A simple trick:

First you need to gem install json, then when using Rails you can do:

require 'json'
require 'active_support/core_ext'
Hash.from_xml('<variable type="product_code">5</variable>').to_json #=> "{"variable":"5"}"

If you are not using Rails, then you can gem install activesupport, require it and things should work smoothly.

Example:

require 'json'
require 'net/http'
require 'active_support/core_ext/hash'
s = Net::HTTP.get_response(URI.parse('https://stackoverflow.com/feeds/tag/ruby/')).body
puts Hash.from_xml(s).to_json
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