Automated kiosks approved to operate in Scottsdale

Scottsdale City Hall is at 3939 N. Drinkwater Blvd. (photo by José-Ignacio Castañeda Perez)

Automated instant-cash kiosks designed to recycle electronics and reduce theft-related crimes will begin to operate in Scottsdale, after City Council’s Sept. 11 approval.

The Scottsdale City Council approved on consent an item to install electronic device trade-in kiosks. These kiosks will have multiple features that guard against electronics theft, while also properly disposing of unwanted electronic devices.

“It sounded very interesting,” said Scottsdale City Councilwoman Kathy Littlefield. “It sounded like a good thing to try and to see if it works and I just thought, ‘yeah let’s move forward on it.’”

As of right now, the only company operating these automated kiosks is ecoATM. This company collects unwanted electronic devices and offers instant cash through the automated kiosks.

The trade-in process begins when a customer places their electronic device on a testing station where the kiosk examines it. Then, the kiosk will determine a price according to the model, condition and market value of the device. For example, a phone that has a broken screen and was released five years ago will be valued at a lower price than a fully functional, recently released phone.

If the customer accepts the kiosk’s determined price, they will receive cash for the device and the kiosk will keep the device. The devices inside of the kiosk will be kept for at least 30 days after the transaction. After 30 days, the devices are recycled and precious metals such as gold, silver and copper are extracted from the recycled devices.

Since the kiosks will only recycle the devices for the precious metals, Brad Lundahl, the Scottsdale government relations director, does not expect any pushback from pawn shop owners in Scottsdale. Since ecoATM does not resell the devices, they separate themselves from regular pawn shops and other electronic trade-in stores.

Mark Braxton, a Phoenix resident and frequent Scottsdale visitor, described how he thought the kiosks were a good way to reduce the amount of phone thefts in the city while also properly recycling electronics. Along the same lines, David Johnson, a Scottsdale resident, thought that the amendment was a good idea due to its environmental and crime-reducing traits.

While Braxton and Johnson both liked the amendment, they also discussed some possible undesired effects of the amendment. Braxton explained how there may be an increase of homeless people around the kiosk locations due to customers walking away with cash.

Meanwhile, Johnson focused on a more financial approach to the potential problems with the amendment.

(file photo)

“My first issue would be cost,” said Johnson. “If it would be taxpayer money that will be funding that.”

In an effort to further curb some of the issues relating to stolen property, staff from the Scottsdale City Attorney’s office, business services and the Scottsdale Police Department all contributed suggestions and comments that were incorporated into the amendment. Some of the incorporated suggestions included having a live representative remotely monitor the kiosk during all hours of operation as well as capturing a photo of the device’s serial number.

The kiosks come equipped with a series of safeguards that help prevent the sale of stolen property. Lundahl describes how a failure to pass even one of these clearances results in a voided transaction.

“They can ask the seller to open the phone and if they don’t know the passcode on the phone, then the transaction is voided,” said Lundahl.

“You have to show a valid ID and then they compare that with the photo of seller, if it doesn’t match then it’s a no sale.”

These automated kiosks will also work closely with the police department. For instance, a report must be submitted to the police within 24 hours of every transaction. This report requires an electronic signature, a right thumbprint of the seller, the date and time of the transaction as well as photos of the device and the seller.

Within 24 hours of a request by the police department, or other law-enforcement agency, the licensed person operating the kiosk will need to allow access in order for the police to review any transaction data recorded inside of the machine.

“All the information gathered by the company at the kiosks is available to our police department right away,” said Lundahl.

If the police believe that a device within a kiosk was stolen or involved in a crime, they will submit a retrieval request to the kiosk licensee.

Within three days of the police request, the licensee is required to give the device over to the police department.

While help from the police may help reduce theft-related crimes, some residents are not entirely on board with the idea.

“That’s a lot of taxpayer money,” said Johnson. “If the police are investigating every single phone that comes through, we’re going to have to hire more police officers and it’s going to be heavy volume if the kiosks are spread across the Valley.”

Scottsdale is not the first Arizona city to introduce these kiosks. EcoATM operates kiosks in other cities such as Avondale, Glendale, Surprise, Peoria and Tempe.

A license will be required in order to operate any kiosk in Scottsdale. The person applying for the license will need to meet a series of conditions set forth by the city, as well as a background and criminal record check by the police. A licensing fee of $500 will be paid annually per the kiosk location alongside the possibility of a $100 late fee.

Editor’s Note: José-Ignacio Castaneda is a student journalist at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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