Archive for December 20th, 2005

Markup or Gouge – You Decide

Tuesday, December 20th, 2005

Five years ago, when I bought my house in the Bay Area, I installed ceiling fans. My family had some experience with various brand of fans and recommended I invest in Casablanca fans. I say “invest” because they’re three to four times more expensive than the Hampton Bay sold at Home Teapot, but run silently, self-balance and never wobble. Ever.

I saved up my money and bought two – one for the living room and one for the bedroom. I was rather surprised that the plain one I put in the bedroom was just as expensive as the fancy one I put in the living room, but I was thoroughly impressed with their operation. So much so, that when it came time to sell that house, I uninstalled the fans and replaced them with $50 cheapos from Hampton Bay for the sale. My gods did those fans suck. I knew that mine were good, but I didn’t realize just how good. I guess it’s true that you get what you pay for.

But yesterday kind of changed that for me. Not long after we moved to the new house, we removed the filthy fans that came with the house. Not only were they filthy, they didn’t operate that well, and looked cheesy as hell. So down they came, and up went my fans. A huge improvement to both decor and function.

The only problem was that my fans didn’t have lights. I never put them on at the old house because my switches turned on outlets, not ceiling lights, so I had torch lamps in every room. But the new house has all ceiling lights, and in the living room and master bedroom, they were on the fans. Luckily, putting on light kits is not that big of a deal.

I checked out Casablanca’s website and found a few lights I liked. But Casablanca doesn’t put their prices on the web, nor do they allow their dealers to post prices on the web. Since we have a dealer here in town, we went down to visit their “lighting gallery” and price the light kits. Holy fuck me they were expensive. Like $200 expensive, even for the plain lights. The fancy-schmancy ones were as much as $450 – just for a light! And they weren’t even in stock. No thank you. I knew there had to be a better way to do this.

I went back to the internet and found that I could get price quotes e-mailed to me. I found an internet dealer that sold me very simple light kits for way less than half of what the “lighting gallery” wanted. Reasonable enough, so I ordered them.

At first I was told that the items were on back-order for 10-14 business days. Since we didn’t have lights in the bedroom or living room, I wasn’t thrilled with this news, but that’s the way it goes. I placed the order. Two weeks went by, then three. I called the dealer and was told that the bedroom kit would be in late November, the living room kit in early December. They just showed up yesterday. For the first time since early October, we have lights in these rooms. Yay! Words really can’t express how happy I am at this change.

But there was something I noticed when the boxes showed up – they were marked “Made in Taiwan”. Normally I don’t pay much attention to these things, but given the retail “showroom” prices of these products, I’m appalled. First of all it pissed me off that the local dealer had more than a 100% markup over the internet dealer. Since I’m sure the internet dealer isn’t losing money on these parts, and they all come from the same company at more or less the same price, you can bet that the local dealer’s difference is pure profit.

But how much is Casablanca making on these things? I really doubt a simple outlet with two bulb holders and a glass cover costs $200 to manufacture in Taiwan. I’m thinking a more accurate price would happen if you move that decimal left a couple of places. I didn’t mind paying more for the fans, because I got a very high quality fan. But a light is a light is a light. The bulbs won’t last any longer, the glass isn’t any clearer, and it isn’t any brighter than any other light fixture. I only paid more because it fits my fan. That pisses me off.

So I guess I paid for a lot more than I got, which I suppose makes me a sucker. I’m just glad I didn’t pay full retail pop for them. That would raise me from sucker to mark, and that’s just not right.