The Wallet. Now on the Verge of Extinction.

I recently purchased season tickets for my beloved Auburn football games, and believe it or not, couldn’t quite figure out how to get my hands on them… the tickets, that is. Literally. My guess is that if you’ve tried to purchase tickets to a game or concert recently that you’ve probably had the same experience.

Gone are the days of a physical ticket, apparently.

The tickets were right there on my phone. I could see them, but was told -- by the ticket office -- that I could not print them out and present them at the gate, nor could I present a screen capture.  I was also told that I could only “transfer” the tickets once. The problem is that I have been buying tickets with a friend for 35 years. He received the digital tickets and then transferred them to me.

So now, how do I transfer them to my kids? How can I sell extras on the corner of Heisman Dr. and S. Donahue? What happens if my phone battery dies before I get to the gate? They didn’t consider that, I guess. We’re all struggling and fighting our way into this new digital age! I guess it’s time to start buying Apple stock again. And my friends with flip-phones need to go shopping.

It’s not like I haven’t been paying attention. I’ve been hearing and watching the news regarding digital wallets and the move to “all things digital.” And, like most people nowadays, I do use my phone to make deposits, make online purchases on Amazon, etc.  I guess, however, that it wasn’t until this recent experience that I was confronted with the true reality of what “digital wallet” means.

It does makes sense, doesn’t it? Why carry around two or three 6-month-old Home Depot receipts, three of four photos of your kids when they were toddlers (and are now out of college), that Total Wine loyalty card, your Silver Snickers membership card and the insurance cards, credit cards, and at one time in a bygone age your college football game tickets?  Especially when there’s a very good chance that you’re going to leave that wallet somewhere and never see it again.

Joanna Stern, author of the recent Wall Street Journal article, “Wallets are Over. Your Phone is your Everything Now”, made the point that wallets “are over” with a reference to this scene from Seinfeld; which I think pretty much says why this is the best thing that could ever happen to guys and wallets; George Costanza’s bulging, exploding wallet.

Of course, the whole “contactless” thing got a big boost during COVID, and really hastened the demise of wallets and the rise of the smartphone as its replacement; especially when it comes to banking services, such as making payments.  Remember the “checkbook?  I think that the only place you can see one now is in the Museum of Natural History. Thanks to the pandemic and, as Stern puts it, “our new collective fear of touching, well, anything, we’ve embraced contactless payments as an alternative to handing over plastic rectangles. In 2020, in-store mobile payments grew in the U.S. by 29%, according to research firm eMarketer, which predicts that more than half of smartphone users will pay with their phones by 2025.”

Hotel chains now let you bypass the lobby and go straight to your room, and a soon-to-be-released app from Apple will let you add hotel keys right to your Apple Wallet. The same goes for house keys and car keys, provided your home has a compatible smart lock and you drive a BMW. With the exception of just a few things, your keys, your personal info, your passwords, your credit card numbers and your Total Wine loyalty card are all stored in this one little device. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, instead of that wallet that gets left somewhere, what if it’s your phone that gets lost? Unlike your wallet, your phone “is a secure device, with all of the info encrypted and biometrically protected,” says Stern. Plus, as she points out, if you lose your phone you can remotely wipe it using Apple’s Find My Phone.  You can’t do that with a wallet, can you? Not yet. Maybe Find My Wallet is on its way. Along with Find that Matching Sock.

So these days, while I do much of my banking, buying, and football game attending using my phone, I still love carrying a wallet, including my 50 year old “electronic” key to the War Eagle Supper Club!  It feels good there in my back pocket. Maybe there’s something almost nostalgic about it, connecting me with a time that once was.

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