by Robert McMillan

Get an iPod with Your Diet Soda

Jan 01, 20062 mins
Consumer Electronics

Mobile Technology You want an iPod? It’s over there—just beneath the NyQuil and next to the Gatorade. Apple Computer’s hot digital music players may be better associated with the company’s hip stores, but they’ve also started popping up next to less exotic products in special vending machines built by Zoom Systems.

Since April, Zoom Systems has been selling iPods in some cities across the United States in “robotic product delivery systems” (as the company calls them). The players can now be found in Zoom Shop machines operating in malls, hotels and grocery stores.

Though Zoom Shops sell other products, including digital cameras and snacks, the iPod is the top seller, says Rick Cusick, Zoom Systems executive vice president of merchandising. “It seems to unleash an incredible impulse opportunity” he says. “You can walk up and buy an iPod in 20 seconds.”

Buying music to play on the device is more complicated, and since Zoom Shops do not sell tunes for the players, people may be reluctant to pick one up to help kill time during a flight. The iPods could be purchased as gifts, however.

Having recently phased out the iPod minis, the company is now selling the iPod shuffle, the iPod nano and, since November, Apple’s video-enabled iPods.

Fans of iPod who are wondering how to get $199 in quarters through airport security need not worry: The Zoom Shops take credit and debit cards.