Thursday, November 25, 2010

The magic of the market, or how you can pay whatever you like for the same radio (usually way over the odds). Oh, and bad losers, I loathe them

Now here’s a thing. If you have the good fortune to fly BA, you will, at some point, be informed that you can benefit from many inflight bargains, items which, according to the airline, are substantially cheaper if bought in the air than down below. One such item featured in the airline’s inflight magazine and also on its ‘BA Shop’ website is a rather neat and very useful portable wifi internet radio which also doubles as an FM receiver. It is small – only around 10cm by 7cm by 3cm – but the sound is exceptional for a radio that size. I know, because I own one. If you buy one onboard your BA flight, you are promised a bargain: the radio (BA’s is pictured left) is being sold for just £85, which, BA assures us, is £44 off the ‘recommended retail price’ of £129. I seem to remember spotting one in the inflight magazine when I shot off to Freiburg for Paul Meyer’s birthday bash. Or perhaps I am just imagining it. But at some point in the past few weeks I came across the radio again and decided I wanted one (at which point I must be honest and admit to being something of a gadget queen, which is why my previous criticism of other gadget queens was a little disingenuous). I don’t actually need one, but that – as I’m sure you’ll all agree – is decidedly beside the point. So I googled it, and came across quite a few sites selling that same radio. I stress that in all instances the radios offered for sale were identical, and my pictures will show that what is offered for sale is always the same model. Nothing much in that, you’ll be saying, so what is the chap burbling on about now? Well, it’s this. On the ebuyer.com website, these radios are being sold as ‘Foehn & Hirsch’ wifi radios by – well, not Foehn & Hirsch because that seemingly solidly German firm doesn’t actually exist: Foehn & Hirsch is a tradename of ebuyer.com. Their reasoning in choosing the name was, no doubt, that the German’s produce quality goods (which, by and large, they do), so the punter is more likely to buy their gear if they believe it to have been put together by efficient German hands. Dixons did a similar thing when all things Japanese were in and began marketing its own-brand gear under the ‘Matsui’ name. On the ebuyer website, you’ll get quite a bargain compared to BA’s bargain. It is selling its radio (left) at £30 off the rrp of £79.99 for just £44.99, which price is all the more remarkable because it has gone to the added expense of having its logo marked on the back of each radio. Quality or what? The identical model is also sold by a firm called Viewquest. and here it will set you back £79. Viewquest, which calls it’s model the WiFi 200 (why 200?) obviously does not feel obliged to pass on any saving to the punter. And on the Amazon site, you’ll find any number of people selling the very same model. Visit Amazon and you will see them for sale at £79, £89 and £99, prices all around BA’s bargain price of £85. That’s where I bought mine. If your are feeling very flush and think that ’bargain prices’ are just for the plebs — people like that do exist; they imagine that paying way over the odds for something marks them out as being rather superior — you could always visit the Langton Info Services, England website and pick up a 'View Quest Portable Internet Radio’ for a very reasonable £109.57, which really does make BA’s offer look like a bargain. If you have decided that you, as one of life’s more superior types, most certainly do want to pay over the odds, but not that much over the odds, buy your 'ViewQuest Pocket Wifi Radio (pictured) for just £89.99 at Firebox.com website. You might on the other hand think £89.99 is still just a tad expensive, but that £44 is far too cheap, and that £79.99 is about right. In that case chunter over to HMV.com and grab your radio there. Then there is a company called Sovos UK which informs the visitor that 'The Sovos UK Wi-Fi Internet radio receives a
prestigious iF Product Design Award!' You can marvel it this superb design on the right, although quite why its 'prestigious' radio is identical to that sold by ViewQuest, Foehn & Hirsch and many others and quite why it's version was singled out for a design award isn't made clear on the website. And anyway, if you want to buy one of these 'prestigious' radios, SOVOS UK redirects you to BA's online shop (see above) although I first came across the company I was browsing eBay where you are able to byt the radio for £80, a little cheaper than the BA Shop version. You can rest assured that it will be the identical to all the others, whatever they are called.
When I first decided my life would be incomplete without one, I did a little hunting and came across the radio on the Amazon site for £58. Ah, I thought, my kind of price, and I bought it. I now wish I had done even more hunting. Then, having used it for several days, it occurred to me that my aunt Ann, who lives in France and listens to Radio 4 a lot, might also want one. She already has two Logik wifi radios (one of which doesn’t work) but the great thing about these is that they are truly portable. So I had a look on eBay and discovered that they are for sale there from various people at a Buy It Now price of around £69. But some people were selling them at auction, and I bought another – boxed and brand new (BNIB in eBay jargon) for £42. Admittedly, had there been more competition, the price might have crept higher, but there wasn’t and it didn’t.
The point is that all of the radios, whether from ebuyer.com, Viewquest, BA or the dodgy chap down the pub are identical. All are made in China and none has any distinguishing feature, which allows them to be sold by anyone who wants to do so, under any name they choose to sell them. And they are also free to charge whatever they want, whether at BA ‘£44-saving’ bargain price of £85 or the £58.98 I picked my first one up at. Isn’t the market marvellous? It might explain the agony the eurozone is now going through. It seems you can now buy Irish, Greek, Portuguese, Spanish and, most recently, Belgian govenment debts ('bonds') at rock bottom prices.

. . .

Heard in the news this morning that Belgian bonds are already being eyed up as a bit dodgy. The 'euro contagion' is spreading. Also on the news was an appalling report that the cholera epidemic in Haiti is also spreading. I wonder if they are somehow related?

. . .

One of the reasons why I bought a Samsung laptop running Windows (to but it into context, in addition to the two iBooks, one Powerbook and on works IBM Lenovo I had at the time. I have since sold one of the iBooks) was because since XP (I think, it might have been earlier) Microsoft has run an online gaming facility, including playing backgammon online around the world. And I do enjoy playing backgammon. The graphics in XP were pretty Mickey Mouse, but the Samsung came with Windows 7 is something else entirely, lovely graphics. But to get to the point: I loathe bad losers. All to often if, in a match of the best five games, an opponent knows he or she (but I’m guessing mainly he) is going to lose, he simply quits. I don’t do that. If I am going to lose, I lose. I’ll repeat: I loathe bad losers.

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