Brick and Mortar No More

by Justin Weinger on December 4, 2012

Stock trading, home buying, retail, and job searching have all changed drastically over the past ten years.  There was a time that you needed a stock broker, a real estate agent, the local shopping mall, and a recruiter to achieve all of the above.  These days most of those tasks can be simplified and done within the comfort of your own home.  People just need to get past the media scare tactics involving identity theft, and the technology barriers that exist with older folks.  Using the internet has in fact become more secure than shopping at the point of sale, and the ease of use has improved to the point that anyone willing to take a few moments out of their life can learn how.

Remember when you had to walk into a bank, or a brokerage firm and sign up for an account in order to buy even one measly share of stock?  Those days are far behind us, and rightfully so.  The trouble with the brick and mortar brokerages is that they carry a ton of overhead.  In order to turn the same profit they did a decade ago they charge more in fees.  More fees means less return to you as the consumer.  Some brokerages charge as much as $50 for every buy and sell order they put through.  That is 10% of a $500 investment, which is far too much by any standard.  My online brokerage account only charges $6 a trade, and even then that is on the higher side.

OK, so you can’t necessarily buy a home online, but you can certainly shop for one there.  Between real estate companies websites, the MLS system, Trulia, Zillow, and Yahoo! Real Estate it is a wonder why any buyer even contacts an agent anymore.  That being said I did contact one of the first home I purchased, but looking back I don’t see why it was necessary.  You can view all the pictures, and sometimes video, that you want.  The online searches are so easy you can limit your criteria and find the available inventory within minutes, if not seconds.

Online retail may have gone through the biggest shake up of all…Amazon, anyone?  Let’s face it, most of the time they have the lower base price of any store, throw in free shipping and the fact that most people aren’t paying taxes on these items and you have the deal of a lifetime.  In Michigan, the sales tax is 6%, that is a big built in discount for those people buying online and not claiming these purchases come tax time.  I’m not advocating this I am simply being realistic as to what is actually happening right now.  The other benefit of online shopping is that price comparison can be done quickly and efficiently, even with brick and mortar stores themselves.  We now have apps that will allow people to visit their local retailer to see and touch an item (showrooming) and then scan the bar code to find it cheaper elsewhere.  Time’s are a changin’.

Job searches used to be done through recruiters and the local newspaper.  I did a recent scan through my local paper and they had a total of two jobs listed in my field.  Not exactly the career section of old.  Now a days you can search jobs, descriptions, salaries, reviews from both current and past employees all from your computer.  Not only is it easier to job search but you actually find out more than you would otherwise.  Don’t get me wrong recruiters are still used, but I see this avenue fading out as more employers realize they can save money by simply vetting employees themselves.

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