Let's say you use a ton of Google services, including Gmail, Calendar, Docs, Blogger, Picasa and others, and have stored vital information there (I think most of us do). You go to log in and your password simply doesn't work. Who you gonna call?
There is no one to call. You didn't pay for Google services, and so you've favored a model where no tech support exists. Of course, I'm picking on Google unfairly. Most of our online services are free, and most have poor or non-existent tech support, privacy policies and respect for your time. And Google does encourage users to register their cell phone for precisely such possibilities.
Also: Have you noticed that the commercials preceding online videos keep getting longer, that ads keep getting bigger and harder to get rid of? Hey, we wanted "free," and we got it.
Low prices change consumer behavior. Have you ever gone into Costco to buy a package of paper towels, and left with $275 dollars worth of stuff you didn't know you needed? You buy a pair of scissors at Costco, but they only come in packs of three. But, hey, its cheap, so why not?
The truth is that lower prices don't motivate us to save money. They motivate us to spend the same money on more stuff -- possibly even spend more money on more stuff than we would have done had prices been higher.
Our garages and attics and basements and closets (and offsite storage facilities) are jam-packed with stuff we dont need. Most of us have way too much. And yet low prices get us to buy more.
In the realm of gadgets and computers, we buy more gadgets and we buy them more often because prices are low. And because prices are low, people are incentivized to buy new devices instead of used ones. The result of both these trends is that we're throwing away millions of devices per year. These perfectly usable devices are shipped to poor countries around the world to be disassembled in unsafe facilities, often worked by very small children.
The illusion is that prices are cheap. The reality is often that you or somebody else is paying dearly for that low price.
Prices have never been lower, but the costs have never been higher.
We gravitate toward low prices because we believe they will improve our lives by enabling us to afford more and better things. But this belief is mostly false.
Low prices result in bad service, shoddy goods, a polluted environment, unethical manufacturing, and cheapness everywhere. Low prices make life dirtier, more dangerous and more frustrating. When prices are cheap, everything becomes cheap.
What we need is a lot more information about the products and services we buy, and good business practices, good customer support and responsible environmental stewardship in exchange for a price that covers all that.
We need higher prices.