Technologically Enabled Convenience, Or Manipulation?

And how would you know the difference? At Starbucks, Songs of Instant Gratification

Starting tomorrow at certain Starbucks stores, a person with an iPhone or iTunes software loaded onto a laptop can download the songs they hear over the speakers directly onto those devices. The price will be 99 cents a song, a small price, Starbucks says, to satisfy an immediate urge.

“For the customer it’s an instant gratification,” said Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment. “You’ll hear the song, be able to identify what it is and download to the device.”

[…] The idea is no waiting, cashier or other buying barrier — aside from the charges that show up on a credit card or cellphone bill. And there, along with challenges revolving around security and business models, lies a chief rub.

The mobile-payment technology can create a desensitizing and seductive purchase experience, said James Katz, director of the Center for Mobile Communications Studies at Rutgers University.

“The more people think about a purchase decision, the more likely uncertainty creeps in,” he said. “One frame of mind is you’re helping create in consumers’ mind a source of pleasure, and enabling them to fulfill that pleasure,” Mr. Katz said of the mobile impulse temptation. Another is that “they’re preying on our materialistic souls.”

[…] “One of the great steps forward for denizens of the online world was the development of one-click buying,” Mr. Katz from Rutgers said. Before that technology, “there was a vast amount of evidence that a small percentage of people who started the checkout process actually completed it.”

In the mobile world, the barriers fall further. No checkout aisle, cashier or money changing hands. Just an impulse — click and a buy.