A couple of years ago many of the airlines started offering merchandise for miles. Those programs started out with some really low quality stuff, but in recent months the products offered have become much more interesting. Stuff that you would actually want to buy yourself.
Anyway, last week I went on the United frequent flyer shop and ordered a Roomba - a high tech vacuuming robot - for the price of 37,500 miles. Let's say that the average domestic flight on United costs $300, with advance purchase. The number of miles that I spent could have bought me a trip and a half to anywhere in the country, so essentially I bought the Roomba for about $450.
You can buy the Roomba model that I purchased for $279 directly from the manufacturer. Given those numbers it looks like I made a really bad deal, by paying about 60% more for the robot than I needed to. However, what good are my miles if can't spend them? As far as I am concerned, unspent miles are useless, and real dollars left unspent are worth their weight in... pennies.
Regardless, I am excited at the prospect of getting this new robot. For one thing, I am a gadget freak. If it's robot, I want it. Second, the prospect of leaving home in the morning and returning to a freshly vacuumed house without having to do anything about it is... appealing. With three small kids who get food all over the floor, every day, that's one fewer annoying chores we need to worry about.