Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Battery Re-charge Station

You drop off your kids, your film, why not your batteries?
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A while back we came up with re-chargable batteries. This was a great idea because it was a cheaper form of power in the long run. The problem is, is that people have to pay between $30-80 dollars for the charger, and to many that doesn't seem like a worthwhile investment. Also, the charger doesn't cater to all sizes of batteries. If there was a sort of service, located in your local Wal-Mart or grocer's front desk- same place where copies are made, money orders ordered, and lottery tickets purchased, that you dropped off your batteries you need re-charged, and picked them off after shopping for happy-using. Of course, you would have to buy the re-chargable batteries yourself, but after dishing out the few dollars, it would only be a small fee- much cheaper than the purchase of a new battery, to re-charge. This would come especially in handy for those on the run with walkmans and gameboys that just run out, they stop by a local service provider, and pay a few quarters to get their power re-juvenated.
poptart, Mar 25 2004


       In the mid-1980s I invested in a small start-up company in Los Angeles that tried to pioneer the idea of providing a recycling service for phone, communications equipment, and other rechargeable battery-powered devices. While this concept seems like it would be very easy to introduce, we found the large retail store owners to be difficult to interest at a reasonable commission. Additionally, the variety of battery sizes and configurations was a problem at both the sales counter and on the recharging benches.   

       We experimented with a variety of different business models. The first model was similar to the film business: Retail customers bring a discharged battery into a store location and get the same battery back over night. The two main problems with that idea were that a large percentage of the batteries we received were defective and unable to be repaired or recharged, and patrons didn't really like to have to make two trips to the store for batteries.   

       The second model involved a direct exchange. You give the retailer your used battery and a small recharge fee, and he gives you a fully recharged replacement battery. (This is not dissimilar to the propane exchange tank program that you currently see at major home centers like Home Depot or Loews in the US.) We ended up with nearly a landfill of unusable, environmentally shunned devices with little recourse back to the original manufacturers.   

       The third (and only successful) model was where we developed specific large commercial/public service users and supplied them with the equipment, the batteries, the guarantee, and the recharge service. Examples included several Police Departments, Fire Departments, hospitals, and a fleet of cable television installers and Satellite Dish Installers. In these cases we provided them with a basic inventory of batteries to service their equipment needs, and picked up and serviced the used batteries on a daily basis for a small contractual charge. The business made money, but was labor intensive, required substantial investment in batteries, generating and recharging equipment and rolling stock.   

       Ultimately, we did not find this to be an interesting or rewarding business and decided to sell our investment. No doubt, you'll do better.
jurist, Mar 25 2004

       Good idea...but dont you think a minimum recharge duration is in excess of an hour. How many of you all spend more than 14.45 minutes at your grocery store? This is the flaw I see.
dbmayur, Mar 25 2004

       [dbmayu] I just bought a Duracell charger that does four AAs in an hour so it is possible, at least for smaller cells. Setting up in a mall rather than a single shop would reach people who plan to stay for long enough. This seems more likely to fail because people couldn't be bothered with it. I'd quite like to be wrong about that though.
stilgar, Nov 13 2004

       Although it wouldn't solve the problem of having many battery types to deal with, a business model that might solve the dead-batteries-from-customers problem of model #2 would be to have customers who arrive at the mall with an overly-weak phone battery hand their battery to the service people along with a deposit, for which they receive a fully-charged 'loaner' battery. When the people are ready to leave the mall, they return to the 'charging station' where they return the loaner battery and get back their deposit (less a service fee).   

       Still probably not really practical as a stand-alone business model, but might be a useful service for mobile-phone vendors to provide for their customers (since they already have the retail space for their other operations).
supercat, Nov 15 2004


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