Monday, July 04, 2011

My Smart Buying Guide

Ever had one of those dilemmas where you can't decide on something to buy? Ever had the feeling that you're being suckered into something you know nothing about? The consumer goods may be smiling upon you. These days a simple oven toaster and the regular coffee maker are no longer the mundane household appliance. Each of those things are armed to the teeth with jargon and buzzwords that sound like something that should be better left on NASA's command center and with good reason.



Buy the product with the features you need. Shun the ones you don't.
Remember, you are paying for everything that goes into a product. There are no freebies here.

Here's an example:
When I was shopping around for an LCD TV there were two models of the same brand that had a P10,000 difference ($230USD). The salesman claims that the one that had the additional cost was newer. I looked it up online and used the product comparison feature of the page. The only foreseeable difference I could see on the item was an unfamiliar "connectivity" jack that was used for media devices - a device that I do not own. So if I were to consider this "newer" item, then that would mean that I would be paying for this jack - a feature - that I would never use. That plus the subjective satisfaction of buying the "latest" model.

So to shop smart, make a note of the things you are looking for in an item. iPod support. Playstation integration. Antimicrobial filters. Water-resistant fabric. Whatchamacallit nano-materials that would qualify your item for a trip to the moon.

There are some features you can never seem to scratch out of the list of shit you don't need. So get the ones with the least of those junk. We all agree we can never get one item because another one has the something you need or vice versa. We also have to deal with the annoyance that some features always seem to overlap another but never both. Pick the one you can inevitably cannot live without. Save that nice-to-haves for a future upgrade. In this world of buy and sell depreciating items an upgrade is always a work in progress. But for the mean time, your wallet will thank you for it.

If you're not an enthusiast or a newcomer, ALWAYS start with entry-level products. The suggestion that you go big time the first time is a good investment is a myth.

Why? Because you cannot forsee the future (yet). You may not like what you got yourself into. Maybe 3months to a year you'll probably regret it and hate it. In any case, you need something you can dispose of quickly and with a chance of getting some or most of that money back. Going the high-end range makes it difficult to dispose and even harder to deal.

Warranty
From a Filipino consumer's perspective, it doesn't make a sound budget sense to pay for a speculated event in the future.

Firstly, you shave off a considerable amount off the retail price. The savings you get can go to more urgent expenses you currently need.

Secondly, if the product does break down under warranty you will still face the same amount of corporate bullshit even if you did pay for it. They will - and this is a guarantee - give you a hard time to make warranty claims. Oftentimes, the cost to repair doesn't exceed the amount of your savings - money you have ON HAND.

Case in point, product X costs 35,000 pesos with warranty. It costs 5,000 less without warranty. If it breaks, it will most likely cost you less to have it fixed unless you really fucked it up. So why pay the excess amount for something that costs less to fix? That is not to mention that you're only paying for that peace of mind for a limited time only - it's not permanent. (There's no such thing as lifetime warranty in the Philippines.) It's like insurance, only it keeps you broke for a shorter period of time and has no complete return of investment. What about major breaks? Trust me, these manufacturers know the statistics. They always play with the odds in their favour. That being said, they anticipated that the likelihood of anything breaking in their product does not exceed the cost of your warranty. It's still about profits, my reader.

Update: Some Filipino stores have ramped up their after-sales service. This is good but I have yet to see one that honors lifetime warranties. Sometimes it really helps when western brands w/ reputable service warranties enter the country. You introduce a whole new set of business paradigms.

Research. Research. Research.

As with anything, knowledge is power. Be armed with it even if it takes you days, weeks and months to grasp everything, take the time. When it comes to buying, wasting time is better than wasting money. (Do not mistake this philosophy with investments, which is an entirely different thing.)

Lastly and most importantly, buy something you enjoy using. Don't scrounge on some cheap two-bit model of questionable quality because you just want to "try it out" because you'll never get the full experience. First of all, it's going to look like crap so you're gonna get bored real quick. Secondly, it's going to break down a lot leaving you with frustration rather than enjoyment.

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