Thursday, January 14, 2010

Getting what you pay for

A company that tests consumer goods warns once in a while that the idea that "you get what you pay for" may not be correct.  They mean that sometimes an expensive item is not so good while something rather cheap is better. Since reading that idea, I have seen cases where it is quite true. 

When we rent a motel room, we have often found that an expensive room is not well furnished and does not have accommodating features.  Cheaper rooms are often superior in all noticeable ways.  Same thing has happened to me with "luxury" goods and services.  I suspect that the highest level of luxury is not that difficult to achieve and that attempting to rise about that level gets silly.  Personally, I have a limited tolerance in having my brow wiped or a bowl of warm water to clean my finger tips.

Sometimes, I am a sucker for the fancy bells and whistles.  The first microwave I ever bought cost around $500, back at a time when that amount of money was more than it is today.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics has an inflation calculator that says that amount of money today would equal $1900.  I wouldn't pay that for a microwave today since my favorite, the Panasonic, costs about $110.  What I learned with that first machine was that I have a tendency to pay for features I won't use and that are not needed.  Some expensive features may even impede performance.

I like to find a product that meets my needs and stay with it.  That policy has limits, too, though.  My favorites aren't that popular and the vendors go out of business.  My favorite gets moved to a much cheaper, sloppier manufacturer and the quality level drops but the same price is asked. 

Price is a poor guide.  Some vendors simply try to gain the reputation for being the high end of the spectrum without really having a product that merits the highest price.  It would be nice in a way if the highest price really did mean the highest quality.  Since that is not the case, buying is even more of a guessing game since you can't be sure what product is best and if what you buy doesn't work to your satisfaction, you can't be sure whether a higher price is warranted next time.

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