Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Caveat emptor

Everybody knows that application of label "Marine" to something seems to mean that you can double the price.  Now, there are items for which a higher price is appropriate.  An example: a marine alternator -  a specially manufactured version of an automotive alternator, made in limited quantities (by automotive standards anyway) to be able to safely run in an enclosed engine compartment which could contain gasoline vapors.  But how much more is justified?

Bob, over at Boat Bits has been decrying the cost of self-steering gear (we're all anxiously waiting to see your design, Bob).

And now Mike from Zero to Cruising brings us a couple of real-world examples where ingenuity trumps chandlery prices:

While shopping online and at the usual chain-store chandlery, we found:

* Tiller extension: $15.00 to $60.00!
* Portable stern light: $35.00 to $40.00!

* Our tiller extension: $5.00 (piece of schedule 40 PVC, end cap and rubber connector with clamp)
* Our portable stern light: $5.00 (solar patio light, rubber stopper thing, sticky-back velcro)
Mike's example of the dinghy running light brought to mind something I saw in a flyer I received recently from a large, nation-wide marine chandlery...

This "rail lite" was offered for $29.95.  Obviously this is nothing more than a typical "solar patio light" with the bottom spike replaced by a cap, and with a cheap plastic clamp.

Harbor Freight sells this set of 10 nearly identical copper-colored stainless lights for  $34.99.  Buy the set, take off the bottom spikes and find your own cheap plastic clamp, or just use zip ties.  And then give 9 of them away to your friends at your anchorage.

The bottom line is, that while some marine-oriented items are justifiably priced higher than their non-marine equivalents, many manufacturers seem to take advantage of this and mark up everything with a marine label.  Or even apply a marine label solely so that they can mark up the price.  They get to do this, of course.  Our response should be caveat emptor - the challenge to all of us is to apply critical thinking and ingenuity to avoid being taken in by the marketing.

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