You don’t need to bring any money as long as you remember to bring a buddy.

Japan has a lot of different types of vending machines, but the one thing they have in common, of course, is that they all vend. But while the idea of selling something is right there in the name, beverage maker Suntory has created a new vending machine that isn’t interested in taking your money and will give you drinks for free!

The catch, though, is that it’ll only give you a freebie if you and a coworker grab a drink together.

Suntory calls it the Shacho no Ogori Jihanki, or “Company President’s Treat Vending Machine.” For the most part, it looks like any other Japanese vending machine, except that in the center of the unit are a pair of card readers.

If you and a coworker both place your employee ID cards on the panels at the same time, you’re each cleared to select a beverage of your choice from the machine, without spending a single yen. As hinted at in the machine’s name, it’s the employees’ boss/company that pays for the drinks.

So why does Suntory think bosses will be willing to foot the bill while their employees wet their whistles? Because Japan has always been big on the idea that incidental communication between coworkers makes for a happier, more productive workplace. Ostensibly, all the after-work drinking parties, company trips, and other group activities are meant to provide ample opportunities for free-form conversation and chitchat, which then help coworkers better understand and support one another once they’re back at work.

Suntory hopes that the President’s Vending Machine will be another avenue for communication between coworkers. “Ideas are solutions are sometimes born out of small talk, and we hope that this will be a way to facilitate that and create better workplaces and work teams,” says Shin Mori, Suntory’s project head for the new machine.

▼ The President’s Vending Machine in action

A potential flaw in the plan is that for some more introverted individuals, or those who simply don’t get along with their coworkers, a solo trip to the vending machine is a treasured moment of quiet solitary serenity, since going to buy a drink is one of the more readily accepted justifications for stepping away from your work desk in the middle of your shift. Thankfully for them, the President’s Vending Machine can still be used like a normal vending machine by anyone willing to pay for their own drink. The company can also choose to set limits on the times of day during which free drinks are available to pairs, or on the maximum number of free drinks that can be claimed.

The first President’s Vending Machine has already been installed at the offices of office supply company Kokuyo, and depending on the response we might see more of them appearing in the months to come.

Source: PR Times via Livedoor News/Nitele News 24 via Golden Times
Images: YouTube/サントリー公式チャンネル (SUNTORY)
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