Have you noticed that the more expensive a purchase, the less information you have before you make it?
People buy houses after spending a mere 10 minutes wandering around a property. A cursory open and shut of a door here – yes, that appears to be screwed to the door frame – a turn of a tap there – yes, water comes out – and a turn about a garden, which has been tended for the first time in years.
And then you walk out, phone the estate agent and commit to spending hundreds of thousands of pounds. It sounds even more ludicrous when you write it down.
Cars are the same. You go to a showroom where you are wowed by the top-of-the-range-mega-model version and allowed to drive 300 yards to the end of the road in the diesel 3 litre engine when really you want a 1.6 litre petrol.
The pedals appear to work, the colour in the brochure is nice, so you sign a piece of paper and agree to pay thousands for something that sits on the driveway for six days a week only to be used to drive one mile to the supermarket on a Sunday, whereupon it gets scratched in the car park or you back it into a wall.
Don’t even get me started on wedding dresses. Trying something on that’s three sizes too big, held together with an industrial sized bulldog clip for an event that’s over a year away? Crazy.
And, for the record, I have made all of those purchases.
My most recent over-priced, under-informed purchase was a new laptop.
Unfortunately, try as I might, I could not deny that my tiny, ten-year-old netbook just isn’t up to the job any more. And when I say isn’t up to the job I mean it doesn’t respond when you press ‘on’.
And so I boldly went to Curry’s PC World.
First off, can I ask – why has the Competition Commission not looked at the whole Curry’s PC World thing? Because there is literally nowhere else on the high street where you can buy a computer. You might find a few in one of those giant Tesco superstores or some fancy ones in John Lewis and there’s always the terrifically intimidating Apple store. But for seeing a selection of models and budgets Curry’s really does seem to have a monopoly.
That’s a problem for another day, though. Today I just wanted a laptop.
Last time I bought a computer I believe it had a 1GB hard drive and 256MB of RAM and that was pretty darn impressive. So I was quite shocked to be told by the sales assistant that the pretty silver number I was eyeing up, which had FOUR GIGABYTES of memory, would not let me do more than go on Facebook.
‘What, not even write a few Word documents?’
‘What about – ’
‘What is all that memory remembering?’
‘I don’t know.’
Clearly she needed more RAM.
I tried to look at reviews online. But they’re either written by people who know A LOT about computers – seriously, one article had compared ten laptops based on how close the writer could get to his record words per minute typing speed – or people who seem to know very little but have strangely high standards all the same. I saw complaints that people didn’t like how far the keys on the keyboard were spaced, that the screen wasn’t fully HD and that the display was hard to read when you sat outside in bright sunlight. Duh.
I asked another sales assistant for help.
‘I quite like the 2-in-1 computers that you can also use as a tablet.’
‘Well, this one is very good.’
‘That’s not a 2-in-1.’
‘Oh yes. Yeah I don’t really know what to suggest then.’
So I did what any personal finance journalist would do. I found the one with the highest online rating, with the most money off, which also looked the prettiest.
Just call me Bill Gates.