Friday, February 22, 2013

When Something For Nothing Is Exactly That, Nothing

As a country we have been trained to always look for a "deal." Why pay full bore when you can get the same thing for less if you either shop around or wait for a sale.  This clearly was the design of merchants trying to get one up on the competition. However, it has become the norm rather than the exception. Of course, no one has calculated how much time and effort is expended shopping around for that better price but I have a suspicion it raises the price substantially. That's why Amazon is such a hit. Rather than getting in your car and going to the mall or going from store to store, you can sit in your Jammie's, cup of coffee in hand and shop to your hearts content. Again though, consider your time.

I remember the mantra about shopping at Mervyn's and am now hearing the same things about Kohl's department stores; never buy something at full price. Wait a week, even a few days and it will be on sale! And they are right! It is!!!

This is the problem with Penny's. They tried to change that format from nearly constant sales to a simpler format. Prices on everything were lowered (they didn't have to keep marking things down to get to this price) and there was a monthly sale. It has NOT been popular because while women seemed to have no problem keeping up with the myriad discounts, the men did. So the new CEO, a man, decided he would make it simpler to keep track of and everyone would be happy. They aren't. Possibly a comparison showing how the new pricing was really saving shoppers money would have been appropriate but it wasn't done. Shoppers think they are paying more and have voted with their feet heading to other stores. While I can't say for sure, they could actually be paying less. Great idea but poor design. Shame on the CEO. He came from Apple where design of every aspect of Apple products IS king.

Internet junkies in many ways are the worst. They expect things to be free. Listen to the anger and rage if a site, usually after being free, starts charging to use their site. Of course music and movies are the biggest losers. After years of monopoly, music recordings started to flow free over the Internet. Recording companies who had padded their profits for years on the backs of their artists were suddenly forced to look at a new paradigm. Given a choice listeners wanted a song not a padded album and surprisingly most would pay for that one or two songs if the price was reasonable. That's why iTunes was such a hit. The buyer could spend 99 cents for the song they wanted, not $10-12-14 for the entire album. Even better, a musician who created and sold his own music on iTunes got 70% of that sale, far more than they were ever paid by a recording studio.

This blog site, Blogspot by Google, is free. Would I pay for it? It depends. When I get my web site up and running it has a blog feature. I may investigate it because, as a graphic designer this has many creative deficiencies and limitations. They also get to track my readers but my ability to track them is just about nil.

I am not familiar with WordPress but I hear its quite similar. I know that a successful seller on Etsy uses it for both his blog and as a site where Etsy sellers can list a few items for free. The problem there is before an item is shown it has to be approved and other than one, for me at least, the others never are. And no matter where I log in to it, it takes forever to load, if it ever does. I mean minutes not seconds. My feeling is that free or not, WordPress is not up to snuff dealing as a store.

Which brings us back to free. Nothing is free. We can fool ourselves all we want but someone, somewhere paid for it and that someone is usually us. When I hear people talk about their free Medicare, I see red.  We, you and I, paid for it during a lifetime of work. I get even angrier when politicians use it as a political cash cow seeming to forget their constituents paid into it, the government didn't. Possibly if they had to depend on Social Security and Medicare like the rest of the nation, things might be very different.

Before buying you need to determine if you really need it. If that passes the smell test, then decide when you need it. I remember being told years ago about buying a computer. Should I wait for the next best thing or buy it now. The measurement was ROI (return on investment). How much would you save if you bought now compared to waiting? I might add how much more effective or efficient would you be if you paid for something over free?

Nothing is free. You must decide which in reality is the better deal, the "free" item or one that you pay for.

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