The "Giant" supermarket chain is offering a new shop by phone plan, called "peapod". At advertising billboards they have a QR (quick response) code for mobile phone uers. They then can select groceries from the advertising billboard at train stations or the website, which are then delivered to their home.
This is interesting in that an early proposed automated telephone applications nearly 50 years ago was grocery shopping by phone. A caller would have a list and use their Touch Tone phone to select and order items. Ironcially, that never seemed to catch on.
About 75 years ago it was common for neighborhood grocery stores to deliver purchases to the home; many people walked to the store and didn't have any way to carry a large order home (other than those little wheeled baskets). But then supermarkets came out with self- service and big parking lots for the automobile and cut prices, which wouldn't allow for delivery. Shoppers liked the low prices and supermarkets flourished every since. Aggressive price competition remains in the retail food business today, so it will be interesting if people are willing to pay for this enhanced service. (There are a few "premium" supermarkets, but most shoppers seem to prefer to shop on price.)
Telecom notes: The manager in my local supermarket carries a cordless phone hooked to his belt. If he is paged, he can answer the page from anywhere in the store. He also can initiate a page from his cordless phone. Also, all the cashiers have intercom phones in case there is a price check or other need for assistance.
The stores' checkout aisle have a mounted swipe reader for credit and debit cards, which includes a keypad for the shopping to enter their PIN. When first installed, these machines would dial up to verify the connection--you could the dial tone and connecting beep. Now, they're always on-line and work fairly quickly. A nice free feature is when paying with debit card, shoppings can get cash back by adding the desired cash to the total of the purchase; this saves a trip to the ATM machine.
When paying by check, a shopper gives the cashier a blank check, and she then inserts it into a mini-printer. The printer fills out the pay-to and the amount automatically, all the shopper has to do is sign the check.
ISTR coming across a Bell System study that evaluated the issue, some years ago. The ghist of it was that the researches had found that housewives were afraid of making a mistake and having the wrong groceries delivered, and so they continued to shop the "old fashioned way", because they could see what they were buying.
I don't know if Touch-Tone phones were originally intended to give customers the ability to interact with automaticc response systems, but they weren't adopted as quickly as was hoped: I think local LEC customers didn't see the signalling capability as an advantage worth paying for, and some might have shied away from automated systems that depended on Touch-Tone because they didn't want to lose the human touch that they enjoyed with the old system. It's also possible that customers thought that they would have to surrender /all/ their phones, including the millions of unauthorized extensions which still had dials on them. I'm always fascinated by people's reactions to new technology, both positive and negative, so I'd like to hear from others who have better information about this.
The study I saw was from the 1970's, so it didn't cover the Internet, but I think at least part of the reason that brick-and-morter retailers discounted (pun intended) competition from Internet sellers was that they thought buyers would continue to want to handle the goods before purchase. However, high-resolution photographs and high-speed Internet connections to carry them gave buyers a "close enough" experience, so they are now willing to order online: the paradigm shift is also attributable to the pachaged-goods industry, which produces uniform products with enough repeatability that buyers can buy by brand instead of by item. After all, nobody cares /which/ tube of Crest toothpaste they purchase, just that the one they get is like all the others.
It remains to be seen if Peapod (offered by Stop & Shop in my area) will be able to leverage the public's experience buying packaged goods in order to sell groceries: since nobody cares which bottle of soap they buy, Peapod is hoping that they won't care which melon or tomato or ear of corn is delivered.
-- Bill Horne (Remove QRM from my email address to write to me directly)
:It remains to be seen if Peapod (offered by Stop & Shop in my area) :will be able to leverage the public's experience buying packaged goods :in order to sell groceries: since nobody cares which bottle of soap :they buy, Peapod is hoping that they won't care which melon or tomato :or ear of corn is delivered.
I don't know, fifteen years of selling groceries online seems to be enough to say if they're going to manage to succeed. Peapod are a subsidery of Royal Ahold, a Dutch supermarket congolmerate. Ahold owns both Giant and Stop & Shop.
I don't know how well Peapod is doing in the market, but (as I wrote before), I'd like to know what factors work against it and for it. My questions cover several areas:
Predictability. I stayed at a long-term hotel once while working for Verizon, and it offered Peapod service. I filed an order, but I was disappointed that they delivered different brands of food than the ones I had ordered. Their service agreement gives them permission to do it, but I wanted Brand X cereal and they delivered Brand Y. ISTM that a service which is trying to make inroads into traditional buying patterns and customer habits would concentrate on delivering exactly what was ordered: it may be that Americans are more demanding in this regard than Dutch customers, so perhaps it's a culture clash.
Portioning. The order I filed included some vegetables, and the ones that were delivered where smaller than ones I would have chosen myself. I was left with the impression that Peapod customers are expected to accept fruits from the "bottom of the barrel", and felt I had been cheated. It's not a rational conclusion, I know, but that was how I felt. Once again, this might be a cultural difference.
Ease of use. I filed my order using a Touch-Tone phone, and found the IVR system to be (to my mind) overly complicated and difficult to navigate.
I was left with the impression that the whole thing was intended for restauranteurs and chefs who were used to ordering over the phone - and accustomed to accepting a certain percentage of discards - and not for home users without experience in commerical food preparation.
The bigger questions remainss, though: what motivates customers to accept a faceless transaction over the traditional supermarket? The prices weren't that different from the market, and considering the price of gas and value of my time, I thought the charges were reasonable for my order. What makes the average buyer willing to pick up the phone instead of the car keys?
In doing a search for "Touch Tone" in the New York Times for the
1960s, I came up with the following. It seems some of the services were envisioned quite a long time ago, and took longer to become universal.
12/19/1962: Touch Tone installed in Chardon, Ohio, by the Chardon Telephone Company, using sets made by Stromberg Carlson (a division of General Dynamics). This is of interest since it was an Independent company, not part of the Bell System. Also, Stromberg Carlson was a relatively small maker of telephone equipment--I would've presumed Automatic Electric* would've been the pioneer because it was the biggest independent company.
11/15/1963: Bell installed Touch Tone in Greesnburg and Carngegie, in Western Pennsylvania.
9/20/1964: Article talking about future modernization of the telephone system. ESS and its customer features are described. Touch Tone is described, along with examples of interfacing with a computer. It also said Touch Tone services were in demand and Bell had trouble keeping up with orders for sets and converters to meet demand. So, as far back as 1964, they envisioning using TT phones for computer interface. (I remember bank tellers having a TT keypad next to their rotary phones circa 1970 to get balances from the bank's central computer.)
--Salesman inquiring if an item is in stock in a warehouse;
--Housewife ordering groceries,
--Investors getting stock quotes
--Housewife remotely turning on/off oven, air conditioner, and heater.
1/12/1965: The Bell System had a display at a convention of department store executives, suggesting using Touch Tone phones for immediate credit authorization, ordering from home, and in-store purchasing and paying bills from home. [As an aside, some of the fears expressed at that convention--discounters taking over markets from traditional department stores--did come to pass.]
5/27/1966: Centrex receives a patent. Instead of a big cord switchboard, operators use small consoles with Touch Tone keypads to connect calls that can't be dialed directly.
5/21/1967: The Checkless Society: Using the card dialer phone plus some entered codes, customers could pay bills. Envisioned to be up in
1980. Issues of privacy and security were discussed.
8/30/1967: Touch Tone phone panel for aparment house lobbies, tenant dials a code on their phone to let someone in. Rental: $60/month plus $1.10 for each apartment. (I saw this system in use at the Stuyvesant Apts in NYC in 1968. Pretty slick for its day.)
People always shopped by mail order, especially when there were specialty goods not available locally or the price was better than retail. But mail order in the old days was cumbersome. One had to fill out a form, carefully entering complex product codes. Then, shipping had to be carefully calculated using complicated charts since rates varied by both distance and weight. If a person didn't have a personal checking account, they had to go out and buy a money order.
I'm not sure when this happened, but to me the big change was when credit card companies accepted a telephone submitted credit card order (1980s?). Well before the Internet was commonplace companies had 800 order lines. At that point, for the consumer, the transaction was effortless. Consumers didn't only use catalogs, but also ads from magazines.
Indeed, going way back, the telephone companies offered special equipment for department stores to accept telephone orders ("order turrets") that automatically queued and distributed calls to order- takers.
According to the Bell Labs history, Touch Tone interpreters for central offices were expensive. Different models were developed for different sized applications. A "cheapo" model was developed for PBXs where the loop distances (between extension and PBX switch) were short and accuracy not as critical. We take for granted the precise accuracy of electronics today, apparently back in the 1960s it took a lot more effort and expense to achieve that precision.
*As an aside, the Bell System gave Touch Tone (as well as wall and desk sets) all different model numbers, eg 500, 2500, 2554. AE, instead, used the same code for a variety of equipment. Thus, the AE
80 covered the 500 equivalent of desk and wall, and rotary and Touch Tone sets.
When I was working retail in a small store 1970ish, we usually took a physical card (using the carbon imprinter...) but we could also take telephone orders. We simply handwrote the person's name in the signature line, with a "t/o" (for "telephone order") next to it. However, the big time issue was that we had to check each card against a very big pamphlet with very teensy type, that was updated each week... If the sale was over fifty dollars, we also had to call in to the card company for validation and get a ticket number.
- In the late 1970s online terminals came into use at the larger retail stores, and presumably the call centers. And then, bit by bit, the time and effort got to be less and less...
Peapod was founded in Chicago in the '90s. Primarily web-based ordering. (also telephone-orders to a live rep -- who was just using the web-form for you -- with an additional surcharge. this has, i believe been dropped) Actual purchasing was executed through a large Chicago-area grocery chain (Jewel Osco). The route driver would go to a 'local' (to where he was delivering), Jewel, with a 'consolidated' shopping list, and grab however many of 'whatever' he needed to fill his shopping list. Then wheel the carts out to the parking lot, and sort stuff out of the carts, and into tubs for the individual customers. Then, off to each address to deliver the orders. Special space on board for handling frozen and/or refrigerated items.
In the early days they were almost exclusively residential delivery.
They subsequently expanded to other areas in the region served by Jewel.
They were successful/profitable enough that they were acquired by a major Dutch grocer. And, oddly enough, shifted to using _their_ warehousing/ distribution.
Produce is, and has been "pot luck", they're buying/distributing enough that they can't "cherry pick" like many retail customers do. So, _somebody_ ends up with the 'choice' heads of lettuce from the crate, and somebody else gets the left-overs. They make a reasonable effort to rotate who is where on the fulfillment cycle, so that the same customers don't regularly get either the choice items -or- the left-overs.
They've also expanded into 'business' delivery -- this includes both commercial restaurants, and businesses tha just need 'goodies' for a meeting.
They've been constantly -- albeit in a controlled manner, and at a restrained pace -- expanding their service area. They presently cover a large part of the nation.
The short answer is 'convenience' -- you can search stuff on the web- site a lot faster than you can go down the isles in the store; you can keep 'saved lists' of stuff you purchase regularly, with a 'one click' add of the entire list. If you're not near a 24-hour store, you can still -place- an order 24-hours/day.
For 'routine' shopping purchases -- an 'established' shopping list of goods, it's only a few minutes (at most) online to place the order and schedule the delivery. And maybe 5 minutes when the delivery arrives.
Compare that to 10-15 minutes or more (door-to-door) each way with a car,
20+ minutes going through the store, 5 minutes or so for check-out, plus the time to load the groceries into the car. and it can be a -big- time- saver.
Consider a stay-at-home mom, with young kids, who's husband is out-of-town for whatever reason -- she's either going to have to get a sitter, or bundle the kids of to the store with her. Online ordering/delivery begins to look like a -real- bargain.
And then there are the 'snobs' -- who'd prefer not to mingle with the 'great unwashed' at the local supermarket. :)
On Tue, 21 Feb 2012 15:13:07 -0500, Bill Horne wrote, of Touch-Tone phones:
"An extra 5 or 7 bucks a month to save 5 or 7 seconds of dialing time?" folks thought, "Ya gotta be kidding!" I remember: I was one of them.
And later, when it was learned that DTMF would save Ma Bell money as compared with pulse dialing, folks thought, "You should pay *us* to switch to DTMF, not the other way around!" And I was one of those, too :-) .
Ultimately, Ma Bell gave in, and just made everything both pulse /and/ DTMF dial responsive, at no extra monthly charge.
Cheers, -- tlvp
- - Avant de repondre, jeter la poubelle, SVP.
***** Moderator's Note *****
I'd really like to know if Touch-Tone was intended to be used for IVR access when it was on the drawing board. I always thought it was invented in order to cut down on local cable costs, i.e., to make it possible to use Voice Frequency repeaters and thinner wire.
The people buying shoes (Zappos) and clothing (Lands End, LL Bean) over the internet may have no qualms either about buying meats, peaches, and melons.
But those of us who know that sizes are unreliable guides to how well a given pair of shoes (or slacks, or jeans) will fit will continue to shop in a store only, and will take the same approach to meat, fish, and produce.
PeaPod's $10 delivery fee (here in CT, anyway), and the expectation that consumers will tip delivery agents, are apt to slow adoption rates down.
End-to-end signalling was touted from the beginning as a greart advantage of Touch Tone, although some of the ramifications of this did not appear for many years. I remember cordless phones, some of them provided by telcos, that had a switch for tone or pulse and instuctions on how to switch between them if you had rotary dial service (for calling) but wanted to use some sort of tone response sysrtem.
In the days when grocery delivery was common. you had to leave your door unlocked or have a maid or other attendant. Many foods are perishable and can't just be dumped on the front porch. There also had to be someone to pay the delivery person unless credit was extended. When I was growing up my mother ordered groceries (there were two deliveries a day) and the delivery person came around to the back and brought them right into the kitchen. Another product was milk, almost always delivered. You could pick a time you wanted it delievered (at two hour intervals, as I recall) and at one time there were six different dairies calling on us for their business in Oklahoma City (I believe not quite that many in St. Louis and I don't remember how many in Dallas). Now there are no milk delivery men and no grocers that deliver.
The Bell System developed a product line of transaction telephones-- and a special network to support them--to handle the growing volume of credit card transactions.
One aspect include the development of a new network, called the Transaction Network, which introduced a message switching service tailored to transaction-oriented applications. This would be faster and easier than using a dial-up, and cheaper than private-line services.
The December 1978 issue of the BSTJ is devoted to this service. (I'm not sure how widely this service was utilized in the market place.)
As per traditional Bell System practice, they thoroughly researched all facets of the application. This includes separate articles on:
"Transaction Network Service", "Communication Network and Equipment", "Transaction Network Operational Programs", "Maintenance and Administration", "Polled Access Interface", "Dial Access Interface", "Customer Service Center Interface", "The Switched Network Transaction Telephone System", "Transaction Stations", "Physical Design Banks", and "Transaction Printer".
Also, it should be noted that the during the late 1960s and 1970s the line between computer functions and telecommunication functions began to blur. That is, when did processing cease being telecom (under the jurisdiction of the regulated common carriers) and become data processing (handled by customer owned computers)? A series of formal FCC Inquiries investigated those issues. In those days there were predictions of an upcoming war between IBM and AT&T as technology increased.
Actually, where I am Qwest introduced a change that "will save money for the vast majority of our customers". They went to a single rate that included DTMF and was less than what DTMF customers were paying, but more than what pulse customers were paying. From _my_ POV, that meant that the "extra monthly charge" was no longer optional.
Given that most phones of the day had "pulse/tone" switches, and that there was a Hayes-compatible command to have modems dial pulse, I never saw any reason to pay extra for tone.. if I needed tones for interaction, I flipped the switch on the side of the phone after dialing. My computer BBS worked with pulse just fine.
Given the choice between an out of band signalling (dialling) system that depended on mechanical components versus an in-band system that was immensely less reliant on mechanical issues, as well as being far more popular with the users, I am not surprised it was adopted.
AFAIK IVR came along well after DTMF was invented, and only became practical when the majority of handsets were DTMF and the cost of IVR equipment (which included the computing systems behind them) came down to a reasonable level.
-- Regards, David.
David Clayton Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Knowledge is a measure of how many answers you have, intelligence is a measure of how many questions you have.
That was my understanding. VF repeaters couldn't pass dial pulses.
The DLL (Dial Long Line) equipment was not cheap. It occupied a rack unit or two. It used power. It created heat. Contacts got dirty. It was noisy.
Solid-state sender conversion kits were not that expensive, and solved the problem for older COs, like the 1XB, and early 5XB.
I wonder if they were available for SXS offices?
Often money dictates upgrades. I remember one scheduled 2B ESS replacement for Bonner Springs, KS, a mostly rural town. It was instead used in a smaller suburb of Stanley, KS (now consumed by Overland Park, KS).
The reasoning was because all the rich folks lived there, many who worked in high financial jobs in the big city, and the Bonner Springs farmers didn't need the features.
What about the military, and their fourth column of priority buttons on telsets? Were these lines not locally switched, perhaps wired to Autovon as FX lines? That could get expensive, but fortunately only senior officers had such phones. Maybe they used a line concentrator?
All of the Army and Air Force switches I worked on (up through 1968) were All Relay SXS, and some X-Y SXS. No Strowger SXS, with their inherent horizontal dust-collecting banks.
Along about that time I was the designated person to pay for a dinner for a company meeting. The amount was betwen $50 and $100. This was in the evening, and the credit card authorization center had closed for the day. The solution, which came to me and the restaurant about the same time, was to run two charges, each for less than $50, on two different credit cards I had, so neither charge was over the floor limit. That was in the days when they sent out credit cards willy nilly, without your asking for them.
In our area Touch Tone cost $1.50/month, regardless of the number of extensions. If a household made a lot of calls, Touch Tone was a nice convenience. In our area, it was more of a curiosity in the late
1960s, but by the mid 1970s it became very commonplace in middle- class neighborhoods. Also, in that time frame, plenty of people were willing to pay the extra $1/month for a premium set like a Princess or Trimline.
[As one who still has some rotary phones, after being used to Touch Tone, it does get weary using rotary dials, especially when dialing ten digit numbers.]
My cable company is advertising that they will gladly send me an on-line bill FREE in the interest of saving trees. Not mentioned is [that] they're the ones saving money from printing and postage of a hard copying mailing, or that faster notice improves their cash flow, yet they make it sound like they're doing the customer a favor.
Businesses, be they public utility or competitive, always priced their servies on perceived value rather than actual cost. I don't think Trimlines or Princess sets cost that much more to manufacture, but they generated revenue. However, the Touch Tone sets did cost noticeably more to make due to the electronics, and the receivers in the central offices were very expensive, too (per the Bell Labs History 1925-1975). For step-by-step, which was about half of Bell System lines, Touch Tone was a negative. Per the history, early TT installations in step exchanges wore out the switches, and special arrangements had to be made.
The PUCs liked premium telephone offerings since that revenue was used to offset the low price for bare bones phone service--per their goal of universal service.
The elimination of a charge for DTMF came well after Divesture, about when ESS was universal.
A note of observation, if I may: "Ma Bell" ceased to exist in 1983 when the old Bell System/AT&T was broken up through Divesture. The term came about, in part, because the pre-divesture phone company was one monothic entity, providing all equipment, local, and long distance calling, and dictated all policies and pricing. Subscribers had to rent equipment--they could not buy it. However, after divesture, everything changed. Subscribers buy their own equipment from anyone. They could choose their long distance carrier. Eventually they could even choose their local carrier, and many people today use their cable TV company for phone service. There were numerous companies in the telecom business, of which "AT&T" was one of many.
Good question. I wonder if the "Bell Labs Record" would have the answer. But, going by the NYT reference, by 1964 they clearly had computer interface in mind. This is interesting in itself because most computers _in use_ in 1964 barely had the CPU and storage capacity to handle that kind of function; more powerful machines would be required. That is to say, in 1964 using a computer to provide telephone grocery shopping would be far too expensive to justify. But using it to support banking balance inquiries might be cost-justified.
The March 1958 issue of BSTJ explores "Tone Ringing and Push Button Calling". The need developed as a result of the development of ESS--"for ESS, the relatively large currents and voltages that are associated with the signalling functions in existing telephones would present formidable design difficulities". Instead of the 90 volts used for ringing, ESS uses a single volt or a milliwatt. This way signals could be passed on the voice frequency band. Some other technical advantages were mentioned. They went into great detail about the design and theory of tone signalling at the telephone set.
"Tone Ringing and Push Button Calling", March 1958
I believe a secondary desire was to reduce the holding time of common control registers engaged when someone is dialing a call.
The original TT phone keypads had only ten digits. I'm not sure when the *# keys were added. FWIW, circa 1970 when we got TT, one telephone set was 10 digit, the other was 12 digit. (P.S. Like the above poster, our family discontinued TT after about a year, feeling that the $1.50/month wasn't worth the convenience gained. But, some years later, my family was willing to pay it.)
It is amazing reading newspaper articles and other literature about technology from 1964. They had so many ideas on the burner, many of which eventually came to be, though later than anticipated. The big factor in making all of it possible was the huge drop down in the cost of electronics, which made computers, terminals, and telecommuni- cations so much cheaper. For example, I shudder to think the cost per bit of a disk drive in service in 1964 as compared to today.
Other early articles on Touch Tone:
"Push Button Calling with a Two Group Voice Frequency Code", January
(This goes into extensive detail on how the frequencies were selected. A key factor was not having any signal that could be confused with speech so as to cause an accidental signal transmission.)
"Human Factors Engineering Studies of the Design and Use of Pushbutton Telephone Sets", July 1960
(This goes into extensive detail about how they designed the keypad based on human studies. They experimented with various key arrange- ments as well as pressure and travel [while] depressing the key. I wonder if designers of modern electronic equipment do as much research.)
Western Union private line telephone service, WUTR, April 1964
(The push-button dial telephone set illustrated in this article does _not_ use DTMF, but rather various combinations of polarity and current presence to indicate the digit dialed.)
[expletive deleted] NO, they don't. As a simple and clear example, the buttons on Genuine Bell Touch Tone phones were concave (rounded downward) so your fingers were "pulled" into them and were more likely to give you the number you wanted.
Take a look at today's keypads - not just on phones but on ATMs and huge groups of other devices. In addition to being too small, with impossible to read print... far, far, too many of them are made of slippery surfaces and are _convex_, just about ensuring your fingers will slip off.
(the issue about "full travel" versus just a small push down.. gets into religious attitudes, so is best left out of this discussion)
- Oh, and not just keypads. The whole category of human factors engineering has been sliding into the dustbins of history...
I grew up in a bedroom community of Portland, Maine and we had multiple services that came to the house. Milk was left in a special carrier provided by the milk company and they left glass refillable bottles. Other services that served us were a local bakery delivered baked goods. The local dry cleaner also delivered.
When I was a young'un and visited with grams in Hyannis on the cape she had two different milk companies deliver (grams had lots of families from all her family descend in the summer at the cape.
As far as grocery delivery here in Seattle we have Amazon Fresh. I believe Safeway also delivers. There are also casualties of the grocery delivery business among them are WebVan which went belly up in
2001. Perusing the Wikipedia article on WebVan it also mentions other like-minded similar businesses.
:The elimination of a charge for DTMF came well after Divesture, about :when ESS was universal.
That varied a lot. Bell Atlantic in NJ charged a buck extra for touch tone, at least on some classes of residential lines in the late 90s. I had one, and had a long fight about paying, or not, a dollar for a feature I never used. Most of the time, I didn't even have a phone attached to the line, just an answering machine, as I had ISDN provided by, and paid for, [by] my employer. I wanted a number I could give to people who insisted they needed one, or whom I'd like to get a message from (like the mechanic, or the vet, or the bank) but who I didn't care to have to talk to.
The field craft I talked to didn't think they could actully provision a line without touchtone.
- - sig 108
***** Moderator's Note *****
Around the Boston, MA area, there were some neighborhoods (i.e., some exchanges) where the word got around that /everyone/ had Touch-Tone service, so customers stopped paying for it. Ma Bell decided to retrofit the exchanges in question with dial-pulse-only receivers, and to endure the cost of maintaining a separate class code for Touch-Tone subscribers, so the word must have gotten around to a /lot/ of people.
It goes to show that /nobody/ wants to pay for a service that /anybody/ else gets for free.