I'm in the market for a new computer. I'm also pretty sure about what I want because I've shopped online already and determined my budget. I've compared specifications for the desktop PC I want. It will be faster, smaller, and lighter than my old PC that has served its use well beyond what its manufacturers and I ever expected. My last computer lasted over 11 years, I used it for everything from designing web sites, to creating music. It inspired a great deal of brand loyalty for me because the workstation lasted well, and ran strong (power on all day) over 11 years in a time when you're lucky to get 4 years of productivity out of any consumer-market PC.
In considering a new PC now, I had a lot more work to do on this shopping excursion than the last time I went PC shopping. First, I had to go to Intel's site (the leading semiconductor and computer processor maker) to find out what the fastest consumer market processor was. I got lost in a sea of options without a clear indication of what was fastest. The number of processors Intel has out on the market right now is staggering. Intel has several processors out on the market, including different variants of the same processor; and in stores and on Internet descriptions, those alternate processor variants were not fully noted. The "process" was quite confusing. I went to numerous other processor benchmark and review sites, all had conflicting accounts that seemed to be more based around opinion than simplicity. how can a 2.4GHZ Intel processor in a mac run faster than a 3.4GHZ processor in a Windows machine? Maybe someone needs to rethink the number system to make that work for me... I gave up on that so I went to Dell's web site.
I always start with the most expensive model as a basis for my shopping experience. I hate shopping, possibly because I can never buy the most expensive model an Intel 6 core PC. I am fairly rich, but not super-rich, so I have to compromise a bit. Ok, so one step down from the most expensive model is the Intel i7 (Quad-Core) PC. Processor confusion solved. I take note of the model and head out to... (Lets just call the store) "Buff Buy" to check it out in person. I like to see things in-person before buying, so the trip was exciting at first. I got to the store, inspected the PC, connectors on the back of it, specs, and price... Wait a minute... This one costs nearly 130$ more than one I saw at another store!
The Sherlock Holmes instinct in me kicked in, I hatched a diabolical plan to take advantage of the "Price Matching" promise that Buff Buy advertises. Generally, Buff Buy says a price in any physical store will be matched, including an extra 10% off the difference in price. I had a flier that advertised a PC from the same maker, with the exact same specs as the one I saw at Buff Buy for 130$ less. It all looked so simple. One problem though, this computer had a different model number on it than the one at the other (competing) store, even though the PCs were exactly the same...
I proceeded to show a manager at the store (Buff Buy) that the specs were the same, and they stated that the model numbers were not the same, and therefore they would not apply price matching rules. So my question is: was it the computer manufacturer, or the distributor who is insisting on "mis-matching" model numbers for the exact same (otherwise) PC? Is there something I don't know that acocunts for the price difference? Do "competing" store execs meet up to fix prices on items before they are sold? Are sales and discounts all a lie? Is capitalism being twisted? Why am I driving 30 miles to buy a PC in VA when gas costs $4.35 a gallon? I'm probably blowing my savings ratio with driving there alone.
If you search online, you'll find Dell computer models at Buff Buy do not match any other models anywhere else... Copy a model number from Buff Buy's site, and then go to http://www.nextag.com (an online price comparison service) and search for that model. Only Buff Buy's price comes up. Why? Because only Buff Buy carries that model. If you go to Micro Center's site, http://www.microcenter.com they also sell Dell PCs, with the same specifications, usually a different price, but the model numbers don't match. Bingo, in a very bad way.
I would not find fault with this if it didn't symbolize the death of competitively based pricing (which keeps the cost of goods low in a capitalist system). Is the only way to get a discount catching something that "fell off a truck"? Model number manipulation symbolizes a lack of respect for consumers, and it greatly complicates your ability to find the best products during shopping experiences. Why shop at more than one store if there is no price competition? The key is being aware about it, and only shopping at stores that don't support these kind of practices.