Ample Hills’ Swap-O-Matic Lets Customers Give as Well as Receive

Vending machine-cum-art installation encourages people to exchange items they no longer need.

Visitors to can take home with a pint of salted crack caramel or peanut butter cookie ice cream. Or they can walk out with a new CD, novel or even the shirt off another customer’s back.

The non-ice cream selection is courtesy of the “Swap-O-Matic” a money-free vending machine-cum-art installation by Lina Fenequito that is designed to remind people to reuse and recycle.

Shoppers can take up to three items from the vintage-looking machine for free. After that they get one choice for each item they donate.

“The Swap-O-Matic is intended to inspire all of us to rethink our consumption habits, and consider more sustainable methods such as trading and reusing goods,” Fenequito wrote on www.swap-o-matic.com.

On a recent afternoon the Swap-O-Matic held: two necklaces, three t-shirts, three “Music Together” CDs, the book-on-CD “Memoirs of a Geisha,” a CD by Jenny and Johnny called “I’m Having Fun Now,” two frying pans, a men’s jacket and a baby-themed picture frame.

But perhaps most interesting was a teddy bear with a sign “Teddy Needs Home, Has Baggage" (see photo gallery).

In the four months since the vintage-looking machine arrived at the Vanderbilt Avenue ice cream shop, customers have donated—and taken—everything from tampons (unused), to a container of Miracle Whip to various articles of clothing.

“A woman literally gave us the shirt off her back,” said scooper Jason Smith. She had a coat to put on, Smith was quick to add, "but for 10-to-20 seconds she had no shirt on."

Smith himself has partaken of the machine’s offerings—he once picked up the novel “Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse?”  

“It was one of the worst days I’ve had,” he said. And then this book, one that touched upon several of his childhood interests, was there in the machine, as though by fate. 

On a recent afternoon, 14-year-old Gracie Garcia chose a thick copper-colored chain out of the Swap-O-Matic.

“I thought it (the Swap-O-Matic) was really cool, and I saw this really cool necklace,” she said.

The Swap-O-Matic arrived at the shop in December, after a four-month-stint at . There are no immediate plans to move it.

Ample Hills owner Brian Smith said he was happy to have the machine in the shop indefinitely.

“We’re a community-based ice cream shop and it seemed to be a nice fit,” he said.

Amy Sara Clark April 15, 2012 at 06:07 PM
I got a great children's book in the Swap-O-Matic last week, where you can press buttons and hear animal sounds.
Elizabeth April 15, 2012 at 11:08 PM
I donated the Jenny and Johnny CD along with books, photographs, shoes, coffee mug set, sunglasses, and many other items since I tend to collect things that I have no use for haha. Children are absolutely amazed by it and think it's so cool that they can trade things they don't want anymore for new toys without having to spend money.


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