Cheap Kiosk — Why It Ends Up Costing More

By | August 4, 2023

Off The Shelf Computers as Public Facing aka Cheap Kiosks

john ruskinOver the years self service has always been on the knifes-edge for cost versus benefit.   You can get cheap components versus quality.  Privacy filters have a wide range of price and quality and proven performance.  Too often a customer is budget-constrained and “goes cheap”. What usually happens is that given the long cycle of self-service they end up replacing the cheap, usually in tandem with a $200 service call.  I always like the John Ruskin quote.

We’ve been running into what we call ad-hoc or ala carte use of computers in an attempt to provide self-service to customers.  Providing self-service is a terrific goal, customers deserve multiple channels to do their business. It can be Point-Of-Sale, Telehealth or any form of check-in/check-out. Some verticals like healthcare have considerations over and above POS.

We’ve got images of POS situations using discrete components and calling it self-service. There are many disadvantages and almost no advantages (if you exclude lowest upfront cost and time factor).  Easy to go to Amazon and find something, or catch a sale at Dell or HP.

We will start with the computer terminal on countertop


    1. You can get one very cheap
    2. Speed of delivery is overnight if you like


    • The vendor rarely has any experience with self-service
    • Customer has to wonder if it’s a kiosk or some part of in-house POS
    • New standards can invalidate your solution. We work with U.S. Access Board and new standards for kiosks are coming out in December.
    • Usually easy to walk off with
    • Consumer grade touchscreen
    • Consumer grade computer
    • Consumer grade O/S
    • Medium and longterm cost is higher
    • Liability is higher (check with legal department)
    • Generally a shorter lifecycle than what they tell you
    • Adding devices is problematic at best
    • Privacy and data issues (via hacking or physical theft)
    • Privacy screens usually not provided
    • Healthcare iterations have stringent ADA requirements. Adding an Storm Audiopad “adhoc” does not necessarily mean ADA compliance.
    • If so typically it’s an add on/clipon which quickly gets picked on and looks pretty bad
    • Added devices are usually hard to find or get moved and then are hard to find
    • Added devices are much easier to walk off with
    • Added devices are referred to as “warts” because that is what they are
    • Some devices are not designed for use in adhoc position (Audiopad would be one for example)
    • Is it ADA — I doubt Amazon or Dell will advise you of ADA or ABA requirements
    • You usually do your own branding sign if you are intent on really going cheap (see picture)
    • The one on the right is dangerously close to being in violation of PCI regs
    • Ad hoc computers generally are easier to hack and steal information (publicly accessible ports biggest problem)
    • Cable management issues
    • Maintenance issues down the road
    • Multiple service points and contacts
    • Extended warranties are rare
    • User experience – projecting a “we went cheap” with ad-hoc solution doesn’t inspire confidence

Now For A Kiosk


  • The vendor has likely 30 years of experience in self-service
  • Purpose-built and purpose designed with experience
  • Experienced vendors know what is coming with new standards (U.S. Access Board upcoming)
  • Its appearance communicates your experience in positive manner
  • All the components are secure
  • Commercial grade touchscreen
  • Commercial grade computer
  • Commercial grade OS
  • You can add components easily
  • You have one stop for support
  • Liability is lower (check with legal department)
  • Sometimes software applications will have “qualified” self-service iterations that they will support (e.g. Epic)
  • Privacy and data issues are mitigated to a very large extent
  • No cable management
  • Maintenance and service is generally one-stop
  • Extended warranties are usually available for up to five years


  • Probably have to wait 6 weeks
  • Initially, the upfront cost is higher


We keep a gallery of image for “Not The Best Idea” up on Pinterest

Here are a couple of samples