An advertisement for a trip to Hawaii in 2022

Today’s paper carries an article about a bunch of new mobile phone apps designed to help consumers compare prices and find deals on the fly.

I don’t think I’ll be downloading many of them. The photo in the online version shows a woman in a grocery store, apparently comparing prices on yogurt cups. If she found a deal that would save her 10 cents per cup, would she take the time and burn the gas needed to drive to the competitor and buy them there? 

I wouldn’t. 

And, I wonder, how much time would be required to make use of the apps? Even if a bunch of comparative information is conveniently dumped onto my smart phone screen, I’d have to spend time learning how to use the app, then sorting through the information (and probably making notes on a pad) while getting in the way of other shoppers.

There’s only so much time I’m willing to invest in saving a few nickels and dimes. If I had nothing else to do, it might be worth the effort, but my time is worth more than the small savings I’d be gaining. If I had fewer jobs I’d have more time, but then I probably couldn’t afford a smart phone.

Which brings me to a last thought: to be useful, the phone has to work, and big stores are generally not very mobile phone friendly. I don’t know if it’s all the metal girders in ceilings and walls or if other factors come into play, but it’s not uncommon for me to have to walk outside the store to call home and ask Samuel what kind of snacks he’s craving. I’ve had that problem in stores all up and down the East Coast, and I can’t see running to the front of the store every time I want to compare prices on a product.

Maybe the smart people behind smart phones will figure out a way to make using the apps more convenient and to improve reception in the stores. In the meantime, I’ll keep scanning the paper, clipping coupons, and saving both time and gas by choosing one store at the time.

Digital specials will just have to wait.

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