Why It Takes 5 Days to Get an iTunes Receipt

01 Dec Why It Takes 5 Days to Get an iTunes Receipt


“Cool, I just bought a five-bedroom colonial in West Guangzhou with one click! Thanks, Alibaba!”


Conscious uncoupling.

No, you’re not dating Gwyneth Paltrow. You’re just getting emotionally swindled out of your hard-earned dollars, which… now that I think about it, is probably a lot like dating Gwyneth Paltrow.

Let’s back up.

Have you ever bought a song on iTunes? Of course you have — it’s easy! And if you just bought a Black Friday iPhone with Touch ID, those purchases are faster and more effortless than ever.

But here’s something strange about the transaction: Your order goes through instantly. The song downloads in seconds. But your receipt email doesn’t hit your inbox for five or six days.

Slow traffic on the Web? Ted Cruz was right about net neutrality? Hardly. You’ve just been “consciously uncoupled,” son.

Actually, behavioral economists call this conscious “decoupling,” (sorry, Gwyneth) and it refers to a deliberate separation between the mechanism of acquiring goods and services and the mechanism of paying for those goods and services.

Here’s a sample inner dialogue to illustrate how your brain reacts to this trick:

“Oh boy, the new Taylor Swift album is out! I better buy it since she’s taken all her music off of Spotify. Poor girl must be having some money problems, which is totally understandable for a famous, childless, unmarried white teenager. Hmm, I just clicked one button and scanned my thumb. Did I really buy the album? It looks like I did — the album is downloading. Did they really charge me? I mean I know they did, but maybe they just forgot this time? Oh who cares, my jams are starting.”

Five days later, when you get the receipt, you’ll barely remember the transaction. And it’s not just iTunes.

Think about the recent shift from paid apps to “free” apps with in-app purchasing — whether it’s more lives in “Sugar Crunch*,” more armies in “Clash of Tribes*,” or more rhinestone jumpsuits in “Alec Baldwin’s Hollywood*.” So what if you’ll spend twenty times more than you initially budgeted when all is said and done — you’ll never feel a thing.

Just how pervasive is the in-app purchasing model?


In fact, Apple and Google were recently pressured by the European Commission to remove the word “free” from descriptions of apps with in-app purchasing. And the resulting terminology is not the least bit confusing.

Hey, ever wonder why casinos make you exchange cash money for betting chips? It’s not because those heavy clay tokens are easier to carry around than your virtually weightless paper bills. It’s because if going “all in” meant putting 10,000 dollars in cash on the table, you’d think twice about it.

Same deal with resorts and those electronic pay bracelets. It’s amazing how quickly you can consume 78 dollars of mid-shelf crantinis when all you have to do is wave your arm.

And that’s the real point of Apple Pay and the mobile wallet. It’s the psychology of selling — making us forget we’re paying for goods and services by removing the social cues that trigger subconscious resistance.

According to BusinessWeek
, University of Chicago economist Richard Thaler scientifically proved that “decoupled” transactions are more pleasurable to consumers. And in 2009, Citibank tested the research “and found a mobile ‘tap to pay’ pilot program significantly boosted both the number and size of consumer transactions.”

Buy more, feel better, fuel the global economy, and help Taylor Swift afford that clearance rack H&M top she’s been eyeing for her big date with Chris Martin (sorry, Gwyneth).

People buying things without realizing. What’s the worst that could happen… to the global economy… again…?

 *One of my new hobbies here at SpeakerBox is not getting sued.


Jonathan Katz
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