Netbooks and redtape economics

Posted by David Gomez

For the past six months I have been using a HP mini for word processing and accessing wireless Internet at school. I lost my 40 watt AC adapter yesterday, and finding a new one that was reasonably priced was harder than you would think - much harder.

I like netbooks because they are portable, easy to use, and affordable. You can usually get a decent netbook with a good sized hard drive for around $300 dollars.

Now I really wanted this adapter today because I needed to get back online for school and work. So obviously ordering one online for a reasonable price and waiting a few days was out of the question.

And overnight delivery is a sham, never fall for that one. Overnight means you’ll get it in two to three days. That’s not really overnight, and you pay 30 to 40 dollars more for it sometimes.

I figured the best place to start would be where I bought it at, the local RadioShack. The first time I went to this RadioShack the adapter that came with the unit didn’t work. It would not charge the battery at all. After one use to charge it initially, the damn thing stopped working.

They gave me another one when I went back the next day so it ended up being somewhat painless. Today I go back that same RadioShack because I’m a reasonable man and I figure they’d have to have the accessories for the products they sell, right?

Wrong. Not only did they not have an HP adapter to sell me the one adapter they did have that would work on my netbook was $100 dollars. That’s pretty unreasonable, RadioShack.

The ever so helpful manager offered to order the exact HP adapter that I was looking for. But it would have cost me $120 dollars. I am not making this up. That’s three times what HP charges on their website!

So I go to the Wal-Mart two doors down in the homogeneous strip mall The Shack is located. And no, WallyWorld doesn’t have netbooks on the shelves. They did have a lot of overweight people in flip-flops, though.

I decided to try Meijer because they carry a little bit of everything in their stores, including electronics. This is where something I call, redtape economics kicks in.

Meijer had my netbook on their shelves. They just didn’t want to sell me one. I asked the clerk at the electronics desk if they sold the adapters there. She told me they did, but they don’t sell the adapters.

Now I’m not sure why Meijer didn’t want to sell me the adapter. I’m pretty sure it has something to do with some corporate policy about not wanting to open the package on another netbook they have in inventory, just to sell one part to some desperate guy.

Whatever the reason is, it’s stupid. I even walked up the manager and asked him if he could sell me one for sweet, sweet cash. It was two managers actually, because apparently Meijer uses the battle buddy system of micromanaging.

Just like the Army.

The manger in the slick pinstriped suit turned to his partner in the green shirt and matching tie, asked him if they could make it happen. And it took them both to reject my cash offer. Maybe they don’t have a price for the adapter and they’d have to make up a price, and that’s why they wouldn’t sell.

Tell me this. Can’t they just go online real quick, look what HP charges for that part, and then charge me say 10-15 bucks more? The transaction benefits both parties involved. That’s basic economics, but Meijer cares not for such trivial things.

Eventually I went to Target, four doors down, in the other strip mall where Meijer is located. And again stupid red tape gets in the way of a guaranteed cash sale. I go the small non chain place whose name I can’t remember, to give the little guy a chance. No HP adapter.

Almost to the point of black rage I use my dying battery to hop on wi-fi and there it is. Best Buy has the best adapter for the most reasonable price. It was around $60 dollars after tax for a super adaptable Rocketfish model.

And here I sit, saved from the other mega-chains and the little guy by another mega-chain who is notorious for ripping people off. What a big hassle for an unsophisticated piece of technology, all on my birthday.

Lame.