How low does the price of a crappy product have to drop before it ceases being crap and becomes a good value?
I've always been of the mind that crap is crap, no matter what the price tag reads. If what you're selling holds absolutely no value to me, then why should the prospect of my getting it on the cheap make me suddenly have to have it?
For instance, I would never buy a used Ford Pinto. Having learned to drive in one, I can, without hesitation or fear of contradiction, offer a guarantee that I will never own one.
Now, let's say you offer to sell me a Pinto for $3,000. I would say "no," and possibly point you to the nearest psychiatric hospital for a consultation. It wouldn't matter to me if you dropped the price to a hundred bucks, offered me a hundred take it off your hands, or if the car magically changed into a flying mechanical pony. I don't want it. I won't buy it.
But the good people at Consumer Reports have made me question my way of thinking.
It's not like they plastered some splashy headline on the cover of their latest issue to cause this re-evaluation. I didn't even register the significance of it myself the first couple times I read the article. Fortunately, we keep the magazines next to the toilet, so I have a fair amount of time during the course of a normal day to dig out little nuggets like this one from the sea of statistics CR issues forth each month.
In the August issue of Consumer Reports magazine, there is an in-depth study of fast food, but not the kind that breaks down the nutritional values of the different food items and then tries to shock you with the knowledge that fast food is loaded with sodium, fat and carbs. Seriously, do we really need anyone else explaining to us how eating super-size portions of deep-fried preservatives is bad for us?
No, this report avoids nutrition and focuses instead on the results of a massive survey on quality and value. In fifteen cases, the people surveyed ranked the perceived value of a particular chain's food higher than the quality of the food.
See, I don't get that.
If the food is substandard, or merely average, then why does throwing it up on a dollar specials menu suddenly make it a good deal? I understand that my judgement has often been influenced by my lack of funds, time, or sobriety. There have been plenty of times when I've had to be satisfied with what I could afford.
Even so, crap is crap. Pricing it low simply makes it cheap crap, which is something we have always advised our children to avoid wasting their money on.
But maybe I'm the problem here. Perhaps I need to reconsider the way I judge a good deal from a bad one. A quick Google search just pulled up a bevy of 1979 Ford Pintos on sale for less than $3,000. If the sellers are willing to haggle on the price, maybe Our Daughter will understand how we couldn't turn down such a great value on her first car...
© 2011 Mark Feggeler