Apple has a new way to take your money

It's easier than ever to pay your "Apple Tax" -- that price premium the company collects for its products. Well, that's how Microsoft refers to the price gulf between Windows PCs and Macs, as do many BetaNews readers. If you enjoy paying the tax then perhaps the Apple Store 2.0 app is just for you.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company updated the retail app earlier today, adding new features for taking your dough. Now you can order that shiny new Mac, iOS device or other item from your phone and pick it up at the local Apple Store within the hour. The option is a great benefit for those who forget birthdays, anniversaries or other events and need that last-minute, pricey gift that shows they care. Order while you drive and pick up the item en route to the gift's destination -- assuming there's no major freeway pile up while you shop in the car.

That may be you -- I would use the Amazon app instead. The online retailer's pricing is typically lower than Apple's, Amazon Prime subscribers get free shipping and you have no, ah, tax on the tax. There's just the Apple Tax to pay. The Republican congress and Tea Party say no to taxes -- surely that means on sales, too. ;-)

But wait, it gets better. Apple also has a new EasyPay system. Remember how years ago you set up that iTunes account with credit card information. Well, the Apple Tax collector wants to make it as easy as possible to pay up. Now inside Apple Store, you can use your iPhone 4 or 4S for self check-out. No way you say? Yes, way. You use the camera to scan the item's barcode, pay using your iTunes account and walk out the door feeling like a thief -- oh the elation! Those endorphins are something, aren't they?

Depending on disposition, you can:

  • Feel better than the peons waiting on some Blue Shirt Apple employee to complete their sales. You're a self-starter who can do for yourself.
  • Stand above the rabble. Self-check is undignified -- not work you would do. No problem. Other shoppers will use EasyPay, freeing up more Blue Shirts to serve you.

I spotted some Apple bloggers cooing about this innovative approach to retail -- that old backslapping about innovation ahead of everyone else. So I asked Stephen Baker, NPD's vice president of industry analysis, about the Apple Store 2.0 app and new ways the retail shops will collect your money. He answered more seriously than fits this post's snarky tone: "Self service checkout is not innovative. Have you been in a grocery store lately? There are some grocery chain tests with consumers carrying a handheld scanner to scan and pay while they shop the store -- so it has certainly been done, but usually those have some type of check at the door".

Now that raises an interesting question. How will Apple blue shirts know that set of iPod speakers you're carrying out the door were really bought and paid for? iOS 5 location services? Alarm detectors? Something else?

I first asked Baker about innovation (the answer above) and also impact on store sales. "In terms of increasing sales, I think Apple is trying to take their employees away from mundane tasks like ringing people out and refocus their store resources on in-store service", Baker says.

Mundane tasks, eh? Checkers are for Walmart. Apple Store is better than that.

Well, it is if you've got an iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S. Everyone else stands in line.

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