November 16, 2014


image You won’t find the type of warnings on alcohol or tobacco applied to
The onus is on us to learn, evaluate and decide. Attempts at consumer protection (e.g., banning sugary drinks in school vending machines or capping credit card interest rates at prime+5%) get challenged. How dare we lose our freedom to harm ourselves!

Which Side?

Sellers claim to be on our side, but are they really? We’re encouraged to
  • drink responsibly (but still drink)
  • follow the rules of the road (but buy vehicles which break them in  commercials)
  • eat a healthy breakfast (but include Nutella)
Since shareholders have different interests than buyers — and rightly so — don’t count on voluntary transitions to better guarantees, more transparency and lower prices. Look at MasterCard/Visa credit card transaction fees in Canada, which are among the world’s highest. They’ve increased 25% in the last two years. Now MasterCard/Visa will make voluntary reductions of about 10%, leading to a typical charge of 1.5%. This is considered a victory, but for whom?

Money Madness

The financial sector promotes financial literacy … but profits from our ignorance, inertia and limited choices. That’s not as effective as improving the products. We could be prevented from paying heavily on unpaid credit card balances if interest rates were lower. We could avoid the pitfalls of mortgage life insurance if poor products were not sold.

Until we live in perfect world, beware.
An Example
We were looking for a video tripod strong enough to support a camera, 15mm rod system, teleprompter and an iPad. The advisor at a well-known specialty store recommended tripods costing $750 or more! When I asked for a cheaper option. I was shown a $350 tripod with weak legs and a poor head. Then another $750 tripod.

Because I did my research, I knew that getting photography legs and a video head separately would be better and cheaper. The advisor — an expert — could have suggested this  but maybe she got sales commissions or thought conventionally.

A Strategy

Protect yourself with education. You can often learn the basics online from objective sources. That helps you ask the right questions and spot the wrong answers. You might find better solutions than those presented to you.


PS Mind the fine print!

No comments: