’Tis a strange world we live in these days, with so many vested interests in the different media, so much paid-for PR and propaganda, and so many blatant and outrageous lies permeating and percolating throughout. A recent survey of Trump supporters finds that 33% of those don’t believe that his same-named son actually had any meetings with Russians, despite very obvious hard factual evidence.
Yet this article is not really about taking on alternative truths and fake news, we’re more concerned with shopping! Who to trust, and at what price. As an example, I recently bought myself one of those ’Fidget Cubes’. Famously launched by a $6.5 million Kickstarter campaign, and now officially and genuinely sold under the name Zura Fidget Cube by Antsy Labs. Yet there are hundreds of sites out there called ’The Official Fidget Cube’, ’The Fidget Cube Company’ etc. etc. All these competitors have sprung up almost overnight, with a seemingly equivalent product at a better price, and more importantly, you can choose your colour, while if you buy the actual original, it’s simply a lottery as to what colour combination you get. I for my part believe I have acquired a very high quality replica in the exact colour-way I desired, and for the right ’Goldilocks Price’ - not too low, and not too high. I almost always go for the original, but not when there are artificial constraints upon purchase - such as the inability to select your preferred colour. I always look for high quality at a price which is justified, and I really never ever by the cheapest - except...
When you are buying wine you need to exercise different cautions, as Sommeliers know that people don’t want to look like cheapskates so the bottles which are second, third and fourth least expensive are usually the ones with the most margin, and the least value for money therefore. Either go for the ’House Wine’ or something closer to the middle of the pack - that way you are paying more for the actual core cost of the wine, and much less the margin.
Another way of saying ’Triangulation’ is Due Diligence, but for me Triangulation is a more apt description, as it contains the method of due diligence within the wording - comparing at least 3 points of origin. So whenever I make a purchase, I at the very least triple-check a product to see if it is really what I am after, at the best quality and at the best price.
When shopping online, another huge factor that comes into play is cost of delivery. If you are paying £10 or more, your really don’t want the cost of delivery to exceed 10%. Yet all too often I find that when I get to the checkout, the price of delivery - particularly for some lower cost items, can be almost as much as the cost of the item itself. And that can certainly be understandable for very small items, where delivery could exceed the product price. Yet I acquire all manner of goods from various places around the world, so I am well versed with the cost of delivery, and quite frankly some of those delivery prices are unacceptable, which is why as an Amazon Prime Member, I often end up on Amazon almost for sake of the free delivery alone. But you need to show caution here as well, as increasingly what you buy from Amazon is 3rd- party-supplied (Marketplace), and very often of dubious or at least varying quality - I know so many people who have unwittingly hit the checkout button to find themselves waiting weeks for something being shipped from China.
As part of my due diligence, I check out various product demos on YouTube - but these need to be taken with a pinch of salt, and you really need to avoid reading the often highly inflammatory comments - or at least read though the lines. I really don’t understand the increasing phenomena of Internet Trolls - particularly what we shall call ’Flat-Earthers’ - obviously persons of limited education or low mental acuity with little understanding or admiration for scientifically proven fact - that simply disparage and flame everything they come across.
And I often come across obviously and blatantly false information being peddled as a genuine experience or fact, when those ’facts’ are quite evidently made up. We seem to be entering an increasingly partisan phase of society where people simply cannot entertain a counterpoint or challenging statement - even when it is supported by rationale and proper scientific methods. Many people are actually of the opinion that their own belief systems are equal to or greater than actual scientific fact, and that absolutely everything can be help up to a simple matter of opinion!
I spend a lot of time these days in the ’Electric Guitar Universe’ - and it is quite incredible how partisan some people are - proclaiming that ’proper guitars’ are only made by Fender and Gibson, that such and such a type of amp or pedal or whatever is and always will be total rubbish - when quite evidently they have had little or no experience beyond their narrow field of engagement.
So back to the matter of shopping, which I do near enough 99% online, and which has always involved several layers of due diligence. I try to find category experts of a wide variety of opinion, and they I can plot out the key points, and apply scatter-graph techniques to eliminate dis- and mis-information.
You may have thought buying effects pedals purely by what you have heard and seen online is a dangerous and risky preoccupation, yet I would say my success rate is around 99%. And the only way I get to those kinds of numbers is by being thorough in the extreme. I check dozens of different data points, websites, videos, resources, expert and general opinion, and then I extrapolate from there. I also try to reputation-check both the manufacturer and vendor wherever I can.
Trying to ascertain on Amazon whether an item has the correct number of rating stars can be a nigh on impossible task, and you cannot take anything at face value. You know that there are likely to be fake reviews - elevating the score upwards, as well as a number of trolls often demeaning the product for no good reason. Taking the median values does not necessarily help here either. You need to check on the vendor and their reputation, and cross-reference product name and ID code / SKU across several sites.
Often what you think you’re buying is not what’s actually on sale - vendors misuse common library pictures and use misleading text and descriptions. You often need to go back to the manufacturer’s site, check who the official dealers and distributors are, and which of those are likely to have received new stock. Or you may find that you think you’ve ordered the latest and greatest edition, but are getting an inferior out-dated model / version from old stock. Even with all my due diligence, this has actually happened to me twice. On one occasion I returned the product as miss-sold - for a full refund, and on the other occasion I negotiated a better price. Actually a third time, the vendor just told me to ’keep it’ and refunded the cost.
In many ways we are entering an unprecedented era of ’Open Society’ and there’s no one really properly policing anything any more - even Wikipedia references can be riddled with inaccuracies and mistakes or ’alternative facts’. Politicians and Newspapers peddle in obvious lies and ’beliefs’ and try to stack those up against scientifically justified and proven facts. We are being told to ’ignore the experts’ and discount everything we disagree with as fake news or alternative facts, when most often those that are decrying fake news and alternative facts are the ones creating and fuelling the fiction.
So you yourself need to become scientific and process-oriented and ’expert’ in how you methodically process information. As you really cannot believe what you read in the papers any more, or what your see on YouTube or Facebook. Like me, you need to become a ’Triangulator’ / ’Triangulationist’!