Whether motivated by convenience, physical disability, or monumental laziness, shoppers in some parts of the world can do their shopping without leaving their cars. Drive-through supermarkets are now a thing, and it looks like there are more on the way.
Drive-throughs are not a new concept. The first ever opened at Red’s Giant Hamburg on Route 66 in Missouri, in 1947. The idea caught on, and in 1951, Jack in the Box, a restaurant chain focused on the drive-through experience was opened. The rest is history, although the original minds behind the idea probably never thought it would go as far as supermarkets.
Enter Amazon, and Russian inventor Semenov Dahir Kurmanbievich, who has gone as far as filing a patent for supermarkets with vehicle lanes and cascading shelves. The online retail giant, on the other hand, has already opened AmazonFresh Pickup services in Seattle’s Ballard and SODO areas.
While Kurmanbievich’s concept is literally that of a supermarket through which customers drive, AmazonFresh Pickup is more like an old-fashioned roadhouse. Customers place orders online, and then drive to the store. Employees – minus the roller skates – bring customers’ orders to their vehicles. You will be able to order bread and milk, and then spend the time you would have taken traversing the aisles doing more exciting things, like playing online casino games.
Future Drive-Through Markets
According to the Russian inventor, a display near the store entrance will show arriving customers which slots are free. Once in a slot, vertical, elevator-style shelves will bring sets of various groceries and other items past. Customers can change the selection at their own pace.
The shelves themselves will be replenished with stock by store staff, who will send the items to the relevant shelves using a system of conveyor belts.
Items customers select will be placed on a conveyor belt, which will take them to the cashier, who will start scanning and bagging them. As soon as customers have made their final choice, they can proceed to the cashier, who will have their bill and bagged groceries waiting for them. As soon as payment has been made, they will receive their purchases, and can then drive off.
While the drive-through supermarket concept may have some shoppers rolling their eyes heavenwards, Kurmanbievich seems to think his idea will improve not only product choice and service time, but also customer service in general.
Businesses could benefit by reducing the time and cost of merchandising and maintaining sales areas. No doubt they could possibly also save costs by firing staff made redundant through the introduction of yet more seemingly unnecessary technology.
Amazon has also focused its marketing on the ease and convenience aspect. However, the concept will no doubt be appreciated by those whose health or other factors make walking or being in crowded shops uncomfortable, if not downright traumatic.
Tech for Convenience
Convenience seems to be one of the biggest thrusts in technological development, and it seems already to have taken over many simple tasks previous generations took for granted.
If drive-through supermarkets sound otherworldly, consider how we use GPS instead of maps and compasses, visit tanning salons instead of soaking up the sun poolside, have made payphones redundant with our use of mobile devices, and nuke food in a few seconds using microwaves.
It could be argued that at least we no longer use trepanning as a cure for headaches. However, there is a far cry between drilling a hole in someone’s skull when an aspirin will do, and being too lazy to carry a basket or push a trolley around a grocery store.
In a world where global warming has gone mad, governments and corporations are generally resistant to switching to green fuels, and deforestation and desertification continues unabated, should we not be figuring out ways to use our cars less, rather than more?