Busy travelers snap up Apple iPods from vending machines

“Anita Leopold has a little surprise for anyone who thinks vending machines were created to dispense lightly salted snack food and sugar-laced temptations,” Jim Tharpe reports for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“The top treat in the sleek, high-tech machines operated by her company and ZoomSystems at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is a top-of-the-line Apple iPod that fetches $349 before tax. It comes with a money-back guarantee, and it doesn’t drop from anywhere,” Tharpe reports. “A sophisticated robotic arm gently guides the mini-music machine to the buyer’s hands.”

“‘We’ve done about $55,000 in a month in gross sales just for the one on Concourse A,’ said Leopold, executive vice-president and owner Business Traveler Services. ‘This is becoming the future for some high-end products in places like airports where space is at a premium.’ Leopold, whose Atlanta-based company and Zoom operate two of the high-end vending machines at Hartsfield (the other is on Concourse C), said the Atlanta airport was the first to install what Zoom calls ‘small-format robotic stores,'” Tharpe reports.

Tharpe reports, “The idea caught on, and today airports in Dallas-Ft. Worth, San Francisco, Indianapolis, Reno, and Minneapolis-St. Paul have versions of the high-end machines… The 7-foot-tall, 7-foot-wide vending machines turned out to be tailor-made for airports and their lucrative combination of business, vacation and holiday travelers. The company does 30 to 40 percent of its business during the Christmas holidays as last-minute gift-buyers go on a binge.”

Full article here.

Related articles:
Robotic iPod vending machines to be installed in 180 Macy’s stores this fall – May 22, 2006
Apple iPods prove to be strong sellers in vending machines – April 10, 2006
Apple iPods top sellers via vending machine – October 24, 2005


  1. There is an iPod vending machine at the Mall of Georgia down near Nordstrom’s…pretty cool idea. How much does it cost to make and operate one machine in a high traffic area? It would easily pay for itself the first year. Now we need a sub $1000 11″ Macbook vending machine.

  2. I remember seeing one of these in the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport two years ago and thought it was pretty damn sweet, though it didn’t shock me as much as it would have a year or two before. That would have been before I started learning about Japan, where they have vending machines for all sorts of things, even used high school girls’ panties. Would be fun to see a Zune put in one of those traditional snack vending machines and dropped from the top shelf though. ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” /> That would be “music” to my ears.

  3. I don’t get this myself–iPods or mp3 players being sold at airports I mean. With a portable CD player, you can at least buy a CD or two to listen on the plane or train. With mp3 players, unless you’re toting a notebook along you have no way to put music onto it. The article doesn’t mention any songs pre-loaded either.

    The iPod’s even harder than normal MP3 players to fill on the go; most mp3 players can use WiMP to copy the songs on. iPod requires iTunes or even more obscure third-party programs which someone without an iPod probably wouldn’t already have.

    Surely there can’t be THAT many people who leave gifts for relatives to the last minute!?

    Still, like cell phone ringtones, you can’t argue the market for it if the masses are snapping them up…

  4. So, you have a couple of minutes to kill before boarding, you see the vending machine, pop in your money, out comes Apple’s famous toy, and what-do-you-know… you have a player with an uncharged battery and no tunes to play even if the battery was working.

    How’s that dose of reality to cure impulse buying.

    Steve – the modern day P. T. Barnum!

  5. My fiancee visited San Francisco earlier this month and saw one of these iPod vending machines there. Sounded like a joke to me, but seems like people do actually have the will and money to buy iPods like candy and soda pop!

  6. Don’t Get It,

    if they’re like the 5th-gen iPod with Video I got last year, the battery *is* charged. Mine started up right out of the box. The only thing was, I was on the other side of the world from my computer and had nothing to hear, and nothing see on its nice 2.5″ screen except the menu system and the built-in games.

    (reason I bought it overseas: I was in Hong Kong, its equivalent price was lower than in Canada, and I didn’t have to pay 15% in taxes on top of that either).

    Doesn’t sound much different from an airport vending machine impulse buy, eh? The difference is I actually saved money compared to buying it at home; the vending machines talked about in the article imply that taxes are extra (“fetches $349 before tax”).

    I suppose, though, that for visitors from Europe or wherever, iPods from US vending machines might still be cheaper than what they pay back home…

  7. “So, you have a couple of minutes to kill before boarding, you see the vending machine, pop in your money, out comes Apple’s famous toy, and what-do-you-know… you have a player with an uncharged battery and no tunes to play even if the battery was working.”

    How is this any different from buying an iPod at the store? Mine didn’t come charged and loaded with music.

    You seem to overlook the convienience factor for buying a gift to bring back for someone when you travel. It’s certainly better that a t-shirt.

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