Many years ago, a good friend of mine told me, as he was getting up to walk to the men's room, "You can never buy beer, you can only rent them."
And that's how I feel about buying hi-tech products these days.
Technology is changing too fast, both hardware and software, with an ever increasing total-cost-of-ownership which includes initial investment plus repair/extra-warranty cost and monthly subscription.
So in spite of what we might say to our spouses, in our hearts we know darn well that computer or smart phone purchases these days are not worthwhile capital investment.
With endless bug fixes and new models coming out in such unbelievable frequency, we couldn't possibly be happy with our purchases after a few short months.
So in essence, as consumers we are being treated as beta testers, constantly subsidizing product development and market testing with real money.
In addition, unlike the old days when we were buying physical products such as CD's and cassettes where we have total control over their "fair-use", with downloads we are merely buying a license giving us very restricted venues on how to use the products (e.g., no copying of DVD's even for archival purpose and no editing of protected MP3's into dial-tones, etc.).
What adds insult to injury is that our jobless recovery has now fully transitioned into a jobless economy. Corporations are not hiring. When they do, they tend to hire outside the country. They are not even paying dividends. Instead, they are using their obscene profits (our money) to acquire other equally profitable companies (Comcast buying NBC, AOL buying HuffPost, etc.).
I feel frustrated. I feel helpless and I feel defiant. And I can't take it anymore.
A year ago I bought a $350 netbook from Costco in order to continue to write for LoveMyTool while travelling aboard. When I returned, I realized that Apple has just announced their iPad. Now I am stuck.
Then I read the return policy from Costco which "guarantees my 'satisfaction' on every product they sell with a full refund". And I was clearly not satisfied with my two-week old netbook. Therefore I decided to return it to buy a better one.
Then I thought to myself: why stop there. Why buy when I can return. I should just treat every impulse purchase from Costco as a short-lease. If I am "satisfied", I keep it. If I am not, I should return it to get a better one in accordance with their return policy.
I know this is borderline behavior but I buy all my wines and all my cleaning supplies from Costco which could not be returned so I am only a small step on the wrong side of the moral hazard.
Is this illegal? No.
Is this immoral? No.
Is this unethical? May be.
But who am I hurting?
I am not hurting Costco or fellow Costco shoppers since Costco is just a distributor and they get full reimbursement from the manufacturers in exchange for volume. In fact, having a no-question-ask return policy is a brilliant marketing move on their part since no one would hesitate buying from them.
And as long as their return line is order of magnitude shorter then their check-out line, they are doing great. Anyway, a big chunk of their profit comes from our $100 annual membership fees.
Furthermore, I am not hurting HP/Dell/Asus etc. since they are also distributors for Microsoft and Intel and they actually made a conscious business decision to include the Wintel components in their netbooks even though they have better alternatives because they don't want to lose out on the kickbacks.
So I am basically hurting Microsoft and Intel but at least they have my money upfront. And when they stop making my purchases obsolete, I will stop returning.
On the other hand, by having the latest products at all time, I am in fact helping the struggling software developers (Jolicloud, Boxee, etc.) by giving them valuable feedbacks as their loyal alpha/beta user.
With that in mind, I have now on my short-lease program a Google Android tablet, a state-of-the-art dash-mount GPS, a Boxee Box, a dual-microphone noise-reduction bluetooth headset, etc. All top-of-the-line, all destined to be obsolete in a few months and all ready to be returned for a better model when I am no longer "satisfied".
In future "Defianomics" articles, I will examine other ways to beat the system and take back our life.
Have fun and enjoy another beautiful Sunday.