Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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The Free Market Vending Machine

Expose your vending machine to the forces of supply and demand
  [vote for,

Instead of having fixed prices for items in your vending machine, have the machine automatically adjust the prices of each item according to the time elapsed since the last time that item was purchased. So the price of a slow item would drop gradually, with the option of introducing "2 for 1" or "3 for 2" deals at certain steps of the way. The more popular items would retain their prices (I'm not sure having them increase beyond the initial price would be a good idea).

The machine would have the "authority" to drop the price to the limit of investment return, but there could be a "manual" remote "clearance sale" option.

"I usually have a Snickers bar... but the cod-liver-oil flavoured granola bar is 2 for the price of 1 today... decisions decisions..."

Veho, Feb 18 2009

Retail DNA http://www.walkerdi...om/innov_retail.htm
[kamathln, Feb 24 2009]

Coke's attempt at variable price machines http://www.google.c...rice+discrimination
[goldbb, Feb 25 2009]


       ...and if you think it's going to be a hot summer, the vending machine should be able to sell you a futures contract for ice-cold drinks, so you can lock in a price now and reduce your exposure to price fluctuations in the summer.
hippo, Feb 18 2009

       Nice idea [+]. Open to fraud if it's localised (someone might add a sign saying 'do not buy Snickers - wait for price crash'); or gum up certain buttons to limit the available selection, only to chemically ungum them when prices are low. This could be avoided by networking all machines and having a national price for each product.
vincevincevince, Feb 18 2009

       I like the idea of a contract for ice-cream futures - which, if purchased alongside a similar contract for chicken soup, would effectively hedge you against all manner of future weather conditions.
zen_tom, Feb 18 2009

       For similar reasons, you might want to buy futures contracts for the Vending Machine Index, which would be a market volume-weighted average of all the prices currently being charged. This would allow you to hedge against all the prices going up at once.
hippo, Feb 18 2009

       Now I'm trying to figure out how you'd 'short' a Twix - the best I've got is hanging around outside the machine, collecting money from people at today's prices then dishing out people's Twixes from the machine at some pre-arranged date in the future.
zen_tom, Feb 18 2009

       I can imagine this would be very useful in a country which wishes to implement a free market but does not want to go through the difficult processes of creating one. However, the price for a Free Market would need to be affordable.
vincevincevince, Feb 18 2009

       + sure...but I do agree with [vincex3] about the fraud issue. worst of all, bullies can stand around forbidding others to purchase certain items until the price drops...
xandram, Feb 18 2009

       Isn't a vending machine already a free market system as it sits?   

       Overall the idea is interesting its the title I'm not feeling. This is more like Bartering or Biding vending machine.   

       Why not be able to make offers on items in the machine which it could then use the regular selling price, the quantity requested, the number remaining,the time till refill and the frequency of sale to determine if it will accept the offer or make a counter offer(on reflection perhaps I should be posting this as an idea in its own right).
jhomrighaus, Feb 18 2009


       I think the idea as presented is best for everybody, not with any sort of active haggling system. It's basically just an automatic repricing mechanism, which is one of he biggest costs for retailers (and sources of inefficiency in the market).   

       In fact, this could be extended to any product or store. All we need to do is get some really cheap barcode scanners you can let people borrow at the door, and all prices for items are seen by scanning - and they then update according to purchasing habits dynamically, from a central computer.   

       That would let you apply the same idea to clothing stores, etc. as well.
Smurfsahoy, Feb 19 2009

       I think you'd have to give the machine the ability to move autonomously to seek out better locations...
smendler, Feb 24 2009

       Oh, cool.   

       Flocking vending machines. Kind of like locusts, but in reverse.
Custardguts, Feb 24 2009

       Is Retail DNA[linky] what you are looking for ? Imagine my surprise when 15 minutes after reading this post, I land on Retail DNA page from an article about Jay Walker's library!.
kamathln, Feb 24 2009

       would unflocking vending machines not be better - edging discretely back around the corner when it spies an existing vending machine?
MadnessInMyMethod, Feb 24 2009

       I love ideas that take the static and make it dynamic [+]
simonj, Feb 24 2009

       [simonj] that anno sounds like a fabric softener commercial to me! As for the idea +
blissmiss, Feb 24 2009

       Sorry to be the one person to fishbone the idea, but Coke tried out, sometime around 1999, a vending machine which varied the price depending on the temperature.   

       It was a flop -- people hated the idea. (see the link).   

       I suspect that any real world implementation of your idea would be similarly disliked. In particular, suppose I buy a candy bar for a dollar, and, as a result of my action, the price rises to $1.05 ... and someone waiting behind me also wants one of that candy bar. He would surely feel that the machine is unfairly discriminating against him.   

       You might be able to reduce feelings of unfairness if you limit price changes to between one day and the next, but I suspect that it would only help a little bit.   

       [edit] I've changed my [-] to a [+], just because :)
goldbb, Feb 25 2009

       but surely [goldbb] this is much like buying shares in a stock exchange - if I wait a few minutes the price may have rocketted up, if I wait long enough for the price to fall, someone else may get there first and make the price rise again. It doesn't make it discrimination, just skill in knowing when to buy. Perhaps the national network would slow down changes and make the system fairer.   

       The NY times story at the top of your google link is very interesting. This machine might get around that, as the average price of the items remains about the same, so you would in fact always have the option for something cheaper than their usual snack, rather than the coke machine version where the whole machine goes up and down together. It is interesting that they didn't build it. I wouldn't be surprised if, despite the negative reaction, it would have worked if they hadn't told anyone! Even a 10 cent price increase would make a big difference to their profits, and if you are gasping for a drink on a hot day, you probably wouldn't notice.
MadnessInMyMethod, Feb 26 2009

       chocolate ? you can do banking, purchase insurance, movie tickets, transit tickets, books, soda, beer, newspapers, electronics, gasoline, motor-oil... who needs humans ?
FlyingToaster, Feb 26 2009

       [bubba] should get some sort of prize for mentioning "Peoria" because no one outside of Illinois even knows it exists...
blissmiss, Feb 26 2009


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