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If I were looking for a way to move a customer’s eyes off the final price tag, I’d come up with something called a product/service protection plan.

Keep your eye on what we tell you to.

Then, at every transaction, I’d tell the customer the cost of the product with the plan factored in. Most customers will reject the cost and enjoy the vicarious thrill of having haggled to a lower price. Best of all, they’ll walk away thinking they’ve saved money–even if the original product is overpriced.

This works especially well on products whose pricing already is fairly inscrutable. Yes, eyeglass shops–I’m looking at you, albeit with your help.

You start off with some great-sounding deal. But somehow, the final price ends up being about twice as high as the advertised price (two frames for $99!!!!), but still half what the frames would have cost without all the alleged sweeteners.

To wit: the consumer walks into the store with a two-for-$99 ad, walks out with a receipt for $200, but learns an important lesson: the two frames would have cost $400. After all, you wanted lenses that let you see at night, right?

So now I’m curious:

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If Circuit City can’t make it, what hope is there for the rest of us? Well, at least I might get a good deal on a wireless mouse and a new wristpad for my keyboard. The old one is coming unglued (as you can see below, it looks like a blue mystery-meat hoagie).

pad

What’s good for the consumer these days might not be so good tomorrow. I keep hearing about how bad this economy is (the worst since the Great Depression?) , and it’s a cliche that a recession is when a neighbor is out of work and you have to write about it, a depression is when you are out of work. But I can’t quite wrap my head around it.

Maybe it’s because I work from home and have no one to talk to to stoke my fears. Or maybe it’s because people in general err to the positive or the negative, and the muddlesome truth is impossible to tease out.

All I know is a lot of people are losing their jobs with little prospect of getting a new one. I doubt their bank accounts will carry them through whatever’s coming. They can sell off assets, but the more people go that route, the less they’ll earn. More supply, lower prices. At least newspapers might see a small uptick in classified sales. Good luck collecting payment.

Someone should study winning bids on ebay to see if the average is up, down or unchanged. Yes, it’s a lot of apples to oranges, but still. There must be some method that could cut through the madness. Reading this makes me wonder what other statistical nuggets ebay might be able to cough up, if pressed.

Thus, the question. Do I buy a new wristpad or wrap duct tape around what I have? Or should I spare the duct tape to repair a more valuable asset down the road before posting it on ebay?