Friday, September 07, 2007

The Price You Pay

I’m having a hard time working up sympathy for anyone who rushed to buy an Apple iPhone, only to watch the cost of the device drop by a couple hundred bucks a few months later. That Steve Jobs is offering refunds/rebates to these customers is even more bewildering.

Isn’t that just part of the trade off of being an early adopter? These are the folks who always have to have the latest gadget or accessory or toy—and they have to have it NOW. They aren’t going to wait a month or a week or even a day to see if the thingamajig lives up to its hype. They definitely aren’t about to wait for a sale. And they often don’t even wait to consider whether they really want the damn thing.

Because their lust isn’t just about ownership, it’s about bragging rights and showing off and having something that no one else has. It’s not about keeping up with the Joneses, it’s about being the Joneses. And if in the process these people get burned on price and features—it’s the rare product that doesn’t improve upon itself with later roll-outs—that’s the bargain they’ve made.

It’s like this: Some people jumped on the first version of digital cameras and some people said, “Let’s wait and see.” And now the latter group has a camera with more mega-pixels and a wider LCD screen—at considerably less cost. It’s the Tortoise and the Hare, baby, and the lesson still applies.

I’m also not particularly inclined to feel sorry for mortgage lenders or the people who bit off bigger loans than they could chew. My husband and I were first-time homebuyers not that long ago. And we were told by the bank that we could borrow an insane amount of money. And we had those bright and shiny low-interest ARMs dangled in front of us. And we could have taken those offers and purchased twice the space and twice the amenities in the neighborhood of our dreams.

But instead, we were realistic about what we could afford as a monthly payment, considered the implications of rising interest rates, and made a decision that was decidedly un-American—we chose to live within our means.

I understand the temptation to opt for bigger and better. We settled for “good enough.” But at least we get to keep it.


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