Thursday, March 29, 2012

Paying for what you want...and getting it

Hands up, who likes Starburst Fruit Chews? Now, be honest. Which flavor or flavors do you prefer? I'd lay serious money that most people prefer the cherry ones, the ones wrapped in red. We've all been there: we open the package and accept the first one, but move quickly to get to a red. We suffer through the orange, accept the lemon, and initially enjoy the strawberry (but the enjoyment turns to disappointment when we realize the strawberry is no substitute for the cherry). All of the other varieties? They're fine, but let's be honest: cherry still rules. So here's a question: why can't we just buy cherry ones? Why are we saddled with the other flavors, the ones we could do without, in order to get what we really want?

And this phenomenon is not limited to just Starburst candies. How about JuJu Fruits? Or Good & Fruity candies? Dots? Mike and Ikes? In all four cases, the red ones rule. It's not even close. How many green and orange Mike and Ikes must we suffer through? Seriously.

We accept what we don't necessarily want all of the time, with regard to many different kinds of products. Consider computers. Most come loaded with various programs that we many never use. This has been the case since the personal computer market exploded. And this reality has always been a selling point for Apple computers, which aren't bogged down with pre-loaded software. Boutique PC makers have seized on this in recent times. For instance, my laptop is from Origin PC and I got to approve every program pre-loaded onto it, prior to it being shipped. Top to bottom, from internet browser to programming platforms.

But the pre-loading of software has often allowed computer manufacturers to keep costs down, so there's at least some sense here, some method to the madness. Still, it's an issue of consumer choice, in my view. And the choice I made was to get exactly what I wanted, not just what someone else wanted to give me.

How about DVD's (and before them, VHS tapes)? Is there anything more annoying that being forced to watch a bunch of previews--things you don't want--before getting to watch what you actually paid for? Disney is the worst offender, with regard to this issue. The old Disney videotapes were loaded with previews on the front end--sometimes ten minutes worth--and the purpose was simple: get the kids watching the video to ask for all of the others. Advertising 101. And the practice continued, as videotapes were replaced by DVDs.

As DVD technology progressed, with new skip and menu features, Disney kept up, making it difficult or impossible to avoid those damned previews. Other companies did the same, but were never so effective as the Mouse. BluRay--with it's pop-up menu feature and proprietary software--seemed to single the end of forced preview viewing. But that appears to be over, as a couple of recent purchases indicate a workaround has been found.

All this said, providing products à la carte is on the rise. Returning to the computer industry, it was such a service that propelled Dell to the top of the industry, an ordering system that allowed customers to specify hardware and configuration. And M&M's candies have made use of the idea, as well, by allowing customers to order specific colors of the candies in bulk, even allowing them to choose new colors not available in a typical bag.

Then there are car dealerships, once the scourge of giving the customer what they didn't want. Now, new car buyers can make all kinds of choices. Some manufacturers even allow you to configure your car online, order it, then pick it up at a designated local dealer.

So...why can't I buy a pack of all-red Starbursts?

Cheers, all.


  1. As an Agorist, I have to ask...

    Why can't I order only the government services I want? :)

  2. That's the subtext, Don. Now you've ruined everything...