At an increasing number of machines, users can pay with taps of their smartphones via services like Apple Pay and Google Wallet. The machines take credit cards, too.
The range of products such machines dispense has vastly increased. Now you can buy everything from a phone to a custom-mixed carbonated beverage to food that is (gasp) good for you.
Here’s a look at three kinds of vending machines that are being used in the Twin Cities, and the people who are operating them.
Best Buy Express. Best Buy customers can get all kinds of electronics gear at 200 high-end vending machines the Richfield retail chain operates around the country.
Such products include headphones, electronics chargers, fitness wearables, cameras, portable gaming devices, even no-contract smartphones.
These Best Buy Express kiosks can be found at airports, train stations, interstate highway rest stops, hotels, convention centers and so on. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport has five.
Purchases made at the kiosks can be returned at Best Buy’s brick-and-mortar stores within 15 days.
The kiosks are often lifesavers for travelers who left their chargers behind and need replacements with urgency, Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman said.
Best Buy’s kiosks are made by San Francisco-based ZoomSystems, which offers the hardware to other companies. About 2,000 of the kiosks are in operation, primarily stateside with a few in Europe, Japan and Australia.
Though the kiosks come in all shapes and sizes, they share a trait: advanced robotics behind their brightly colored, touchscreen facades. The machines handle electronics products very gently, for one thing.
Traditional vending machines are “not a great user experience,” said Bobby Penn, ZoomSystems’ vice president of business development and marketing.
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