At San Diego’s Valet Market technology becomes the cashier
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Technology has dramatically changed retail shopping in the us. It's changing grocery stores as well. And San Diego based Excel. Robotics is making the shopping experience a lot different KPBS science and technology reporter. Thomas fudge has the story
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On the ground floor of the vantage point apartment building in downtown San Diego. There's a small grocery store, but it's missing something. There's no cash register, no cashier, no bank of self checkout machines, just groceries sitting on shelves, but co-founder and chief technology officer of Excel, robotics Marus we bus says the company's valet market has a system.
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We use technology to figure out who took what out of the store. So it's a autonomous store in that, the sense that you walk in, you take what you want and you walk out and we rely on a suite of sensors, somewhere in the ceiling, somewhere in the shelves to figure out what you walked out with
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Before you can end valley market, you need to get through a turns style by flashing your store app over a sensor inside the store. There are cameras everywhere, watching what you pick up and what you put down a big computer screen in a back room shows a moving diagram of who has what and how many items they're carrying.
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So there's really two things we're tracking. We're tracking the moon of people, and then we're moving a product.
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The computer doesn't know the customer's name. They're just called person 1 39 or something like that for the customer Buba says using the store is kind of like using a self-service gas pump.
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Uh, before we let you in the store, we collect your payment credentials, and then after you leave the store, we charge you for what you took from the
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Store. The other aspect of the store is the delivery service for a vantage point apartments. As I lingered in the store, yes. Before dinner time, two young men kept walking in and out of the place with bags of food as they headed to the elevators on their way to one of the 679 living units,
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Because we don't have to use the labor to sit behind a cashier's desk. The whole time that same labor can be reused for the delivery service that we offer
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Jeff Herman VP for product with Excel, robotics calls it the world's fastest delivery
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System. And so in four or five minutes, they want a coffee and banana and juice in the morning, we run that up to their, to their room for free
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For them. The commercial strategy of valet market is to serve a dense population with a limited number of essential grocery products. People don't drive to this market and there's no parking lot. Their research shows close to 90% of the residents in vantage, port apartments use the market. One of those people is Cameron Thomas. The simplicity
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Of just having a ride downstairs for us. Um, grocery stores are little bit further away. So for some of just the normal household goods, it's pretty, pretty easy to come down and comparable and priced to a lot of the grocery stores in the area.
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And all you need is your phone. So it's okay. If you forgot your wallet, building resident Antoinette who didn't share her last name said, the inventory may be limited, but she thinks the company made a lot of good choices.
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Everything that we normally buy is here. Everything like Dave's bread. Yeah, everything Dave's bread. The type of cheese we like type of cheese spaghetti. It's all here. It's like they asked us, you know, what do you want in
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Valet? The company says the technology they use at valet market is patented. The service is a trend in retail. Amazon runs similar cashless operations with its Amazon go stores. And this trend has gotten the attention of the United food and commercial workers union local 1 35 in San Diego, local president Todd Walter says, you don't just need computers working a grocery store. You need people too.
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Those folks know that product. They know what it is. They know what's right. You start getting into computers and technology and that's fine. You know, you might save a buck, but at the end of the day, there's so many things that a computer is not gonna
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Do. Excel. Robotics has plans for opening more stores in San Diego for now vantage point residents and anyone else who downloads the app will keep using valet market and shopper. Ali Perry says the place has become a bit of a tourist attraction. It's the first thing I
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Show my parents or any of my friends that
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Come into town. Thomas fudge, K PBS news.
There’s a small grocery store on the ground floor of the Vantage Point apartment building in downtown San Diego. And the store is missing something. Go inside and there is no cash register. No cashier. No bank of self-checkout machines. Just groceries sitting on shelves.
But the store, called Valet Market, has a system, according to co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) Marius Buibas of Accel Robotics, which runs the place.
“We use technology to figure out who took what out of the store. So it’s an autonomous store in the sense that you walk in, you take what you want and you walk out,” Buibas said. “And we rely on a suite of sensors, some are in the ceilings and some are on the shelves, to figure out what you walked out with.”
Technology has dramatically changed retail shopping in the U.S. to where the shopping mall itself is looking archaic. It is possible the grocery store, with its perishable foods, will remain a shopping destination that never fully resorts to online sales and delivery.
But stores like Valet Market have changed the shopping experience. Before entering Valet Market, people need to get through a turnstile by flashing your store app over a sensor. Inside the store, there are cameras everywhere, watching what people pick up and what they put down.
A big computer screen in a backroom shows a moving diagram of who has what and how many items they’re carrying.
“So there are two things we’re tracking. The movement of people and the movement of product,” said Buibas.
The computer doesn’t know the customer’s name. Shoppers are identified by their app and given a generic identifier like “person139.” For the customer, Buibas says using the store is kind of like using a self service gas pump.
“Before we let you in the store we check your payment credentials,” Buibus said. "Then after you leave the store we charge you for what you took from the store.”
The store is also a delivery service for Vantage Point Apartments. On a recent day, just before dinner time, two young men were constantly walking in and out of the place with bags of food as they headed for the elevators on their way to one of 679 living units.
“Because we don’t have to have the labor sit behind a cashier’s desk the whole time, that same labor can be reused for the delivery service that we offer,” said Jeff Hermann, VP for product for Accel Robotics.
He calls their service the world’s fastest delivery system.
“So in four to five minutes they want a coffee, a banana and juice in the morning, we run that up to their room for free for them,” Hermann said.
The commercial strategy of Valet Market is to serve a dense population with a limited number of essential grocery products. People don’t drive to this market and there’s no parking lot. Company officials say their research shows close to 90% of households of Vantage Point Apartments use the market.
“The simplicity of having it right downstairs for us. Grocery stores are a little bit further away. So it’s pretty easy to come down and it’s comparable in price to other grocery stores in the area,” said resident Camron Thomas.
And all you need is a phone. It is OK if customers forgot their wallet.
Building resident Antoinette, who didn’t share her last name, said the inventory at Valet Market may be limited, but she thinks the company made a lot of good choices.
“Everything that we normally buy is here. Everything. Like Dave’s Bread, the type of cheese we like, spaghetti, it’s all here. It’s like they asked us, pre-hand, ‘What do you want in Valet?’” said Antoinette.
The technology used at Valet Market is patented. But the service is a trend in retail. Amazon runs a similar cashless operation with its Amazon Go stores.
The trend has gotten the attention of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union local 135 in San Diego. Local union president Todd Walters said in union grocery stores like Vons or Albertsons this kind of technology is a subject of contract talks. He says computers do not run a grocery store, people do.
“Those folks know that product and they’re making sure that product is properly rotated. And you start getting into computers and technology. That’s fine. You might save a buck. But at the end of the day there’s so many things a computer is not going to do,” said Todd Walters, of UFCW 135.
Accel Robotics has plans for more stores in San Diego.
For now Vantage Point residents, and anyone else who downloads the app, will keep using Valet Market. Shopper Aleata Parry said the place has become a bit of a tourist attraction for some people.
“It’s the first thing I show my parents or any of my friends that come into town,” Parry said.