Amazon Launches Vending Machine–Style Instant Pickup Stations

Think of Amazon’s new Instant Pickup Points as super-sized vending machines. Only these kiosks aren’t just doling out Pop-Tarts and PayDay bars.

The online retail giant reported on Tuesday that it’s rolled out several so-called Instant Pickup Points in the U.S.—vending-style kiosks where shoppers can retrieve items minutes after ordering them online.

The initial wave of Instant Pickup Points is in the vicinity of five college campuses, including the University of California at Berkeley, The University of Maryland in College Park, Md., and colleges in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Columbus, Ohio. The company said it plans to open more sites by the end of the year, including one in Chicago.

There are people inside those giant “vending” walls—fulfilling orders, packaging, and loading products into lockers for pickup via a scannable code—mere minutes after they’re placed by shoppers on Amazon’s mobile app.

You can’t buy everything Amazon sells at the kiosks, of course. But the company claims there are several hundred items to be had at each site, including snacks, drinks, phone chargers, and other need-now items. Impulse buys are the focus of the inventory mix.

The pioneering idea slashes fulfillment time for online ordering to almost nothing—and tops Amazon’s own best delivery time of 15 minutes for grocery drop-offs through AmazonFresh Pickup.

It’s hard to imagine, given the breadth of snack-type items these new points-of-sale are stocking, that they won’t put a dent in traditional vending machine sales.

For Amazon, it’s just another day of category-busting experimentation.

(Top: Amazon employees at Instant Pickup location in Berkeley, Calif.; image courtesy Reuters/Jeffrey Dastin/File Photo)

JCK Magazine Editor


  • Joy Raskin

    There used to be a chain of food eateries called the Automat, where you could get fresh, hot meals, and lots of food choices by vending machines. There were people behind the vending machines making the food and making sure the vending machines were loaded. It was very popular in the 1930’s and 40’s. Here’s a link – http://www.theautomat.net/
    Looks like Amazon has borrowed a page from history in this new venue.

  • Lapidary Artist

    This whole idea, including the automat idea, seems quite bizarre. The only difference between this and an instant service type shop like McDonalds is that you press buttons, slide and slash away at the phone then come face to face with a metal box instead of a person…truly absurd. What is the problem with people serving.

  • lauren

    reminds me of Eatsa