You Get What You Pay For

Jul 10, 2018


Let me set the scene: it is early June and I’m up late scouring the internet for the absolute cheapest koozie deal in existence. While my family sleeps peacefully, I manically jump from Chrome tab to Chrome tab, dancing the delicate dance of a thrifty koozie shopper who still has very strict and probably unrealistic print quality standards. One deal comes in tantalizingly low—too low, hey, what’s going on here?—and as I read the fine print the nebulous yet dreaded “setup fee” strikes, bringing the grand total to basically what all the other cheapest sites have shown me. Surely, some desperate print shop will beat the best price I have been able to find after hours of searching. Right? Right?!?

As both physical and emotion exhaustion prevail, I tap out for the night. In my weakened state, I decide to slink back to an old koozie printer flame that has burned me before. Yes, that koozie printer flame. Glutton for punishment? Maybe. But it’s been three years, I rationalize. Surely they’ve gotten their act together by now. Every company deserves three separate chances before you write them off for real this time. After all, the third time’s the charm! I feel dirty as I hit submit.

Much like the dumb luck of a drunk texter who forgets to hit send, I happened to select the “pay after I see my proof” option. The koozie gods were gracious that night. When my proof finally arrives via email, emblazoned across the top in an annoyingly bright yellow box are seven ominous words:

**When printed, your artwork may stretch vertically**

They have to say that, I think to myself as sweat begins to bead around my temples. It’s going to be fine, I barter. Think of all the savings! Right, the savings! Think of all those dollars I am saving by literally getting a sick-to-my-stomach feeling about buying 50 koozies for a wiffle ball party in my backyard. Why, I could buy an entire case of beer with those savings as long as I don’t mind throwing in an additional few dollars from my own wallet!

Wait. The savings don’t cover a case of beer? Hold on. I’ve been stressing an unhealthily level about finding the best price for koozies and my prize is 19/24ths of a case of beer? This is stupid—why am I doing this to myself?

Empowered by my new-found sense of self-worth and the realization that this koozie company sucks, I politely (not that politely) reply to said koozie company with a big fat thanks, but no thanks. I then imagine a scenario where they’re pleading for my business. “What did us in???” they grovel. I stand stoically on a mountain and proclaim: “You literally reserved your right to mess up the artwork and that is a lame thing to do to your customers!” Keep in mind I am looking really fit on this mountain and my hair is blowing gracefully in the wind. “Noooo!” they yell as they fall off the mountain and out of my life, this time forever. I snap back to reality and eagerly await their actual desperate plea for my business to ping my inbox. It never comes.

I end up going to Etsy, find a small business that prints koozies, essentially pay 19/24ths of a case of beer more, and get exactly what I wanted with the express guarantee that my artwork will NOT stretch vertically when printed. They also arrive two weeks before the party so that stress is also alleviated. Additional dollars, yes, but zero stress, zero shame, and zero sweaty temples. Most importantly, I feel like I have come out ahead.

What I learned from this experience is consumers have to take a little responsibility for themselves. I’m sure we’ve all had our own unique koozie-hunting experiences where we get caught up in finding the best price—like price is the only factor of importance. Replace “koozies” with airplane tickets, or oil changes, or lawn services, or a number of other things and it probably seems quite relatable to experiences you’ve had.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. After ordering the koozies from the Etsy shop, I left an honest review about my experience. The owner sent me a private message within ten minutes thanking me profusely for both my business and my review, saying the latter was “the nicest thing [they] have experienced” in their customer reviews. Why am I telling you this? Well for one, to make me sound like a great guy, but for two, to show you that you can get in on this action for yourself. Having companies value you as a customer is attainable if you make the decision to patronize the right businesses. As counterintuitive as it may seem, you just have to break the shackles of price every once in a while. It honestly made me feel good buying from this small business and my good experience subsequently made them feel good. It really is a win-win.

So the next time you find yourself with price-driven anxiety, stop, take a deep breath, and really think about what is most important in your life right now. Is it $17? Or is it peace of mind and a quality experience? Either way, you’re going to get what you pay for.