Defeating retail price gougers

I’m dying to edit this video I shot over the weekend, but my new laptop doesn’t have a firewire port. I figured they might be expensive at ‘big box electronic store’ (name witheld to protect their good — actually best — name) but it was on the way home so I gave it a shot. I spoke to their ‘nerd squad’ person who was actually quite helpful and knowledgeable. He came back with a generic PC card that would’ve worked, but I would’ve also needed to buy a new cable because my camera has a different cable interface. Of course, they had a cable. The total: $60 for the card and $30 for the cable.

I knew the sales guy was knowledgeable when he clearly felt bad about telling me the total cost. But he’d been trained in retail; don’t solve the problem the best way, solve it with what you have on the shelf, and hopefully push accessories.

I might have bought that card for $30, because everyone and their mom manufactures pc components now. Good cards go for $60, and this wasn’t a good card, but at least their attempt was a little legit. But $30 for a cable? I’ve seen and owned a wide assortment of cables in my lifetime, and I can tell you that unless a cable is more than 50 feet long or is tethering an astronaut to the space shuttle, it isn’t worth 30 bucks.

When did every retail store on the planet start marking up all accessories 400%?  Most stores don’t even order small replacement parts, like light bulbs, springs, etc. Go to a watch store and they’ll tell you to buy a new watch band because they don’t want to sell you a 5 cent spring. Or, they’ll tell you they can only install the spring themselves for $7 because of “liability”. Stores don’t want to sell you small parts, they don’t want to stock them, and they don’t want to order them. And they do this in the name of better service.

Actually, no. They do this because they have an information advantage, exclusive access to distributors for parts, and they know that most people don’t care. Or, customers might know they’re being scammed but they have this need for instant gratification.

What kills me is that many of these big and small retail shops are making so much money on accessories that they’re driving honest small business owners out of business.

So I came home, got on eBay, and ordered a new, name brand pc card. Better yet, because it has the right interface on it, I don’t need a $30 cable. Or any cable for that matter. The whole thing, including shipping, is less than $20.

So getting to my point. Large corporations have already broken most of the social contracts that they entered in to with us. It doesn’t matter if their factory or HQ has been in a small town for generations, they’ll move it. We all know by now that pensions may not be there when we retire. And working hard and missing your kid’s ballgames won’t prevent you from a layoff if they need to cut costs to make the quarter’s numbers.

There is at least one contract they haven’t broken because they need your participation.  A lot of white collar employees have enjoyed a greater sense of freedom, and some are even getting paid their worth.  And companies, though dying to cut costs, also realize that a lot of this salary comes right back to them in the form of purchases of goods and services. At any rate, whatever gains have been made to help free agent employees get paid fair market value, we’re pissing it back with all this mass consumption: big homes, big cars, franchise restaurants, you name it. How many folks do you know who dramatically raised their income, saved nothing, all the while dramatically raising their personal debt? 

After 11 years in the work force, I’m still not getting paid my full worth, but I’m getting closer. I could very easily have helped “big box store” out by spending $90 on accessories worth at most $40 full retail. I could’ve even added on a frivolous warranty plan and put it all on my “big store” credit card, thus giving them two more sales for financial products I also didn’t need. Instead, I broke the contract. Underpay me. Overcharge me. It doesn’t matter, because you’re not seeing a cent of my money unless it’s on my terms. I think it’s called “the customer is still right”.

That’s my tirade. Remember, you vote with your dollars. If you’re going to support the nasty guy, at least get a good deal for yourself. They’re quite sophisticated and they’re doing their homework on you. They might, for instance, put super low prices on certain items to get you into the store, knowing they’ll make it up on $30 cables. They call these marked down items “loss leaders”. So just buy the loss leaders and then return when the rest of the stuff you need goes on clearance. Or use them for free research and then order online. By the way, don’t ever use this tactic to screw your local small business. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

It also works the other way. You shouldn’t feel bad about paying a little more for companies with socially responsible business models or any small businesses that give back to the local community. They probably need to charge more because they’re not dumping benzene into your kid’s drinking water. And they probably haven’t raided their employee pensions yet either.

4 thoughts on “Defeating retail price gougers

  1. avm(2)

    Right on man. I once bought a 130 dvd player from one of these “super” “purchase” stores. My buddy bought a dvd elsewher for like 40 bucks, but I thought I was doing the right thing. Guess who’s the sucker.

  2. Javaun Post author

    Ahhh… ok, you got me. But here I am with a broken leg, and my $130 multidisc dvd player is full of 5 dvds (some of them cool), and I don’t have to hop up and change discs.

    Got a better one. I know a guy who just moved down here, and his dentist convinced him to buy a $150 electric toothbrush. His response was “Dentists aren’t in to selling you things just to make money.” Well, I know for a fact that where he’s from they aren’t in it to make money. But Atlanta dentists are. Let’s talk about those whores for a second.

    Actually, the whole ADA has been whoring itself out. I’ve had an Atlanta dentist lie to me about having “5 cavities”. A second opinion said “I don’t see any cavities, and neither do the Xrays”.

    My current dentist even sent me a letter last year stating that many insurance companies have a set number of benefits, and thatn I should come in before the end of the year to blow through all my extra benefit money. And I wonder why premiums go up.

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