Friday, February 8, 2013

Quality vs...well, something else.

I'm confused.  Now, this is different from my normal state of "confusion" in which I perpetually live.  But that's another blog post.  One which I will likely never get around to writing.  But anyway, I digress. What confuses me right now is why people think they are getting a "deal" when they purchase certain products.

There are several examples of this type of "deal."

1) Rudy Project - RP CONSTANTLY has huge "sales" on their products.  The Wingspan, a helmet that normally "retails" for $300 can frequently be had for 50% off using a special "coupon."  I've even seen purchases made for over 75% off "retail" pricing.  Sunglasses can frequently be had this way as well, though the pricing differences don't amount to enough to really "get my goat." So, when you purchase a Wingspan TT helmet, what exactly are you buying? Are you buying a $300 helmet that is miraculously on sale at a steep discount?  Or are you buying a $150 dollar helmet?  The quality of the helmet remains the same, obviously, but if you purchase this helmet at $300...well, we should have some words.  RP is terrible, terrible for retailers.  They tend to "sponsor" anyone who requests a "relationship" and constantly undercuts their (if they even have any anymore) retailers by offering such "discounts" on their "sales."

That's not to say the products aren't quality; I've owned several pairs of RP sunglasses and used a helmet or two in the past and there's nothing wrong with them.  They are quite nice.  What gets me is the pricing structure.  It makes no sense.  Well, it makes sense if you look at it from RP's perspective: they get tons of people in their product.  To them, anyone that buys one of their products at full "retail" pricing is just basically a sweet "bonus.''

2) Xterra - Xterra, in some ways, is even "worse" to me than RP.  I've owned (and liked) an Xterra swim skin. Guess what? I got in during a crazy "sale!" Surprise, surprise.  Xterra sells a "top of the line" Vendetta full-suit for $800.

800 bones is a LOT of money to pay for a wetsuit.  That eclipses Blue Seventy's Helix by 150 bucks.  But, ask yourself, what ARE you buying? If you fork over $800 for that wetsuit, are you getting $800 worth of wetsuit?  Xterra would tell you that since you're buying directly from them you are saving money and eliminating the evil "middle-man" (i.e. the retailer).  So to say that and then sell an $800 wetsuit is a little ridiculous to me.  If I were to, "xterra wetsuits," what do you imagine would be the first result of that search?  Well, here you go:

Wow! Surprising! It's actually difficult to buy the wetsuits at full-price with so many sale links/codes/coupons all around your search results!

Now, to reiterate as I did post RP "rant," this is not a diatribe against the quality of the products.  I have owned Xterra and liked it fine.  BUT, there's an important distinction between thinking you are buying a top of the line and nearly $1000 wetsuit and buying a good wetsuit that is usually marked-up significantly over what it's actually worth...

I guess I have a slightly different perspective now working in the retail business.  That is, without a doubt, a bias.  But I don't think it's a mis-placed bias.  Companies that focus on consumer and retailer education end up for the better in the long run, I think.  Xterra rants against "poor sales people" but what they've really done is refuse to educate the people who COULD sell their products and offer IN-PERSON advice to the consumer.  As a buyer, who would you trust more if you were purchasing a very expensive product: the person who makes the wetsuit itself or the person who has no "dog in the fight" other than to put you in a wetsuit (that you came in asking about)?  If you walk in and ask about wetsuits at any major triathlon retailer in the country, you are likely to be able to choose from a selection.  If you ask Xterra a question about wetsuits, you're going to get an answer whose goal is primarily intended to get you in an Xterra wetsuit.

Just to use Blue Seventy as an example (and yes, I've developed a relationship with them over the past two years, so if you want to read bias into that, feel free): if you wanted a 2013 Helix, you will not find a discount code promoted by the manufacturer.  That's because Blue Seventy doesn't undercut their retailer.  It's also because when you buy a new, current year Blue Seventy product, you know that you are paying the "right" price for it.  You'll never second-guess yourself or worry that a huge discount code would appear out of nowhere.  Now, retailers themselves can offer discount options but that is very, very different than the manufacturer themselves doing that.

So basically, buyer beware.  I would ALWAYS rather pay for something I WANT and know is QUALITY and worth my money than get a discount on something that is clearly a compromise.  And no, I have never gotten a Blue Seventy wetsuit for free.  I have paid for all of them.

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