While walking through the Macys at the Garden State Plaza yesterday, I caught something out of the corner of my eye that stopped me dead in my tracks. It was a big glass vending machine, with huge double glass doors displaying a bevy of products.

No, not your normal vending machine merchandise. Rather, it was hawking iPods, video iPods, shuffle iPods, digital cameras, batteries and other accessories. Across the top of the machine read “ZOOM SHOP.” I was impressed. I needed to explore further.

Here’s a quote taken from Zoom Systems website:
The installation of small format robotic stores which are placed in high traffic locations and are open 24 hours per day allows for an experience much like shopping online, but with the instant gratification of immediate product delivery.” Zoom places these “robotic stores” in places like large retail stores, malls, hotels and airports.

My initial reaction was something along the lines of, “What the heck will Apple think of next?” Then I started to wonder… if you purchase an iPod from the top shelf, is it going to release and drop to the bottom like your average candy bar? Then I remembered thinking the same thing when I saw glass soda bottles in machines, but those fell and didn’t break. Another feat of engineering I suppose. Then I noticed a large door showing where the product would be “robotically” released to the purchaser. So, no frightening fall. That’s a relief.

The payment method was a high-tech touch screen, accompanied by your standard credit card swipe machine. That got me to wondering if the average consumer would be willing to drop $200-300 at a vending machine in the mall or airport, on a single product. Definitely something that would give me pause. Should something with such a high price point be marketed as an impulse buy?

But let’s also look at the perks. Instant gratification. No cashier checkout lines. No sales people trying to upsell you to a better model or an extended warranty. Oh, did I mention instant gratification?

How about you? Would you spend $240 at a vending machine?

zoom shop