Go Beyond

Written by Teran McKinney
/ About Me / Half-time Remote DevOps/Systems Engineer /

Gimicks

I feel that the US economy is built up around gimicks.

Products that are inefficient, ill-advertised, over-priced (for what they are), unsorted, and over-marketed.

This isn't the case all places and everywhere, but let's consider a few cases.

Housing.

My parents used to own a beautiful home. It was custom built, had three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and two half bathrooms. The whole neighborhood had no HOA. House had a beautiful view and went right up to a golf course. The whole neighborhood only consisted of custom built homes. No two looked alike.

The homes on the other side of the golf course were cut into the mountain. There were no trees. It looked like a giant limestone step. They sat there, perched on high, as giant cubes. Those houses were a little bit bigger and went for considerably more money. Why would anyone buy those houses for more? They are all the same. They have tiny yards and are jam-packed together. Compared to everything else in the area, they were eyesores.

Mortgages.

Most people think that buying a house is a good thing. It's an investment. It's also one of those investments that just needs more investing. You buy your house with a mortgage, and most of your money goes against the interest, and not the principle on the loan. So you may put $100,000 into your house, and own $30,000 of it. Especially if it's a $400,000 house, or so. If you buy that house, put in 1% of its value each year into repairs and improvements, then sell it for 5% more in two years, you are really losing money versus renting. Mister Money Mustache has some good guides on that, but somehow, it's just very uncommon knowledge. The interest, and in particular paying off the interest first, makes it so that people moving every few years should probably not be buying, unless they are buying in cash and have a high chance of the property value going up and not down. Further, that $400,000 house you buy with interest is probably $600,000 total -- and, you are liable for paying that mortgage. If you move and can't sell that house, you may be stuck with rent and a mortgage, or two mortgages. It's a huge liability. Sure, foreclosure and/or bankruptcy may be an option, but not without huge consequences.

Automobiles.

I see time and time again, people going for the newest and greatest. I think partly, it's because of scummy and/or incompetent mechanics, who make the process of maintaining a car look a lot worse than it is. And generally, old vehicles need more maintenance. Mostly, because they've been neglected.

But why is it that a brand new car is better than one that's older? Sure, they look more like space ships, but is that really what you want? In a lot of ways, the late 80s and early 90s were the pinacle for many cars. If you want an efficient commuter, you can buy a Honda CR-X. Of the high efficiency models of years ago, they are more economical than the new CR-Z, which is a hybrid. It may not be as fast, or as safe to crash in, but what are you going for? Is it really worth buying a new car every year? Have you done the math and considered the benefits to owning an older car for a long time?

While the Japanese brands have been better about this, new BMWs tend to plummet in value. Especially, 7 series. They are expensive for parts and to work on. And for daily driving, how is a 1988 BMW E30 not as good or better than a new BMW? Admittedly, the fuel economy of the E30 with the M20 was not usually the best and can be beaten, but even that cost factors in. And usually, if you're talking about a $40,000 price difference ($50,000 new BMW vs totally sorted $10,000 E30), that fuel will go a long way. And the E30 will stay a classic, the new Bimmer will just be thrown in the trash like everything else made these days.

Cheap motorcycles.

You can have 250cc motorcycles shipped to your door, in a crate, in the $2,000 range. There are scooters, as well. They probably come from China.

They are horrific. The welds are bad, the wiring is bad, the overall quality is bad. It'll last a year or two, then need significant work. No one will want to work on it, because it's a crappy Chinese motorcycle. And if they do, they are going to spend a lot of time reinventing the wheel and coming up with something better.

The thing is, you can buy a used bike for less than $2,000 that will be far better quality. Some 80s or 90s Japanese motorcycle will blow either of those away.

But even some newer quality machines are not that great. I rode around and worked on a Honda CBR-300. It was nothing special! At all. Still on bias ply tires. Turn in was very slow. Throttle response was lackluster. It went from point A to point B, but is it in any way better than a firstgen Ninja 250? Probably not. Maybe it edges it out in mileage. These bikes are made in Thailand, and while much better than the Chinese bikes, seem to have suffered a lot. They are budget, and it shows. Not horrible, but they are just more of the same and have not advanced at all in 25 years. Not to mention, the ride was even rough on the CBR, and I am not light and the preload was not turned up. How are they getting this wrong?

Even, lots of Suzukis are being sent out with crappy bolts. These aren't the "8.8" bolts all over a lot of 80s bikes. These break off easily. I've seen it on a couple of SV650s. I don't know if they stopped doing it or not, but it was a huge reduction in quality. I simply don't have to worry about a bolt snapping on any decent bike, and then these bikes show up and they break easily for no good reason.


Manufacturers go on and on about how much better their new vehicle is, or their new product. And some of them definitely are better, don't get me wrong. But, many of them are just merely "new" and compliant with some new law which you probably don't care about.

They are often just being dishonest or hiding all of the flaws. They are just corporations who benefit no one person in particular, and who exist to perpetually make money to pay shareholders. In any corporation (and I use that term literally, I am not against businesses, but corporations), the #1 product is the stock share. That said, you don't have to have a corporation to make some crappy gimick, but it sure can help.

Now, the market will respond. The market will have new repair shops open, new parts to fix the problems, and may stop buying things altogether which are crappy. But, the market has stiction. It's slow to respond.

There is a solution. Start telling people the truth and stop making crap. How can you be happy with your life if your sole product is something worse than just about any other alternative for a customer? How can you be happy with your work if you have a product that is designed around the lifecycle of the modern American's two-day attention span?

I've found it's incredibly hard to convince someone to spend money on something if you it doesn't have flashy lights, large billboards advertising it, and multiple celebrity endorsements. It's like most consumers can't stop and think for a few minutes about what they want in life, what their needs are, and what something is worth to them. They don't look at products at face value, they look at them in some doped up perspective from marketing hype. Take Beats headphones, for instance. A lot of mark up on a crappy to okay headphone, just because celebrities wear it. You can go on Amazon and find one just as competent, just as comfortable, for half the money!

I cannot tell you the number of things that manufacturers are doing to make their product more flashy and less safe, less effective, and less reliable all at the same time.

Now, they are doing this because people respond to it. People are also responding to it because companies do it. It's a bit of a cycle.

I'm hoping that somewhere out there, there's a market for honesty. People who spend money on things that are honestly decent. People who hold off on spending because they want to find something that is just right. A slower moving money, that doesn't leapfrog from ADD twitch to ADD twitch.

I also think part of the problem is ignorance, not just honesty. A lot of people really don't know how bad a lot of things are, and how much better the alternative is. Even, often, 40 years ago we found a solution to a problem and seem to have forgotten about it because of some new hipster fad.

Anyway, I've just found so few honest places who sell honest products. Or honest sellers, even. I always end up taking a loss selling my motorcycles after I find they haven't suited my needs, because I write honestly about who the bike is best for and isn't, and list pretty much every flaw I can think of. I could sell the bikes for more if I cleaned the bikes up, took nice photos of them, and only said a few true things about them.

This effectively means, it pays to be dishonest. Why do you pay people to be dishonest? Why do I pay people more to be dishonest? Why don't we look at things for what they are, slow down a bit, and actually understand what we are doing?

I'm hoping I can find a niche market in honesty. I'm sure it exists, somewhere.




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