Wednesday, June 06, 2007


Ok, it’s time for another one of my trademark rants.

I was in a big store today when I noticed a bunch of TV’s for sale. Plastered all over the boxes were ‘SDTV’ logos. A small blurb underneath explained all the benefits of buying an ‘SDTV’, including ‘DVD quality pictures and sound’.

I was puzzled for a few moments. I’d never heard of SDTV, HD sure, but what the hell is SD?

After studying the box for a minute I noticed something in tiny print at the bottom:

‘Standard Definition Television’

If you’re scratching your head by now, let me explain. Standard Definition just means it’s a plain old regular TV. ‘DVD quality picture’ means pretty much nothing. Any TV made in the past 10-15 years can display a DVD quality picture…it’s as meaningful as marketing a TV as “VHS Video Compatible!”

So why is this the subject of a rant? Because it’s another case of using confusion to sell crappy products to people who don’t quite understand them.

If you want to sell something, you make a good product, you don’t try to trick someone into buying something by making them believe they’re getting something they’re not. I wonder how many people went into that store and ‘upgraded’ to a brand-spanking new SDTV?

I mean, it’s not exactly hard to understand the difference with a little research. It all sounds very confusing to begin with, but most of the time, these things are easily deciphered.

Let’s look at HDTV for a second. They come in 720i, 720p, 1080i and 1080p. Sounds pretty much like mumbo-jumbo right? Let’s see how long it takes me to explain the difference:

The number denotes how many ‘lines’ your picture is made up off. 720 means there are 720 horizontal lines making up your picture. The more lines, the sharper the image. ‘i’ and ‘p’ stand for ‘interlaced’ and ‘progressive’. Interlaced means each time the picture on screen is redrawn, it only re-draws every other line. Progressive means it re-draws every line in the screen, resulting in a sharper picture than interlaced.

There we go, I just explained HDTV in a single paragraph, 70 words to be exact.

My point is that it’s not hard to make sure a consumer is buying the thing they actually want, but who cares what the customer leaves the store with, as long as they pay for it?

Of course, it would be simple to just say ‘Buyer Beware’ and say that if someone’s dumb enough to go and drop a lot of money on something without researching what they’re buying first, then it’s their own fault.

Well, the problem with this is that plenty of people just don’t understand or don’t have the time to research. Sure, you or I would do some research, but what about ole Mom and Dad? They’ve heard of this HD thing, but they’d never heard of SD until they went into the store. The SD set is cheaper than the HD one, and it must be better than the one they already have, right? The TV they bought a couple years ago didn’t have SD on the box, so it must be some sort of improvement over the one they already have.

Then Mom and Dad leave the store, having just paid $500 for a TV that is absolutely no better than the one they already own. It’s despicable.

The other thing is that it’s not just TV’s, it’s any kind of product that people can sell to non tech-savvy people who simply don’t know any better.

One thing that drives me absolutely nuts is the ‘different’ types of recordable CD that Memorex make. They sell music CD-Rs, Data CD-Rs and Picture CD-Rs, all this despite the fact that a CD-R is simply a CD-R. You can store data on one of their ‘music’ CD-Rs and vice-versa.

The idea is simple. We’re supposed to walk into the store to buy some recordable CDs, and notice the different types and think “Oh, well I want to burn some music, so I’d better buy some of these, and I want to back up some files so I’ll get some data ones as well.”

You can talk about ‘buyer beware’ all you want, but your average person is going to buy the different types, because the ‘common sense’ response is “Why would they sell different types if they’re all the same?”

Well, the answer to that is ‘because Memorex want to screw you over’.

The only difference between these ‘different types’ is the packaging, and of course Memorex knows this. It’s like trying to sell blank video tapes and marking one set for recording sports, another for documentaries etc. They’re just blatantly trying to screw us into buying something we don’t actually need…and it’s for this reason I flat out refuse to buy any Memorex products.

All I can say is do your research before buying any electronics, and boycott any company that directly tries to trick or confuse you into buying something.


OzzyC said...

The SD thing (and marketing ploys similar to them) I totally understand from a consumer point of view. "Screw the customer, they'll never know anyway."

The Memorex CD example though, I get from the producer's side. Check this out...

"There seem to be a lot of consumers who think there's a difference between blank music CDs and blank data CDs. We can package them differently, and charge the same amount. It answers the customer's 'question' without making them feel stupid, without them having to do a bunch of research, and we can charge the same for these different 'types' of blank CD." In the end, it's a win-win situation.

Paulius said...

That's a fair point...BUT

How many people do you think have walked into a store, needing only a couple blank discs, but have bought two or three different packs, thinking they need a different disc for each use?

If what you say is true, surely it would make more sense to just put "Data, Music, Pictures" on the'd also be cheaper only having to produce one 'label'.

I disagree that it's win-win, it's a loser for the customer who needs 5 discs and walks out the store with three seperate packs of 15.