Moraeru Jihanki doesn’t need money, only costs a little of your time.

We naturally expect our vending machines to vend and to be machines. Those are the two halves of it. If you or I go stand on the street corner with a cooler full of cold drinks, no matter how many we sell, we’ll still just be vendors, not vending machines.

Being mechanical and filled with products, the new vending machine at the Tokyu Department Store in Tokyo’s Kichijoji neighborhood seems like it passes the “vending machine” qualification check. Actually, though, it doesn’t vend, because you don’t have to spend any money to get your hands on the items inside, since the machine gives them away for free.

It’s called the Moraeru Jihanki, which translates loosely to the “You Can Have What’s Inside Vending Machine.” At first glance, you might think it’s a machine that only works with cashless payment apps. There’s no slot in which to insert bills or coins, and there’s an illustrated diagram of a smartphone-involved process of some sort on the right side of the machine’s housing.

But while you’ll need a smartphone in order to obtain items from the machine, you won’t have to spend a single yen. Instead, using the Line messaging app, you friend the official Morearu Jihanki (もらえる自販機) Line account. Then you take a look at the items the machine is stocked with, pick out what you want, and send its product code to the Morearu Jihanki account. The account will then message you back with a URL to a short survey, and once you’ve filled it out you’re given a QR code. Bring up the QR code on your phone’s screen, place it in front of the vending machine’s scanner, and it’ll spit out the item you wanted, completely free of charge.

It’s the survey that’s the key to all this, since the purpose of the Morearu Jihanki isn’t to earn money directly, but to aid with with marketing research, helping companies determine the demographic makeup and wants of potential customers who are interested in their wares. The machine just went into service at the end of October, and right now it’s stocked with items from grooming and beauty product company Kose Cosme Port, offering samples of the company’s shampoo, conditioner, and facial skincare masks.

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As this isn’t a dedicated Kose Cosme Port machine, odds are it’ll be stocked with a variety of other products too as time goes by. It’s actually a pretty clever idea. Offering free samples through the mail to gauge consumer interest and determine the core market for a product is a strategy that companies have been using for years, but some would-be survey participants lose interest once they hear that they’re going to have to wait weeks until they actually get their freebies. In-person promotions where staff hand out samples on the spot for filling in a questionnaire offer instant gratification, but also come with the added cost of transporting the product to the venue, hiring event staff, and then hauling everything that’s left over back to the warehouse at the end of the day. Especially for non-perishable items like beauty products, the Moraeru Jihanki represents the best of both worlds, allowing people to get something for free right away at a minimal cost to the company.

The Moraeru Jihanki is located on the roof floor of the Kichijoji Tokyu Department store, next to its Sun Plaza section, making it the latest reason you really should take the elevator all the way to the top at some Japanese department stores.

Location information
Tokyu Department Store Kichijoji / 東急百貨店吉祥寺
Address: Tokyo-to, Musashino-shi, Kichijojihoncho 2-3-1
Open 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Source: PR Times
Top image: Moraeru Jihanki official website
Insert images: Sukima Design Lab, PR Times, Moraeu Jihanki official website
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