A few months ago, I was introduced to DealExtreme online shopping from China. Oh WOW! They sold everything and the prices were absolutely insane and they included postage! Headsets for my IPhone that I would normally pay $15-20 for were available for under 2 bucks!. I could buy 5 and even if they didn’t last very long, who cares I was still ahead financially.
I went a bit nuts, placing orders in lot’s of about $50 each combining things I “needed” with things I “wanted” combined with “what the hell, it’s only a buck”. I became a regular at the Post Office picking up my parcels as they arrived in dribs and drabs, and having Xmas every few days as I ripped through the packaging to see what I had gotten this time. This was Nirvana.
That’s about when I realised something my uncle Sid had told me a few years ago; there is Made in China and Made in China! Goods made in china on contract to western firms (like Apple, HP or my uncle’s furniture business) could be of the highest quality because those same firms exercised rigorous quality control standards. Goods made in China designed to copy those goods made for the same firms have no such controls; make it quick make it cheap, send it out. Those sub-$2 headsets were lucky to last me 2 weeks. Synch cables fell apart just as quickly and only scrooge would give some of those toys to children in order to watch their disappointment as they collapsed on first use.
I still shop online (and group buy) but I now pay more attention to user feedback (which tends to surprisingly be uncensored and honest) and look for things that seem more realistically priced.
I learned that the rule “You get what you pay for” still applies, even with goods made in countries with ludicrously cheap labor rates. A lot of Australian retailers have been crying poor over their customers fleeing to online shoppers. Whilst there is some truth to that, it is also true that they – like the recording industry – have been monopolistic-ally ripping people off for decades and – like the recording industry – are suffering for it. Apple proved that if you charge a fair price for a product ($1 per song or <$5 for a small application), people will buy that product in droves. I think the same thing will happen with general goods and the first major retailer to focus predominantly on selling their quality wares online for prices that show a realistic markup will be the real winner in the current economic climate.
Oh, and the headphones? I now use Sennheisers. They offer fantastic audio quality. Retail shops offer them for about $150 but I paid about half that online.