When I was growing up, the more you paid, the better quality the product you were buying was. If you wanted a good frying pan, you could not pay 10 EUR for it, it had to be over 30. If you got 12 EUR jeans, you knew they would not last two washing machines, while you’d be able to count on the 30 EUR ones for at least a year. If your sneakers cost 10 EUR, a couple hundred meters, and they were gone. If you paid 20 for them, you’d make it to the finish line. Pay 50 and not only you’d run the marathon but you’d even look cool in them. Same with furniture. For 200 EUR you’d furnish the house with cardboard boxes. For 600 EUR you’d have self-mounted wooden furniture. Pay a thousand euro and you’d have a more respectable looking living room and the certainty no chair would break in quite a few years. Same with lights, TVs, cars, computers,… everything.
And so I still believed until more and more examples of the contrary have appeared in my life. We wanted lamps for the house. For my office: a 10-euro-halogen standing lamp. Quite simple, bare, white, metallic… un-fancy. I did not need any more. For the living room, (where people show off their quality??) a 30-euro-halogen standing lamp, with parallel “feet”, covered in a classy dark-brown layer of granulated material, with a top glass plate. I can move my lamp about without much effort and it’s been working without a glitch for over a year now. The expensive lamp has never really stood straight, is a heavy monster and besides making noise, it has shocked me twice already when turning on the light and has made the bulb burst twice (the two events were not related, by the way).
Another example: the static bicycle ZoltarStark mentioned in his The challenge continue post. We spent a whole week comparing prices and the perks you’d get in each price range. We finally went for a more expensive one, with loads of cool stuff. The cool stuff has never worked properly. Sure, we could have returned it, but 1. we decided that a crappy bike was better than no bike; 2. if we had returned it, my present post would not have been as cool, now would it?
Six and a half years ago, when I was off to Ireland to do my PhD, my father bought me a 3000 EUR Acer laptop with 64 MB of RAM and a 9 GB hard-disk. That laptop worked without a glitch for 5 years. It might actually still be working, for all I know. And I say it might because someone “borrowed” it from a hotel in Bogotá over a year ago, and we have not heard from it since… snif. By the way, if that person reads this, could you tell us if it’s still working? We won’t ask for it back, promise! Three years ago I got myself a 1200 EUR DELL laptop with 1 GB of RAM and a 60 GB hard-disk. Allowing for time difference and the drop in laptop’s prices, I had expected my new laptop to be at least as good as the Acer one. My DELL laptop… cannot be called a laptop anymore. Its card reader slot and Ethernet port stopped working a year and a half ago, as the left back-side suffered from overheating. The laptop is placed over 4 tiny dictionaries that hold it 3 cm over the desk to allow air to circulate as the fans struggle to deal with the heat. When you tell it to open a file from Windows Explorer, you can sing Andrea Bocelli’s Vivo per lei three times before it actually responds. Oh, Windows needs to be reinstalled from time to time for it to continue working properly you say? I could reinstall Windows, you say? Yeah… the screen stopped working a year ago. It’s been plugged to an external screen since then and you can only see stuff when it’s already finished booting. I basically have the poor thing running Thunderbird and that’s it. I’m using a, yet another, new laptop which only has Linux installed, in case you wondered what was I typing from.
And finally la crème of this post: the products that prompted me to write this… dissertation on failing products and pocket pains. Last summer we bought a portable DVD player. As with the bike, we researched, we compared prices, we informed ourselves of the options, we blah bla blahed a bit more… and finally went to MediMax and bought the cheapest they had: a Xoro HSD7100 7” portable DVD player for 100 EUR, which according to some pages could, maybe, be convinced to play multiregion DVDs. Not long afterwards we followed the same research path for normal DVD players and instead of getting the cheapest one in the shop, we bought a Phillips DVP5960 DVD player in the mid-price region, looking for better picture quality, sound and whatnot.
Xoro played multiregion DVDs from the start. It also plays.. well, basically anything you throw at it. It is quick to respond, its battery life is almost 3 hours and once you accept portable DVD players do make some noise when playing DVDs, its sound is excellent. My brother bought a DVD player not long ago which cost almost twice the price and it might have a 9” screen and run for longer, but is picky as hell as to what it wants to play.
Phillips takes 10 seconds to respond to the Power on command. And another 5 to open the door, making it quite annoying when you forgot to remove the DVD before powering it off. It makes as much noise, if not more, as Xoro (which is NOT normal for DVD players). The remote is more temperamental than a Chihuahua after being stuck in a box for the duration of a transatlantic flight. And if it improves the image quality, well, you’d have to have better eyesight than Superman to notice it. It does play multiregion DVD, after you introduce a code, though…
Conclusion to all this rambling… buy pretty things, for there is no guarantee in quality anymore, and save to be able to replace your purchases in case you did not stumble by chance on a good product.
PS. El Xorro wins of course!
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