Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Online ShoppingI just made an attempt to go shopping for a couple of things – one item I want for my smart phone and a Christmas gift for a friend.  After two hours, three individual stores and a mall, I came back home empty handed.  The first store had one of the items and it was overpriced.  The second store had a similar item at a greater cost.  The third store had neither item, and the mall had a limited selection of one item, again too costly.

Enter eBay.

After spending about 20 minutes perusing more options than I cared to consider, I made a purchase of the phone item for less than $6 compared to $30-35 in the stores.  I decided to go a different route with the gift.

Some reports for online sales the Monday after Thanksgiving – Cyber Monday – claim about $1.5 billion was sold online that day.  How many shoppers now go into retail stores to touch and feel and look over items, only to turn around and purchase them online at a much cheaper price?

Consumers rule.  Tech savvy consumers rule more.  It’s simple to use a smart phone app to scan an item’s bar code and immediately know which local stores have it in stock at what price and how that compares to the major online retailers like Amazon.

Customer service can play into this as well.  At the first store I went to tonight, one teenager finally asked if I was finding what I needed, but he couldn’t help with the one question I had and took no initiative to find out or ask others on my behalf.  At the second store that had a total of two workers and three customers, nobody even acknowledged my existence in the 5-10 minutes I was there (thanks, Sprint).  The third store was a messy, chaotic Toys R Us with no workers roaming around to help.  Only one person at one store in the mall actually initiated service and correctly answered my question.

Speed, cost, convenience, service – if the scales tilt in favor of online shopping, that’s where the public will go (as they already are).

Leap year lesson #353 is It’s no wonder why people shop online.

Friday night I took my father to buy a new computer.  His old one bit the dust a little over a month ago and it was time to start fresh.

We went to an electronics store in Lexington, KY and selected one that was a good fit.  Then we went to pay for it.  That’s when this store filled with electronics disappointed because of their way of dealing with someone who wanted to write a check. (There was the other unimpressive moment when the sales clerk attempted to up-sell Dad into buying a touch screen desktop unit and the screen failed numerous times to respond to the clerk’s touch, but we’ll overlook that ineffective sales pitch since we weren’t interested anyway).

Dad had enough cash on him and could have paid that way.  He could have used a credit card and then written a check to the credit card company.  But he didn’t want to part with that much cash or go through the hassle of a subsequent bill, eventually still having to write a check when he could just take care of it there.  However, when the sales clerk saw that he whipped out a checkbook, Dad was told “Just put the date on it and sign.  We do the rest by putting it through here” (pointing to the register).

After numerous failures of trying to get their device to do what it needed to do with a check, a manager was called over.  He wasn’t successful either.  We were sent to the customer service desk because they thought that machine could do it.  It finally did.

Life and our customer experience would have been much better for all concerned if they simply let my dad write a check, but they don’t do it that way any more.  Their new, improved, automated, electronic means was more complicated, less friendly, prone to error, and in my opinion a step back both from the elegance of simplicity and a good customer experience.  It leads me to leap year lesson #154 – Not all technological innovation is good.

Have you had any such times you can tell me about in a comment?

My work life and much of my personal life revolves around technology. The suggestion to step away from it occasionally is in part a response to what I’ve seen this week at South by Southwest Interactive.

The thought first came when I walked into my session Thursday and saw a roomful of people with heads buried in laptops, tablets and smart phones, rarely looking up at the panel of speakers in front of them. I kind of chuckled inside when I saw it and just stared a while at the crowd wondering if I had just walked into geek heaven or interpersonal hell.

The more pervasive indicator of the need is evident when you simply walk between sessions, down the sidewalk, go up or down escalators or stand in line somewhere. Most heads in those scenarios are bowed in worshipful awe toward the device in their hands, ignoring the 20,000+ people around them.

While I didn’t attend it, I wonder what the response was today to the session titled “Is Technology Making Our Lives Richer or Poorer.” I’ll have to look up what people said about it on Twitter. The subject also came up when an interviewer asked this afternoon’s keynote speaker whether we are losing something significant by walking around with heads buried in electronics.

It was during that keynote that I decided to stop the live tweeting for once and just experience the discussion – quite the contrast to the day’s first session which kept me constantly busy tweeting. In the keynote, my laptop was on the floor and my eyes were on the speakers. It was a very good change of pace.

I am grateful for my coworkers covering for me back at the office this week – a luxury I have not enjoyed for years – so that I don’t have to spend my evenings working, but can instead step away from it for a time.

Technology is generally good and helpful. It extends our capacity in many ways. But there are times when we need to put it aside and remind ourselves what it means to be human in real relationships with others.

Leap year lesson #72 is Step away from technology occasionally.