A Truly Crabby Kiosk

U.S. retailers have done nicely pushing kiosks to the edge, whether it's making the rectangular wonders accept contactless payment, sell a consumer an iPhone or—our until-now favorite—sell consumers an ice cream cone only if their smile is wide enough. But some Chinese retailers have got us beat: vending machines dispensing live crabs.

In Nanjing, China, the machines keep the crustaceans at about 41 degrees Fahrenheit. That's so the crabs are kept alive but also very sleepy. Two machines in train stations have been selling about 200 of the claw-centric Shanghai Hairy Crab creatures a day since early October, priced anywhere from $2 to $7, depending on the crab's size. What if something goes wrong as the machine hawks its live animals? Not to worry. A sign on the kiosk promises that if the crab is dead, the consumer is awarded three free ones. OK. But if the crab is dead, want to bet the aroma will pretty much resolve long lines at the kiosk? Then again, if the dispenser mechanism gets stuck, it's unlikely any consumer will try to reach in and grab it. (For the record, the crabs are sold in a Patent-Pending special little box/cage.)