Monday, 30 December 2013

Things I am not going to buy - Day 30: Cheap versions of expensive items

Some things have a much higher price tag than they should simply because they are made by a "household name" - Kelloggs, Cadbury, Proctor and Gamble, McVities, Walls, Heinz, etc, etc, etc. 

Now I'm not really including this category in my resolution because I do seek out own brand products where I am pretty sure there isn't going to be a lot of difference.  However, I'm probably a bit picky, and tend to veer towards the branded stuff just because I think it is going to be a better taste/quality. I know there are lots of taste tests that show own brand products beating known brands, and I know that a lot of the own branded products are made by the big names, it just that when the chocolate digestive doesn't taste as delicious as a McVities, or the washing-up liquid is much thinner than Fairy, it feels like it's worth paying a bit more.
Other things have premium prices because of the fancy packaging and marketing, such as designer perfumes, toiletries and make-up. 

In this category, perfume stands out as the thing that it is most definitely worth paying for the real thing.  Anything that attempts to copy a designer brand perfume at a reduced price is not worth a sniff!  Other perfumes that are made by the "non-designer" cosmetic houses don't do it for me either.  Revlon's "Charlie" might have been OK for me at 17, when it was all I could afford, but now it simply has to be Chanel/Dior/LancĂ´me/Guerlain/Estee Laudee, and others in that ilk "darling"!  Of course, all the big designer names make ranges of skin care and make-up products that also have premium prices.  I occasionally splash out on a very expensive face cream that promises to take 10 years off my face, or a pretty eye shadow palette or lipstick (usually when I have too much time to kill in the Duty Free shop at the airport), however I find that cheaper brands of skincare products and make-up are perfectly adequate.  By cheaper brands, I am probably talking mid-range rather than supermarket own brand stuff!

Finally, some things are far more expensive than apparently identical items because they actually DO something that works, unlike the cheaper imitations.  This is where I need to learn lessons from the past.  I can probably admit it relates solely to the attempt to buy products that will work with Apple gadgets that aren't actually made by Apple. We have a number of Apple gadgets, including an iMac, a couple of iPads and a couple of iPhones.  They all come with their specialist connectors that only fit i-thingies, and cost a fortune.  Most annoyingly, when Apple brought out the iPhone 5, the connector was completely different to previous iPhones/iPads.  Although the phone came with a charger cable, it is handy to have at least one other spare.  I also had a docking station that enabled me to connect my iPhone to my rather nice Pure radio.  I could no longer use this as the connector was totally different.  Apple sold a nice little convertor for just such a purpose:

Barely an inch square, this little piece of equipment, required for using any previous i-connectors with the new iPhone, cost £25, which is bloody expensive for what it is!  A quick surf on the net revealed hundreds of items that looked exactly the same and claimed to do exactly the same job, with the difference being they cost a fraction of the price - yes, they could be picked up for under a fiver!  Brilliant!  I ordered one through a supplier on Amazon, and it arrived within a couple of days.  Excitedly I put it in my docking station, put in the iPhone, set the radio to "aux", played some music on the phone and.... nothing! No sound came through at all.  A little message popped up on the phone saying that there was a non-standard device stuck up its bum (or words to that effect), and that it probably wouldn't work.  It did actually allow the phone to be charged, however it wouldn't transmit the sound, which was the purpose of buying it.  I returned it to the supplier.  I found another device on another website which looked similar, but it had an additional little antenna which went into the headphone socket.  Surely this would work?  It specifically stated that it would allow iPhone 5s to transmit sound through docking stations with the old connector.  Not a chance!  Not a crackle or a buzz.  Just the same message.  This one also went back to the supplier.  I went into the Apple store and spent £25 on the real thing.  It worked.

I also bought a small keyboard (musical variety) that could be used with a computer or an iPad to make music.  It worked fine with the Mac and the Windows PC, but to use it on an iPad, you needed to buy the camera connection kit: 

2 little adaptors that plug into the iPad and accept either an SD card or a USB connection.  Price from the Apple site/store - a mere £25.  Undeterred by my previous experience, I found lots of sites selling non-branded versions that did exactly the same thing... apparently!  I bought one for about £8, and excitedly tried it out on my iPad, first with the SD card from my camera.  Up popped the dreaded message about it not being a standard connector... uh oh, doesn't look good...but... it actually worked - allowed me to transfer pictures from the card to the iPad.  Not what I wanted it for, but still, it bode well for the midi-keyboard.  I plugged it into the USB camera connector, and fired up Garage Band on the iPad.  I pressed a note on the keyboard... nothing.... I cranked up the volume to the max on the iPad and the keyboard....not a squeak!  I couldn't return the device because it actually did what it was designed for - ie transfer the pictures.  Grrrrr!!!  I went into the Apple store and spent £25 on the real thing.  It worked.

I did actually risk buying a couple of charging cables for a few pounds each and they work, although I still get the message that they aren't standard connectors and aren't going to work, but they seem to manage to charge the phone, so I feel I have actually got one up there on the mighty Apple.  Yah boo!

The reality is, I should just stop trying to save money and go straight to the Apple store should I need any more connectors/chargers.  

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