21st Century Snake Oil


By Odette Pollar,

New! Upgraded! Web-only Special! One month free!  Order now! There is something that is so seductive about upgrades and new technology. But, making different and better choices about the technologies you allow into your life involves being more cautious when you are considering the purchase of new or upgraded gizmos and gadgets.  Even if it is a great deal, how often do you use the tools and toys you currently own? Resist the temptation to buy something you don’t really need and may rarely use.  Try these pre-purchasing questions:

Do I really need it? For example, is it necessary for your work? Will it help your children do their schoolwork more efficiently? 

Will it make my life easier in some way? Will it enhance your ability to do a job or perform specific tasks? Will it enable you to stay in touch more easily with friends or family? If you have 15 contact numbers for your family of three wouldn’t you say that’s too much?

Do I already own something similar that is working well?  Today, a vast array of vibrant color choices, futuristic shapes and sizes, lightweight materials and ultra-cool, co-ordinating peripherals tempts buyers and blurs the line between what you need and what you want.

 When researching new gadgets, product reviews are certainly helpful, but better yet, get personal recommendations. Ideally, these should come from friends or colleagues who have similar work styles to yours or are in the same profession. This is especially important in conjunction with product reviews. Keep in mind, the people who write those reviews are more tech-proficient than you are likely to be (it’s their job, after all), and rarely have the typical shopper perspective you need to make the right decision for your needs.

It is critical to comparison-shop (online and on land). If possible visit at least three stores that sell the same merchandise. Don’t just focus on prices: evaluate the level of expertise of the sales reps and the quality of customer service. If a sales rep talks down to you or is impatient when explaining the functionality of an item, go somewhere else or speak with a supervisor. 

Remember to ask about trial periods and return policies. Some places will allow you to try the product for a period of time, money-back guaranteed if you don’t like it or realize you’ll never use it. (Note: Be sure to save your receipts and packaging!)

Every couple of months there seems to be a new revolutionary product introduced.  And the promises are always the same -- it will solve all your woes by making information handling easier, quicker, better, faster.  Between your cell phone with camera, instant messaging, texting, laptop and desktop (both with WiFi), Ipad, plasma screen, digital camera, satellite radio, PDA, DVD, GPS, MP3 and HDTV, is your life really any the better for it? Is the real issue ease of contact or frequency?  And how meaningful can it be to have 1200 Facebook friends? And how meaningfu can it be to have 1800 Facebook friendsMany people are too tired or busy to maintain close friendships at all.

Too Much of a Good Thing

If you think technology is driving you crazy, consider this poor man, who drove crazy because of technology (reported by the Reuters news service.) A Ukraine businessman was returning from the pager shop in Kiev where he bought a pager for each member of his staff, as a New Year’s gift. According to the local daily paper, “With no more than 100 meters to go to the office, the 50 pagers on the back seat suddenly burst out screeching. The businessman was so startled that he simply let go of the steering wheel and the car ploughed into a lamppost.”

After he had assessed the damage to the car, the businessman turned his attention to the message on the 50 pagers. They all read the same: “Congratulations on a successful purchase.”

When evaluating technologies—new and old—use the following as guiding principles:  1) Use what works for you.  As the old adage goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  The purpose of any type of technology is usefulness – they are simply tools to help you perform tasks with greater ease.  If an existing device is fulfilling its purpose, there is probably no profound reason to change.  2) New technologies aren’t necessarily the best. Proven technologies, the ones that you already know how to use, are often the best. Upgrading before you have even mastered what you already have means that the new item may become an unused item fairly quickly. And don’t forget the simplest, no-fail technology:3) Think. Turn off the computer, the television, the phone, and think about what you’ve seen, heard, and read.

Odette Pollar is a nationally known speaker, author, and consultant. President of the management consulting firm, Smart Ways to Work based in Oakland, CA, her most recent book is Surviving Information Overload. Email to share your comments, questions and suggestions: odette@SmartWaysToWork.com. Visit us at: www.smartwaystowork.com call: 1-800-599-8463.

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