Growing up we had a joke in my family that we only shopped for cars in the back lot. We would go to a used car dealership, verifying their suitability to do business with the McKissens by checking for the “Buy Here, Pay Here” sign that would indicate they were able to finance our purchase. Once that was verified we would head toward the back of the lot, searching for something in our price range (ideally $3500, Or Best Offer).
Once found, we would sign the papers, the deal would be done, and my dad would immediately regret his purchase.
My computer purchases have also followed a similar, regrettable pattern. Every two years I would go to Best Buy, immediately heading toward the section of computers they keep closest to the door. See, Best Buy operates a bit (but only a little bit) differently than a used car lot. They put the cheap stuff up front, knowing that if you are in the market for a $279 laptop, chances are you will not purchase all of the other small, marginally useful items they sell.
If you’re in that market they want you in and out of the store.
And that’s what I would do. I would select my computer, spend an additional $200 or whatever the going rate is for Microsoft Office, then go home and immediately regret my purchase. For the next two years my computer would test the limits of my patience, and I would endure a Buddhist exercise in understanding the inevitably of suffering, and how such suffering was teaching me to get a grip on my desire to walk out in my driveway, in full view of the neighbors, and smash the $279 laptop into bits, then use my Smart Car to back up and drive over the rubble.
(It’s a good thing that never happened. Seeing me smash a laptop, attempt to back over the rubble in my Smart Car but instead causing it to tip over into my yard, all while unleashing a profanity laced tirade directed at Best Buy, used car lots, Chinese manufacturers, and German engineers may have been enough to persuade my neighbors to institute a homeowner’s association, and the Libertarian streak in me hates HOAs.)
Yesterday all of that changed. I decided the tyranny of the $279 laptop needed to end. Needing a new computer, I went straight to the back of Best Buy, and purchased a MacBook Air. For good measure, I threw in a cover and a mouse (though not an Apple brand mouse – those things are crazy expensive).
It may have been my imagination, but I think I was treated a bit differently. There was no upselling. No list of things I had to say no to while handing over my credit card. The deal was done in ten minutes.
My purchase was different in more ways than that. For the first time, I did not couple my purchase of a laptop with yet another purchase of Microsoft Office. My son, having worked exclusively with Google products for the last two years (in 2nd and 3rd grade), along with my high school freshman daughter, convinced me that there was no need. If the Apple products didn’t work I had all I needed, for free, with Google.
Once we were home my son used Google Docs to type up a one page biography of Darth Vader, inserted a picture, and shared it with me.
If you didn’t grow up in the 90’s, it may be difficult to understand how mind-blowing this is. Microsoft was a way of life. Word was just how you wrote something. The concept of a spreadsheet as anything other than a synonym for Excel just wasn’t there. It made me think two things:
- How is Microsoft going to survive?
- There’s getting a little older, then there is your kids sitting you down and showing you how to use new technology, all while bottling their sarcastic comments about you not knowing about this already.
Yesterday my life changed, in small ways, like having a new laptop, and in bigger ways, like realizing that my kids have reached an age where I can learn from them.
It was a pretty great day.
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