walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Automated Service

No, I'm not talking about Bamn! -- which came and went without infringing upon my consciousness (a little odd that something involving that group of culinary stars could result in such raving reviews that were still somewhat negative about the food).

Anyway. After tripping over Amazon Locker, I kept saying to my self, Self, how could you _miss_ this? Well, it was pretty easy to miss. There are lots of people out there looking for work so why the heck would anyone automate out of existence all those jobs? Because the business cycle is harsh and cruel, particularly at the peak of a boom when good restaurants go out of business because all the servers go to work writing HTML for dot com startups. Okay, so all my experience is _way_ out of date.

The Royal Mail is supposedly working with ByBox to put together an automated drop off and pick up parcel service, based on an already existing (and apparently really popular) service in Germany. The USPS is experimenting with something it calls gopost, which I thought was supposed to go live this year but is now due out maybe in January, probably in Northern Virginia. Unclear whether it will be drop off and pickup or just pickup. These are interesting, because the Amazon service is obviously just for Amazon. I have no idea whether you can do returns through Amazon Locker; I sort of doubt it, but maybe at some point in the future. (OTOH, the Cloud services always struck me as Amazon monetizing extra capacity that it had to have for scaling/holiday demand; if the Locker service works out well, they might deign to share it with others. For a price.)

Along the way, I decided to pursue the redbox reference in one of the articles I pointed to (that an Amazon Locker setup could go anywhere a redbox could go), and also the Jones Lang Lasalle reference. Neither one was particularly fruitful, altho the former was interesting. McDonald's started redbox as an experiment, along with kiosks moving milk/eggs/sandwichs. The c-store replacement idea was ditched but they went with redbox and then cleverly sold out to Coinstar.

Coinstar, obviously, is in a good position to ride this thing long after everyone else assumes DVDs are a thing of the past. They are, however, trying to parlay this success into something that might last a bit longer. Their "gizmo" project involves kiosks selling refurbed small electronics. They have some other, even less plausible activities (digital camera booths with green screens that let you post to FB or print or both).

Coinstar does not franchise the machines. And they don't seem to have any trouble finding locations. They rely upon people _applying_ for machines. Wow. And if you go to their jobs page, you can get a real flavor for the jobs created by this particular kind of enterprise (shuffling disks in and out of machines, setting up machines, repairing machines, managing the people who do the above, managing the managers, etc. There's a ton of database crap behind it all obviously, and I was not too surprised to discover that they conned whoever supplies the disks to do all the barcode or whatever labeling redbox needs to make it all work).

BestBuy's airport kiosks and those electronics kiosks in Macy's appear to be run by Zoom Systems. Supposedly they have a Body Shop kiosk as well, altho it is not obviously present Zoom Systems partner page. Maybe it flamed out already? My personal experience with kiosks and the entrepreneurs who get really excited about them has not been particularly positive. I'm torn between omg how amazingly brilliant! and goddess not another one of these stupid ideas. I'm leaning towards the former, however.
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