Computer Sellers Are Sneaky Little Bastards

I’m getting a new computer (well, at least some new parts), and I had a budget of 500-600 euros. I needed a new mother board, processor, graphics card, harddrive, new OS and stuff like that.

When I went to the store and asked what I could get with this budget, the salesperson showed me list and started asking me “250, 500, 750 gigabytes? 2,5Ghz, 3,0Ghz…? 1, 2 or 4 gigs memory?” And so on. At some point I said that buying new computer parts goes always like this. No matter what budget you have, you will always spend more. If 500 gigabytes harddrive cost only 20 bucks more than 250, how can anybody refuse that offer?

I realized this, and I knew I would have no control over this. The seller wasn’t pushing or anything. He was merely showing me “9600 GT costs this… and if you want 9800 GT, then it costs this many euros more”. He didn’t need to persuade me into buying, my brain was already doing that at full speed. Sneaky little bastards! They shouldn’t have showed me those better parts (even when I asked).

I had no hope, and went home to ponder. It didn’t help anything, my brain tricked me into buying more and more. I ended up in a deal that cost 750 euros (but got a discount one one part, so the final price was 720 actually euros).

So, the bottom line was: my mind managed to buy me into using almost 50% more than I had originally planned.

Oh well… at least there’s something to learn.

The concept of selling computer parts is brilliant. If there’s a “Pretty Good Part” that costs 100, you can get “Fancy Better Part” for only adding 20 euros more. And if you really want power, the “Really Super Nice Part” costs only 20 more than “Fancy Better Part”. It works like a chimp.

The 20 euros difference feels small, but when there’s many parts, and many options to choose from… everything sums up into a bigger amount.


Juuso Hietalahti


  1. Yeah, I think Juuso’s point is not that he’s angry over the purchase, he just wants to give some new examples of how you can market your stuff, or better, what kind of (psychological) things will help you

  2. That’s what I wanted to say… we don’t care when it’s something we love. And that fact can be easily exploited (ethically, of course). :) Just look forward to your powermachine and be glad the bastards.. guys do their work. ;)

  3. 500-600 Euros is like 800-900 UDS right? You can get a decent Rig for that. I’d get a higher-end dual core with 2GB RAM and a mid-grade graphics card. You might want to lowball the audio though to get a better GFX card.

  4. Yea, but what do you care how much profit the stores are making as long as its a good deal for you?
    Maybe you are trying to say, that due to the westren consumption culture, and all the brainwashing commercials. Then people buy stuff they don’t really need. Or their lifestyle is completly wrong on the first place.
    However, when I buy a computer, if for another 40$ I can get a graphics card that is much better. Then its a good deal FOR ME.
    Because the more powerfull my graphics card is, the better.
    And again, if I buy a computer once every 5 years, then more 40$ really doesn’t make a difference for me.
    Maybe instead of saying “This cost me 40$” you should say “this cost me 40$ per 5 years”
    And then you can normalize all your spending to some sort of time frame, and see if your spending are rational or exagerrated.
    But I agree that if you buy something you really don’t need, and it only cost you 1$, then its 1$ too much to pay for.

  5. It can be similar in car purchases: when buying a $30 000 car, a small investment of $500 (or $1500 for that matter) doesn’t feel so big.

    Or… when you buy a $300 000 house… $10 000 here or there doesn’t feel so much.

    Or like Oliver pointed out: fast food. These stores might have like $6 meals, but with $6,70 you get megaversion…

  6. Well, the “better graphics card” might be unnecessary for you.
    But for other people it might be a good deal.
    And then, you can’t accuse the salseperson, but rather yourself, for having big eyes.
    I think computers is one of the areas when they really don’t scam you too much. Unless you are someone who is totally clueless, and then they sell you that 512MB graphics card, only that 256MB out of it are used by the card on the CPU memory(I think with DMA, if I know what I am talking about).
    And besides, 20$ isn’t really a big difference. If you were buying a car, and you had to pay extra 10000$ for leather seats, then that would be substential.
    But if you buy a computer once in 3 or 5 years, those extra 20$ won’t be too significant.
    You need to take things in proportion.

  7. Oliver: I’ve read the book and yes, I’m aware of that small price effect (that’s familiar also from marketing…). Nevertheless, with computers, my brain already knew that there are better options with smaller prices so this specific salesperson didn’t need to do anything… I was brainwashed years ago ;)

    And even though I realize this – it won’t stop me from doing this same thing in the future. :)

  8. Actually they did persuade you. They forced your brain to compare what might seem like small differences in the prices for each different part by telling you how much/little the better versions costs.
    Take what the customer actually wants and squeeze out a little bit more by making harmless offers or reading out slightly higher prices for much better stuff to them. :)
    Same with fast food.. do you want X with that? Costs only Y more. When you already buy a meal for $9 dollars, an extra dollar won’t hurt you, but it makes them rich because they are making the offer to many more people.
    Have you read Influence by Robert Cialdini? Excellent book. ;)

  9. I agree, I noticed the same thing when I was buying my ThinkPad. (Ooh, only $20 more for this…) I also get like a kid in a candy store in computer shops. (OoooOOooo! Shiny new memory sticks =D)
    Then I remind myself that if my computers are too good, I won’t be sure if my games run right on older computers, or even the average computer XD


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