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Has anyone had any experience with Public Access Internet Kiosks, not as a user so much as an owner/investor?

Intuitively it seems like a pretty good idea to me, but I want to get some more, unbiassed, info on the business before I plunk down my hard earned inheritance (and more importantly try to pitch the idea to my DW!).

Thanks

MS Brit
"How did you wind up in Mississippi?"
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No investment experence. However, I would look at europe to determine how successful this would be; there are far more public internet kiosks/stores there than here. In small town in ireland and italy I've seen that there are a LOT of places selling internet time. In the states I would investigate schlotzsky's deli they have been very aggresive in giving away internet access with their food and are fo the belief that it has been a boost to their business.

I would also be very concerned about the barriers to entry into this business. They are quite low, a computer and a connection and boom you've got someone nipping at your heels.

The alternative to a kiosk: I've seen hotels, restraunts, and other places giving away internet access for free or along with their service just to get people in the door. It is quite hard to fight with free. Plus many cell phones are moving towards or have internet access. Free WIFI spots are surging quite a bit.

There may be better places for you to put your money.
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No investment experence. However, I would look at europe to determine how successful this would be; there are far more public internet kiosks/stores there than here. In small town in ireland and italy I've seen that there are a LOT of places selling internet time.

There is a fundamental error in that thinking. In Europe, you have to pay for local phone time, plus internet access (ISP fees). So, you could call your neighbor right next door, talk for 20 minutes and be charged $5-10. Local phone time is free in the U.S., therefore people can use their own lines very cheaply. The infrastructure is just more expensive to build in Europe, which is why SMS (short messaging system, or text messaging) on phones is gangbusters over there and nill here. Same with cell phone technology over there. You can buy a soda from a vending machine and charge it to your cell phone bill. That doesn't happen in the US.

BTW, I am a computer professional that spends A LOT of time on the internet and with my travel schedule, I need constant access to email or web. I have never used one of those kiosks and in the U.S., I have never seen anyone using one... even in the airports! I don't know any numbers for usage, I'm just telling you what I see.

baldguy13
-just sayin
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but I want to get some more, unbiassed, info on the business before I plunk down my hard earned inheritance

Any time you see a (1) late night commercial (2) showing people counting cash (3) driving expensive vehicles (limousines, yachts, private planes) (4) surrounded by women with more cleavage showing than the Grand Canyon you should place your hand firmly over your wallet before turning to run away.

These people are in the business of selling those machines -- nothing more. If there was any money to be made running the things do you think they'd be offering you some of the profit?

Assuming the thing is a doable business (HA!) do you think the Airports, hotels, malls, etc., are just going to let you just waltz in and set up your money maker in their lobby? How much would they charge you for space in a highly traveled area? For phone and power lines?

If they thought it was a good idea they'd be doing it. After all you just mosey in once a month and clean out the cash, right? Couldn't their manager do that?

Aside from the fact that these guys are running a scam just one of the reasons NOT to invest in this scheme is all the cell phones and laptops that connect to the Internet WITHOUT any wires! You see them everywhere people who need to stay in touch congregate because they can't be bothered to go looking for a machine to shove dollar bills into every time they need to check their email or contact the office.

The rest of us can wait until we get to the hotel to plug in to the Internet. How many people do you know who would pay dollars to delete spam from their email account?

Bottom line: The people who would use such a service already have a less expensive alternative and the cost of setting up this thing will be much more than these crooks are telling you.

Still not convinced? Call or visit the business office at your local airport and inquire about setting up such a service. Be sure to be sitting down when they tell you the price.
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Hummmmmmmmmmmm...
After posting that last I realized I was expressing my anger at the crooks who try to hoodwink people into these schemes in a way that also caught the questioner in the blast.

Sorry, I'm not mad at you, it's those crooks that get me so steamed!

Desert (Don't get me started on "No money down") Dave
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Sorry, I'm not mad at you, it's those crooks that get me so steamed!


Speaking of which - http://www.vindy.com/local_news/279097813607888.php

Excerpt:

U.S. authorities have launched 50 investigations to stop unscrupulous power wheelchair suppliers from defrauding Medicare and causing anxiety to beneficiaries like 85-year-old Euralda Clodomar.

Phony claims seeking reimbursement for the expensive equipment have skyrocketed to the top of Medicare investigators' problems. The agency pays 80 percent of a chair's cost, and its share grew from $22.3 million in 1995 to $663.1 million in 2002, already surpassed this year.



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<<U.S. authorities have launched 50 investigations to stop unscrupulous power wheelchair suppliers from defrauding Medicare and causing anxiety to beneficiaries like 85-year-old Euralda Clodomar.

Phony claims seeking reimbursement for the expensive equipment have skyrocketed to the top of Medicare investigators' problems. The agency pays 80 percent of a chair's cost, and its share grew from $22.3 million in 1995 to $663.1 million in 2002, already surpassed this year.
>>


Is this a new franchise?



Seattle Pioneer
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Has anyone had any experience with Public Access Internet Kiosks, not as a user so much as an owner/investor?

I've only had experience with them as a user. I have a lot of computers in our house and normally do not have a need for them, but there was one time I did and it was very handy and it may shed a little light as to a good location.

I was flying back from Boston and my flight had been delayed. I called my husband several times on the cell, but half the time, he does not even have his on, never mind answer it. He has a Blackberry, though. Logan had a public internet set-up. I hopped on and told him we were delayed. It worked great.

I would not consider one unless it was in an area such as that where people will not have home acces to a computer. Computers are so cheap now that almost everyone has one at home.
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Logan had a public internet set-up. I hopped on and told him we were delayed.

Was there a line to get online?

Have you ever seen one of these machines actually being used in the USA?

Would you invest?

Desert (Inquiring minds want to know.) Dave
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Was there a line to get online?

Yes, as I said, my husband had a Blackberry. It's a text pager that can be used to send and receive emails. I sent him an email stating we were taking an earlier flight (I had forgotten that we were not delayed, we were early).

Have you ever seen one of these machines actually being used in the USA?

Yes, and not just at Logan. In New Orleans, there were some Internet Cafes.

Would you invest?

No, I believe it's a dying fad. Too many folks have cell phones that are a hard drive away from being a full computer, Blackberries, and laptops with wireless internet. Why bother with a for-pay internet thing when you can use your Blackberry, cell phone, laptop, handheld, or some other things for less money, and with nobody looking over your shoulder?
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Was there a line to get online?

Have you ever seen one of these machines actually being used in the USA?


In the past, I have stuffed dollar bills into an airport computer kiosk to check my Yahoo email.



Would you invest?

No



ShelbyBoy
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<There is a fundamental error in that thinking. In Europe, you have to pay for local phone time, plus internet access (ISP fees). So, you could call your neighbor right next door, talk for 20 minutes and be charged $5-10. Local phone time is free in the U.S., therefore people can use their own lines very cheaply. The infrastructure is just more expensive to build in Europe, which is why SMS (short messaging system, or text messaging) on phones is gangbusters over there and nill here. Same with cell phone technology over there. You can buy a soda from a vending machine and charge it to your cell phone bill. That doesn't happen in the US.>

Posting from the UK I have to mention that this really isn't the case. I agree that some people do their internet access this way, but they are mainly those who are VERY light users (and therefore the least likely to use internet cafes)and those who can't be bothered to read and find out what else is available. Many ISPs give free internet access - being a customer at a major supermarket chain or being a member of a professional association is usually enough to get you free access. I've never paid ISP fees. Okay mostly internet time is not free - although in some cases it is as part of a cable deal. I still use a dial-up connection - as I also use a laptop this is cheaper for me than having broadband installed at both my home and my business as I can access my service at home and work for just one fee. 'Always on' connection sounds great but actually my businesses wouldn't work if I sat in front of the computer at work instead of err 'working'. At home my dial-up works so fast that there is no real reason to move to broadband apart from keeping up with the neighbours in which I have no interest.

Like most people who use the internet a lot I pay a monthly subscription to a service provider which gives me what is effectively unlimited useage. (There is an hours limit per month but even with quite heavy business use, a love of surfing and a serious addiction to The Fool - not evident from my odd posts here on Fool.com but I am always around on numerous Fool.co.uk boards - I never get anywhere near the limit.)For just under £16 per month it is a very cheap hobby and there are much cheaper deals available I just like the ultra reliability of my current service provider given that many of my customers now rely on ordering by email and many of my suppliers have abandonned paper catalogues.

<So, you could call your neighbor right next door, talk for 20 minutes and be charged $5-10.>

Eh what? You must be joking! I have a very ordinary phone tariff (not worth seeking out cheaper deals as I actually use the landline very little). I would expect to pay a maximum 6p per hour if for some strange reason I wanted to phone my neighours instead of popping out in the the garden and talking to them over the fence and less at evenings and weekends when it should be free or extremely cheap like 1p per hour which I think is what I get on my current tariff. My biggest phone use per week is to dictate over the phone a mega order consisting of small multiples of hundreds of items to my largest supplier. I'm on the phone for between 20 to 40 minutes to someone at the other end of the country during the peak morning period and it doesn't cost me that sort of money.

Lynn

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<The infrastructure is just more expensive to build in Europe, which is why SMS (short messaging system, or text messaging) on phones is gangbusters over there and nill here.>

Possibly the infrastructure is more expensive to build in Europe but that isn't why SMS is so popular here. SMS is a cult in Europe (or at least it is in the UK which is all I can really talk about)particularly among the young but increasingly among older people. I send the odd SMS myself but addicts devote much of their free time to this hobby which is by no means cheap. The daughters of one of my employees (who have access to as much online computer time as they want via their parents computer with access time as part of their cable deal to the cost of which the daughters do not contribute)wouldn't stoop to send free emails, they rack up the bills on their mobile phones over which they are habitually hunched while their thumbs fly over the keys! Texting is actually a very expensive hobby MUCH more expensive than sending emails via your computer. Though there are free text deals they tend to come with the more expensive mobile phone plans and the free texts are soon used up by serious 'users'. Texting into radio shows (you can email as well but that's definitely second class)is very popular but invitations to text in usually carry the warning that texts could cost up to 35p or more but it doesn't seem to put anyone off. Texting isn't an economy it is a culture and in many cases an addiction. In the UK there are national texting competitions (speed and accuracy)and national concerns about repetitive strain injury due to such rapid use of the thumbs on such a small keyboard especially by the very young. Part of the challenge of course is that successful fast texting depends on using codes and abbreviations which go far beyond the 'old' stuff used in emails and on discussion boards. If you are one of those who have never got beyond LOL and DD/DW/DH/DS and MIL/FIL it is not worth anyone texting you!

Notwithstanding all of the above I agree with your basic premise. What I would call an internet cafe (or a single free standing booth in train or motorway station), seems to be a really good way to lose money. Lots of internet cafes have sprung up in the UK (i.e. where the main source of money is the customers paying for the use of the computer online)and lots close down just as quick. I pass a couple of recently established ones every day as I drive to and from my business and mostly sad looking owners are alone or even outside taking the air and considering where it was that they went wrong. The free standing booths at stations seem to be mostly run by networks rather than individuals but you rarely see anyone at them.

Having said that some internet cafes do work but they seem to be those which have been set up as really really good genuine cafes serving extra good coffee/sandwiches/snacks and ALSO offering internet access at a reasonable rate or even free with your meal. One entrepreneur has been opening such in train stations on commuter routes (there is a very bad habit in the UK of thinking well they are tied into using the train so why offer them anything more?)where there were no facilities before. But the recipe for success does seem to be that these are really good conventional cafes - clean, warm, comfortable, look good, good food, AND internet access AND on routes frequented by business people.

I suspect that internet cafes per se are dead ducks already in the UK. The point is that it is so cheap now to get a decent computer. When I bought my first one it cost me an arm and a leg but each one I buy is hugely better than the last but costs much less. Internet access gets cheaper by the day, most serious business people carry laptops and now there is wireless internet access for your laptop in areas in places such as motorway service stations etc. Who needs cafes? Well they are needed in areas where people are so poor that they can't afford the initial investment in a computer - but in such areas the slack tends to be taken up by charitable organisations and governmental organisations seeking to promote inclusion, education and employment.

By the way internet access via mobile phone is generally accepted to be a failure in Europe and lots of mobile phone companies are licking their scorched fingers as a result. Mobile phone access is really only to limited sites and on the size of screen possible on a mobile is just not that enticing. The mobile companies are now going full out for the next wave which is sending/receiving photos or video via your mobile 'daddy's away on a business trip but he can still see you and you can see him' sort of stuff. Personally I think they are kidding themselves - Brits at least still have their heads down and thumbs flashing - but other people probably said that about SMS!

Lynn
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<So, you could call your neighbor right next door, talk for 20 minutes and be charged $5-10.>

Eh what? You must be joking! I have a very ordinary phone tariff (not worth seeking out cheaper deals as I actually use the landline very little).


I admit I was exaggerating the price, but my point was local calls in the U.S. are free, whereas in Europe you have to pay. This was told to me by people I know that live there and has been my experience from hotels when I stayed there (of course, they gouge you anyways).

Thanks for all the info on U.K.

baldguy13
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<I admit I was exaggerating the price, but my point was local calls in the U.S. are free, whereas in Europe you have to pay>

Agreed this is true but you should only pay peanuts for local calls and they should be free or at silly prices like 1p per hour during off-peak times - at least in the UK - I really don't have the faintest idea re: pricing in mainland Europe. Hotels? AAAAHHHH you are right never make phone calls from hotels in the UK! I carry a mobile phone (I'm arthritic so my van breaking down can be a bit of a crisis if I'm out in the countryside and the mobile really is a blessing then)but rarely use it but it is most useful when I stay in a hotel...

Lynn
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One thing that no one has mentioned on this thread is security. The idea is that you use this kiosk to conduct essential business that you can't otherwise conduct.

But, I for one would let the business hang fire until I could get my laptop to a phone connection (usually at the motel) rather than do that. Why?

Because essential business usually involves secure accounts, and passwords. It may involve displaying sensitive data on the computer display.

This is a computer in a kiosk fer' crissakes. I don't know where it has been or who has been at it. Do you think for a moment that I am going to type in a password on that machine? Allow anything in the least bit sensitive to be downloaded to that machine? By doing so, I could very easily be handing the keys to the kingdom to the hacker who installed a keyboard logger and a trojan on the system.
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