It’s cold in London in mid December. Today, as I ran in to university, it was 1 degree Celcius and there was a pretty lethal frost on the paths in the parks. As I was running in, I remembered that the central heating in my office would be turned off (it’s a weekend and LSE likes to save money where it can), so I pulled the run up short at the big Currys/Dixons/PC World/Phones4U shop near Warren Street Underground Station so I could buy a little electric heater. As it happens, I also wanted to get a USB-to-micro-USB cable for my phone and figured I could kill two birds with one stone.
Now, Curixorld4U (as I have affectionately decided to call them) bill themselves as something of an electrical superstore. Clearly they don’t mean of the American style Big Box variety, but still … they want you to think of them as a supermarket for electrical goods. It should be easy to find what I want, right? Wrong. Here’s what they had:
- A Dyson heater for £6 million; and
- A multi-use recharging cable with 375 different dongles to allow for every conceivable phone ever built for £14.
So I went over the road to Robert Dyas and bought a little electric heater for £12. They didn’t have the cable I wanted, but as I was walking down to LSE, I passed by the ULU and they were hosting a computer fair today. I popped in and got exactly the cable I wanted for £5.
Note to Curixorld4U: I understand that selling me the things I was looking for is a low margin business, but surely that’s better than no business at all? Besides … isn’t one of the benefits of convincing people that you’re a one-stop-shop that you can exploit their search costs to slap on a fierce mark-up? Have you even heard of price discrimination? It doesn’t work if you only offer one version of each thing, you know. Wouldn’t you have been better off stocking the cable I wanted for £10 and the heater I wanted for £20, perhaps in home-brand-style “charity” packaging to make them seem functional-but-unappealing? I still would have gasped a little at the prices, but I’m a lazy man. I would have paid.