Price, Quantity, Quality

I bought ice cream this weekend. While I was not looking, the boxes shrunk again. They went from 2 quarts to 1.75 quarts a while ago. I adjusted. They are down to 1.5 quarts now, and everyone seems to have gotten the memo at once.

On most products, people are most sensitive to price differences, then quantity, then quality. The immediate price difference is also essential: even if an appliance will obviously cost $50 more per year to use than the one next to it, a $75 difference in price will swing an overwhelming amount of business to the cheaper one. For some things, you really care about quality and are a connoisseur, but on the whole you will notice a $5 difference before you notice a less fine patina on the finish. So price is immutable. You will not charge more or less than $15/month for your MMO, because if you charge more, you are a ripoff, and if you charge less, you are obviously the ghetto MMO.

Quantity is the next thing to vary. You can fake that with a bigger box: people do not look closely. Note when you buy paper towels, that they translate “big rolls!” into smaller ones. They are trying to avoid that problem, where people pay more for 8 small rolls than 6 big rolls. In MMOs, our variant is “36 zones! 128 playable classes!” How many of those zones are repetitive or procedural content? Did you get those classes by taking every possible combination of skills and giving each package a name? “Hush you!” So your detergent has a “new concentrated formula!” that requires more per load in some random-sized box.

Quality? Who notices quality? You can’t tell on half the things you buy. The same products come off the line and go into boxes with a half-dozen brand names. The terrifying thing is that people enjoy it more when it comes in the higher-priced box. And do you notice a 5% difference in quality on most things, really? Cut the pickles a little thinner, use 2 fewer pepperoni slices on the pizza, put a little less meat and a bit more pasta on the plate. Price is the same, the unit (1 hamburger) is the same, so your buying habits are probably the same. Make the game get by down one member on the Q&A staff, minus a tester, released a week early. People notice the number of zones and the ship date, not how optimized the graphics coding is; the few who do care are the whiny customers we could stand to do without. You will probably have a new job when it’s time to pay the piper, and the next guy will blame any problems on you anyway.

You hardly noticed yourself losing one hair at a time, but you woke up bald one fine morning.

: Zubon

One thought on “Price, Quantity, Quality

  1. Rog

    Quote: On most products, people are most sensitive to price differences, then quantity, then quality.

    This is unfortunate, but realized over the years as it became more and more obvious that most purchases are based on the psychology of the moment. ‘Impulse’ shopping trumps repeat / loyal customers.

    I think though, that if it weren’t for our competitive shares approach to capitalism, there would still be more room for quality and repeat purchasing. There’s some still, but you’re only as good as your last product. And the competition drives cost-reduction, which lends itself to sameness in products. I guess we could blame a bit of the Ford approach to capitalism too, always dealing in bulk production.

    When the measurement for success is Marketshare, bulk cheaply made / sold product always wins out.

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