The Consumer Rule

Posted on August 31, 2014 by psu

Note: This is a rewind of a tleaves post from 2005. It’s still all basically true. Probably even more so.

Buying shoes used to be easy. You’d go to the store, try on two or three pair in your size and pick the one with the closest fit. You could also count on being able to go to the same store a year or so later and get another pair of the same sort without too much trouble. In our modern economy, this has all changed in the name of maximizing choice. The forces of “fashion” and “competition” conspire to make shoes change more often than the mission statement of a late 90s new economy web startup in search of a buyer. The result is that on those rare occasions when you do find some pair of shoes which do not look like spotted pastel moon boots and also happen to fit your feet, the chances of you finding the same pair in the same store a few months from now is practically zero.

Therefore, I have formulated the following rule for dealing with this problem: When you find something you like, buy five (5) copies of it right now.

Of course this problem isn’t limited to shoes. Almost any product that you can name has this problem. In recent months I have applied the rule to my purchases of

  • Headphones.

  • Cycling gloves.

  • A three button mouse.

  • Socks.

If I could afford it, I’d buy a couple copies of each of my digital cameras, the video camera I own and enjoy, but which is not in production anymore, my network base-stations, and perhaps my laptop computer. In retrospect, it would have been nice to have been able to clone a few copies of our previous minivan, since the newer model has completely ruined the front panel interface. But, alas, the rule is not practical to apply to everything.

I find it baffling that the world has to work this way. I find it annoying that I have to worry that every single thing I buy will be gone in a week, after I decide that I like it. Finally, I find it sad that the companies that make these products are under so much pressure to “grow” that they will do so at the expense of having a consistent and predictable product line.

While I’m complaining, just why is it that you can only buy winter clothing in the summer?