There’s a new word in the language of business that sounds negative at first but is intended to be just the opposite. The word is “disruptive” and it refers to a new way to do an old thing. Examples are the replacement of the gas lamps that illuminated streets and homes with electric bulbs, or the horse and carriage by the automobile. In the case of the coin-operated machine route, it’s the old record playing jukeboxes by the new digital players.
Others would certainly include the positive disruption of the amusement game business by modern electronics, as when solid state pingames swept the old electro-mechanical devices into the dustbin of coin-op history back in the ’70s. But, the digital takeover of coin music tugged much more at the emotional nerve that runs through this business…a business once and sometimes still called the “jukebox industry.”
I remember years back when we shot a front cover photo of recording artist Kenny Rogers hugging that year’s new Rowe CD machine when I asked him if he missed the days of the 45rpm box. He said he didn’t mind the new technology at all (I’m sure he then thought “provided it’s playing my music on it”). And speaking of new, “disruptive” technology, have you noticed how mobile phone apps are ticking up collections?
Each time there’s a market disruption that scores, it’s because its improved the old way with something that works better, earns more money or maybe both. It was pure and simple “progress” at work. But, the idea of replacing the familiar U.S. dollar bill with a coin was something a lot of well-meaning people in this and some other industries chased for years that turned out to be a lost cause because it apparently flew in the face of improvement.
Now we learn that one big reason proponents of the coin used to say in order to push the Mint…the notion that it was actually cheaper in the long run to press a coin than print a piece of paper…isn’t necessarily as strong as once thought. Paper money has been upgraded and the decreased use of cash vs. credit cards has given the bill many more years of useful life before the banks turn bills back to the government for destruction. But when it came down to it, the public, the banks and the retail stores just never accepted the dollar coin.
The lesson is that something new isn’t always something better. Then again, sometimes it most clearly is. Sometimes the new takes a long time to replace the old (there are still a good number of CD boxes and an occasional 45 machine out on the national route). Other times, like when electronic pins first came out, the conversion was practically done overnight. FEC owners right now are looking at things like virtual reality…some holding back waiting for it to show if it’s got long legs or not, other plunging into it while the novelty is still novel. I guess in the last analysis, it all depends on the operator’s “business personality.” Just keep abreast of coin-op news so you know when it’s time to strike.