Tuesday, 24 April 2012

You get what you pay for?

"You get what you pay for". A statement guaranteed to strike fear into any financial-conscious parent queuing with their son outside a depressingly dark and noisy Hollister shop.

They have to be dark and noisy to reflect the far eastern sweatshops in which most of the product is manufactured. Yes, you get what you pay for in terms of pretty good quality, but the poor souls working flat-out under conditions that would have UNISON bringing the entire West of Europe out on strike, might not agree.

Plus the fact the £80 sweatshirt that you are quite unhappy to pay a fortune for comes with an advertisement for the company name on the front (surely Hollister should be paying you?) and leaves the far eastern factory at only a few dollars.

Yes, you get what you pay for.

My eyes were well and truly opened to brand manipulation several years ago when I undertook a little freelance work for a delightful local Leeds company called Standtondown, based in the Holbeck area of the city. Delightful in as much as it was run in the old-fashioned and genuine family way. No dysfunctional HR people calling on staff to jump up and down on coloured squares for an hour every Friday, or pushing out copied and pasted CIPD bilge every second day.

They manufactured and delivered, amongst other things, quality beauty products in bulk around the country. Wonderful stuff such as Coconut and Jojoba shampoo, dressing out cream, salon wave pink, stylecare gel and more.

Now what I did learn was, that while many hairdressers were simply decanting the products into the own salon dispensers to use on their customers, others were decanting (and quite legally I might, no arguments here!) the products into bespoke bottles for resale under their own name. Absolutely nothing wrong with that either!

However, the shock was that while "Betty's Hairdressers and Burger Emporium" on a sink estate in Birmingham were charging £1.99 a bottle, "Chez Con Customer" on St John's Wood Road in London, the type of salon with very uncomfortable seats and owned by a very badly-dressed TV hairdressing personality with a fee of £600 to 'personally' look at your hair from 50 metres, was charging £39.50 for the identical 60p's worth of product.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, on the basis that if the St John's Wood customer is happy to part with that sort of money (not forgetting the £60 fine for parking their 4x4 tractor on the double yellow lines outside the salon), fair play!

However, the point is that while these are best quality, British-manufactured products, you are NOT getting what you pay for because you have essentially been brand hijacked by the 'posh' hair salon. And yes, they say let the buyer beware, but in this case, they are very high quality products. It's just the morals of "Chez Con Customer" prevent him from coming clean!

Unfortunately, UK buyers are only now becoming a little more price sensitive. Sadly, to a great degree, this is only now happening as a result of the exposure companies are getting on BBC's 'Watchdog' and 'Fake Britain' programmes.

But why should this be the case? Why do people have to wait for these programmes to expose the far eastern sweatshops, the price disparity between game consoles sold in the UK and those sold in America or the fact that consumers in the UK put up with all sorts of guff as to why their purchase would be 30% cheaper if they could purchase them from the American website?

As long as we take the "You get what you pay for attitude", assuming that expensive is best, the importers and sellers will simply continue to rip us off. If you think it's too expensive, put off your purchase. Don't queue up outside the shop for the latest "fruity" must-have but really don't-need gadget or 60p DVD cleverly disguised as a £48 PlayStation game.

If you voted more with your wallet and feet, the sellers would quickly get the message.

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