Vending machines are a favorite item in Asia and are used to sell nearly everything, even live crabs. However, the usage of these machines went to another level when an entrepreneur designed a vending machine which can sell dates to singles who are looking for an alternative to online dating services like Tinder. The date vending machine is called Fate Capsule and is installed outside BT Reptile. It is a small pet store in Kowloon’s Shek Kip Mei neighborhood. The machine received worldwide attention when the original concept of the machine went viral online.
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The machine is multi-tiered and has separate compartments for men and women containing colored plastic capsules with the contact details of singles who are looking for love. Whoever wants a date needs to insert HK$20 ($2.5) into the machine, and it will give a fate capsule with the description and contact information of a prospective date. The vending machine was brought to Hong Kong by Ben Tang who is the owner of BT Reptile. He saw the same concept of getting popular in Taiwan after which he decided to bring it to Hong Kong as well. He and his girlfriend spend nearly five hours each day to get the details of the people who want their details to be added into the fate capsule.
Candidates can leave their information including name, age, height, weight, hobbies, and a short self-intro in a Google document. The link of the document is given on his Facebook page. He contacts the candidates on WeChat to make sure that the candidates are who they claim to be and are not too weird. The Fate Capsule was launched before the Valentine’s Day and soon became a huge hit. The owner had to limit the number of capsules which are sold each day to maintain the romantic character of the device. Ben Tang said, “I can easily sell more than 1,000 capsules every single day if I want to. But I’d rather not. I like to see people come by casually when they are free; It feels more destined.”
He said that by controlling the number of fate capsules sold each day and manually selecting whose contact information should go into the plastic capsules, he is making sure that the speed of blind dating is slowed down and the chances of people to succeed are increased. If many people add you in a single day, you will feel disturbed, but I want them to have enough time to get to know each other. He said, “When people start to use dating apps, the first impression they will probably have is like, ‘wow that’s too much.’ There’s really no time to know each person you meet well enough to consider dating.”
The popularity of the Fate Capsule is undeniable however there are critics as well. Many people took to Facebook and left comments calling the machine fraud and said that the dates never accepted their friendship request on WeChat or cut off the contact. This is not something which can be controlled by Ben Tang. However, it is not only the reliability of the service which people are complaining about, but privacy issues have also been raised when personal contact information of several people was shared on sites like YouTube.
The controversy has also boosted the success of the Fate Capsule, and many other entrepreneurs in Hong Kong have also launched copies of it. However, Tang is not concerned about it. He said, “I am the first one to bring capsule toy dating to Hong Kong. I’ve built my brand now. Of course, there will be people stirring things up. I see this as a potential business opportunity.” While this vending machine cannot beat online dating apps like Tinder but people consider the Fate Capsule a cute and much more romantic alternative of Tinder and other online dating apps.