Shopping via satellite

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Kai Ryssdal: The economy is ticking along reasonably well, thanks in large part to the good old American consumer. We always want more stuff, whether we can afford it or not. But not everybody enjoys shopping. The crowds, the trek to the store, the search for that perfect something. It all gets tedious pretty quickly.

As of today, relief is at hand. Sprint has launched a new service that'll let cell-phone users shop with the help of satellites. Ashley Milne-Tyte reports.


Ashley Milne-Tyte: Sprint customers who already pay for a data plan can pay another $1.99 a month to shop using GPS.

Say you're on a hunt for an item — the latest brand-name sneakers or a digital camera — but the stores you've tried are sold out. Just turn to your phone.

Alex Muller: You don't even need to know where you are to find the best deal. You can search for the Nikon D-40, and then we're gonna be able to tell you what store is closest to you that carries that item in stock.

That's Alex Muller of GP Shopping, which is partnering with Sprint. He says his company's cut comes partly from Sprint, partly from the retailers who've signed up, like Toys "R" Us and Circuit City. The payment model is similar to the one used in online advertising.

Muller: When the consumer finds something they like, they click through and they see the retail location. At that instance, the retailer pays us for that click.

But technology analyst Rob Enderle wonders how many such payments the company will receive. After all, he says, the service is only useful if you know exactly what you want to buy. It won't be much help for compulsive shoppers.

Rob Enderle: You might use it, you know, once a month, once every couple of months. And do you really want to pay two bucks a month for a service that you're not gonna use that often?

He says consumers would be more likely to try the service if it was free. Right now, it's just another addition to their already bloated cell-phone bills.

In New York, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.

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