[Article Review] $80 Plates Are Unnecessary? How Insightful

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This Money Under 30 article recently appeared in my Facebook feed. One friend posted it; another friend left a beautifully/brutally succinct comment like so:

This article is bad.

I concur, but I suck at being succint, so this here’s a giant explanation in the form of a blog post…

Is My Sacasm Detector Working?

The article is so random that it feels like satire at various points. The text is written with few facts –mostly just vague thoughts. The author, Phil Villarreal, avoids specifics, and just encourages the misconception that you always get what you pay for. Value isn’t always directly tied to price. There are usually quite a few exceptions in the world of consumer goods.

What is considered too expensive/cheap? Other than that $80 exaggerated plate, we have no idea what price ranges he’s talking about. Also, his article assumes value always comes at a price. Is my sacrasm detector faulty, or is Mr. Villarreal being completely serious?

Systematic Breakdown

Based on the article’s format, I’m going to split the rest of my blog post into two sections: 6 products/services with a tight value-cost relationship and 6 products/services where you may as well tap into their respective bargain bins.

I admit this blog post lacks citations, but at least I make some verifiable claims. Besides, I only need to provide anecdotal counter-examples to rebut Villarreal’s arguments thanks to his own reliance on anecdotes, hearsay, overgeneralizations, etc.

Allegedly Worth Spending More

Socks - Even expensive socks get holes in them. I’ve gotten expensive socks as gifts. They were thin and broke quickly. I’ve gotten generic-brand dress socks from Costco. In my 3+ years of wearing business pro and business casual attire on a daily basis, the cheap generics never broke, but the others did.

Pillows - Yes, they’re important. No, you don’t need to pay extra to be happy with your choice of bedtime headrest. How many people do you know that have unnoteworthy pillows? How many of them are truly discontented?

Toilet Paper - I would’ve agreed, but recently, I saw this gem from Consumer Reports:

Toilet Paper comparo

So maybe I should reconsider my stance on toilet paper –now that’s a statement I never thought I’d share with the Internet.

Computers - Most people don’t need expensive/fast computers, but if you’re going to spend the extra dough, you need to know what features you need. You don’t just throw more money at the store and assume you’ll get a product that performs better for your purposes. Most people will never notice the difference between an Intel Core i7 CPU (expensive) and a Core i3 (cheap). They will notice the difference between an SSD harddrive (expensive) and a conventional one (cheap). Too bad the Villarreal doesn’t provide these types of relevant details.

Home Repairs - I agree, but how do I filter the expensive good from the over-priced bad. Advice please?

Shoes - This is a perfect example of how the author needs to provide more context (i.e., PRICE RANGES). Yes, $20 Payless sneakers will die if you look at them too hard. But is he suggesting boycotting $40 Sketchers too? There is room for middle ground, but the article ignores that. Sure, Villarreal emphasizes comfort when it comes to shoes, but cheap shoes can be comfortable too.

By the way, if you’re buying shoes for a specific sport, I’d suggest that paying a lot generally isn’t worth it unless you’re really serious. For example, with the way I run on the court, I will wear out the tread of expensive tennis shoes just as quickly as I wear out the tread of mid-tier tennis shoes. I don’t think the $40-60 price difference is worth the added stiffness/support of a hardcore tennis shoe.

Allegedly NOT Worth Spending More

Shoelaces - Fair enough. Good analogy, Mr. Villarreal.

Phones - I can understand saying the average Joe doesn’t need a top-of-the-line phone. However, expensive phones will generally be able to handle future OS updates better than cheaper ones, so it’s not always bad to get a flagship phone. Basically, if you’re a techie, you shouldn’t feel bad about your expensive phone purchase despite what Villarreal claims.

What’s dumb is buying a new phone too often –something the article mentions. What’s especially shameful is paying for a $100+/month phone bill just so you can do a lot of texting, occasional on-the-go Facebook, and take derivative photos…usually of food. If the phone user is on a family plan, then more power to them. If not, they better not complain about their bank account balance. [/off-topic]

Haircuts - I mostly agree, but does he intend to speak for women as well?

And I don’t usually judge authors by their looks, but I’m not taking haircut advice from this guy. [I actually feel iffy about this burn. Too personal?] Regardless, “accept your mediocrity” is never good advice. This is the line that REALLY makes me think this article is satire. Am I being trolled?

Clothes - Let me get this straight. We should invest in quality socks, but not quality coats, dress clothes, gloves, pants, etc? WTF is this guy smoking? You don’t have to be an expert blogger like Villarreal to know that it’s worth investing in a solid jacket/coat, and that good jeans can last for a longggg time. (Yes, 4 ‘g’s because I’m talking about serious duration here)

Car Repairs - Is the author color blind? Because the world sounds pretty black and white from his perspective. (Yes, I know color blind humans can generally see more than just B&W)

Earlier, I made a case for saving money on things that wear out in my paragraph re:shoes, but now we’re talking about complicated beasts called cars. A higher-priced tire can have lots of benefits (less rolling resistance, less tire noise, much better grip, etc). The low-tier tires can have shitty grip. Mid-tier tires can have awesome grip, so I think they’re worth it. If Villarreal thinks shoes are crucial, he should also consider that tires are basically the shoes of cars. They’re considered the most crucial part all carowners can change.

More expensive motor oil can make a difference –especially conventional vs synthetic. Synthetic is a more expensive option even when you factor in its superior longevity (usually 5,000 miles between oil changes instead of 3,000), but it’s better for your engine and the environment (and the oil-based economy?) because you’re using up less oil and fewer resources during you car’s lifespan.

Lastly, more expensive brake pads generally have better stopping power. If you survive a near-accident and feel like doing something to allay your new-found fear, then you should consider spending some extra moolah to upgrade your tires and brakes.

Food - $80 plates are not necessary? How insightful.

Maybe Villarreal could give some tips on how to buy healthy stuff at the grocery store without spending a lot? Otherwise, I will end up eating nothing other than ramen based on his two-extremes critical thinking skills.

Seriously though, everyone complains that eating healthy is expensive. Does he disagree? If so, he should explain because that would actually be useful.

“Expound” is the Apt Word

The article provides no specific suggestions for what brands/specs/details to buy/avoid (other than suggesting you make all judgements based on price tag), very few good examples, no context for what’s a good price range, etc. There is no true insight.

The article runs on weak reasoning, and the type of writing that tends to earn accusations of “lazy journalism.” It’s “lazy” because it uses an attractive, list-oriented headline/format to bait the reader into thinking a really efficient learning experience is presented within. Instead, the article reads like something an editor forced a blogger/journalist to write at the last minute to meet a quota. It’s filler.

I admit I could be wrong about what is and isn’t worth splurging on, as I don’t have a ton of life experience. However, the style of Villarreal’s arguments leave so much room for questioning. That’s what bothers me so much.

You can’t present a case in such a manner without expecting someone to poke holes in it. For example, if I say, “The sky is blue due to the properties of light,” then I am technically correct, but I wouldn’t expect everyone to just accept that statement at its face value. I’d feel obligated to expound.

In my paragraph re:cars, I did a lot of explaining because I expect most people aren’t too familiar with cars’ intricacies. Ignorance is not stupidity. I assume most people are ignorant about a lot of car-related things, but I don’t assume them to be too stupid to understand some important, relevant details.

Villarreal fails to expound on the many statements that he should know aren’t worthy of acceptance based on face value alone. He should feel obligated to explain further, but he doesn’t because the article was never meant to truly help any one. It was just meant to get some easy page views.