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Future Tech Will Force Us To Be Smarter

This article was written by in Consumer. 12 comments.


Charles Darwin is often misquoted when referring to the concept of “survival of the fittest”, but his writings specify adaptability as the trait that individuals should strive for if they want to survive (and reproduce). In order for our wallets to survive in the future, we’re going to have to learn to be more adaptable by far. Businesses can tag information, recognize patterns, analyze data, get up-to-the-minute reports and make decisions based on your behavior. As long as there’s a way to opt-out of this, I don’t personally have a problem with any of that, but I sympathize if you do.

It’d be even better if all of these techniques were necessarily opt-in. Unfortunately, I’ve come across a few instances where opting out isn’t a reasonable option. In fact, your only option seems to be to walk away.

Harrah’s Loyalty / Rewards Program

When you go to gamble at most of the casinos operated by Harrah’s, you get to sign up for a rewards card. You swipe the card at the table and points start to accrue. When you reach a certain threshold, you are eligible for free stuff. That’s not particularly special; casinos have always done this. But casino employees used to do this manually, using just their eyes.

Harrah’s has a powerful and massive computer analyzing customer behavior on-the-fly, and here’s how the trick works:

  • You’re a regular customer, but not a big spender
  • Harrah’s knows how much you’re usually willing to lose on a given trip to the casino, before you leave
  • You gamble some, and you start to reach your limit
  • A nice Harrah’s employee brings you a free drink
  • You start making bad decisions and lose more money at the casino

This can work at any level. Depending on how much you usually spend, they’ll offer you a free dinner, a show, a room, etc. But now, the casino doesn’t have to spend any time watching you, deciding what to offer you, or even personally handing you anything. It’s all electronic and automatic. Swipe, lose, drink, swipe more. In order to survive, we’ll need to be a lot more clever, and understand the machine that is trying to manipulate us. I realize that sounds paranoid, but it’s just a normal fact now.

Of course you can just ignore the Rewards Card (I think), but why would you? Free stuff!

Microsoft Surface Table in the Bar

Speaking of drinking, imagine a table that knows exactly when to offer to refill your drink. What am I saying? You don’t have to imagine it, here’s the video:

Say you go to a bar with one of these tables, and it’s a bar which is honest enough to inform you that they have one of these tables, and you don’t want to be manipulated. It seems that your options now are:

  • Be more clever and adaptable
  • Leave the bar right away
  • Bring your own glass

Who knows, maybe if these smart tables become ubiquitous, carrying your own glass will be trendy. Maybe you could buy one and put your Twitter feed on it. (By the way, you can now follow me on Twitter.)

Published or updated February 9, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jackie

Huh, that’s interesting about the casino. My comfortable loss limit is about $5 though, so in my case they better be standing ready with the drink right when I get there…

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avatar Smithee ♦1,358 (Quarter)

Heh. Yeah, I suspect $5 is below the free-stuff threshold.

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avatar SimplyForties

So a lounge where the server would come when you needed it, without your having to fight your way to the bar or try in vain to catch someone’s attention? That doesn’t seem so bad to me. I don’t think it would make me drink more. I’d probably just leave a bigger tip because they were there when I needed them.

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avatar Steve

Certainly there would have to be some kind of opt in/out for the drink refilling bar. They can’t just keep bring you drinks until the end of time.

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avatar SteveDH

I don’t really want to be cynical here, but if the “perks” are based on how much you’ve lost, why would you call them free? OK maybe I do want to be cynical. Casinos and Payday Loan places are pretty much at the bottom of my list of places to go to.

Oh – that other thing – Does it eventually tell the staff to take your keys away from you or put a bucket near your table?

Heh Heh.

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avatar Jeremy

Casino drinks are always free. Win or lose, high roller or penny slots, doesn’t matter. If they don’t offer you one you just ask.

Heck, if you’re just going up to your room and you want a beer, sit down at a slot machine, put in a quarter, look for the waitress, get a drink, tip her a buck, and presto, $1.25 beer.

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