Get Lost?

The Chicago Sun Times reports on a new first along the "Miracle Mile":

If you’re lost on Michigan Avenue, stop in the new Garmin store, and you won’t stay lost for long.

Billed as the world’s first GPS-only store, Garmin, the leader in the U.S. GPS market, on Saturday is opening a two-story, 10,000-square-foot store at 663 N. Michigan, featuring GPS devices for cars, fitness, camping and boating that tap into satellite signals to tell users how to get where they want to go…

[Spokesman Ted Gartner] said Garmin’s products typically are sold in electronics superstores, such as Best Buy and Circuit City, and online at But, he said, "Our GPS units in stores typically are under glass. In the Garmin store, people will be able to handle them and see how they work…."

The Garmin store was designed by Chicago-based Valerio Dewalt Train Associates Inc. A 30-foot wood wall that runs around the entire store is a dominant feature.

Is this a link to GPS’s heritage as manufacturer of devices used to help outdoors types find their way?

Architect Joe Valerio said the design is intended to be ambiguous. He said the wood "reminds you of the walls of a canyon. Or is it the hull of a boat? Or the fender of a car? It is intentionally mysterious."

The backdrop contrasts with the precision of Garmin products, which, he said, "use GPS technology to make our world much less mysterious and much more understandable."

While the Garmin store in Chicago is the first GPS-only store of its kind in the world, others would dispute that GPS makes the world "less mysterious" and "more understandable." Computing Which? magazine recently conducted a study comparing the use of GPS and traditional road atlases for navigating the cold streets of the UK:

The ‘good old-fashioned’ £8 AA map-book not only beat a sophisticated £220 sat-nav system – costing nearly 28 times more and getting the driver lost down "obscure" country detours – it also knocked the socks off a computer-based route-finder costing £45.

The low-tech road atlas also trounced the Government’s own free online ‘Transport Direct’ website, which was by far the worst, giving motorists incorrect directions, sending them miles out of their way and taking users twice as long to get to their destination.

The findings follow a series of high-profile cases in which motorists – following their in-car sat-nav systems – have found themselves diverted along obscure and unsuitable roads, stuck in fords, rivers, or impassibly narrow lanes.

Even easier, as my wife constantly reminds me, is to stop at the next gas station and ask. But homey don’t play that.

Speaking GPS navigation in cars,  the Central Valley Business Times reports on one way that you shouldn’t use GPS if you’re a car rental agency:

Fox Rent A Car really knew where you were. And charged for it, the state of California says.

The largest California-based independent car rental company illegally slapped surcharges on those who traveled outside a three-state area and unlawfully forced customers to buy liability insurance, according to California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

How did it know where its customers were driving? The state says it tracked its cars with GPS (Global Positioning Satellite) devices.

Fox paid nearly $750,000 in damages and penalties to settle the consumer privacy case. It would have been cheaper to throw in an atlas.