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State of Electronics Shopping in Canada

By Mike Lin

crossover cable
Is this worth $30?

I needed to get one of these –>
So I was looking around online and I found these descriptions of essentially equivalent products from three different retailers:

Do you notice a slight discrepancy? Guess where I do my hardware shopping?

You have to wonder, what allows for such a huge price difference between stores that, on Broadway in Vancouver, exist in a 6 block span? I’ve had a thing against FutureShop for a while for this precise reason: they overprice items that non-savvy consumers are unlikely to the true value of. This combined with the practice of upselling has lead to more than one non-techie friend of mine buying a $40 gold printer cable (you gotta, you know, ensure high fidelity bits and stuff). Furthermore, they push ‘extended warranties’ on consumers who are unlikely to know the true reliability of what they are buying.

One ear headset
Totally awesome

So how the do they pull this off? One factor I guess would be branding, ie paying more for a logo on the packaging, even though this shouldn’t really apply with electronics because all the logoed and non-logoed stuff comes from same factories anyway. Also, somehow they have managed to convince a majority of Canadians that these big stores are the only places to shop for electronics. So if they don’t stock a cheap version of something, the consumer doesn’t know what to do and the upsell occurs by default. This is the case with one ear, clip on headsets, which, despite being totally awesome, are virtually unattainable in Canada because of their low price.

So, when shopping at Future Shop, you should be feeling that, with any given thing you buy, they could be seriously ripping you off (up to 90% apparently). They can do this because they are essentially leveraging an imbalance of information. You would think that if this information managed to spread throughout Canada, that there are places you can shop that don’t gouge you by default, that no one would actually shop at Future Shop etc. Well, that’s what the internet is for, right? :P

One Response so far

[...] Mike has a great post up about how the large electronics retailers in Canada are information-squatting to extract rents from the knowledge-poor. Jerks. [...]