Is there a sound more comforting than the light tinkle of bells that signals the imminent arrival of the ice cream man, or a site more typically American than the heads of children popping up like prairie dogs trained by Pavlov when the ice cream man cometh? Probably not— so it has been since the beginning of ice cream men and so it shall likely ever be. Ice cream trucks are an institution after all, unchanging and always the same—driving across the American landscape with Creamsicles and Rocket Pops for all.
Or then again, maybe there is more to the simple ice cream truck man then initially meets the eye with Gabriel—an ice cream entrepreneur who insisted we withhold his last name.
Gabriel has been in “the ice cream racket,” for nearly 30 years---and he says while on the outside everything looks much the same, from an internal operational standpoint even ice cream men have to go high tech.
Taking Mobile Payments
Gabriel says his trucks never took credit cards, because honestly they always seemed like too much trouble for too little benefit—people who have a credit card are holding a wallet and are also likely to be holding the $1-$3 they need to buy an ice pop. mPay, he said was a whole different ball game and always made sense to him, so when he incorporated his first mPos it wasn’t so he could accept credit cards (though as an ancillary benefit the software he uses also always has him to do that) but that so he could take payments by phone.
“See the thing is, Mom’s at parks, Dad’s at a game—sometime they don’t have their wallet, they left it in the car or in the house—point is, they don’t know where it is. Phone, well you find me one suburban mom who doesn’t know where her phone is at all times.”
At first, he said, he had to sell the technology to the consumers, as when he asked moms—usually those who were surrounded by two or three children screaming for ice cream—if they wanted to pay by phone they just looked at him strangely, like he was asking them to trade their phones for his ice cream. However, once it became clear that with a quick wave of the phone (or punching in of their PayPal pin), they could depart the scene with ice cream—phone payments started climbing.
Going Where The People Are
During the regular ebb and flow of the summer ice cream season the six driver’s who work for Gabriel cover regular routes. However, some weekends—like the Fourth of July—are special and the demand points for sweet frosty treats is a little more unpredictable. However, with their new ability to take electronic payments, the ice cream company can also keep track of where demand has been strongest.
“Different neighborhoods are different year-to-year—people go to college, kids are born, develop nut allergies, families move in—you can just count on where you’ve always gone, you have to keep track of where the sales are now. And it’s not only volume—some place there are fewer people buying but like, whatever, they are buying all the ice cream that isn’t’ nailed down, so you gotta make sure you got a guy out there. This is very serious business.”
And so, as the Fourth of July opens today, Gabriel’s driver will take to the roads to bring the children of Cape Cod all the ice cream they can eat. Here is to hoping they help make the holiday a little sweeter – and a bit more high tech – for everyone.