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Surprising Science

For When You Simply Must Have Some Hairy Crab Right Now

This week, a street in the Chinese city of Hangzhou became home to a vending machine that stocks live crabs for 20 yuan (about US$3.27) apiece. The proprietor says it’s for hungry customers who come by after closing time.

What’s the Latest Development?

This week, in the middle of China’s annual hairy crab season, one Hangzhou shop owner decided to bring something new to his city: A vending machine that, for a mere 20 yuan (about US$3.27), dispenses a live crab along with some vinegar and two bags of ginger tea. The machine is a version of a similar one that, when it debuted in Nanjing in 2010, sold up to 200 crabs a day. Unlike the Hangzhou crabs, which are wrapped in thick string, the Nanjing crabs were packaged in roomy, edible containers — “Golden Armor” — that allowed customers to drop them into boiling water without risk of getting pinched.

What’s the Big Idea?

Mr. Liu, the Hangzhou shop owner, says he ordered the machine to satisfy customers who come by after closing time: “[W]hat are people to do at night when their stomach starts to feel empty and they want to chow down on a hairy crab and knock back some booze?” Hopefully they will actually buy the crabs and, by doing so, allow his machine to avoid the fate of Nanjing’s, which wasn’t restocked the following year. According to local media, this was because “more people ogled the vending machine crabs than actually bought them [and consequently] the crab mortality rate was fairly high.”

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Read it at Quartz


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