Thursday, 10 January 2008

The Shirt Off Your Back

A couple of years ago I bought my baseball-loving Lovely Wife a replica Washington Nationals batting practice shirt. I paid northwards of $100 for what was, when you get down to it, a hunk of brightly-colored polyester.

I won't get into the odd psychopathology that drives sports fans to clothe themselves in the raiment of their heroes. (Can you imagine if supporters of all sorts did that? Should Barack Obama supporters follow their candidate while dressed in coat and tie? Would Hilary Clinton's fans choose a sober pantsuit? And who would horse-racing gamblers choose to emulate: the jockey or the horse?) I'll just point you to a story from today's Guardian that confirms what many sports fans suspect: They're being ripped off.

According to the Guardian, fans who bought certain England and Manchester United replica jerseys were gouged. "Prices were kept artificially high because of unlawful agreements between manufacturers and sellers," reported the paper. Those who can prove they bought such a shirt can get a refund of up to 20 pounds.

Also on the rip-off front: Apple is going to have to cut the cost of iTunes downloads in Britain. I've had nothing but trouble with iTunes since moving here. My old U.S. account isn't any good and I don't know if that's because I changed my credit card address from the U.S. to the U.K. or if Apple figured out I was in England from my ISP details. Whichever it was, it costs 79 pence to download a song. That's about $1.60, compared to 99 cents-per-song in America. Also, I can't order iTunes gifts for people in the U.S. online, even if I pay in pounds.

Part of the problem, of course, is the weak dollar. But the European commission ruled that Apple was unfairly charging more for music in Britain, compared with the rest of Europe. Steve Jobs seemed to be contrite, saying this is a step toward "pan-European" pricing of music. Sure, Steve, but how about pan-global pricing?

Incidentally, both of these efforts were spearheaded by Which?, a U.K. consumer organization. They're like a super-activist Consumer Reports.


mark from alexandria said...

As the owner of a ridiculously large collection of clothing and "tchotchkas" from my alma mater, I come down on the side of wearing your university's colors but not the overpayed sports franchises who millionaire players and owners really don't git a hoot about you, but thats just me.

Candadai Tirumalai said...

Had you been in England at the beginning of 1985 you would have practically got a pound for every dollar. During my 20 years there the pound ranged from virtual parity to the two dollars it has recently been.

suburbancorrespondent said...

I don't get it. Unlike brain surgery, a team sports shirt doesn't fall under the category of inelastic demand (i.e., you need it and have to find the money for it somehow). The price was able to be artificially high because people were willing to pay that high a price. No one had to buy a shirt. The way to get the price to come down was to not buy one at the inflated prices.

In other words, if people are willing to overpay for an unnecessary clothing item, then what they pay is what it is worth.