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"Would you like to turn that into a meal?" "Would you like to add cheese or bacon? Would you like to upsize that to a medium for just 69 cents more?"
No, I wouldn't. If I did, I would have ordered it that way, wouldn't I? These days though it seems I can't go anywhere without the threat of being upsold. I walk into a 7-11 to buy a Gatorade, and I cringe when I see the "Buy 2 for $3" stickers on the shelves in the refrigerator. I know the conversation that's going to come as I try to pay. "For a dollar more, you can have two." "But I only want one!" "You'll be saving a buck!" "No I won't, I'll be spending a dollar more for something I don't want! I only want one!"
The DVD and Blu-ray "combo packs" in the title are just the latest example of this upselling, and they're seeming to be more and more common. The prime offender at the moment appears to be Disney, who, if you have ever thought that their business practices were entirely fair, you probably have never been through the experience of explaining to a four-year old girl why her copy of The Little Mermaid that she has played every day on the VCR not only no longer works, but cannot be replaced until, well, some new video technology gets invented. Apparently, there's this theory out there that the world is full of DVD player owners who are going to be purchasing a Blu-Ray player in the near future, and so don't want the media they've purchased to be obsolete? (Oh wait, hang on a minute. Let's not forget that what they've actually published is the right to play that media; much of this article applies equally to the notion of giving away "free digital copies" of the movie as well). It surprises me that there doesn't seem to be a bit more of a furore about this. Surely the streets should be filled with rioting crowds, brandishing torches and pitchforks, and demanding that they should be able to purchase just what they want, and nothing else?
It seems not; in fact, it seems more likely that we've gotten quite immune to this kind of upselling. Since we see it everywhere, we apparently no longer protest. We see laundry detergent boxes emblazoned with a yellow stripe at the top, proclaiming they're loaded with "33% more free", and everything about the packaging draws us in. The stripe dominates the entire new box design, and, once we get it home, would it be cynical to suggest the contents have, well, settled a bit more than usual during transit? Of course, this new packaging is preparing for a price hike next week, the quiet disappearance of the promotional packaging, and presumably someone figured out they were going to get more advertising space on the shelves. DVD's and video games themselves arrive in cases whose profile seems apparently to be a certain size to match VHS cases. That reminds me of that apocryphal tale about how the size of the Space Shuttle's booster rockets was determined by the width of a horse's ass.
But I digress. Back to those combo packs; the things which I'm quite sure the majority of purchasers might only want one of the two discs, and, more importantly, would probably appreciate being given the choice. They're promised it as if it were a free gift, but an individual option would have been cheaper to produce and saved on packaging; they might have preferred a discount. Sadly, though, we accept this kind of marketing as the way business is done, and just let it happen. Enough is enough. Next time you find yourself out shopping for that home release of a movie that's out in a DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, do something first. Contact your friends. Put an ad up on Craigslist. Get a purchasing buddy who'll take the other disc off your hands. Reduce these mean and nasty studios' profit margins!
And, perhaps then, they'll stop doing it.