So this past week I purchased windshield wipers for the first time. The car we purchased hadn't had any new wipers yet. To be honest, they may have been the same wipers that came with the car in 2007. While there wasn't anything wrong with them, I did find that their ability to clear rain had faded over the time we have had the car, and with another winter coming up, we decided it was time to replace them. Now usually when I make any sort of purchase, I do research first. I'll look up the item online, try to find what's available, set a budget and start reading reviews. I'll try to get the item that is the best value by comparing quality to price. Of course you can't always trust online reviews, but it should at least give you a sense of what to look for.
Not this time. I decided to get wipers, I drove to the store, found ones that looked okay in the correct size, and bought them. Honestly I think the decision was made more for the packaging than anything else – they looked the nicest of what was available. They were also the most expensive – about twice as much as some of the other options available. It was a weird experience, for me, to make a purchase in that fashion. Here's a couple of things that went into making that decision.

First Impressions Matter

When you walk into a store, your eye is going to be drawn to something. It may be the display of fresh fruit and veggies that they have right by the entrance, it may be a big sign advertising a particular sale. Retailers are clever, and have engineered ways to make sure that your eye is drawn to what they want you to see. It may be to push a product that is going to be discontinued or over stock, or it may be on an item that has a high markup. Regardless, they are looking to focus your attention in one direction. In the same way, the windshield wipers that I purchased had the best packaging. Unlike all the other black and/or clear packaging, revealing a black windshield wiper, they were designed with bright blue and yellow packaging. Looking at the options, I was immediately drawn to this set of wipers. As long as you are aware that this is a marketing scheme, it shouldn't matter too much. I did do my diligence (at least in the store) and look over the other options, but honestly, wipers are wipers. What will the packaging really tell me?

Cost Impressions Matter

When comparing the different wipers available, I was drawn to the most expensive. It wasn't because I am looking at ways of lightening my wallet, that's for sure. I was attracted to them because I assume they have something that makes them worth more than other wipers. They were manufactured better, they have better technology, there must be a reason they are listed for more. This isn't always the case. In fact, it is a tactic that a lot of companies use in order to make money off unsuspecting consumers. Look at Monster Cables for example. They are really poorly made cables that are horrendously overpriced. They sell HDMI cables which will not perform any differently from any other HDMI cable, but will sell them at 30 or 40 times the price of other cables. If you look at a row of cables and see one for $6 and one for $80 that has “gold tipped ends”, well, if you want the best quality you need to pay for the quality cable, right? Not so, and I may have fallen for the same scam with the windshield wipers.

Extras Matter

In the end, I went with this particular windshield wiper because they included a few extras. I hadn't paid attention to what type of connection of wiper I have on my vehicle (there are different types?), and this one promised the ability to connect to various different systems with adaptation. The other ones may have as well, but weren't marked as clearly for me to clarify. In addition, they came with a cloth that I could rub on my windshield, promising to “fill in microscopic holes” in the glass to aid the water in moving more quickly over the windshield. Sounds like a marketing scam to me, but seeing as one of my biggest pet peeves is not being able to see out my window, I went for it. Sometimes when comparing similar products it's the little extra things that can win you over, which is why there's TV ads saying “act now” to get a second thing-a-ma-jiggy and companies promising toys inside the cereal box. If you can get the product and just a little bit more, why wouldn't you go for that product if the competitor is not offering extras? Always consider that maybe there is a reason one company has had to resort to such tactics, but if the quality is comparable, get the toys. They're fun to play with.
In the end, we got windshield wipers that are working great so far, and the magic wipes did seem to do something helpful. I'm not confident that I couldn't have price matched and gotten a better deal elsewhere, but it has made me more aware of what a “regular” consumer might go through when going shopping. It's weird. I'm fighting the urge to look up reviews now, even though it is too late.
What types of windshield wipers do you have? What marketing tricks have you noticed lately?

About Alan Schram

Alan Schram writes about personal finance and his encounters with it in his everyday life. Alan is recently married and is looking to save money on expenses and reduce his debts.