Just yesterday, as my wife and I were going through the Sunday papers, I ran across an ad for HDMI cables from Best Buy. As you can see from the snippet from their weekly ad, they have a house-branded 6ft “high speed” HDMI cable for $60.
I mentioned to my wife that I knew this was a complete rip-off because HDMI is a digital specification. If you plug two compatible components together and you get audio and video, the cable is working. I know how much big-box retailers need to find profitable items to sell, given the small margins on consumer electronics. Because phone cases, batteries, cables and other accessory items are often not included in a purchase of a consumer electronic items, the retailers have a business incentive to gouge people.
And, boy, does Best Buy cut deep into your wallet for a generic HDMI cable. Take a look at this search from eBay for 6ft HDMI cables. Many cables are available for a tenth of the price of Best Buy’s cables.
Sure, you sometimes have to wait for something to arrive via air mail from Hong Kong and maybe the cable will be defective and you are stuck with a small loss.
Neither of those risks make up for, IMO, the cruelly efficient fleecing of Best Buy customers, cynically executed by their salespeople who are trained to push all sorts of “pack” (useless add-ons) from cables to warranty extensions on unsuspecting non-techie customers.
(I’m still upset with Best Buy over the way they treated us when I bought a Sonos system for my father-in-law. Long story short, the made us sign up for a store credit card with the most usurious terms I have ever seen, they had us wait next to the dumpster to pick up the equipment, then they tried to give me a receipt that contained the wording “This is not a receipt.” If they can’t treat a knowledgeable customer with any respect, what do you think their attitude is when Grandma comes in looking for a cellphone?)
Then today, in an episode of Jungian synchronicity I ran across this post from CNET, which describes in detail the signaling protocol in the HDMI standard, the differences in the standards and what can really go wrong. Suffice it to say, people buying HDMI cables — something you really want to take home with your new HDTV — are getting massively ripped off if you buy it on impulse at Best Buy.
While I do believe in buyer beware and all that, what frustrates me is how entities like Best Buy have convinced themselves it’s OK to do business like this. If I treated my consulting clients like “marks” from whom I needed to extract the maximum revenue, they’d know it in an instant. How does Best Buy get away with its warm and fuzzy image, which clearly covers up for a raging retail exploitation machine?