Forget Fritos, These Vending Machines Sell Fresh Oysters!

Bruce Parkinson, Open Jaw

Do you ever walk up to a hotel vending machine, feeling a little peckish perhaps, and experience the letdown that the contents are always the same crap – chocolate bars and potato chips?

If so, a visit to France might be in order.

The French are now offering fresh oysters from vending machines in the hope of selling more of the delicacy outside business hours.

One pioneer is Tony Berthelot, an oyster farmer whose automatic dispenser of live oysters on the Île de Ré island off France's western coast offers a range of quantities, types and sizes 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The stock is replaced daily and the oysters sold closed to avoid any health risks. Prices are the same as in the couple's adjoining shop, starting at just over $10 for a dozen.

"We can come at midnight if we want, if we have a craving for oysters. It's excellent, they're really fresh," Christel Petinon, a 45-year-old client holidaying on the island, told Reuters.

The Île de Ré's refrigerated dispenser, one of the first and with glass panels so customers can see what they are buying, is similar to those that offer snacks and drinks at railway stations and office buildings worldwide.

Customers use their bank card for access, opening the door of their choice from a range of carton sizes and oyster types.

Berthelot, 30 years an oyster breeder, sees it as an extra source of revenue rather than an alternative to normal points of sale like food markets, fishmongers and supermarkets.

"We felt as though we were losing lots of sales when we are closed," he said.

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