This Vending Machine in China Sells Living Crabs - John Metcalfe - The Atlantic Cities
Geege Schuman stashed this in Consumer Trends
Ever get a late-night hankering for crab? That might seem like an odd question, unless you're a Baltimorean or sea otter. But many people in China do develop a craving for crustacean that must be satisfied immediately, to judge from a new vending machine in Hangzhou that dispenses crabs for about $3.27 each.
The machine appeared this week and is loaded with "hairy crabs," a delicacy that's in season right now. The creatures are immobilized with rope ties but very much alive, having been knocked into a dormant state by a potent refrigeration system. Customers deposit their cash and select the most fetching crab, then retrieve it from the machine's bottom and take it home to cook. Or perhaps if they're extra intoxicated, they'll tear into it crudo-style on the street.
The man responsible for bringing the crab-o-mat to Hangzhou, an eastern Chinese city of roughly 9 million residents, operates a seafood shack next door. He shills crabs by day but wanted to give nocturnal revelers an opportunity to indulge themselves. "Crab shops like ours, they generally close at night,” he told a local news outlet. "But what 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?"
With vending machines around the globe coughing up fishing bait, bread in a can, hardcover books, french fries and mayonnaise, and a cornucopia of other questionable products, it should come as no surprise that China has one for crabs. Indeed, this is not the first to grace the country's street-food scene. In 2010, the media came alive with reports of a robotic provider of hairy-crabs in a subway station in Nanjing, about 170 miles northwest of Hangzhou. (It is pictured above.)
Allegedly the first in China, that machine sold about 200 living crabs a day and came with a guarantee of three free crabs if a customer received a deceased one. The technology is reportedly the brainchild of Shi Tuanjie, a lake-crab tycoon, who Quartz reports came up with idea after discovering a crab "hiding under his sofa." So that's another bit of news – China has house crabs.
Something about this is rather unsettling.
Like death row for crabs.
Whereas Shi's get-your-crab-alive-or-the-next-one's-free promise is certainly generous, it's not clear whether these machines offer recompense if they don't actually spit out a hairy crab. The animals are so heavily sought-after that there's a booming criminal enterprise for "bootleg" crabs, says Shanghaiist:
Each fall, hairy crab pirates duplicate China's most coveted crustacean: the Yangcheng Lake hairy crab, an expensive delicacy prized for its sweet, delicate meat.
Unfortunately for the Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crab Association, shanzai crabs are here to stay, unlike shanzai phones which are on their way out: the counterfeit market for hairy crabs is ten times greater than that for authentic hairy crabs. Just ask local crabber Xing, who says, "Everything is being counterfeited. There's nothing you can do about it. And you can't control it."
The problem is so pervasive, according to Shanghaiist, that wholesalers have started using lasers to burn serial numbers into their catch's shells.
("hairy crab pirate" could use hyphen ....)
Wait, that YouTube link doesn't go anywhere...
Loose Definition Of Authenticity
Authenticity is an elastic concept in China, even for the Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crab Association. Yang, the association's leader, says whether a crab is a really a Yangcheng crab all depends on how long it's actually lived in the lake.
"As long as they spend the last six months before harvest in Yangcheng Lake, they will be considered what we call Yangcheng Lake Hairy Crabs," he says. "There are very few crabs actually born in the lake."
So, most of the crabs harvested from Yangcheng Lake — the ones with the plastic tags touting their authenticity — are actually from somewhere else.
That is probably going to be a big thing in years to come.AUTHENTICITY. Software, music, photographs - all 1's and 0's and infinitely reproducible with full fidelity. 3D printing and new (re)production techniques and technologies are making it so for all sorts of other things. Even services can be reproduced as the 'secrets' are more available online than before.Today's markets for products have evolved where brands are able to charge a premium for a recognized guarantee of quality, uniqueness or timing. As we consumers are faced with more "non-authentic" options, I wonder what that will mean to how markets operate.
Automobile brands seem invulnerable to counterfeiting.
LOL - Chery is a great name for a counterfeit car.