Sunday, November 12, 2006

Pricing Games

It's that time of year when the my mailbox is filled with catalogs. Which makes me quite happy; I need to buy Christmas gifts for a number of people, and I'm not going to a mall to do it. (I don't even like to go to shopping malls the rest of the year; one of the benefits of city living, in my opinion, is that you almost never have to endure that particular assault on the senses.)

Of course I always look at the catalogs as a marketer as well as a customer, and it's interesting to see what retailers do to get me to buy from them.

The other day a little Bose catalog showed up in my mailbox. I bought one of their Acoustic Wave stereos a few years ago, and I love it; I've also got their noise-canceling headphones, another great product that made a number of 9-hour flights between Houston and Paris this year far more pleasant. I like their products a lot.

There's just one thing about their catalog that makes me nuts: the actual prices of the products are in tiny, tiny print over much larger type that tells me what the monthly payment for the product will be.

So, for example, if I wanted a new Acoustic Wave System II, the price is - $102.33? No, that's impossible!

Of course it is. It's actually $1228. I had to look fairly hard to find that. Like most people, I flip through catalogs quickly, and it wasn't until I slowed down that I noticed the real prices in small print above the monthly-payment prices.

By that time, I was already thinking that Bose was trying to lure people into making silly monthly payments and racking up interest charges, kind of acting as a Rent-A-Center of high end electronics. I hate that; I'm one of those old-fashioned people who thinks that if you don't have the money right now for a piece of electronics, you just don't buy it. (Borrowing for a house: fine. Borrowing for a car: OK in a pinch, but avoid it. Borrowing for all else: bad idea.)

Which is really unfortunate, because if you do the math, Bose is actually offering you 12 payments that add up to exactly the same price as paying all at once - in other words, a no-interest loan. That is a good deal.

It's funny how that minor thing - the way prices were presented visually - had me thinking that Bose was playing tricks, when in fact they're offering a good deal.

These are items where the total price is important, because most people comparison shop. By making that hard to find, Bose nearly had their catalog heading straight to the trash bin in my house. Now it's actually sitting on the pile with other catalogs for an afternoon of gift shopping via catalog and laptop. Close call!

No comments: