Just a quick post today. Hoping to have a full post in the next few days.
A few months ago, I did a post on the economics of limited edition (LE) pens (Part 1, Part 2). It was prompted by a discussion on the Pen Addict podcast, where the guys introduced the LE Star Wars FPs and criticised Cross for their absurdly high prices (US$575 a pop). I argued against them, saying that I thought Cross’ pricing probably made sense for the business. When you have a product with broad appeal, you want to price as low as possible. When you have a product with intense, niche appeal, it can make sense for a business to restrict production and price high.
Since then, a couple of interesting things have come my way. The first is a guest post on the Pen Addict blog by a Star Wars enthusiast, Jon Bemis. He is also part of the FP community and writes about how he was drawn to the Star Wars pens and bought all three versions — and, more importantly, he is obviously quite happy with the purchases.
I think this corroborates my argument but it’s also a useful reminder that none of us have preferences which are representative of the entire community. I’ll like some things that you dislike, and you’ll like some things that I dislike. Or I might like something intensely — and be willing to spend a lot to have it — which you only like a little. Those different preferences influence what we consider a fair price. And when anyone complains about something being overpriced or unfairly priced, they’re really just saying the product isn’t sufficiently appealing to be worth the price for themselves. It worries me when commenters generalise those statements, when they try to act as if their preferences are representative of the community in general. I would hate for someone in our community to feel like they don’t belong because their preferences don’t match with an imagined ‘majority’ view.
The second piece of information is an email saying that the pens have sold out at some retailers, and are becoming hard to buy. I don’t have any contacts at Cross so haven’t been able to verify this, but a few retailers have confirmed that their (limited) stocks sold out. Since we don’t know how many pens they put into the market (remember that 1,977 is the maximum production run, not necessarily the actual size of the run), it’s hard to make any conclusions — except to say that there must have been more buyers than just Jon, and that those buyers also weren’t deterred by the high price.