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November 16, 2003 2:12 PM   Subscribe

The huge vending machine in DC's Adams-Morgan neighborhood is, alas, no more.
posted by Vidiot (16 comments total)
It seems like a shame, but actually, I'm glad this happened. We have a lot of people here in DC who live on the money from convenience store jobs. Last thing we need is for them to be eliminated so some CEO can get another bonus. When the store opened, some people said they were going to boycott it...I wonder if that had any effect.
posted by unreason at 2:22 PM on November 16, 2003

Actually, I should have phrased this better -- all four machines have been discontinued and presumably will be removed soon.

I was in DC a few weeks ago and visited the Redbox. It was great fun to see the little robot arm deliver my bottle of V-8.

(It reminded me of the LMS cart machines that TV stations and networks I've worked for use to play commercials -- picture a jukebox full of bar-coded videotapes, a stack of VCRs, and a robot arm moving 60mph between the two.)
posted by Vidiot at 2:22 PM on November 16, 2003

posted by monju_bosatsu at 2:28 PM on November 16, 2003

(It reminded me of the LMS cart machines that TV stations and networks I've worked for use to play commercials -- picture a jukebox full of bar-coded videotapes, a stack of VCRs, and a robot arm moving 60mph between the two.)
You mean Hackers actually got something right?
posted by zztzed at 2:50 PM on November 16, 2003

unreason: We have a lot of people here in DC who live on the money from convenience store jobs. Last thing we need is for them to be eliminated so some CEO can get another bonus.

If the CEO gets a bonus, it probably happens because profits went up. This increase in profits almost always results in a higher stock price, and maybe a higher dividend. Which enables thrifty people who own McDonald's stock to have a higher standard of living.

Do you curse Cyrus McCormick for unemploying so many farm laborers?
posted by trharlan at 2:52 PM on November 16, 2003

I was kind of sad when I saw the Red Box in Bethesda was closed. It was within walking distance of my school, and it was a useful place to go for Advil or candy during lunch or after class.

I never saw that many people buying things from there, so I'm not that surprised that they closed it down. Also, it didn't really make sense to have a convenience-store-in-a-box (which offered a lot of food) in the parking lot of a McDonald's.
posted by puffin at 2:59 PM on November 16, 2003

trharlan: yeah in theory. Dividends can be held by companies, so you get nada,nothing. While the value of stock may raise if dividend is not distributed, it can also collapse for any irrational reason (CEO accused of insider trading, remember Martha ?). So it's like a constant bet and like at any casino, if you don't run the casino you're more likely to lose your money, always.

On the subject of employement and vending machines: if 10 salesman are fired and 5 restockers are hired, we got a net loss of 5 jobs. Where do we employ the 5 fired ?

Sooner or later we'll have to face the problem that human beings are inefficient when it comes to manual labor which requires little brain ; just a matter of time before all 0.1 IQ brain jobs are replaced by machines. But there's the field of research who has a neverending demand for brains, but guess what ? If you cut on education spending you get millions of 0.1 IQ brains, useless even for brute force research by number of people on a subject.
posted by elpapacito at 3:11 PM on November 16, 2003

trharlan, the problem is that the people who are unemployed by this thing are not the kind who buy stocks, so they won't see any dividends. They often have little or no education, so there's little else for them to do in the way of employment.
posted by unreason at 3:39 PM on November 16, 2003

Here's an idea: how about an automation tax. If a company automates people out of a job, they must pay a tax equal to half of the net profit they gain buy automation. This tax would be specifically earmarked for retraining and education. So, automaters would still make more of a profit, but there'd be some provision for the unemployed.
posted by unreason at 3:42 PM on November 16, 2003

This should have been fairly predicatable. In the US store property is cheap and so is labor. Running a 24-hour store with a human works out better.

In metro Japan, real estate costs are expensive and the US's brand of puritanism doesn't allow what can be bought via Japanese machines like contraceptives/condoms, beer, porn, ued panties etc. Stuff you'd rather not have to hand over to another human to ring up or use the PA for a price-check.
posted by skallas at 4:29 PM on November 16, 2003

And, unreason, lack of employment is a great motivator in fixing what society regards as being "wrong" with you. Namely, your lack of education if that's what preventing you from getting a job.

Seems to me a 40 year old working in a convenience store who doesn't have a really sad story to tell (Has 2 kids, no spouse to help out, no money, living in a hotel, and going to school) should consider improving themselves.
posted by shepd at 6:36 PM on November 16, 2003

Productivity increases are the only way wages can rise faster than inflation. Backhoes may put lots of ditchdiggers out of work, but backhoe makers and operators can (theoretically) make more money digging the same ditch since fewer workers are involved. The problem isn't that jobs are being automated; that's good. The problem is that, in the absence of strong worker protections, labor unions, or a tight job market, there's no reason to distribute productivity increases to labor. So it all goes to capital. The real problem is that the economy isn't growing fast enough to stimulate the labor market. That's good for people who make most of their money through investments (like, say, much of the Bush administration and many of their largest campaign contributors), but bad for people who make their money from income.
posted by electro at 7:24 PM on November 16, 2003

For an interesting take on this subject, check out Robotic Nation.

I would also like to point out that any human society that rejects technology is, in the long run, screwed.
posted by spazzm at 12:09 AM on November 17, 2003

On a much simpler note, I think the main problem was that the prices were too high. It had the convenience of being open 24 hours, yes, but when there are four convenience stores within a block that are cheaper and cover the hours froam 8am to midnight, why would anyone use the box except late at night?

I prefer to shop at Kaplan's corner store down the block at Florida and California. It's run by an older Korean couple (clearly not named Kaplan) who are in the store from 8am to 10pm seven days a week and pretty much every day of the year. The prices are better and the people are nice and worth supporting.
posted by mookieproof at 8:08 AM on November 17, 2003

mookieproof - I agree. Interacting with a giant vending machine seems a little sterile to me.

spazzm - I agree, especially on the final basis that Luddite societies would eventualy be overwhelmed by other non-Luddites with superior military technology.

So what'll we do with all the extra, superfluous people? Maybe we should ask these folks!
("Robert Wenzlaff - I'm not just the President, I'm also a raw material.")

But the giant vending machine isn't gone at all - it's been
installed in Congress, where it dispenses tax cuts, leases on Federal land for drilling, mining, and timber companies, and fat contracts for the military industrial complex.

Meanwhile - "If the CEO gets a bonus, it probably happens because profits went up." (trharlan)

trharlan - this may not be true at all. Further, check out the analysis of the mighty Steve Kangas as he deconstructs the conservative myth that the rich are rich for solely meritocratic reasons.

"The vast majority of academic studies on who becomes rich have found that intelligence and merit are only a part of the reason -- social factors play a huge role as well. Studies of Fortune 500 companies have found that American executives are seeing exploding pay, but there is no correlation between their pay and a company's profitability. In fact, companies with the greatest inequality of pay suffer worse product quality. And many studies have found that societies with the greatest equality generally enjoy the fastest rates of economic growth. "
posted by troutfishing at 8:53 AM on November 17, 2003

As a footnote, executive compensation has actually declined a small amount in the last year, and The National Center For Policy Analysis (see my link) has misleadingly held this up as evidence proving the correlation bertween executive pay and corporate profitability. Blech. But maybe things are shifting and this reversal will herald a new, more honest trend toward a real, sustained correlation. Let's hope.
posted by troutfishing at 10:43 AM on November 17, 2003

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