Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: Over at Computers Are Bad, J.B. Crawford [a senior professional services engineer at GitLab] offers a pretty epic takedown of the startup "Cooler Screens", which has replaced the formerly transparent cooler doors at Walgreens and other stores with six-foot, heat-generating 4K resolution digital screen doors that block the view of the merchandise that's behind them to enable IoT "contextual advertising".
"I find myself looking at a Walgreens cooler that just two years ago was covered in clear glass admitting direct inspection of which tall-boy teas were in stock," Crawford writes of his experience. "Today, it's an impenetrable black void. Some Walgreens employee has printed a sheet of paper, 'TEA' in 96-point Cambria, and taped it to the wall above the door...."
While Cooler Screens was first tested by Walgreens in 2018 and backed by Microsoft VC money, Cooler Screens is now suing Walgreens, claiming the pharmacy chain obstructed a nationwide rollout of the technology and demanded its removal from stores. Walgreens said in court documents that technical issues plagued the technology, making it difficult for customers to see what was available inside the coolers, the report said. According to Walgreens, the screens froze or went dark, showed incorrect products or prices, and even sparked and caught fire in some instances. Cooler Screens, on the other hand, blamed what it called Walgreens' aging and poorly maintained electrical and refrigeration infrastructure for the technical difficulties.
Still, Crawford notes that Kroger has announced it's adding Cooler Screens to 500 more of their stores, the result of a three-year pilot that apparently went better than Walgreens. But he isn't buying claims that "90%+ of consumers no longer prefer traditional glass cooler doors," and closes with a final observation, "I am nodding and appropriately chuckling when a stranger says 'remember when you could see through these?' as they fight against retail innovation to purchase one of the products these things were supposed to promote. You cannot say they aren't engaged, in a sense."
Earlier on Slashdot: Shoppers React as Grocers Replace Freezer Doors with Screens Playing Ads.