Sunday, June 05, 2016

When shopping goes semi-automatic

I asked about a book in The Strand in New York. I didn't know the author but I had the title. The assistant was very helpful and found a number of titles with the same name. We agreed which one it was. "We have one copy," he said and, without my asking, handed me a small ticket with the details of the book. "Hand it to anybody downstairs and they'll find it." I took it downstairs, handed it to an assistant and she set off down the stacks at such a pace I almost had to break into a trot to keep up. She went straight to a shelf, handed me the copy, I took it to the desk and paid for it.

The following day we decided to see a Broadway show. The New Yorkers we'd had dinner with the night before had advised us to use TodayTix. This turned out to be an app through which you can book and buy tickets for shows that day. You get the tickets by turning up at the theatre half an hour before curtain up where you rendezvous with a rep wearing the TodayTix uniform who hands you your tickets.

I was impressed with both these experiences because they combined technology with the personal touch. Neither of them could have happened satisfactorily without the human element, neither of them would have been possible without the mechanical element. It made me wonder whether this might be the next stage of the retail revolution.


  1. Sounds a bit like Argos to me.

  2. I suspect not, as the human interaction has a cost however small, and so someone will assume that we will not pay for it and cut it out to save money. The terrible customer experience that follows will not be linked by management to the money "saved". Cynical? Moi?

  3. the first technology saves you having to repeat the question when you were sent to the correct floor in the bookshop, useful but not exactly a revolution is it?