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Empty Carvana vending machine in Denver a billboard for company troubles

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The problem with the politic advice, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything,” is that sometimes there’s nothing to say that’s both nice and useful. Take Carvana, the online used car sales company that hasn’t had a useful, positive thing said about it for at least six months. The woes to now have concerned registration issues in various states leading to some of Carvana’s trading licenses being revoked, a stock price doing an impression of the Titanic after the iceberg, and the prices of used cars retreating to levels below what Carvana paid for the cars. Now the city of Denver, Colorado is piling on over a novel concern — an empty Carvana vending machine.

Seems the company submitted plans to Denver authorities in 2020 to build a 75-foot-tall vehicle vending machine on a highly visible corner near the I-25 highway running through town. Remember three years ago, when things were just getting out of control and the boom in non-contact daily life was just taking off? Carvana bought this $5.8-million corner plot in the heart of the city, then lobbied the city council in 2021 to approve a rezoning measure allowing this eight-story vending machine. Remember two years ago, when everyone was fighting over everything, distracting everyone from the real horrors just over yonder? According to a report on 9News, part of the city council deliberations centered on whether the vending machine could be classified as a billboard. The council overcame its concerns and approved the rezoning. Carvana built the vending machine, completed in the fall of last year. And Carvana hasn’t put a vehicle in it. So there’s an empty glass castle — which, yes, is a billboard — testifying for months to Carvana’s troubles instead of delivering cars.

Because another bit of politic advice, “Don’t kick someone when they’re down,” also doesn’t get much respect, local Denver outlets began reporting on the empty building in December. Carvana told Denver7 last year, “We’re excited about opening this Denver Car Vending Machine location, and are working with Denver to finalize one remaining permit and get approvals from the City before we officially open in the new year.” Now that we’re in the new year and the vending machine has nothing to vend, Denver’s 9News produced a comical segment on the still-empty building. Carvana told 9News, “While we haven’t shared our press launch date externally, we do have a scheduled plan launch (coming soon). And as we do with all of our vending machines, we share our press release with all the details as we get closer to our press launch date.”

Just in January, the Wall Street Journal reports Carvana has laid off and let go of more workers and is letting other positions remain open, at the same time as having smaller sales and inventory that doesn’t sell as quickly as it used to. Barron’s reports Carvana admitted to breaking the law in Michigan which resulted in losing the operating license for its sole vending machine site in the state, and Seeking Alpha reports the battle between meme stock punters and the wider market got so volatile that the exchange briefly halted trading in the stock. We’re only two weeks into the new year. So the press launch date in Denver is likely well down the company’s list of priorities. Maybe things will go better with the Professional Pickleball Association, which counts Carvana as the title sponsor since October of last year.

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