WOODBRIDGE, N.J. -- Next month, Pathmark Stores here will conduct a five-store test of a vending kiosk that dispenses prepaid telephone cards, calling time for cellular phones, postage stamps and transit cards and can be used for overnight shipping.
The "Convenience Center" kiosk -- 6 feet wide, 2 feet deep and 6.5 feet high -- is equipped to dispense $5 and $10 postage-stamp booklets and prepaid phone cards in amounts ranging from $1 to $100. Shoppers can pay with cash or a credit card.
Grand Union Co., Wayne, N.J., will conduct a two-store test of the Convenience Center as well, according to Clive Barwin, president and chief executive officer of DataWave, the Vancouver, British Columbia-based supplier.
Retailers decide what to offer among the features available in the kiosk program, Barwin said, adding that stores keep between 10% and 20% from each sale.
In its three-month-long test of the kiosk, Pathmark will be most interested in "the prepaid phone cards, postage stamps and overnight express," said Rick DeToro, manager of maintenance at Pathmark.
DeToro, who was "excited about the program, especially if it works," said test models will be set up near the pharmacy area, where the chain now positions its prepaid phone-card vending machines.
Overnight delivery would be a new service for Pathmark, he added.
Overnight-shipping customers complete an address label, keep a copy of the shipping order and deposit the envelope into a drop box on the kiosk. A wireless network on the kiosk alerts the courier service to collect the packet, which is delivered the next morning.
The Convenience Center is connected to a central computer system operated by DataWave, Barwin said. DataWave monitors the machine on a real-time basis for out-of-stocks, technical glitches, cash collections and other functions.
In four to six months the Convenience Center will be able to dispense prepaid calling time for Uniden cellular phones, said Barwin.
The cell phones, which carry 20% retailer margins, would be sold at store service counters for $150, including 60 minutes of calling time and activation, Barwin said.
Per-minute costs will start at 50 cents, in addition to long-distance and roaming charges. There will be no monthly fees. Cell-phone customers must go to a chain using this particular kiosk to purchase additional prepaid calling, said Barwin.
"The 35% of cellular-phone and long-distance applicants refused [by traditional vendors] due to poor credit have opened up a new, massive opportunity for this program for retailers," he said.
Price Chopper Supermarkets, Schenectady, N.Y., is considering a five-store Convenience Center pilot, according to an official, who said a final decision has yet to be made.