Time for Moneysmart’s annual hall of (in)famy. With a vast global market, you’d think that prices get more sensible over time. And you’d be wrong. Because going through this list, it’s obvious that retailers don’t allow little things like “reason” to get in their way. Either that, or they have complete faith…in human stupidity. Take note of these annoying rip-offs, and be sure to roll your eyes at the sales staff:
"And that was the last thing I saw before all my money vanished."
1. Brand Name HDMI Cables
The pricing of HDMI cables makes sense…assuming your home planet isn’t Earth. Go to any electronics store, and you’ll find outrageous price discrepancies on these things.
Generic (no brand) HDMI cables often cost under $15. But the moment there’s a brand and nice packaging, the price jumps to $30 or…get this…$1000. Yeah, you laugh, like I’m joking or something. But there’s a store in Adelphi selling the Platinum Starlight cable for $1000 per meter.
But what do branded cables do? Make pictures clearer? Speed up frame rates? Cure cancer? They should, considering the price. But the answer is nothing anyone can agree on. So just head to the neighbourhood store and grab the cheap ones; no need to hit Funan or Sim Lim for these.
"It's not old and dusty. That's because of it's, uh, powerful magnetic pull."
2. iPhone Cases / Covers
$15 – $30 for a piece of plastic to stick on the screen. And limited edition iPhone cases that go up to $250. When will this madness end?
A quick heads up: Did you know that iPhone screens get cloudy faster with protective stickers? The screen of the phone is coated with an oil repellent chemical, which takes your prints off. The protective sticker, however, just guarantees grease streaks everywhere.
But if you absolutely must get a case or protector, go to Far East Plaza. The stalls sell cases in the $10 – $20 range, and screen protectors for as low as $7. Quality is comparable, even if the range of designs aren’t.
"And to open it, just position the power drill and jack hammer this way…"
3. Branded Bottled Water
Branded mineral water has a mark-up of almost 4000%. It’s a showy, environmentally damaging business. And considering we spend millions to make tap water drinkable, it makes less sense than the average Korean movie.
If you have to drink bottled water (because apparently, you live in the only Singaporean house with no tap), get the No Frills brand. This costs less than a dollar a bottle. Don’t fret over the health benefits or lack thereof; it’s still debatable whether mineral water does anything for you.
"Our water comes from a deep underground source, filtered through thousands of layers."
4. Pre-Cut Vegetables and Fruits
On some supermarket shelves, you can find sealed styrofoam packs with pre-cut food. Take them to the section with whole fruits and veggies, and compare the price. Most of the time, you’ll see a 20 – 40% mark-up.
What’s the difference? Nothing. The food comes from the same suppliers. You’re just being charged extra because someone had to slice and seal them for you. And if you do any cooking, you’ll know this convenience is meaningless; how many times have you bought cut vegetables, only to have to chop them some more when you got home?
For the best bargains, look in the whole foods section of Sheng Siong. Prices tend to be cheaper by a dollar or two, compared to other supermarkets.
"Vacuum pack them in plastic and put them on a shelf for a week. That'll make them fresher, right?"
5. Printer Ink
This one has been around for a while. When printer ink starts to cost more than human blood and penicillin combined, you know you’re being ripped off.
Have you noticed printers often come with outrageous discounts? Like up to 50%? That’s because the manufacturers don’t really profit from the printer. They profit from the ink. You only buy a printer once every few years, but you’ll be buying ink almost monthly. Sometimes, they’re happy to give you that printer at cost.
There are two ways around this. One is to buy printers with cartridges you refill yourself. It’s about as convenient as a waterproof teabag. The other way? Compare ink prices instead of printer prices, before buying.
"Refilling your own cartridges is easy. Compared to, say, brain surgery."
6. Wine in Restaurants
Restaurants charge corkage for a good reason: No one with half a clue will buy wines in a restaurant. It’s not entirely the restaurant’s fault; they have to pay their liquor license. But hey, no one’s forcing you to pay it for them.
You know how soft drinks are marked up in restaurants? Apply the same principle to wine, except much worse. Mark-ups have been known to exceed 200%. Restaurants around the Clark Quay and City Hall area are notorious for this; I’ve been to a few that tried to charge $120 for a $25 bottle.
"I really could use a glass. Here, take my car keys and wallet. As Payment."
7. Designer Furniture
Designer furniture is proof that free market economics is doomed. It’s abundantly clear that alternatives to $600 beanbags exist. It’s obvious that something to rest your ass on on shouldn’t cost $4000. But trying telling that to the community of suckers who crowd Park Mall’s designer stores.
I’ve mentioned that Interior Designers can provide more cost effective furniture. They can scratch build or find something that looks alike, for less than half the price. So if you’re furnishing your new apartment, get your head out of the store catalogues. Consult a designer, rather than trying to purchase furniture sets yourself.
"Ergonomic office chair. Right. Do I just sit on it until the egg hatches?"
Spot anything else that’s overpriced?
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