Letter Earlier this month we ran a short piece on UK pharmacy chain Boots' plan to deploy Kodak digital print booths in 1,000 of its stores across the UK.
This provoked a flurry of correspondence questioning whether or not they they actually worked and/or represented good value for money.
We're obliged, then, to reader Simon Prentagast who took the time to send us his personal experience of the man/machine interface:
RE: Boots deploys digital print kiosks
Having tried out the service just last night, I thought I'd let you have a user review of these Kodak kiosks.
The first thing you realise (or maybe that's just the Yorkshireman in me) upon approaching the kiosk is that there's no where on it to pay for your pics. The system works entirely on trust. You can print away to your heart's content without paying a penny. But more on this later.
The Kodak/Boots press release you reported on was right. The touch-screen system is quick and easy to use. An absolute doddle to use... granted I'm a little IT-savvy but, well, I think even my grandma could use it quite successfully.
And the speed? Once you've chosen the prints you want they're out and ready in minutes. I'd selected 21 photos and they'd finished printing after about 3 minutes. Good quality too... but I'd have expected nothing less with 1600x1200 JPG images onto 6x4inch photos.
There were also a number of nifty little features on the terminal too... options are available to crop, resize and "enhance" your photos, amongst other things. Especially useful if you wanted an immediate print from your camera without going via your computer.
So from a "does exactly what it says on the tin" point-of-view, it's all fine and dandy. However, there were some rather concerning flaws with the whole experience, not least the cost.
I'd decided I wanted to try out the kiosk anyway regardless (well, Yorkshiremanlyness not withstanding) of price and expected to pay a premium for the "instant" results but the prices are really quite high. The press-release price (i guess there was a very important "from" used on it) of 29p is if you want 50+ 6x4 prints. 20-49 will cost you 39p each, while 1-19 cost 49p each (The price of bigger prints increases accordingly). I paid just over £8 for 21 6x4' prints. Had I had the patience to wait an hour, Jessops, across the street would have done them for 25p each (20p if I'd managed to wait a day).
Compounded to this is the fact (as I mentioned earlier) that I could have actually just walked away with my snaps. Nothing to stop me. You choose your photos, print a receipt and get your prints. then you're supposed to take the receipt to the counter and pay. On this occasion I was decent enough to walk over and cough up (despite the lack of receipt, "Error printing receipt: The printing device was not found. Please press try again or press cancel to continue without receipt"). As I paid I passed comment about the level of trust employed with the system. The girl behind the counter simply giggled "yeah, we get a lot of people just walking off". Maybe my £8 covers a percentage of the prints that leave unpaid for then?
Anyway, onto the point of most concern. Having paid for my photos at the counter, i turned to leave the store, passing the kiosk again... only to notice the "Previous Pictures" button on the main display. Curious. I walked over and touched the button. Lo and behold, my photos. The kiosk copied them from my disk to print a copy... but you'd assume they'd be deleted afterwards. However, it seems they remain in a cache of some sort. Not all of my pictures were there, granted, but about half of them at least. Fortunately, there was a very obvious Delete button and I (hopefully) erased my remaining photos... not that I was bothered about people being able to see (and print??) these particular pictures. but what if I was a father and I'd printed some of my kids? a newborn baby in the family perhaps?
Perhaps this cache only remains for a few minutes? perhaps it's available for hours? Or just until the next unsuspecting user comes along? Whatever, it was certainly potentially long enough for that next user to come along and see (and print) my pictures, if they so desired. Most worrying.
It is. We contacted Kodak's PR outfit in the UK last week to ask for clarification on whether punters' pics were stored in the machine's memory. They have not as yet replied. ®