Half a croissant, on a plate, with a sign in front of it saying '50c'
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Automated sorting system collects and bags groceries beneath the gas station while you fill up
  (+1, -5)
(+1, -5)
  [vote for,

I was thinking, how much unneccessary time is spent with the current system of wandering aimlessly around the grocery store fullfilling the long list of things to buy. And not only in terms of time, but I tend to buy unhealthy and non-essential things when they are sitting in front of me. A trip to buy eggs and milk turns into a trip to buy eggs, milk, a six pack of root beer, some golden grahams, a quarter pound of turkey for munching, hot-n- spicy cheese-its, beef jerkey, and some kettle chips. Enter the gas-o-market, a modification of the existing network of rather narrow- purposed gas stations around the world. A subterranian cavity is erected with a space-efficient configuration of large freezers and refrigerators, as well as a stockpile of neutral-temperature goods. As one pulls in to fill up, they wirelessly transmit a list of groceries established earlier to the pumping station, either from their vehicle or from a portable device such as a PDA, or it is found and downloaded, linked to the customer's credit ID information.

Each item has predefined "bagging weights" which allow a computer to instantaneously sort the items for maximum bagging efficiency. Based on this bagging list, a system of simple robots on tracks gathers and deposits into bags (or a box or whatever) the contents of the grocery list. As this is happening the customer is filling up either with hydrogen or liquid borax or conventional gas, and by the time pumping is done a compartment will open in the side of the pumping station, protected by a safety door, with the bagged groceries ready to be loaded into the trunk. If there are more bags than can fit on a single elevator platform, it goes back down and within seconds comes back up with the rest of the groceries.

The payment is processed in the same transaction as the gasoline payment, so refilling the tank and getting a week's worth of groceries should only take about two minutes.

There is the convenience factor, but having everything underground saves money on rent, a closed refrigeration system keeps food fresh for longer than an open-air system, becuase it is a closed cooling system and embedded within the earth it saves a lot of energy, and on that front there are also no lights to power because robots don't need light.

innoventor, Feb 13 2006

drive-through grocery store Drive_20Through_20Grocery_20Store
similar concept, but less automated [innoventor, Feb 13 2006]


       Isn't the space below the gas station already taken? Always figured that's where they keep the gas.
Prak, Feb 13 2006

       Good for consumers, but what is the benefit to the store owners? They want you to buy all that impulse crap.
Galbinus_Caeli, Feb 13 2006

       Welcome bun (+) for a well described, halfbaked system. All the technology exists to do this, including automatic restocking if suppliers were required to deliver in palletised / unitised form.   

       [prak], the volume of space beneath the typical petrol station easily exceeds that of all the WallyMart stores in the US.
ConsulFlaminicus, Feb 13 2006

       No it doesn't. Each Wal-Mart Discount store is average 100000 square feet (source: Wikipedia). A Supercenter is average 187000 square feet. If there are still about 1233 Discounts and 1915 Supercenters there's a total of 481405000 square feet to fit under your gas station. Give you a nice generous plot - say 10,000 square feet, you've got to dig 48140 floors down there to pack all your Wal-Marts in. Even if you make each floor only 8ft high that's nearly 73 miles. Should be ok in the crust (about the first 7 miles) but then you've got temperatures of up to 3000 degrees celsius in the outer mantle which would make storage of most food products problematic.
Prak, Feb 13 2006

       [Prat] I said WallyMart, not Wal-mart. (what the fuck is Wal-mart?). And I said *space*, not 'suitable space', not usable space', not 'practical space'. You also make the erroneous assumption that the available area for each floor is constant as you go deeper - when in fact the land title systems in most jurisdictions would see the cross sectional area of the space recede to vanishing point at the earth's centre. And get with the program and use SI units.
ConsulFlaminicus, Feb 13 2006

       Touché. Is there really a shop called WallyMart?
Prak, Feb 13 2006

       A coelo usque ad centrum.
calum, Feb 13 2006

       This isn't supposed to be an end-all solution to all shopping needs, it's geared toward food and common household items. You also must take into account the amount of space that is saved by eliminating large aisles and adding a lot of vertical headroom. (think at least four aisles stacked on top of each other) The produce section, for eaxmple, is usually very large but it is very poorly laid out. I bet you could fit everything in the produce section into an 8-foot tall aisle half the length of a st andard grocery store aisle. I think there is also a good opportunity for this, because gas stations will need to rennovate their internal space anyways to allow for storing and pumping alternative fuels as gasoline becomes obsolete.
innoventor, Feb 13 2006

       Not having the impulse items was something I was thinking of also. I can't begin to imagine how many times I bought 3 candy bars for 99 cents or I bought a magazine simply because of the story I saw on the cover.
Jscotty, Feb 15 2006


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