getting what you pay for

(6 comments)
May 23, 2008
Slashdot had a piece on a 66% Apple Market Share For Sales of High-End PCs. Some people pointed out that since most PC makers are compelled to offer products beneath that price point, this is a bit like saying "Newsflash: Apple has 100% market share for Macs!" but still it's impressive for a company that seemed to be on the ropes ten years ago.

In the discussion Terry "Discworld" Pratchett's Vimes' Boots idea came up, and they quoted the Wikipedia entry:
Early in his career, while he is still a nearly-impoverished Watchman, Vimes reflects that he can only afford ten-dollar boots with thin soles which don't keep out the damp and wear out in a season or two. A pair of good boots, which cost fifty dollars, would last for years and years - which means that over the long run, the man with cheap boots has spent much more money and still has wet feet. This thought leads to the general realization that one of the reasons rich people remain rich is because they don't actually have to spend as much money as poor people; in many situations, they buy high-quality items (such as clothing, housing, and other necessities) which are made to last. In the long run, they actually use much less of their disposable income. He describes this as The Samuel Vimes 'Boots' Theory Of Socio-Economic Injustice.
I'm not sure how fully I buy into this-- how solid is the tie-in between cost and durability? Sometimes things seem to cost more for their own sake, and you're paying for the brandname. Other times it is indeed a false economy, like when I went for these worthless CVS brand bandaids.

My philosophy tends to run that most consumer goods aren't interesting in and of themselves, so you should try and economize. My "morality of interestingness" says that WHAT a product does is generally better than HOW it does it. I tend to buy some of the cheapest cars on the market (though new, which might put me back on the 'lets pay to minimize risks in quality'), and my digital cameras are on the cheap side. Clothing-wise, I dunno, I've heard the Vimes principle applied in judgment of my default brand Old Navy but who knows -- I don't know if I'd want to pay more for a shirt that lasts seasons and seasons!

Any anecdotes? That cheap gadget that seems to last forever? That expensive item that was worth the cost because of years of faithful service?

Right now the current test for me is a $550 laptop I got from Micro Center. If it holds up and does what I need it to do over...well, I'm not sure how long... it would seem to back my idea of economizing on such things.

Link of the Moment

--Enchanting photo re-enactments of kids' drawings.

Quote of the Moment
Her perfect confidence in herself is a thing to which monuments should be erected; hers is a poise that ought to be on display in the British Museum. The affair between Margot Asquith and Margot Asquith will live as one of the prettiest love stories in all of literature.

In this book of essays, which has all the depth and glitter of a worn dime, the Countess walks right up to such subjects as Health, Human Nature, Fame, Character, Marriage, Politics, and Opportunities. A rather large order, you might say, but it leaves the lady with unturned hair. Successively, she knocks down and drags out each topic. And there is something vastly stirring in the way in which, no matter what she takes off from, she brings the discourse back to Margot Asquith. Such singleness of purpose is met but infrequently.
--Dorothy Parker. Frankly I need to be on guard against the same tendency in my blogging.