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I do not understand economics

In which we work out the surcharge for custom service


Browsing through the rope-and-chains aisle in B&Q* yesterday, fiddling about with the reels, I found some reasonable-feeling polyester rope. 5mm, cost 90p per metre. Affordable. I know B&Q is usually a horrible rip-off, but I wasn’t feeling active enough to find a better supplier.

Before bothering an assistant to get some cut for me, I looked at the lengths of precut rope they had nearby. The same stuff, the same colour, on a plastic reel. I checked the price: 50 feet 15 metres, for about £9.50. Or, in other words, about two-thirds the price of the same rope cut to whatever length you like.**

I’m sure the only thing this shows is that B&Q’s legendary exorbitant markup really is as bad as I’ve always thought: where they think they can get away with it, where you won’t bother to do the sum yourself, they’ll take you for as much cash as they can. And I suppose their main market isn’t people who want to buy the stuff in bulk, it’s people who pop in for a couple of metres at a time. Next time I need some rope, though, I’m going to do the legwork, maybe call the manufacturers, and find somewhere that’s slightly less of a rip-off.

* You can tell someone in their management must have picked up early on how important domain names were going to be.

** I would demonstrate this by giving links to their website; but their website is horrible, horrible, horrible to navigate.

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