Why Brick & Mortar Retail Is Dead

I'll start with the clarification that K and I make a strong effort to buy locally when possible, to see if a local retail store has a comparable price on a given product that we're looking at. We subscribe to a weekly CSA box, partly for the health benefits of non-poisoned (organic) fresh fruit and veggies, and partly to support local & small-scale agriculture.

In light of this, it was rather frustrating this past week when I tried to buy a new HDMI cable. I stopped by a RadioShack while on a grocery run, I tried Sears & another electronics store, then another Radioshack yesterday while going to the post office. Nowhere could I find an HDMI cable for under $35 (at Sears), and at RadioShack the options were $44, $65, or $79.

Now, that'd be fine, except that HDMI cable markups are one of the biggest retail scams out there. Multiple well-respected reviews (cnet, Popular Mechanics, more) say that you should never pay more than $10 on an HDMI cable.

In the end, I got a high-quality DVI Gear cable from Amazon.com for $2.50 (with free shipping). One one hand, I kinda can't blame retail stores for not stocking reasonably-priced cables, since it's probably not cost effective. For one, selling a cable that cheaply would probably result in a negative profit margin, given stocking and other labor costs. Plus, HDMI cable varieties are confusing, and if you present people with a false choice between Monster ($70 to $100) and an "on sale but still good" $40 option, and since they've probably just dropped $500+ on a new TV, they'll happily take the value (or spend the extrar $$ for perceived extra quality). So, yeah, I can't really blame them... but it's frustrating, and also kinda sad in a "I understand where the right-wing conservative I-miss-the-good-old-days obstructionists are coming from" way. I don't mind paying a 5% premium for healthy food, or for locally/US-made products, but I'm not going to pay a 1000% markup - and I'm bummed I have to make that choice.


Published by


"O Whisky! soul o' plays and pranks! Accept a bardie's gratfu' thanks! When wanting thee, what tuneless cranks Are my poor verses! Thou comes-they rattle in their ranks, At ither's a-s!" Robert Burns - "Scotch Drink" 1785