Long before ATMs, airline check-in kiosks, and automated kiosks that vend everything from DVD rentals to the iPod® became prevalent at airports the first Smarte Carte® luggage carts rolled into airports, introducing air travelers to the convenience of self service.
In 1967, Jim Muellner of White Bear Lake, Minnesota, was commissioned to design and build some of the first self-serve luggage cart vending machines for Hughes Industries of Littleton, Colorado. After introducing luggage cart services in Salt Lake City and Minneapolis, Hughes Industries went bankrupt trying to fulfill a larger order for the Los Angeles International Airport.
Despite the setback, Muellner realized the product’s potential and purchased the company with the belief that “helping people help themselves” would make traveling more convenient and enjoyable.
Smarte Carte, Inc. was incorporated in 1970, with the airports in Salt Lake City, Minneapolis, and Los Angeles being the first to welcome the self-serve luggage cart service for passengers.
As the number of Smarte Carte operations grew, so did the need to develop further automation and innovation. Mechanical tugs, dollar bill acceptors, change-making and remote management capabilities all were added to enhance the service and make it more useful for the customer. In 1992, Smarte Carte added its credit card payment option, making it the first vending company to offer unattended credit card acceptance.
For 40 years, Smarte Carte has solidified and expanded its reputation as an innovator and self-service leader in bringing computerized electronic lockers to airports, train and bus terminals, amusement parks, waterparks, zoos and ski resorts, as well as self-serve strollers to shopping malls. Most recently, Smarte Carte has added cell phone charging stations and vended massage chairs to its list of service concessions.
With operations at more than 1,200 facilities worldwide, Smarte Carte is now helping people with a growing list of services in a growing number of places.