Do You Always Get what You Pay for?

boots theory

Seriously, who came up with the phrase: “You always get what you pay for.”

They were wrong, and I don’t agree. Mostly because every single day, Jacob and I find deals all over the place with little effort.

But just for fun, let’s consider that silly little phrase.

The argument is that buying higher quality items, even at higher prices, will save replacement and repair costs in the future.

For example, there is a popular excerpt from a story that comes from a fictional story by Terry Pratchett called Men at Arms: The Play, and it goes like this.

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars.

Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years.

A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”

Now, if you’re nodding your head and thinking about how wise this story is and how much you agree with it, then you’re not alone. The story does call attention to the fact that it is possible to save money over the long haul when buying a higher quality item that will last longer.

But if you are applying the Boots story to each your recent purchases, you could be taking it too far.

This poetic and romanticized story is all most people need to justify their terrible spending habits.

They take one look at this story and think, “Why of course! I will spend more because higher priced items are undoubtedly of better quality!” and the thought becomes a spending crutch.

But let’s take a second to re-think how this theory applies to life in the 2000’s, when our boots are no longer made out of cardboard.

This story has 3 errors.

1. The story assumes there are only 2 options; cheaply priced and cheaply made boots or more expensive and higher quality boots. This is simply not the case in our modern times.

If you were actually looking to buy a new pair of boots, you would be caught up in an avalanche of options. Everything from the $22 pair at your local Walmart to the $8,000 pair we just found at Allen’s Boots in Austin, TX.

There are no longer merely cheap boots and well made boots, but level upon level of intermediate boots and every variation in between.

The lines between cheap, intermediate, and a high end boot begin to blur, and the endless choices become difficult to tell apart.

In fact, Jacob and I have purchased several pairs of $20 Walmart shoes and have been pleased overall. Based on our observations, it seems like expensive, name brand items aren’t of much higher quality these days. Many are manufactured in the same foreign warehouses, so what makes you think that Nike produces a superior product?

2. The story assumes that better quality boots always cost more. While in the story, this might be true, in real life this is not always the case. Great boots (and nearly everything else) can be had at a steal of a price if you take the time to research your purchase and wait for a sale to come along.

A great example is the seemingly endless list of items for sale at the dollar store. Take sunglasses, kitchen supplies, and frozen broccoli for example. All of these items cost $1 at the dollar store, as their identical twins sell for double, triple, or quadruple the price at your closest Walmart. Does that mean that the dollar store items are of less quality than the items sold at Walmart? Not at all. Side by side, you couldn’t tell the difference.

Another great example is buying at garage sales. Over the weekend I bought a glass juice pitcher that would have been priced around $10-$20 anywhere else, and I got it for $1. When you consider that my item of the exact same quality, the trite phrase, “you get what you pay for” is laughable.

And even if you still believe that price is indicative of quality, you should call into question the frequency at which people use this theory as an excuse to buy things they don’t need, at prices that are ridiculous.

3. The story doesn’t make mention of the enormous used market that is available in our modern society.

There are countless consumers here in America who delight in paying full price, then selling a year later for 60% off. Heck, some don’t even sell it, they just stick it outside at the garbage haul where you can pick it up for free.

Even if there are instances where higher prices are justified better quality, why not take advantage of the consumerism that plagues this country? Buy lightly used and pay next to nothing.

How do you escape the “you get what you pay for” myth?

1. Don’t assume:

Don’t assume that the higher priced item is of better quality. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

It’s important to question if the asking price reflects the true value of the item or if that is merely what the hoards of consumers will pay because of good marketing.

2. Do your research:

Research quality by reading reviews. Compare with similar items and determine which is the better value.

Research price before making a purchase, and be sure to research whether or not the item you’re buying can be found for a better deal elsewhere, either at a different store, or used.

3. Be leery of brand loyalty:

Don’t be suckered by brand loyalty. If you’ve  been using a certain brand for a long time, re-evaluate whether it’s worth it or if you’re just wasting your hard earned money.

4. Be patient:

So, say you’ve done your research and you’re convinced that buying the more expensive item is really worth it. Great!

Don’t buy it yet.

The majority of things will go on sale eventually. Wait until there is a great deal on your desired item before buying.

So what do you think. Do you always get what you pay for or do you agree with me, that high quality items can be had at low quality prices?

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