Out With the Old; In With the New!

Ryan Spoon’s post on how he’s being tempted to cast aside his tried-and-trusted Blackberry for a new iPhone (an exercise many Blackberry users will go soon through) got me thinking how shiny and new easily captures the imagination and dollars of consumers.

Even when products are services are perfectly fine, consumers are drawn like bees to honey when something newer, more sparkly, bigger, sexier is available.

From an economics perspective, this is what keeps capitalism going. If everyone was content to keep what they had until it no longer worked, rampant consumerism would be non-existent and economic growth would be less exciting.

As well, companies would struggle for higher sales given quality isn’t always seen as a good thing – think about how Maytag struggled with the fact its appliances used to last forever.

In the consumer electronics industry, more products are disposable as costs decline and innovation continues to happen. The large-screen DLP television you purchased a few years ago now looks downright dowdy compared with the sleek LCD models that have dropped so much in price, not buying one is a crime.

In the buy now, buy often world in which we live, the question is whether quality counts as much anymore? Are consumers interested in quality as opposed to getting something new at a low price?

I would argue the answer is a resounding “no” because most consumers aren’t willing to pay for quality even if these products are better and last longer.

Why pay more for something when you can get the same kind of product for less, and if it doesn’t last or gets quickly antiquated, you just buy another one?

Sure, this kind of behaviour makes the world go round but it doesn’t mean it’s the right approach.

For some other thoughts on consumer behaviour, check out this review of Rob Walker’s new book, Buying In.

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  • Leila Boujnane

    This is hilarious. We have been having this conversation at home for a few weeks now: I have not replaced our TV in close to two decades now. We actually don’t have a TV. The TV went into the garbage (well sidewalk really) 16 years ago. And now all the LCD flat screens are so so tempting. So it took a couple of weeks of conversations to discover that we don’t need one, we watch most everything on our respective laptops. There is no need to buy a piece of hardware no matter how tempting the ads are! And that brought us to discussing what we buy in general and it turns out: not much! I love playing with new products: I do that in the store. But as far as bringing them into my home: nope. Ain’t happening. Except for running shoes. As to quality versus price: the objects I love the most are old, decrepit and somewhat broken but I would not exchange them for all the money in the world! Funny seeing your post as this was fresh on my mind!

    Cheers, Leila

  • Mark Evans

    Glad you enjoyed the post. What I find is interesting is all the things on my wish-list (e.g. new MacBook, Bosch speakers, good watch) would be classified as quality products that are, hopefully, built to last.