Spend, spend, spend
Following Apple’s recent and rather underwhelming WWDC keynote, the aspect that most excited one of my Macworld colleagues was the imminent introduction of Apple Pay to the UK. I suspect he isn’t alone – not least because I too felt the frisson of excitement at the idea of being able to wave a phone at a barista in order to purchase an over priced coffee. That Apple has massively trumped Google with its race to contactless payment feels like a big win.
But why? It is undeniably convenient to be able to pay in a contactless way. And the tech is futuristic and sexy. But it is kind of weird that the ability to spend money quickly now constitutes an exciting feature. Not least because the ability to spend money we don’t have is what got us in all that nasty trouble in 2008.
I’m not complaining. When I was a student and the bank handed me a credit card in lieu of an overdraft, I was only too happy to spend its money on CDs from Our Price (different times, reader, different times). It took me a decade to pay off all the debt I accrued from such fripperies, but I didn’t have to take the rope when the bank offered it. Indeed, I happily threw my head in the noose.
Of course, we now know that buying things on credit is a bad thing, by and large. Especially when entire nations are buying things they can’t afford, from other nations, who are making a mint from manufacturing (and then lending them the money back to buy more stuff). On a very broad level, the credit crunch was caused by the West borrowing money from the East in order to pay for products manufactured in the East.
The trouble is that tech companies are now offering us the ability to borrow more money, more quickly, to pay for more stuff. (If you are spending your overdraft in Starbucks, you are borrowing money for stuff, trust me.) What’s more, the hardware on which we are making those purchases is – yes – manufactured in the Far East. That’s right, in the countries from whom we are borrowing the money, in the end.
I’m not being a killjoy. Or, at least, I am not only being a killjoy. I like a pointless purchase as much as the next man. And I am certainly not blaming Apple or any tech company for giving the customer what we want.
But it does concern me that in this time of peak smartphone, we are being sold new devices on the basis that they enable us to buy more stuff, more quickly. It’s a more efficient way of getting ourselves into further credit crunchery, and we are welcoming it – nay demanding it – with one voice.