Here is the review from April 2012.
ecoATM is a unique player in the world of reuse and recycling in that it claims to be self-service and offer real-time cash incentives for selling back your used mobile device. According to the company’s web site, ecoATM Stations come equipped with cameras and artificial intelligence to quickly determine what kind of used cell phone you have and provides an estimate on how much it's worth and dispenses the cash. The company accepts mobile phones, iPods, MP3 players and iPads. ecoATM has also won some recent accolades. In January, it was named a Crunchies Award Winner for Best Clean Tech Startup and Lead411 chose them as one of the “Hottest Southern California Companies” that same month.
With all this said, I was eager to visit an ecoATM e-Cycling station and was happy to find out that there was one near me at Nebraska Furniture Mart (NFM) in Kansas City, KS. In fact, of the 46 kiosks on the company’s web site, there looks to be only three outside of California (ecoATM, based in San Diego, says it will have 500 kiosks launched by end of the year) and one of them, luckily, is within a 25 minute drive of me. So off I went to NFM…
The ecoATM kiosk is located in the electronics and wireless section of NFM and, honestly, it looked (or acted) nothing like those shown on the company’s website (these kiosk in Kansas were the 1st generation machines). For instance, I found out that the device evaluation was not based on an assessment of the device by cameras and artificial intelligence but by entering in information about the old phone as you would online: OEM, model type, condition, etc. The quotes are real-time and the station is connected via Wi-Fi. The other big distinction: the ecoATM at this particular ATM did not dispense cash but rather provided customers with store credit or gift cards to NFM.
After testing out the station, I spoke with David, a salesperson at NFM. He said that if you accept the offer provided, then the machine prompts a salesperson to come and enter a passcode into the kiosk (so much for self-service aspect). The end user then provides a photo ID or Driver’s License which you swipe at the station. Also, David said that about half of those upgrading to a new phone at the store will utilize the service, but, interestingly enough, he indicated most of the wireless carrier buyback programs will offer more for the devices than ecoATM. Finally, from a strictly recycling angle, he said there are businesses like nightclubs and restaurants that will send someone in with a large amount of old cell phones that no one ever claimed and drop them in to the kiosk. Additionally, once a week, NFM will send a shipment back to California to the company headquarters.
All in all, the service seemed straightforward and somewhat convenient but loses something in that it is not truly self-service, you receive only a NFM gift card or store credit and the sale reps were less than enthused about the value offered for the devices.
- Reuse and Recycling: An introduction to the shifts in attitude around mobile phone use
- Reuse and Recycling: Idle Mobile Device Forecast, 2010-2015