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Does "Tiktok Easy Shop Big Box" remind anyone else of something from a Phil Dick novel?
August 29, 2002 11:44 PM   Subscribe

Does "Tiktok Easy Shop Big Box" remind anyone else of something from a Phil Dick novel? The deli-size vending machine comes to DC's "raffish" Adams-Morgan neighborhood. Will Your Town Be Next?
posted by adamgreenfield (38 comments total)

 
Reminds me of the inverse vending machines in John Sladek's Tik-Tok that converted anything into money.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:55 PM on August 29, 2002


raffish: Resembling, or having the character of, raff, or a raff; worthless; low.

Wow, pretty hard on Adams-Morgan... I know, I know, it also means dapper and unusual, but still...

Are these machines the 21st century Automat?
posted by evanizer at 11:57 PM on August 29, 2002


Are these machines the 21st century Automat?

I'm a fan of hardboiled and noir fiction. Automats seem to be almost a cliche element in the settings of these books.

Cornell Woolrich (considered Noir), the author of 'Rear Window', was also the author of 'Murder at the Automat.'
posted by vacapinta at 12:18 AM on August 30, 2002


I passed by the "robot store" a few times in Adams Morgan; everyone was gathering around it like it was some sort of alien spaceship. I thought at first it was a glorified claw machine, where you had to control robot claws by joystick to get the product you wanted from the shelves.

There's also a remote DVD rental station beside it; just slide your card through and pick a movie, and it drops into the slot. If you don't return it in three days, it charges you the cost of the movie.
posted by brownpau at 12:28 AM on August 30, 2002


Okay, here's the part I can't figure out.

Before this monstrosity opened for business, I walked by it and stopped to gawk as oh-so-many others have been doing. But one of the main things I was gawking at was the fact that city permits for the construction were made out to McDonald's. My first thought was, "Well, that's not an uncommon name." Then I read further down the permit and saw an address of 1 Kroc Drive, Oakbrook, IL. So, uh, yeah, it was that McDonald's.

I still haven't found any references to a connection between Tik Tok Easy Shop and McDonald's, other than that before the thing was plopped in my old neighborhood, it apparently had a test run in a McDonald's parking lot in another part of town.
posted by jburka at 3:26 AM on August 30, 2002


Much longer article about it in the Post, which explains the connection to Chez Ronald, among other things.
posted by rusty at 3:35 AM on August 30, 2002


From the Post article:

As for the dehumanizing effects of our faceless, impersonable future? "This is 'Modern Times,' " [Gerald] Celente says. "Charlie Chaplin went through that. People are already dehumanized.

"And it's not like you're dealing with a real human being in convenience stores anyway."

Where does this guy get off? Does he even try to say hello to cashiers? Is he being intentionally ironic?
posted by skoosh at 4:33 AM on August 30, 2002


Thanks, Rusty -- didn't catch that while surfing before bed.

"Think about it: You go into a convenience store to get something and isn't it a treat to wait in line behind people paying for gas and buying cigarettes and lottery tickets so you can buy your half-and-half and a roll of toilet paper?"

Yeah, I'd much rather stand in line on the sidewalk, in the rain.

For the mamzer child of a huge corporation, they sure have put together a lousy website No references to being the spawn of McDonald's there, though the picture of the DVD vending machine shows a McDonald's in the background.
posted by jburka at 4:45 AM on August 30, 2002


skoosh: Yeah, that pissed me off too. An anecdote:

I used to live in Adams Morgan, and a few blocks up the street from this new machine thingy is a little convenience/grocery run by a Korean family. I don't even know if it had a proper name, but we all called it Mr. Kim's (though I'm pretty sure the family that ran it wasn't actually named Kim). It was right around the corner from me, and I went in there all the time. They knew me, always had my favorite stuff waiting on the counter when they saw me coming down the street, always had a friendly word. When a cousin arrived fresh from Korea to join the family, he was introduced to me proudly. "This our cousin from Korea! He just arrive today!"

I moved away from the neighborhood, but still stopped in from time to time. When I moved, they scrounged up all the boxes they could find for me to pack my stuff in. Later I moved out to San Francisco. On a visit back to DC, I happened to be walking by and stopped in for something. It had been over a year since I'd last darkened their doorway, so I figured I'd just be another anonymous customer by now.

I walked up to the counter, recognizing the clerk. He gave me a huge smile and said "Hey! Where have you been! It's been, what, a year?" I was floored. I told him I'd moved to San Francisco and was just back visiting. He said that was too bad, and to come back in whenever I was in town.

That is what a big metal box will never provide. And as for "not dealing with a real human being," well fuck that.
posted by rusty at 4:46 AM on August 30, 2002


If you think "the Washington Big Box" is bad, check out FEBO's walk-in fast-food vending machine in Amsterdam.
posted by livingdots at 5:17 AM on August 30, 2002


Are these machines the 21st century Automat?
One thing which always struck me at the Automat was the bustle of human activity going on behind the machinery and clearly visible through the glass food servers. That is certainly not the case with this thing and FEBO.
posted by HTuttle at 5:35 AM on August 30, 2002


maybe the L.Frank Baum estate will sue for infringement...

CNN did a story on it yesterday--half a dozen eggs were $1.25, so that's an indication of the prices, it won't do that well...
posted by amberglow at 5:36 AM on August 30, 2002


Where does this guy get off? Does he even try to say hello to cashiers?

Even if you do, is that actual human interaction or just a perfunctory exchange of pleasantries? For every 1 time that I have a conversation of any significance with a human cashier, there are 99 times where it's practically robotic.

If we're dogging these vending machines because they cost jobs or because they are ugly, I can understand that. But I'm not particularly concerned with the lost relationships we might otherwise establish with retail personnel.
posted by rcade at 5:37 AM on August 30, 2002


Ever try to picture how these things get built?
BP stations used to have (has?) "prefab" shops. I saw one "constructed" once. The whole damn thing came in on a flatbed truck, was picked up by a crane, and set down on the site. I picture these as something similar (although I'm probably wrong.)
One may pop up in your neighborhood overnight...
posted by Shane at 6:29 AM on August 30, 2002


Have you dealt with anyone in retail recently? The supermarket near my house recently added self-checkout aisles and they are constantly packed with people - sure, some of this is novelty effect - but a good part of it is because we could really do without the sluggish movement and sour demeanor that permeates most people on the other side of the counter.

Gimme a giant machine any day.
posted by owillis at 7:27 AM on August 30, 2002


...we could really do without the sluggish movement and sour demeanor that permeates most people on the other side of the counter.

Hell, sometimes I order stuff online because I just don't want to deal with people in general.
posted by Shane at 7:34 AM on August 30, 2002


Gimme a giant machine any day.

And you wonder why people call you a Republican.
posted by y2karl at 8:01 AM on August 30, 2002


How are you supposed to shoplift?
posted by uftheory at 8:12 AM on August 30, 2002


I love the self-checkouts at the grocery store.... and I love it even more now that Home Depot has 'em too. I also like ATM's. People are OK, I guess, but sometimes its nice to just get the job done and move along. And while the story about the no-name Korean grocer above is all nice and everything, that's an exception, not the norm. When I go to the convenience store, its to grab a paper, or a Slim Jim, or a 6-pack and be on my way.... it ain't to make friends with the dead-eyed, slack-jawed lottery ticket salesperson.

Of course, maybe that's just what its like in my raffish neighborhood.
posted by spilon at 8:12 AM on August 30, 2002


Seriously, this doesn't really eliminate people, and I'm not against people -- I'm against standing in line. The question is whether you want to stand behind an idiot while he figures out how to use this machine or whether you want to stand in line at 7-11, while the same idiot uses the same cash register everytime. AND how are you supposed to shoplift?
posted by uftheory at 8:16 AM on August 30, 2002


Rusty - I'm pretty sure I know just the store you're talking about.
posted by GriffX at 8:17 AM on August 30, 2002


Wow---I had no idea so many Mefi members lived in Adams Morgan (Columbia and Belmont baby!) we need to have happy hour.

I ride my bike to and from work every day right past this thing and it is UGLY.

And shouldn't Adams Morgan be referred to as, say, "hip" or "ethnic" or "gentrifying?" But, come on, raffish?
posted by pjgulliver at 8:20 AM on August 30, 2002


Even if you do, is that actual human interaction or just a perfunctory exchange of pleasantries?

The latter, obviously. Except in cute romantic comedies. More robotic than the robots. It never ceases to amaze me how some people value any random human contact, rather than just meaningful human contact.
posted by rushmc at 8:48 AM on August 30, 2002


pjgulliver: And shouldn't Adams Morgan be referred to as, say, "hip" or "ethnic" or "gentrifying?"

How about, 'impossible to find parking in'?

I know that as an Arlingtonian, I don't have much room to talk, but still...
posted by atavistech at 9:04 AM on August 30, 2002


self-checkout aisles ... are constantly packed with people ... we could really do without the sluggish movement and sour demeanor that permeates most people on the other side of the counter

Ironically, according to studies I've read, it actually takes most people longer to check out using one of the self-checkout machines (it's hard to compete with someone who checks out groceries for hours every day, as there is something of an art to getting items to scan the first time every time), but you don't notice because you're engaged in the task rather than just standing there waiting for the cashier to finish.
posted by kindall at 9:12 AM on August 30, 2002


touche, atavistech....luckily I don't own a car.
posted by pjgulliver at 9:24 AM on August 30, 2002


Ironically, according to studies I've read, it actually takes most people longer to check out using one of the self-checkout machines

My experience has been that when they first installed the self-checkouts there were lines to try them and confusion and slowness on the part of the folks using them. Now that a year or more has gone by, people that are confused by the self-checkouts go to the humanoid instead, and those of us that like the machines can zip thru in a matter of seconds. It really is nice, if you only need one or two things, to be able to run in the store and run back out again almost as fast. Does that replace humans? No, but it is a really nice alternative. I'd love to have a Tik Tok box in my 'hood.
posted by spilon at 9:29 AM on August 30, 2002


The actual vending machine is made by Automated Distribution Technologies Inc...and bills it as the first fully automated convenience store.

Not true. In the late '80s I used an Automaten Emma in Freiburg, (West) Germany because the shops and food stores close after 5pm. Seems Freiburg still "lifts the curbs up" and the Emmas are still there too.
posted by yonderboy at 9:53 AM on August 30, 2002


I like the self-checkout lines at grocery stores. What I didn't like when Kroger introduced them in Atlanta was that they pushed them as being "fun." Easy? Yes. Fun? Well, I can think of a LOT more things higher up on the fun spectrum.
posted by Vidiot at 11:03 AM on August 30, 2002


I'm all for them, they put the fun back in vandalism.

I mean, previously, when I felt like throwing a brick through a McDonalds, there was the side issue of the real distress (and possible injury) caused to the people inside. But the TikTok removes the human issue, and allows you strike directly, without risking collateral damage.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 12:11 PM on August 30, 2002


It never ceases to amaze me how some people value any random human contact, rather than just meaningful human contact.

Like rusty, the people at the convenience store here know me. They introduced themselves to my parents when they came to visit; they know where I work, what I do, who my friends are, where I've lived since I came to this town. Sure, they're not lifelong friends, but I don't think it's accurate to dismiss this as 'random human contact' that isn't 'meaningful.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 12:14 PM on August 30, 2002


Like rusty, the people at the convenience store here know me. They introduced themselves to my parents when they came to visit; they know where I work, what I do, who my friends are, where I've lived since I came to this town.

And this doesn't scare the bejeesus out of you?
posted by kindall at 1:22 PM on August 30, 2002


And while the story about the no-name Korean grocer above is all nice and everything, that's an exception, not the norm. When I go to the convenience store... it ain't to make friends with the dead-eyed, slack-jawed lottery ticket salesperson.

I'm with rusty et al. on this, spilon -- the corner grocery stores across DC are generally owned by families that DO care about "you, the customer". My current "corner lady" on Capitol Hill is friendly as all-get-out, and is great about extending credit when one is low on cash.

However, I agree that the 7-11s do seem to employ those less-than-interested in customer service (but the one by Columbia Rd & 19th in A-M has a real freaky short woman who keeps up a non-stop cursing dialogue with herself -- I encourage entertainment seekers to stop by!).

Alrighty, so who's organizing the DC-Mefi Happy Hour?
posted by PennyPrune at 3:08 PM on August 30, 2002


And you wonder why people call you a Republican.
Oh come off it. Because I dislike poor service I'm a conservative? Gimme a break. Why don't you go write y2karl's "How To Be A Liberal" so we can all know what we're doing "wrong"?
posted by owillis at 3:17 PM on August 30, 2002


And that's when the thread spun out of control.
posted by crunchland at 4:28 PM on August 30, 2002


the people at the convenience store here know me. They introduced themselves to my parents when they came to visit; they know where I work, what I do, who my friends are, where I've lived since I came to this town.

Clearly, they work here.
posted by rushmc at 6:01 PM on August 30, 2002


Fuck it, I'm gonna go to the damn thing and talk to it like it was a living breathing prole.

Screw dehumanization of people, I call for active, mandatory humanization of machines.

Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto.
posted by Dagobert at 11:23 PM on August 30, 2002


Oh come off it.

What? You need emoticons to know you're being teased? Take your own advice.
posted by y2karl at 9:08 AM on September 2, 2002


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