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Last updated: April 08. 2014 11:18PM - 1347 Views

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Sally Hogshead, a keynote speaker at the 2013 American Society World Conference, described the effect of fascination on the human brain.


She cited the example of an amusement park ride that sold green and orange tickets. The experience was exactly the same, but the sensationalistic wording on the orange ticket fascinated the buyers into paying a premium. She added that fascination will get people to pay up to four times as much for the same product.


People in Northeastern Pennsylvania work hard for their money, and should not pay orange ticket prices for green ticket items.


Extended warranties are among the biggest wastes of money in the consumer world. Nothing in this column constitutes formal engineering advice, but reliability engineers know that highest risk of failure for most products is right after purchase. This is when most manufacturing defects make themselves known. This also is known as the infant mortality phase, because of the similarity to the relatively high death rate for newborns. The manufacturer’s warranty covers this period.


The product then enters its normal lifetime when the chance of failure is extremely low. It finally reaches its wearout, or old age, period during which the failure rate begins to increase. Take one guess as to which period the extended warranty covers.


Gourmet dog food, meanwhile, looks good enough for a person to eat. This is exactly the idea, and it fascinates the buyer into paying an enormous premium. A food’s appearance and presentation are actually meaningless to a dog, who smells something to decide whether he or she wants to eat it. This decision takes place very quickly. The dog’s agenda is then to get it into his stomach as rapidly as possible, i.e. “wolf it down,” lest some other animal come along and take it.


He or she doesn’t pause to savor the meal, and a dog’s sense of taste is actually inferior to ours. A high-quality, store brand of dog food (e.g. PetSmart’s Authority brand) contains the same nutrition, and costs a lot less.


Here is one I probably shouldn’t mention, because the people who actually pay this fee help keep airline fares down for those who don’t. You can, for an added charge, purchase priority boarding. This means you pay to board the airplane ahead of most other passengers, and then wait in a seat that has far less legroom than those in the waiting area.


Brand names and fancy logos are two techniques whose purpose is to get you to pay more for clothing, detergents and many other items. If a store advertises clothing as “imported,” that probably means you can buy the same thing in Walmart or Sam’s Club for half or a third the price, minus the designer label or brand name. If the garment was from a high-wage, high-quality location such as Italy or France, the store would use that as a selling point.


It is, meanwhile, well known that the store brand of bleach, detergent or even over-the-counter medication is chemically identical to the name brand, but it costs a lot less.


The bottom line? Pay your hard-earned money for value, and not for hype.


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