Chargers, market failure, etc.

Perhaps the greatest rip-off in the world of modern electronics is buying the cables, connectors, etc., in bricks and mortar stores instead of on-line.   Things you can usually find at ebay for $.99 or so show up in Best Buy and the like for $25.  Sure, the quality may be a little less, but for the most part, a USB 2.0 cable is a USB 2.o cable.  And, you know what?  If it goes bad, it’s pretty affordable to have a few extra.  I’ve probably bought  5 or 6 generic Motorola cell phone chargers for about $1 each.  Yes, they tend to go bad after a while, but at that price, I’ve always got another one waiting and still haven’t paid near what it would cost to go into a cell phone store and buy one.  My Ipad charger cord (the original) recently went bad and I just pulled out an extra one I had bought for my Ipod for $.99.  All good, and no frantic trip to the Apple store to pay $30 so that Alex would not throw a tantrum over an un-charged Ipad.  And, of course, I went on Ebay and ordered another $.99 spare.  When I ordered by Blu-Ray DVD from Amazon, I also ordered a $2 HDMI cable, to avoid $25 Best Buy version.  Anyway, Kevin Drum had a recent interesting post on the bizarring pricing of similar objects at Best Buy:

Apple Computer seems to think that $50 is a fair price for a spare iPhone charger, so I headed off to Best Buy today to see if I could find something more reasonably priced. And I did. But can anyone explain this?

On the left, you can buy a power adapter plus a cord for $21.99. On the right, you can buy just the cord — the exact same cord — for $24.99. Surely there’s a breakdown of the free market at work here. But of what nature, exactly?

Drum did some wrong math– it’s only $30 from Applpe, but the point about Best Buy remains.  I think the failure has something to do with the intellect of the customers.  Not to mention, if one is already ordering something like this on-line, Best Buy is about the last place you should go.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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