The Supermarket of Technology

Making a successful trip to the grocery store is usually a difficult task for me to accomplish. But not for the reasons you’re thinking of.

You see, I prepared a list of food to buy ahead of time so I’m not making impulse purchases. I have the store’s layout mapped in my mind so I can efficiently get my items, pay for my stuff, and get the heck out of there without too much wandering around the aisles looking for that last one elusive item. (Where DO they keep the lemon juice squeeze bottle if it’s not in the produce section by the actual lemons?) The part of grocery shopping that really gives me the clanks is the overabundance of choices for one item on my list. Twenty different styles of peanut butter? Forty-two different kinds of bread? It’s a cursed blessing to have all this variety. I get frazzled when I have to zone in on the one that is priced right, or the healthiest, while a hurricane of other shoppers, their large carts, and their family are all orbiting around me, preventing me from zoning in on what I want to get. It’s a distraction, and I often am mentally exhausted when the checkout clerk hands me my receipt.

In my area of professional expertise, I am pushing my cart around the supermarket of technology on a daily basis. Every day, I am seeing new and improved ways to read my e-mail, write a document, spruce up a digital photo, listen to music, or watch a video. I read the nutrition facts on these products to see which are worthy enough to replace what’s currently being used in my technology kitchen. That’s one of the reasons why I’m good at helping people make sound technology decisions for their work and personal lives. I read the ingredients so they don’t have to. And for some strange reason, I don’t get exhausted after shopping at the supermarket of technology!

Most of the time, it’s a crowded place. The aisles don’t have a lot of elbow room. In fact, tons of websites are sticking their arms out of the shelves like carnival barkers to take me attention away from what I originally came for. They’ll offer free samples of new software, and if I like it, will charge a huge amount for the real product, cleverly disguised as a premium product. Now I don’t mind paying money for a product that is going to make my tech life healthier, but I have learned that new software and hardware often come with side effects. Just like those pharmaceutical commercials on TV, new technology may cause abdominal pain, nausea, blurred vision, loss of files, sluggish performance, and irregular pop-ups.

It’s important to know that the supermarket of technology is not a place for everyone to shop. Those not familiar with the aisles that show dazzling videos of attractive people having fun with some new software or device will find themselves getting uncontrollably drawn into the excitement. Most likely it’ll result in those side effects I listed above. I do see unfamiliar shoppers every now and then. Their eyes glazed over in overwhelm. Their brows furrowed in confusion. All they want to do is just get to the product in the mobile produce section they’ve used for years. I get that, and I feel bad for them.

Should you find yourself overwhelmed by too many choices on aisle six, the mobile phone and tablet area of the supermarket, keep these thoughts in mind:

Do I really need this sexy-looking new and improved device? Just because Jessica Alba is parading around Rodeo Drive with this new slim, shiny sparkly thing in her hand, does it mean I need to have it, too? Can I take care of my needs with what I currently have?

Will this cost me more money in the future? One of the tricks that some vendors in the supermarket of technology pull is to have you pay very little money up front, but stick you with a monthly payment over two or three years, which ends up costing more than the actual device! Be smart with your money. Most of us don’t need the latest and greatest.

Am I willing to take on a big learning curve with this new-and-improved device or software? If you’ve been enjoying how your two-year-old iPhone is working, the latest iOS 7 update might provide some serious confusion to your daily phone needs. Similarly, for almost two decades, Microsoft Windows has had a start button in the lower left that guided you to your programs. And in the lower-right, a little clock and icons have been present in the system tray to alert you to various needs with your PC. Just recently, Microsoft renovated their aisles in the supermarket and changed everything around with Windows 8. I’m now observing a whole lot of people accidentally bumping their carts into each other with confusion in trying to figure out all their changes.

Sometimes it’s not worth the trip.

If you do have to make the trip to the supermarket of technology, make sure you have planned your shopping list, researched how much money you are able to spend, and prepare yourself against the alluring impulse buys you’ll encounter up and down the aisles. You’ll make it through the checkout with bruises, and you’ll enjoy your purchases for years to come.