Fidelity Tells Customers It's Shutting Down Self-Service Kiosks

Traditionally, when a retailer rolls out upgraded customer-facing hardware—be it an ATM, self-checkout machine or perhaps a price-checking kiosk—the chain says nothing until it has installed the new systems. Then it can discuss the benefits the new apparatus offers the customer. Fidelity Investments apparently chose to break with tradition.

This month, an electronic message started appearing on automatic deposit machines telling investors that the machines were being "decommissioned" early this year. Some store associates added that the timing would be more like May or early summer.

At first, this seemed an ordinarily unusual move, as few chains that have made the investment in self-service machines (Fidelity started rolling them out 10 years ago) bother to yank them out. But then Fidelity tried to explain the move, and what seemed merely unusual became positively surreal.

Fidelity, after being contacted, E-mailed a statement saying that "we are currently transitioning to new technology to better suit customer needs." Fair enough, but what new technology? The company wouldn't specify.

Fidelity spokesperson Teri Ginsburg said that the current kiosks will be removed the first half of this year and that—for an unspecified "period of time"—customers will have no automated assistance. She said that "new technology" and a "new approach" would be brought in that was "not a machine" and would be "not a direct replacement" for the self-service kiosks.

Asked why they didn't wait for the new units, Ginsburg said the removal of the old units would make it easier to put in the new technology.

Either way, why announce to all customers—months before it's slated to happen—that some hardware is being discontinued? What's the point? It doesn't help the consumer or the chain. We are waiting to hear more answers from Fidelity as to what the new approach is. Either way, this seems like a bizarre way to transition self-service approaches.