Back to previous page


Post Most

Editor’s note: Our gadgets are cash registers, and they are transforming commerce

By ,

I was sitting in front of the television the other day, watching who knows what and noodling on my iPad, when my wife asked me if I knew anything about the latest Kindle from Amazon.

That’s Amazon’s iPad, I responded knowingly. You’ll be able to read books and watch movies, listen to music and check your e-mail, as long as you can connect to WiFi.

“I want one,” said she, and she grabbed her laptop and ordered one.

And in that simple act, I suddenly saw my family’s rapidly multiplying collection of smart phones, tablets and other digital gadgets in a new light.

They are all cash registers.

These point-of-sale devices are transforming commerce right before our eyes. Have you seen the television ads of people going into the Big Boxes, scoping out the merchandise and whipping out their cell phone to buy online?

I once thought that retailers could push back by offering unique merchandise and exceptional service. And then Amazon and others rolled out these sites where designer goods are offered up daily at crazy low prices — as long as you act fast.

It’s not just the prices; it’s the convenience. I needed a particular cable to play music from my smart phone through my car stereo, so I headed down to the Radio Shack next to my office, only to be met by a pair of baffled clerks who had no better luck searching through the inventory than I had.

Back at my desk, I described what I wanted in a search of Amazon’s Web site and up popped the result, exactly what I needed for less than a dollar and free shipping!

My online addiction is only getting worse. Last week alone, the mail brought soccer gear for my son, treats for the dog and shoes for me.

The whole experience reminded me of something my mom said recently. My wife has been chonicling our family history through Ancestry.com and discovered that my kin were once pretty high falutin’.

Which prompted us to ask what happened to all the money.

“I spent it all on online shopping,” mom said.

At least I inherited something.

© The Washington Post Company