Products vs Services

We’ve known for a long time that products can turn into services. Years ago, we used to buy answering machines, fax machines, and copiers. Today I want to run down some categories that, for me, are services. I hope you find it worth reading:

pillar hat.jpeg

Hats. I’m follicularly challenged. I absolutely need a hat when it’s hot or cold, and if I don’t have one, I’ll buy one. For me, hats come and go. I try to hang on to them, but they have a way of wandering off, usually on the subway or bus. So I buy more. For this service, I pay an annual subscription fee of around $80, which keeps me in hats year round.

Umbrellas. I have a particular favorite trekking umbrella, made by Sea to Summit. I will use another umbrella if I have to, but I will then buy a new one when I can. I try hard to keep track of these, but I still end up buying a new one every 18 months or so. I figure they add value to the lives of the people who find them.

Earphones. I do have some very expensive earphones. But I also have a collection of $25 earphones that I take on trips. They come. They go. I don’t sweat it. If I had a pair of Apple earbuds, they would last maybe a week before I lost one. The good news is that it’s hard to lose a pair of serious headphones, so more and more I take those along.

Coffee. I don’t really drink coffee or tea. I drink juice and herbal tea. But I think in today’s coffee culture, coffee is now a service. It includes wifi, nice music, and a comfy chair. We pay for that service, and it’s worth it. In fact, I’m writing this now from a Starbucks, where the drink is secondary. I’m here for the table, chair, and wifi.


Water. Over the past few decades, water companies have tried to turn water from a service (pay by the month) into a product (pay by the liter). Today, humans consume almost 400 billion liters of bottled water per year:



I very rarely buy a bottle of water. I go out of my way to ask for or find tap water wherever I am, unless I believe the local tap water has germs that could make me sick.

Media. Remember when you bought an album and played it? Or when you bought a movie on a DVD? Now, we don’t buy songs and movies. We pay a subscription fee and we watch as much as we like.

What else? What other products have become services for you?