My father's first rule of business was deceptively simple. Big Don always said: “Make it easy for people to give you their money.” He would then go on to explain: “If you run a business, before you do anything else, figure out how to collect money in the easiest, fastest and most efficient way.” Ryan Hamilton, an associate professor of marketing at Emory University, would agree with Big Don's rule: "The biggest complaint about retail shopping is waiting in line and checking out."


With the holiday shopping season upon us, you may notice some subtle changes beginning to happen in the money collection process. Stores and services are beginning to integrate technology into their traditional check-out options (at various locations around the country). 


For example, a convenience store chain is implementing a new “Scan & Pay” feature. “Customers scan in the merchandise they want to buy with their smartphones as they walk through the store.” It also connects with a rewards loyalty program, so customers can instantly take advantage of deals and promotions. (


A national big-box retailer is speeding up both finding a product and paying for it. “Shoppers can use a digital map to find what they're looking for, then make the purchase right in the aisle where they find it. Shoppers can skip the cash registers and use a credit card to make purchases. Employees stationed in the aisles will take the shopper's payment, then hand them a receipt.”



Some stores are even trying out systems with few cashiers (or none at all). “Users will use a new app to scan their items as they walk through the store, and there will be a final scan from a staff member as you exit to complete your purchase. It’s almost like turning the entire store into a continuous self-checkout stand.” Added to that: “Stores are planning to add electronic shelf labels that will instantly update prices and better manage inventory.” 



From the customer end, you may be seeing people paying for their purchases by using a mobile wallet. “When you're at the checkout line this holiday season, you could use that phone you're already clutching, or that new smartwatch strapped to your wrist. Many stores now accept mobile wallets, a technology that lets customers make payments via smartphone or watch. When it's time to make a payment  complete the transaction by placing the device near the terminal and scanning a barcode or using a biometric reader that may, for example, scan your fingerprint to sign off on the purchase.” (


Even if it's going to be easier to make your purchases, you still have to lug all that stuff to your car. It's here that an interesting (decidedly low tech) idea is being considered in Detroit. For downtown areas with limited parking, it's an idea that could benefit large and small towns alike. Noticing that many churches are located near the downtown area: “The city is exploring how to put municipal parking meters on church parking lots that might remain vacant most days to provide more parking options for neighborhood commercial corridors.” Could be a money-maker for both a city and a church. 



If you look into the future...way into the may not need a car at all when you go shopping. “As cities become more congested, futurists, designers and entrepreneurs are looking to the skies for relief.” Just get a personal helicopter. 

Companies are already working on this. “A small, relatively inexpensive, partially electric-powered craft designed for two people taking short hops – the SureFly, from a company called Workhorse Group. The SureFly is being designed as unique among helicopters. It would be able to cruise at up to 70 mph for more than two hours using battery power combined with a small engine. It would cost about $200,000, cheaper than many helicopters.” 


After observing how many automobile drivers run red lights in downtown Cadillac, there is no way anything could go sideways with folks piloting personal helicopters over Mitchell Street. Right? (


Perhaps with all this high technology, a bit of a respite with your pooch might be in order. Here's an idea. Take him to a tavern for a beer. This may not be as strange as it sounds because there is now beer for dogs, “...a nonalcoholic beverage packed with healthy ingredients for pooches.” The Good Boy Dog Beer company sells three different beers (in Houston, Texas) at dog-friendly restaurants and bars. “Among the other companies selling dog beer in the United States: Happy Dog Beer Co. in Montana, Pet Winery in Florida and Apollo Peak in Colorado.”


All the brews feature all-natural ingredients and are 100 percent friendly to dogs. The dog beers have cool names too, like "Session Squirrel”and "Mailman Malt Licker." (


Ah, nothing like bellying up to the bar for a cold one with Fido after a day of high tech shopping and personal helicopter flying. Just be sure you have enough digital cash in you mobile wallet to cover the bar tab and pay for an Uber-copter if Fido gets too frisky. 


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and