Ryan Spoon’s post on how he’s being tempted to cast aside his tried-and-trusted Blackberry for a new iPhone (an exercise many Blackberry users will go soon through) got me thinking how shiny and new easily captures the imagination and dollars of consumers.

Even when products are services are perfectly fine, consumers are drawn like bees to honey when something newer, more sparkly, bigger, sexier is available.

From an economics perspective, this is what keeps capitalism going. If everyone was content to keep what they had until it no longer worked, rampant consumerism would be non-existent and economic growth would be less exciting.

As well, companies would struggle for higher sales given quality isn’t always seen as a good thing – think about how Maytag struggled with the fact its appliances used to last forever.

In the consumer electronics industry, more products are disposable as costs decline and innovation continues to happen. The large-screen DLP television you purchased a few years ago now looks downright dowdy compared with the sleek LCD models that have dropped so much in price, not buying one is a crime.

In the buy now, buy often world in which we live, the question is whether quality counts as much anymore? Are consumers interested in quality as opposed to getting something new at a low price?

I would argue the answer is a resounding “no” because most consumers aren’t willing to pay for quality even if these products are better and last longer.

Why pay more for something when you can get the same kind of product for less, and if it doesn’t last or gets quickly antiquated, you just buy another one?

Sure, this kind of behaviour makes the world go round but it doesn’t mean it’s the right approach.

For some other thoughts on consumer behaviour, check out this review of Rob Walker’s new book, Buying In.

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