The Fi­nal Straw

Ken Rigsby counts the cost of tech ac­ces­sories

Computer Active (UK) - - Contents -

Re­tail­ing is part sci­ence, part art. Take su­per­mar­kets, for ex­am­ple. Typ­i­cally, the first thing you see as you walk through the door is fresh pro­duce. That’s no ac­ci­dent: the bright, clean ap­pear­ance and vi­brant colours of the stacked fruit and veg­eta­bles are in­tended to cheer you up — and the hap­pier you are, the more you’ll spend. You might also scent a few en­tic­ing wafts from the bak­ery sec­tion.

But su­per­mar­kets don’t make big bucks on ei­ther of th­ese goods. To make fat prof­its, they need to con­vince you that the crisp let­tuce and warm loaf would taste even bet­ter sand­wiched with a wedge of fine, ma­tured cheese. Fine, ma­tured cheese that, nat­u­rally, is rather pricey.

Oddly enough, the high-tech in­dus­try of com­put­ing is not so very dif­fer­ent to Tesco and the like. Yes, com­put­ers and smart de­vices are a lot more ex­pen­sive than your av­er­age sliced gra­nary loaf or dewy ice­berg let­tuce but, gen­er­ally, man­u­fac­tur­ers don’t make vast mark-ups on hard­ware. In fact, the se­ri­ous profit mar­gins are typ­i­cally made on the ex­tras: the cases, ca­bles and other kit that they tell us are es­sen­tial for pro­tect­ing or ac­ces­soris­ing our gear. Well, I’ve had it up to here with pay­ing over the odds for such things. It started a cou­ple of weeks ago in Pound­land, where I spot­ted a mouse for… a pound, ob­vi­ously! “It can’t be any good,” I told my­self, as cu­rios­ity saw me hand­ing over a golden nugget. But do you know what? It’s just fine. A bit pla­s­ticky, yes – but it works a treat. I sus­pect it won’t last more than a year or two but so what? It cost me a quid! In fact, I re­alised a bit later that my £1 mouse was more or less iden­ti­cal in de­sign and func­tion to the Mi­crosoft Ba­sic Op­ti­cal Mouse that I bought last year – for £15 ( www. snipca.com/23684). Mi­crosoft’s mouse is ba­sic al­right: ba­si­cally over­priced. But it oc­cu­pies only the bot­tom spot in my top-five list of ex­pen­sive ac­ces­sories. I’d be more an­noyed if I’d paid £30 for the of­fi­cial Ama­zon Kin­dle Case ( www.snipca.com/23685), as in fact I did last Christ­mas. I did so be­cause Mrs Rigsby wanted one for her Kin­dle Paper­white, which she’d bought a few weeks ear­lier at a dis­counted price of around £75. So, she spends £75 on a slim­line mar­vel that’s packed with fancy sil­i­con chips and mi­cro­elec­tron­ics, and I cough up not far off half the pur­chase price again for a bit of bent leather. So con­sider that num­ber four on my list.

At num­ber three is some­thing I would never buy, be­cause its price makes my eyes pop out. Which is kind of ironic, be­cause at £69 Google’s Day­dream View is meant to have pre­cisely that ef­fect — be­cause it’s a vir­tual-re­al­ity (VR) head­set for cer­tain An­droid smart­phones ( www. snipca.com/23686). But re­ally, it’s lit­tle more than a furry blind­fold with a bit of elas­tic and some elec­tron­ics thrown in.

When this par­tic­u­lar rant started brew­ing, I was cer­tain that my num­ber two would be num­ber one - and that’s be­cause at £29 for a 2m Light­ning ca­ble Ap­ple re­ally is tak­ing the pieces of eight ( www.snipca.com/23687). Do you know how much Pound­land charges for a 2m Light­ning ca­ble, in­ci­den­tally? Clue: it’s not £29. I bought one. It works. It might break af­ter six months but if so, it’d be 15 years be­fore I’m out of pocket buy­ing re­place­ments at this price (in which time Ap­ple will have launched 10 more charg­ing-con­nec­tor de­signs any­way).

Now, the drum roll. At num­ber one is… Pound­land. When I vis­ited, the bar­gain re­tailer wanted £1 – ob­vi­ously! – for a sil­i­con case for the ipad Mini. The catch? It was avail­able only in pur­ple. But I wanted blue. If Ap­ple says a near-iden­ti­cal blue sil­i­con case should cost £59 – as in­deed it does ( www.snipca.com/23688) – then who am I to ar­gue?

My £1 mouse was more or less iden­ti­cal to Mi­crosoft’s mouse that cost me £15!

Have you bought any tech from Pound­land? Let us know at let­ters@com­put­er­ac­tive.co.uk

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