9/05/2012

09-05-12 - Make it square!

God damn mattress fitted sheet is on sideways again.

US Eastern King dimensions : 76 x 80 inches

76 x 80 !? You fuckers. That's like giving me a square hole and a peg that's just barely doesn't fit and laughing while I try to cram it in the hole.

Make it square god damn it. I suspect they do it on purpose so you can't rotate the bed 90 degrees, since that would massively prolong the life of a mattress. (same reason why all modern mattresses are non-flippable).

If you could rotate AND flip a mattress, it could last a lifetime.

Anyhoo, this thought reminded me of an old rant I wrote and never posted (I almost never post the non-technical rants that I write anymore), so here it is :


Modern Capitalism is primarily about how to maximize profit by manipulating consumers, making shit products and somehow selling them for huge sums. Why in the world would a corporation ever spend the masses of money to make actual good products and sell them honestly based on their merits, when they can make much more profit by convincing you to buy some piece of crap that you don't actually need? Why would I spend money improving my factory when I can spend much less on some clever lawyers and financiers who can offshore my profits and deprive my workers of their contractually guaranteed pensions? This post is a few little stories related to that.

It's almost impossible to find good tools any more. All of the major reputable "quality" brands have switched their stage of life from "build up my brand name" to "milk my brand name for all its worth". DeWalt, Makita, etc. are all basically the same made in China crap. (Craftsman is of course the tool brand that has fallen the farthest; in my grandfather's time it meant really solid quality good stuff, and now it is just the bottom of the barrel crap; in fact what Craftsman does is take the generic no-brand stuff from China and just stick a label on it, you can literally find the exact same products in different colors on AliBaba). This is the inevitable cycle of life of brand names, they get built up for a while, and at some point they become too valuable and the small profit that you get from actually making good products and continuing that brand is not enough, a venture cap company will buy you up because there is a much bigger profit opportunity by going into the "brand milking" phase.

When you're looking to buy something these days, having a well known reputable brand name is almost a curse for the product, that is, it makes it *less* likely to be good. It's kind of amazing to me how many semi-intelligent people will say things like "oh yeah, German cars are great quality". No they aren't, they haven't been since the 80's. BMW, Merc, and Porsche are all well into the "brand milking" phase. Sadly Honda seems like it may have entered that phase of life as well.

I recently bought a Simmons Beautyrest mattress for the new house, and made the mistake of not redoing my research. 10 years or so ago the last time I bought a mattress I did a ton of research and found that the Beautyrest was a perfectly acceptable quality-pricepoint compromise (though at that point it was already not the bed that it used to be). In the time since then, Simmons has gone into total brand milking mode.

(aside : of course mattresses have been an area of super-shysterism for a long time; there are lots of appalling warning signs. Any product that doesn't have a standardized price is a major warning sign. Any product that's only sold through dealers and not direct is a major warning sign. They have long touted their "warranties" which are completely worthless because they always find some loop hole to deny it. But perhaps the biggest warning sign is the way they are constantly changing the names so that you cannot cross-shop or find consistent information about "this model is good" or "this model is bad").

Amusingly I even found this piece of evidence :

Simmons Focuses on Maximizing Dealer Profitability Through Product Innovations and Best-In-Class Merchandising Strategies at

This is what modern companies really do. Maximize dealer profitability. Develop new product levels for up-selling opportunities. Improve our products? Fuck that.

If you still don't believe me, yes it is in fact true that Simmons makes absolute garbage now :
Simmons Beautyrest- The Great Depression - Simmons Beautyrest Mattress - Epinions.com
Consumer complaints about Simmons Mattresses
Simmons Beautyrest Mattresses - All Types Reviews � Viewpoints.com

(aside 1 : one thing that always strikes me as super bizarre is that the business pages will be full of things like "Porsche turns record $25,000 average profit per car" or "Monster Cable launches new Beats headphone line to tap dumb sucker profit opportunity" and in the business pages the article is very positive, it's like great play by them, we think they're cool for being really good at ripping people off. Okay fine, I'm sure the industrialists congratulate each other on their schemes. But it's right out in the open. How can you see these articles and ever buy a single product from those companies again? It's sort of like two pro poker players talking to each other at the table saying out loud "yeah this moron fish across from us is about to spew off his whole stack so I'm trying to play every hand with him", how can you get away with admitting the fact that you are a robber right to their faces and get away with it?)

(aside 2 : it's puzzling/funny to me that many people are so brainwashed by the hype, they think they have options. They'll say : okay, I know Sealy and Simmons are lying scammers that make absolute garbage, but the top end Beautyrest Black line is still good. Or, I know Sealy and Simmons are crap, that's why I buy Stearns & Foster (FYI - they also make garbage, which you can tell if you do the research into the grade and gauge of steel they use in their coils); that's exactly what they want you to do, by stepping up you have exactly fallen into their upsell trap, my god).

(aside 3 : a similar line of bad thought is the people who know that these businesses are all scammers, but think that they can somehow beat the scammers. No you can't, you can never beat them. They have loads of money, they control distribution, and they have advertising that has already corrupted your brain and you don't even know it. I'll see people who are like "oh, it's over-priced and not that great quality, but I got it for 50% off so I win!" ; no you didn't win you fucking moron, all mattresses are always 50% off; if they sell it to you, you lose. I see countless people on car forums who think they really got one over on a dealer, or who think they got an extended warranty for a great price. Yeah, I'm sure your math is better than the professional actuaries at the warranty company.)

I had another little experience recently that made me think of this. I finally got new glasses after many years of having the same ones (I think I got them when I was 21, so it's been 13-14 years !?). I tried a few different shops, and wound up picking some at the Japanese frame shop in Uwajimaya. When I was picking the type of glass I asked about getting the upgrades for scratch resistance and anti-glare coating, which at any other glasses shop would be extras; the lady was like "all our lenses are scratch resistant and anti-glare, it's not an option, of course your lenses should have that!". It blew me away, it was like total non-ripoff-capitalism (which of course means they are missing a profit opporunity and some VC should buy them out and make them more cut-throat).

The thing I realized is that a standard fucking retarded economic theory gets this all wrong. An economist would say that it's actually better for the consumer to have the options. By having various price points, the consumer can choose the level that maximizes utility for them. But that is just not true.

In reality what making those things optional really does is to raise the price of glasses. When the glasses shop switches from selling {lenses+antiglare+antiscratch} as one unit into selling them as separate units, the total price {lenses}+{antiglare}+{antiscratch} does not stay the same, it rises, a lot. In theory a consumer should be able to see that and go wait a sec, I'll buy from a shop that still sells it as a unit, but of course you can't actually do that in the real world. One of the real world problems is that when business sectors figure out these new profit tricks, they very quickly all adopt them, so you don't have a choice to keep buying the old way. Another problem is of course advertising; standard economic theory is basically totally broken in the real world because it is assumes the consumer demand is based on some rational concrete thing, when in fact demand is usually manufactured by advertising; in this case, splitting the prices allows them to advertise the price of just the lenses, and they hide the information from you that the lens price they are advertising is for shit lenses. There's another more subtle piece of unequal information, which is that the glasses shop knows that you should never buy those crap lenses without the options, it just isn't worth the savings, but consumers are not educated enough to know that and so can make that mistake.

(perhaps an even better example is cars - every time they take out a standard feature and make it optional, it's worse for consumers; the base price never goes down by the amount they saved in removing that feature)

A final thing I've been thinking about for a while is the fact that sadly the video game industry has finally entered into the "clever capitalism" phase. If you're a fucking asshole you might say that our industry has gotten "more mature" or we are better at offering different purchasing methods to consumers. That's not true, in fact what we are doing is learning how to cleverly rob people.

I remember a few years ago people in games all started talking about randomized rewards and incremental payments and all this shit about the psychology of how to tickle a user's brain and get them to keep putting money in the slot, and I just felt sick and knew I had to get out of this industry.

Subscription payment methods are almost always just methods of robbery. Whether it's a phone, a gym, or an MMO, the reason why businessmen love subscription models is because it provides a great way to take much more money from the consumer than they think they will spend on it.

Downloadable content sounds okay in theory, but in fact it is just a form of robbery based on unequal information (one of the capitalist's favorite ripoffs). Jeff Minter has ranted about this far better than me, but the principle scheme is to not make it clear up front to the player how much of the game they actually get for each payment.

Of course the most scummy current trend in games is free-to-play and in-game-purchases and the whole "milk the whale" method.

4 comments:

Blaine Allen Brown said...

Regarding the idea of subscription, I recently did a cost analysis of cell phone plans in my area. I researched both what I considered a "reasonable" android phone and the iPhone. I was wondering just how much the difference in cost would be if I paid for the phones outright and switched to a no-contract system.

Lots of interesting information came up in this research.

1.) For a family of four a 2-year contract total (before taxes) typically comes to around $7,000 regardless of carrier. I did not suspect it cost this much for phone service.

2.) Whether you were purchasing the no-contract phone service and phone for full price at the start -or- getting the phone at a discount at one of the major cell phone companies, the price was essentially the same. Which is staggering when you imagine iPhone prices at $200/ea. for four people coming to $800 versus purchasing four iPhones for $650/ea. which comes to $2600. With a $2600 cost at the outset Straight Talk comes to $6980 versus AT&T $6703 and Verizon $6940 with only an $800 opening cost. Sprint was the only one that was significantly cheaper at $5839. I don't know why this is. T-Mobile doesn't offer the iPhone, but assuming you bought 4 unlocked phones at $2600; that plus their plan comes to $7300 for 2 years, a negligible difference. I also did comparisons for a reasonable android phone (>=1GHz processor) and found similar ratios.

So clearly companies know what they're doing when they offer discounts to the phones. However, since it's basically the same as no-contract, it might still benefit you to to take the initial reduction, (you may not have $2600 to spend on phones at once time) but just realize that overall you are still paying the same. Paying the same to be locked into something for 2 years.

If you want to see the spreadsheet, I made a Google Doc here.

Blaine Allen Brown said...

I should have included that Straight Talk is the no-contract phone service in my area. Maybe people didn't know that.

nothings said...

I totally agree with this rant and have nothing to add to it.

Argie said...

Since I have the same annoyance about mattress sizes but attributed it more to tradition and less a conscious decision by the industry to make non-square mattresses.

Interestingly, someone now makes a $8,000 or $12,000 mattress that is square. The fact that it's a square, though, seemed almost accidental.

old rants