It’s a running joke here in Colorado that Denver was, is and always will be a pokey, fly-over “Cow Town.” While the annual stock show does nothing to dispel that perception, it’s quite fun to attend. Far more harmful to our reputation as a progressive city is when entrenched markets unfairly use their influence to obstruct the introduction of innovative technologies like Uber, the new limo-ordering service.
Now don’t get me wrong. I wholeheartedly love my adopted city of Denver, flaws, cows and all. Yet I submit that we’re not really as edgy and progressive as we’d like to think. Even Boulder. Often it’s fear of change that makes the rules and ultimately rules the day.
Sure, we have the successful B-Cycle program and our glacially expanding Light Rail project. But I think we’re trailing truly progressive cities like Seattle because they openly encourage an experimental spirit. Here are three examples I saw of businesses in that region that are applying technology in new ways to improve customer satisfaction.
I noticed the first of these fairly nondescript golden monoliths while pumping gas in Phinney Ridge. “Willa,” pictured on the left, is an Amazon Locker, a delivery system that offers quick, secure, 24-hour access to decent-sized Amazon.com orders. All you need to open your locker is a code sent to your email or smart phone.
What a discovery! Who knew Amazon would deliver directly to your neighborhood? I certainly didn’t, because Denver was not one of the seven cities chosen to test this service. I’d like to know why we were skipped over.
And I’m still trying to work out why Amazon feels the need to imbue their lockers with personality and a human name. I can sense the confusion already:
Sally (tentative): “Honey, you came home so late last night. Be honest: are you seeing someone else?”
Brad (defensively): “No! Okay, I guess I did visit with Willa, but it’s just business. You know that.”
Sally (beginning to sob loudly): “Oh, God, I hate her. Every time she texts, you run right away to see her. Can’t you see she’s just a cold, heartless machine, incapable of real love?”
2. Shopping Cart Escalators
Next, I had a George H.W. Bush scanner moment in a Fred Meyers, the Northwest Pacific’s version of Target. Descending to the basement in search of water shoes, I gawked in wonder at the sight next to me: a second escalator adapted to transport your shopping cart between floors.
Like an unsophisticated hick from The Sticks, I took a picture. Of an escalator. Or maybe we should call it a cartalator.
But it was so sensible. So simple. So elegant. So Lean: zero time wasted waiting for an elevator! Sigh. Yet another service innovation we don’t have in Denver. Not even at the new IKEA.
3. Sushi, Delivered to Your Table via Conveyor Belt
This was Blue C Sushi: “Where Japanese tradition and technique intersect with American inventiveness and genuine hospitality.” What’s not to love?
- No wait for food: simply select what you want as the conveyor moved by your table.
- Clearly labeled products in transparent containers.
- Only six product prices, each visually defined by a system of six distinct plate colors.
- A snap for the wait staff to count the plates by color and calculate the final bill.
- Fun for the kids!
Seattle may be wet and remote, and I-5 traffic sucks, but I admire how the businesses there are willing to try out new technologies to improve their customer service. And as a result, no none will ever confuse them with a Cow Town.