The limits of refrigerator privacy?

It seems we never quite reach them:

Walmart is testing a service that delivers groceries straight to your fridge when you’re not home.

On Friday, the retail giant announced a partnership with August Home, a smart-lock startup, that would allow a delivery person to enter customers’ orders and put groceries away in their refrigerators…

Delivery drivers will have a one-time passcode that allows them to unlock the August smart lock if customers do not answer the door when the delivery team arrives to drop off groceries. They will then drop off packages in the foyer, unload groceries in the fridge, and leave — with the door locking behind them.

Customers get a notification when the driver rings the doorbell. August home-security cameras allow them to watch the entire process from the app if they wish.

Here is the story, via Peter Metrinko.


You know they won't put the groceries in the right place. It'll be a disaster, with hummus atop the eggs and jam sitting on the low shelf next to bananas, which don't even belong in the damn fridge.

The delivery person should also be allowed to take expiring or unwanted or leftover food home. Or just make a sandwich on the spot. Think of it as a perk.

Or food removal could be a business in itself. They could then charge twice the rates: "we deliver your groceries AND remove older food."

Workers who need SNAP benefits to eat will be delivering food into refrigerators of rich people?

No, into the refrigerators of ordinary people. A vibrant economy is extending benefits previously only available to rich people. Notably, in this instance, the innovation will largely redound to the benefit of women, who currently do most of the grocery shopping (and unloading).

As for the workers, you're right -- Wal-Mart extends a social good by employing people who would otherwise be wholly dependent on public benefits. They're free to take other jobs if they can't make ends meet, of course. If they're not doing so, this suggests that they don't have the skill set, but perhaps a few years of steady employment can fix that.

I agree that, as always, goods and services that were previously available only to the wealthy eventually become available to the middle class and poor, thanks to economic growth and innovation. It's still interesting though that the video doesn't show the stereotypical Walmart shopper. The video could have been made by Amazon. File under, "Will Amazon become Walmart before Walmart becomes Amazon?"

What could possibly go wrong?

Well... my first thought was it would be the ideal way to case a joint. Take note of what *else* is in the house and clue a buddy in on the action and take a slice of that later.

I think if a pattern develops that burglaries seem to follow Walmart deliveries done by a particular employee, then the authorities will catch on to that. Crime doesn't really pay if people do it just once and, when they repeat it over and over, they become easier to catch.

I wrote a white paper on this around 1995 when I did some consulting for Peapod. The end game would be delivery of refrigerated/frozen goods directly to your refrigerator.

The ideal would be to have refrigerators built into the outer wall of your house with access from both inside and outside. But I didn't see that kind of construction as being all that likely.

The major decline in crime since the 1990s has increased trust considerably, allowing people to, for example, order non-refrigerated goods to be left on their porches with more confidence that they'll still be their when they get home.

I was just talking to a young person who had passed the rather intensive tests to qualify as a dog walker for a company that advertises itself as the Uber of dog walking. He needed to show he was an honest enough person to be left a key to go into people's houses to get their dogs and that he knew enough about dogs to deal aptly with any situation. This development was not something I had anticipated in 1995.

One relatively cheap and simple solution might be for the delivery workers to wear body cams that customers would be allowed to check on an as-needed basis. Just submit a request to the company if you suspect something and they'll send a link to the relevant clip from that day.

Radio in the activated refrigerator turns the body cam on when it comes within, say, 50 feet of the refrigerator. Doesn't have to be on all the time.

Wouldn't it be easier to tie the dog outside the house?

Not in an apartment. Also, some dogs like to watch tv or use their laptops, which must be stored indoors.

Couldn't the apartment dog's be trusted to the building's caretaker? Anything seems better than letting strangers inside one's home.
In Brazil, TV sets and laptops are for people only.

No, the ideal is to have a refrigerator with a lid that opens to accommodate a drone. Leave a window open, the drone flies into your kitchen, the refrigerator opens up, and the goods are deposited. The top shelf of your refrigerator could be the receiving dock, and when you get home you just sort the goods onto the other shelves as you see fit. Alternatively, you might have a mini-fridge which would be the receiving dock, installed into a window like an air conditioner. Heck, it could be a second function for an air conditioner because they both require a compressor and refrigerant loop.

You didn't unload the groceries! That's why we're not getting any cold air!

Is this evidence of the "dynamic tech sector"?

It seems like tech companies are spending a whole of time and money on selling food and I just don't see why. Going to the grocery store and buying food myself takes virtually no time, and has other benefits besides. I have trouble seeing these sorts of delivery services as ever being more than a very slight improvement on the status quo.

Let's say you cut the time I spend grocery shopping by 2/3. That would be a phenomenal increase in efficiency, but I'd save, what, like twenty minutes? Probably not even that much cuz I'd never want to deliver everything, I'd still want to go shop when I'm not sure what I want.

I buy lots of fresh vegetables, and I can't imagine delegating that to anybody. I might go through the whole display looking for the best onions or bell peppers. If I don't find the quality I'm looking for, I'll go somewhere else. I'll often go to three stores or more looking for good broccoli or other vegetables I need. Once, a woman was watching me and said "I could trust you to buy vegetables".

Well, perhaps you are not the typical shopper. That said I agree it seems like a solution looking for a problem that really isn't there.

Some people are too busy to go to three stores to look at broccoli or even to go to one store. They just don't get any broccoli. They stop at Chick-Fil-A on the way home from work.

Grocery delivery won't appeal to everybody, but it should have a market.

Going to the grocery store as a single person can take virtually no time - *if* you can time it so that you're not there when everyone else is.

Weekly shopping for a family of 4+ can take 2+ hours - especially if you can only do it once you've gotten off work with everyone else shopping at the same time.

Delivered groceries for a $10-20 surcharge is a huge timesaver for most families.

With a $20 delivery fee, they are still losing $15-$20 per delivery. If you can get the average ticket north of $375-$400, you have a chance to break even.

That's true, I'm sure it's a lot more useful for families with kids and people with inconvenient work schedules. Still though, the cost of signing up for the service, paying for delivery and inevitably dealing with a higher rate of mistakes is significant too. I just don't see it as a major game-changer -- it's clearly helpful in certain situations (the disabled, for example), but is it really going to revolutionize groceries? No more so then pizza delivery revolutionized pizza.

I am excited about new home technology, but August Home products seems to have bad or mediocre reviews on Amazon. This isn't true for all home tech products - Amazon shows Nest gets great reviews. I'm hopeful we'll start seeing more innovative products that also have the customer satisfaction to show for it.

How close to a house or residence does delivery have to be convenient?

If refrigerated food were delivered to, say, a facility on the same block, or same apartment building, would walking half a block to pick up your refrigerated food in a lock box be that inconvenient.

When I first read about this I started thinking about how to partition off a part of my basement and add a refrigerator so I could get groceries delivered without having someone really come into my house. I am starting to HATE shopping for food. It takes up too much of my time that I want to spend in other ways.

An executive at my job has us reading a book called "The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream." The author provides tools to determine which things are probably just trends and which may last. I am not an early adopter of anything because I'm very frugal but I'd be very happy if this becomes mainstream quickly.

So, what does your book say about home grocery delivery?

Nothing about retail so far, but I'm only half way through.

Insulated cooler and an ice pack, c'mon people.

I remember as a kid (small town Texas, ~ 1960) that we had routine milk deliveries where the milkman came into the house, and put the milk in the refrigerator. I suppose they knew from experience or by agreement how much milk to leave. Not sure when that stopped.

Of course, this was an environment where we only locked the door to the house at night, and people routinely left their cars parked at home and in town with the keys in the ignition.

Remote purchases of groceries that are then put in the customer's refrigerator. What next? An employee brushes your teeth in the morning? Washes, folds, picks out your clothes and then dresses you? Wipes your rear? But doesn't stick around the house, isn't your employee, and if he/she puts the limburger cheese next to the donuts, you just request another post-modern valet. Life keeps getting better.

Milkmen used to do this. Not just in small towns but also in cities like DC. They would drop off milk bottles directly to your fridge. Usually you were home when they did this, but they would also do it if you were out and the door was unlocked. You would leave the empty bottles on the front porch for them to take.

I'd guess this evolved from ice delivery. Before refrigeration, an ice man would come by and bring a huge block of ice to put in your icebox. You'd let him into your house because the blocks of ice were heavy and you probably didn't have your own ice tongs to lift the ice.

Milk delivery and ice delivery was frequent, often daily, and followed a fixed route. All else equal, the ice man would be at your house on Tueasday and Friday around 9 AM. Contrast with a grocery delivery at infrequent intervals, with a varied cubic volume and value.

This is not a problem to be solved with improved algorithms, it requires original thinking and an understanding of trade offs.

"allow a delivery person to enter customers' orders"

This makes no sense to me.

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