If you are reading this column, you already see the added benefit the Internet gives you over just reading your paper copy of the Practical Accountant.

Also like me, you probably also use the technology of the Internet when items of interest appear on subjects of importance to you. For example, I use a free specific service that Yahoo! provides. Based on the key words that I supply, I get e-mails twice daily of news items that relate to accounting. I hyperlink the ones that look interesting. The Government Accountability Office also offers a similar service and I get instant notification when a GAO report comes out.

Let me illustrate exactly how this helps Jane CPA, who specializes in advising a number of supermarket chains, electronic retailers, book stores, a local home supply operation, a warehouse club, three department stores, a group of hardware stores, seven garden supply centers, and two regional drug store chains. One of the words that Jane keyed in for the Yahoo! news alerts was "supermarket" and she received an e-mail last Wednesday of an Associated Press story entitled "New Computers Make Grocery Carts Smarter."

She hyperlinked to the news item and found out that there are now supermarket carts with touch screens, which are activated when a shopper swipes a preferred shopper card. The screen will guide the shopper to the location of anything in the store. You know what it's like trying to find a store employee who can direct you to grape leaves. The screen also lets you order deli meat without standing in line. Boy, do I hate waiting on line for my half of pound of roast beef. Besides, it keeps a running tally of all purchases using bar code technology so checkout is quick and easy--just bag, without any further scanning, and pay. I guess I won't be reading Star anymore on line. So, how will I find out about where Paris Hilton is partying?

What else did Jane learn? She found out the names of two companies that sell these touch-screen devices; that they were recently on display at one of the supermarket industry's annual conventions in Chicago; who's test marketing them; where, when, and by whom they are being planned to be rolled out; and the cost.

She also found out that the carts are equipped with a type of the global positioning satellite system. Thus, as the shopper enters an aisle, the screen shows what is on the shopper's list (previously keyed in the shopper's home computer) in that aisle as well as sale items based on the shopper's past buying habits. Now, I won't have to go back to get the grated cheese and I'll know when three boxes of ziti are on sale for a dollar.

There's more I can tell you, but you get the idea. So, I ask you. Isn't technology grand? Consider the competitive advantage it gives to Jane over other CPAs in her region who don't yet fully utilize these types of Internet offerings.

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