Thursday, October 6, 2011

The great cable swindle continues

So today I receive an email from My Cable Mart, a cable vendor in the USA that I used some years ago.  I used them because I needed long HDMI cables (50') and they were one of the only places that had them at a reasonable price.

The email was punting a 15% off sale they are having.  It's been a long time since the last promo email - I can't even remember when that was - so either this is something unusual or times are tough (or both).

Looking back, I paid $105 ($USD) for a 50' HDMI cable back in 2007 - same cable is now $102, with a much better exchange rate.  A quick check shows Future Shop selling them - finally - at $200 now, for their "house brand" no-name cable.

I have nothing against no-name cables.  I love them.  They work, and you don't pay for all the marketing and other bullshit.  But it's pretty plain that the markup on cables is still huge.

And why not?  When I worked in retail, we sold camera filters worth $1 to people for $15-$30.  And people bought them.  Cables are no different than other "accessories", except for the fact that you HAVE to have them.  Which makes them easier to sell than filters, which are ultimately optional.

But it is still sad to see this level of gouging.  And that's not even beginning to mention the "premium" brand cables, which are much more expensive.  All they are is a bunch of the same wire, made with a touch of thicker insulation and put into a pretty package that will get thrown away the instant it's installed.

Future Shop doesn't even sell Monster cables any more, or at least not the more expensive ones.  I guess that sort of crap isn't exactly flying off the shelves in recessionary times - who wants to spend $200 for a three-foot cable when you're unemployed, anyway?

Unfortunately, even My Cable Mart has cottoned on to price differentiation.  They offer various "grades" of HDMI cable, with different wire gauges and so forth.

Well, here's news: all the cables get tested the same way.  And since they're for digital signals, they either work or they don't work.  Period. 

So, barring any special features (like right-angle connectors, which can occasionally be very handy) a cable is a cable is a cable.  You don't need to punt up for the "premium" brand from anybody - not even the discount vendors.

Now, I suppose that the "high-speed" cables might find some future use.  Maybe.  Somehow.  That is, if Blu-Ray somehow gets replaced by something even MORE high-def, that needs to carry even MORE data. 

Somehow I doubt it - HD was always a solution looking for a problem, and Blu-Ray has not decimated DVD sales like the studios hoped it would.  Nor have HD channels replaced standard TV en masse.  With 1080p being the 'gold standard' of video - and enjoying less than stellar uptake - why would anyone care for even more resolution?

3D TV is the same way.  Nobody wants 3D TV.  The industry created it because it was the only thing they could think of to get more profits.  Pretty much.  Sure, there's the odd 3D movie - Disney is reportedly coming out with several  3D remakes - but that doesn't demand any kind of special high-speed cable.

This one is not even worth linking about - there is information all over the net on cables.  Linking would be futile.

Times are tough, and most people are more careful with money now.  Maybe - just maybe - we'll see more people doing their homework in the next few years.  Then people will start to realize what is worth paying for - and what isn't.

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