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ATPM 11.05
May 2005



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The Candy Apple

by Ellyn Ritterskamp,

Sometimes, We Get What We Pay For

With toilet paper, it might make a difference. With canned corn, not so much. What am I talking about? I’m talking about whether to spend the extra money for a brand name product, or whether to buy the cheaper version.

When it’s hard to tell the difference, you might as well go with the generic version of a product or buy in bulk. That is the canned corn example. I see choices on the grocery shelves, and the well-known brand name cans of corn cost as much as twice as the no-name brands. Having tried both kinds, I can tell you it does not matter much, to me anyway. They taste the same, and it’s not as if the cheap version has twigs floating in there.

So canned corn does not matter to me, but it may matter to you. Some other item may not matter to you, but it will be important to me to buy the nicer brand. Toilet paper, for instance. I have a short list of brands that I like, and I believe it is worth spending more to buy one of them. I realize there are people in this world who can’t afford the luxury of toilet paper, or even toilets, and that in comparison I can be seen as selfish. But I have accepted my inconsistencies, and am doing the best I can for now.

Recently I realized how far I am willing to go to get the perfect product. I have been buying the same model of walking shoe for the past three years or so, and I replace them every three months. That’s when the cushion starts to break down. I was a few weeks early for a new pair, but my knee started hurting—not when I walk, but all the time—and that is the sign it is time for new shoes. So I went across the street to the running store. I pointed to my shoes, and they knew to replace them, like always. The guy went in the back, and came back without a box. “I don’t have these in a 10.”

I said fine; when could he get more? Not for two weeks. Ouch. I toyed with some other makes, but once you find the perfect shoe there is no point in changing. The way to find the perfect shoe, even for walkers, is to go to a running store: they will look at how you stand, and find the right kinds of shoes for your gait. That was three years ago—the manager knew what size shoe I needed, without measuring my feet! It impressed me no end.

On this recent visit, after a while the sales guy asked if I wanted him to check their sister store. I said sure, and he called. They had a pair in my size. He asked should they hold them for me, and I said yes. After he hung up, I asked where the other store was.

I should have asked beforehand. I drove 30 miles to get the perfect shoe.

But at the end of the day, it was worth it. My knee quit hurting, and I had a pair of shoes with which I knew exactly what I was getting. It was worth a gallon of gas, even at today’s prices. And in the States we pay a third of what some Europeans pay, so we should quit whining.

Toilet paper. Walking shoes. Prozac—they say the generic version just doesn’t work as well. Our iPods and Apple products. It’s not that we are snobs, not wanting to settle for less, but that we are willing to pay a little extra for quality we can count on.

Is that a trademarked phrase yet? “Quality we can count on”? I am willing to sell it, if anyone needs a branding scheme.


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