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Paying Is Voluntary at This Selfie-Friendly Store (nytimes.com)
35 points by extarial 10 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 42 comments





I know these guys. This is genius.

They have a very successful business already, the product is marketed like a nightclub, to the same kind of people. It’s marketed as a restorative beverage, to model types and those that love them.

The only way to buy it is via text message. The first time you enter your CC and address the next time you just text them and it’s delivered to your address. It’s also in a few places like the Soho House.

They have been absolute masters of free media. They get bloggers and influencer types to talk about it. They have a secretive minimalist website that makes you wonder what the buzz is all about and this memorable way of getting it that feels like a drug deal. People go for it.

This mini store thing has absolutely nothing to do with a new model for retail, or as a sign of a trend or anything else. It’s just clever and catchy enough for people to say huh and to get in the Times. All for the very minimal cost of a pop up store and some free product. And here we are proving their viral success.


Spot on. We all know this from a mile away but I still went to check out their website.

Grab a drink, send a text, get a text back and enter your credit card information......

What is the advantage of this system? Its sounds a lot more hassle than going to a cashier.


I think this is genius actually. Notice that the article says the company has divested money from their advertisement funds to run the stores. This means they are not loosing any more money they were already spending in ads. Free samples have been a thing for a very long time, and everyone agrees it makes sense. Now they are only asking customers to pay shelf price for the free samples they get, and the large majority will do.

And I am sure the NYT article doesn't hurt :)

I thought that too

> by sending the company a text message.

Oh allright, thats convenient, they will just add it to my phone bill.

> In the store, customers are expected to text Dirty Lemon to say they have grabbed something. A representative will then text back with a link to enter their credit card information, adding, “Let us know if you need anything else.”

Oh, they dont?

The one advantage of this system that I can see is that the shop will receive your phone number.


I think the 2nd transaction they just confirm that you want to used the card on file, essentially linking your phone number to the card for transactions on their products.

They also redirect to web for CC entry the first time, I think they're using stripe to store it or equivalent. It's essentially sms-based interface.

(from https://dirtylemon.com/ordering)


SF reinvented yet another wheel in worst possible way.

Stuff was sold this way for centuries. Take a fruit or a newspaper, leave coins in a jar, no cashier needed.


The problem is no one carries around coins any more.

No but they carry contactless cards and nfc enabled phones. Tapping a card reader is far more convenient than both cash and the system outlined in the article.

Contactless payment...

I'm guessing this is just a stop gap solution to test the waters while they try to find something better. Hopefully they're smart enough link your card to your phone number after the first transaction.

That doesn't sound very smart- when I change phone numbers, or if some one steals my number, I would rather not have to deal with the possibility of them buying stuff with my money!

You can contact them asking for a refund if that happens. They are pretty much forced to return the money or risk the chargeback.

That said, I think a phone number changing owner and someone else purchasing in the exact same store within the card expiration date isn't very likely. Can happen, sure, but that's about it.


You can add a password or ask for the cvv code. The main thing is not having to re-enter my credit card details every time.

They keep your cc on file so the next transaction is simply a text message.

A nice idea if your products are sold with 500% markup.

This is why these are short term projects.

Uncompetitive products can be interesting and fun while its trendy. After, the market gets saturated if its a good idea.

If someone thinks you can create a business empire with this model, they will fail to their higher quality and lower cost competitors. However, if you were trying to pay bills for a few years, these niche ideas are fine.


Oh my god, do we really have selfie-friendly stores now? I get it from the company's standpoint (free advertisement), but it is appalling to me it is now normal to feel the urge to post in social media about purchasing an overpriced lemon juice.

Yes, we absolutely do. There is a matcha cafe near where I live that sells rainbow colored drinks, and they have a wall in the back that specifically designed to be a backdrop for selfies with the product. It is a natural evolution from food items designed with instagrammability in mind. Love it or hate it, this is the world we live in for the next little while at least.

Yeah, the payment process sounds horrible but hey, it makes you spend more time in this ultra hipster environment where you really want to be seen.

nothing stopping you from popping in, grabbing yr 10 dollar water, and texting the chatbot from a more dignified location 20 minutes later.

SMS txt bots are actually really useful. I use digit.co as a little saving acct bot and i really love it.


Nothing stopping you from popping in, grabbing your 10 dollar water and not paying to tell them that their payment process isn't good. (Or just tell them afterwards via SMS.)

Wow! It's like an honesty box, but without all the convenience.

I appreciate the concept, as checking out has always been a bottleneck from my experience, so not having to queue up to use awful self-checkout machine is a nice plus.

However the SMS-based payment flow is awful and a security nightmare. Just give me an app where I can select what I bought and pay for it via Apple Pay.


They should just have a self checkout machine without the bag scales, that's the part that ruins them.

Without the bag scales, a decent touchscreen and an UI not designed by monkeys.

The scale is the least of your worries when the UI is an absolute disaster and takes ages to react to every interaction.


reminds me of the teacher's lounge from when i was in elementary school. they had some lowbrow "on your honor" cardboard vending box with a cash slot and a warning that "account imbalance will result in future reduction of availability of chocolate items"

How do these stores keep homeless people out?

It's not just the financial losses (which could be small), but I suppose the last thing you want is to become the "brand of the poor".


This store is clearly a PR stunt, and a few drinks that cost a negligible amount to produce is well worth the free advertising.

Well they figured out one way to keep the poors our of their store: don't hire a cashier. That's one less, anyway.

There's no cash inside. All you could possibly steal is a bunch of woo-woo juice and the hipster ambiance. If I were a poor in the area, I'd also presume that predatory cops would be hanging around outside, waiting to collar-grab the likelier suspects on suspicion of shoplifting and demanding to be shown the payment text. That would horrify the marketing folks, of course--if they knew about it--but cops are gonna cop.


What "payment text"? It's free. "Have a nice day officer." (across the pond we call it a receipt)

It's not free. It's on the honor system. If it were free, they wouldn't ask for payment via text.

[Throttled:] I have actually seen someone walk into a Walgreens, fill up a backpack, and walk right back out without paying. I looked up at a cashier, and saw that she had been watching the whole thing, too. I looked further up, and saw that it was likely all captured on the security cameras.

Probably the only person who actually cared was an accounts manager 950 miles north of the store, in Deerfield, who wouldn't even notice until the next week.

So far, I haven't had any dramatic Spider-Man moments, when I would discover that it was actually the shoplifter who killed my uncle, right after I decided to let him go. But I still wonder if there was even an option that qualified as doing the right thing. If someone is so poor that they steal bread in order to eat, is it right to stop them from doing it? Perhaps they are eating 3-5 slices of ham per day from their employer's deli without paying, for 8 years running. Is it right to charge them with felony theft?


To a homeless kid it'd be viewed as "free". I've known many people who would steal from stores where there was actual security. This place doesn't even have a physical checkout.

This is what I came here to discuss, if one street kid finds this and tells his friends, they'd clean it out in a minutes.

Anyone know if any of their drinks contain snake-oil?

"At Drug Store..."

Would they get in trouble for calling the place a Drug Store even though they do not sell prescription medicine?


Oh you didn't get my txt? Must be a network problem

You dont even have to lie to them, you can just walk out and nothing will happen

That would still be theft. They arent giving the stuff away.

Didn't the article mention it's handled as sampling?

That's the accounting impact. The legal impact is that they are actually offering these for sale, and taking one without paying is shoplifting. They have simply decided as a company to accept up to 100% losses of this limited quantity of stock due to theft.

If it were me, I'd only restock the paid-for merchandise until the store is empty. If you shoplift, you steal the kanban card too, but when you pay, you're also sending the card back to the distribution warehouse.




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