Full admission I’m a pretty difficult person to buy a gift for, my tastes are somewhat
bizarre eclectic and seemingly random to almost everyone. So when it comes time for relatives to buy me a gift I get a lot of gift cards. For my birthday earlier this summer I got a $50 gift card to Borders Books. This was a great gift I could go pick out a book, some music or a DVD.
I had my eye on a few things but was really looking for a boxed set of DVD’s on the American Revolutionary War or World War II (the fact that I want to buy history DVD but hated history in school says something about our education system but I digress). One that I had my eye on was “The Revolution” a 5 DVD series from the history channel
I could purchase the item from Amazon for $27.49. So knowing what I wanted and how much it should be I got in my car and drove the 20 minutes to the nearest Borders Book store and eventually found someone to open locked glass case (because treating your customers like criminals is always a good thing). However I was shocked to learn the exact same box set of DVD’s was $49.99. So not only had a wasted an hour of my time (20 minutes there 20 minutes back and 10 minutes finding a sales person) I was getting charged an additional $20 for it. I could just as easily have stayed home saved the time, aggravation, gas, mileage and $20. The only person who benefited in that part of the equation was the offline store. That is the exact type of treatment that makes me never want to set foot in a mall or other offline store again.
However the story doesn’t end there it gets a bit more interesting. Since I’m now video iPod equipped I also had the ability to purchase the exact same item through iTunes for even less I could get it on Amazon!
For arguments sake let’s assume I wasn’t using a preexisting gift card, but was paying with my credit card, would I choose to save even more money and get it from iTunes? The answer is unequivocally no. Assuming I had a method to watch iTunes purchases on my TV it’s still not the best choice. Call it what you want but iTunes method of copyright protection is just as restricting as DRM from major record labels. If I purchase through their system I’m locked into their format. If I buy the discs I can rip them into my iPod or any other device and watch them where/when and how I want. As a consumer I get to consume in the way that’s most convenient for me. When you free consumers from the burden of DRM, copy protection, locked phones, closed networks, incompatible data formats, or any other walled garden you are limiting them and yourselves. If you set them free they absolutely will consume it in ways you didn’t intend, expect or anticipate, but here’s the kicker they will consume more of it.
If you’re an online store you better think hard and be honest if you are providing a real value that can’t be beaten online. If you’re going to charge me more, and inconvenience me you might as well close up shop now and find something else to do, because I don’t think you’ll be around much longer. If you are providing goods or services online remove as much friction from he process as possible. Slippery service providers, who enable me to do what I want quickly and easily are the ones who are going to get my business.