THE BLOG
10/07/2013 12:23 pm ET Updated Dec 07, 2013

The Illusion of 'Better'

I have noticed a phenomenon that seems to affect most of the people on this planet. It is how price seems to represent the value of an object, as opposed to it's actual quality. I live in NYC, so maybe I just experience it more, but the harder I look, the more I see people buying expensive things that could be bought for about half the price from other companies. I feel as though this idea that price is a part of quality plays a big role with the idea that brands are status. If a brand is considered to have status, they will raise their prices on their product, hence making high price mean it's "better."

My most recent example is when I got the iPhone 5C. In my family, there is usually a hand-me-down line for new phones. My dad or mom gets the newest one, then I receive the phone from two or more versions ago. I'm not complaining, I get a new phone, but unfortunately I'm always out of date compared to all of my friends. I decided to break the pattern by suggesting to my dad that we could split the price of the iPhone 5C. The first sign of my observation that price is quality was that I found that there were no 5S's whatsoever, but there were plenty of 5Cs. Within the next eight minutes, I was holding my brand new blue 5C already set up with my phone number, and I couldn't be happier. I showed up to school the next day, and casually showed off my brand new baby blue phone. People immediately started asking me, "Is that the new iPhone, does the finger scan work, why is yours blue?" without giving me time to answer.

I said, "This isn't the 5S, it's the 5C. It's basically just an iPhone 5, but made out of a colorful plastic and has rounded edges." Every time, I was met with the same exact response, "That's so stupid, why didn't you just get the 5S?" This response baffles me, even to this minute. I've played with the 5S, and it isn't that much better. Apple merely added a thumb scanner, slo-mo, and maybe a slightly better screen display. I felt no need to wait two weeks, and spend more money on a phone that I did not feel was worth another $100. I was and am perfectly content with my completely functional and colorful iPhone 5C.

Another example is shoes and clothing. People seem to feel that if they don't get a certain brand of clothing, they lose status in their work/school environment. Of course, brand status means higher price, which leads back to the illusion that high price equals the quality of an item, with shoes especially. I feel as though Nike shoes are so expensive because the status of having a pair of Nike shoes is so powerful. Wearing a pair of Nike Victories is like putting on war paint; it shows that you're there to win. On the other hand, it's also a mental status, because with my Nike shoes, I feel like it's a way for me to show that I want to win. It's almost like saying, "I'm so determined to beat you, I even have the best shoes to do it."

I feel like the argument about how price affects ones mental thinking of a product is highly relevant, but slowly dying. The Internet provides everyone with a vast amount of information on how the product that you're looking at actually works. When the iPhone 5 came out with Apple Maps, the amount of criticism and reviews on the Internet warding people to stay away from Apple Maps and just download Google Maps was shocking. The Internet has started an era where the status of a product or object doesn't come from it's brand, but from it's actual quality.

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