Sprinkles’ Cupcake ATM
Submitted JoJo Franzen

I recently purchased a Strawberry Cupcake from Sprinkles: The Original Cupcake Bakery©. The next day I purchased a Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake from a Sprinkles’ Cupcake ATM adjacent to the Sprinkles store. Sprinkles boasts that it created the “World’s First Cupcake ATM.” Fourteen Sprinkles’ Cupcake ATMs exist throughout the United States.

Typically, an ATM is an “automated teller machine” and allows users to complete a variety of banking transactions, such as cash withdrawals and deposits, without the direct involvement of human bank employees. “Vending machines” — a different thing — allow users to purchase snacks or other small items after payment (also without direct involvement of a human employee).

Based on my experience, the Sprinkles’ Cupcake ATM is a “vending machine” and not an “automated teller machine.” I had not previously deposited a Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake with Sprinkles for future withdrawal. I could not deposit a cupcake into the Sprinkles’ Cupcake ATM. I could not check my non-existent cupcake account balance.

So why call these devices “Cupcake ATMs”? Is it aspirational? Is Sprinkles trying to do Marie Antoinette one better, and say “let them transact all their business in small cakes the size of cups”? If so, what would that world look like?

At first, the cupcakes-in-lieu-of-money-world seems fun and whimsical.

We would all use cupcake carriers as wallets. The cupcake pan with the smush-preventing plastic cover and transport handles — currently associated with ambitious PTA parents — would become ubiquitous. In Brooklyn, they would make hand-forged cast iron cupcake carriers with leather handles.

Government regulators would establish a uniform conversion rate of cupcake flavor values. Obviously, the baseline would be Red Velvet with an RCV (relative cupcake value) of 1.00. Double Vanilla would only have an RCV of 0.25.

But even in a world where we’ve replaced money with cupcakes, we wouldn’t have really solved any problems.

The wealthy would still acquire more and more cupcakes. They would diversify their cupcake portfolios to include traditional, gluten-free, vegan, and sugar-free cupcakes (based on insider information about an anticipated crash in the gluten-free cupcake markets). The wealthiest 1% of people would accumulate 40% of the world’s cupcakes. Those cupcakes would avoid government cupcake taxation and languish in climate-controlled cupcake vaults in the Caribbean, inaccessible to the rest of the population.

People without cupcake savings would still be hard-up. There would be people who owe their landlord three Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting on Tuesday, when they aren’t getting paid their bi-weekly dozen Double Chocolate Cupcakes until Friday (hardly a living cupcake wage, in any event). Some of these people would go to “paybake lenders” and get a cupcake advance. To get the advance, they would have to sign over half of their next paybake. But for people who don’t pay back the paybake loan, the paybake lender would go directly to Sprinkles and garnish the borrowers’ cupcake accounts. And the Cupcake ATM would reject the borrowers’ cupcake debit cards. Not very whimsical.

Back in the real world, the Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake was fine. Sprinkles’ main innovation appears to be an extreme ratio of one part frosting to two parts cake (and a conspicuous absence of actual sprinkles). But Sprinkles’ Strawberry Cupcake was much better than their Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake. Unlike the Cupcake ATM-purchased Peanut Butter Banana Cupcake, I bought the Strawberry Cupcake inside the Sprinkles store. And in the store, I talked to a human employee, who recommended the Strawberry Cupcake. I hope Sprinkles is a good employer, and that it doesn’t pay her in the form of cupcakes.

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Haribo Starmix
Submitted by Kerri Sullivan

Whenever I travel to a new place, I like to arm myself with snacks in preparation for my inevitable feelings of bewilderment caused by unfamiliar surroundings. The night before a recent road trip, I went to the drug store intending to procure a bag of Haribo Twin Snakes. For the unfamiliar, Twin Snakes are a sort of more sophisticated sour gummy worm, coming in subdued, not-neon colors and devoid of that powder that makes your tongue hurt. The snakes are adhered together just above the base of their tails and just below their heads. They are two different colors and one snake is sweet while the other is sour. Twin Snakes are easily my favorite Haribo gummy candy, but I must acknowledge that they are also profoundly unsettling when you imagine what it would be like if such a creature existed in the wild.

I scanned the shelves for the Twin Snakes and saw all of the usual suspects: those highly divisive raspberries, Sour S’ghetti, and the classic-but-kind-of-pedestrian Gold Bears. Before I spotted the snakes, something caught my eye: a bag of something called “Starmix” that said “NEW” in a diagonal stripe across the corner. The bag featured the Haribo mascot, who as far as I can tell does not have a name, holding a sign that said “All your favorites!” While I found this to be incredibly presumptuous, they had my attention.

The varieties included in the bag are: Twin Snakes, Happy Cherries, Gold Bears, Happy Cola, and some weird ring things that I had to google in order to learn they are called “Friendship Rings.” There is no world in which I would consider this assortment to be all my favorites.

I stood there for a moment debating the merits of trying Starmix versus getting the reliable and consistent candies I’d gone to the store for in the first place. It was true that I’d always been curious about those weird Coke bottle candies but never wanted to commit to an entire bag of them. I would rank the cherries within my top five favorite Haribo products. The Twin Snakes I wanted were contained in this bag, too; it wasn’t like I would have to go without them.

What could honor the spirit of a road trip more than changing plans in the moment due to unexpected circumstances? This was the very thing from which I was trying to protect myself, but maybe it was time I learned how to embrace all of the proverbial and literal bumps in the road. I brought a bag of Starmix to the cashier.

The next day, not long into our drive, I announced to my boyfriend that I had the snack situation covered and we dug into the Starmix. The assortment is an exciting mixture of colors, flavors, and textures. Peering into the bag is like looking at a bunch of possibilities. Technically, there is nothing new in Starmix; it is the mix itself that is new. Never before have Twin Snakes encountered Gold Bears. Friendship Rings have never brushed up against Happy Cherries. If you reach your hand into the bag and pull something out without looking, you don’t know quite what you’ll end up putting in your mouth, something that is normally disconcerting but here is quite fun.

One thing to note is that there are no star-shaped candies in Starmix. Stars are completely uninvolved. Does Haribo consider these candies to be its company’s stars? Am I the star for deciding to buy this? After eating the entire bag, I am still unsure.

Other observations: Gold Bears are to Starmix what pretzels are to Chex Mix. You understand why someone thought they should be there, but they don’t really add much to the experience. Friendship Rings are fine, but not mind-blowing. Considering I have never seen them before in my life, I was confused about their inclusion, since surely there are other more popular gummy candies they could have incorporated instead. They should definitely put more Twin Snakes in each bag.

By deciding to purchase the new Starmix assortment instead of what was familiar to me, I learned that those little cola bottles are very good. I will definitely buy and eat entire bags of those in the near future. I was reminded how much I enjoy the cherries, so those are going back on my grocery lists. And I am now dedicating unreasonable amounts of time to finding Friendship Rings on a store shelf somewhere, not because they were particularly good but because they have been entirely elusive. When I find them, I will certainly pick up a bag or two.

I see what you did there, Haribo.