Now, I don’t actually watch that much TV, but it’s just one of those things you get for your new house, right? (How else would you distract your relatives when they visit and ask awkward questions?)
You’d think that buying a TV should be relatively simple: Search the internet, narrow down a couple of options, pick the one with the best price, and boom! You’re done.
Nooooooo. It was one of the most harrowing, confusing experiences of my life. I mean, NO ONE TEACHES YOU THIS STUFF. There wasn’t a “How to choose a TV” module back in school – we had to learn it through our own slow, painful experience.
So allow me to walk you through mine, and hopefully you’ll take away a few lessons for your own TV hunt (or even apply it to learning investing too – Heyyyyy what a coincidence!)
Part 1: The Research Phase
1. The Crazy Number Of Options
The first thing you notice when you check out TVs online is the craaaaaazzzyy number of options available. It completely throws you off. For example, checking out TVs on Lazada shows you six hundred and thirty-nine options.
Should you get LED? LCD? OLED? 4K? HDR? For people like me whose eyes glaze over from acronyms, this makes me want to just forget about researching, click over to YouTube, and watch my boy Haresh get kicked in the nuts.
2. The Overcomplicated Technical Specs
Researching about TVs online made me want features that I didn’t really understand / never knew existed before. For example, I came across this article on The Best TVs of 2016, which said:
The Panasonic DX902 is a bona fide landmark TV. As the first Ultra HD Premium panel to hit our test bench, it sets a new benchmark for consumer imagery. HD upscaling is excellent, and its HDR performance is often joyous.”
Man! I don’t know what “Ultra HD Premium panel” or “HDR performance” is, but I sure want one of those! Plus, I’ve now got a couple of cool buzzwords I can throw around to sound smart in front of the salesman!
The truth is, I’ll probably never care about 80% of these features, but reading these articles really makes me want to care, especially since I’ll be dropping more than a thousand buckaroos on this hunk of metal.
3. The “Best” Brand
With 1,001 options available, I simply gave up trying to compare across models and started asking “What’s the best brand?” For this question, online articles weren’t very helpful – like this article about Samsung vs. LG TVs which somehow manages to say absolutely nothing in 1,090 words.
So we decided to simply ask our most reliable source: My wife’s Korean colleague. He said (in a very sexy Korean accent): Samsung is more renowned for their “brown” goods (TVs) and LG is more renowned for their “white” goods (washers and refrigerators). We don’t know if that’s actually right, but hey, if a Korean dude says it, it’s gotta have some truth in it.
Part 2: The Buying Experience
Now that we had utterly confused ourselves online, it was time to actually go and buy the damn thing.
My wife and I headed to one of those big IT exhibitions at the Singapore Expo. You know the ones I’m talking about – the ones with the massive halls that are always inexplicably filled with 20,000 people, mostly 40-year old males. Seriously, where are all these people coming from? Do they find joy in jostling with other males in crowded spaces, while fumbling a bunch of gadgets? (oh wait, that sounds like National Service…)
The first thing we encountered was:
1. The Salesman Introduction
Ah, IT salesmen. You gotta love ‘em. Always dressed in a bright yellow polo T-shirt, constantly texting on their phones while picking their noses with a long fingernail on their pinkies.
We tentatively tap one on a shoulder and go, “Errrr hi. We’re looking for a TV. Uhm, 55-inch. Samsung. Any models to recommend?” And the salesman gives us a condescending look that somehow projects the words “N00B” in bright red letters onto my forehead.
“This one lah. New model. Got the HDMI OLED 4K UHD drive Smart TV come with free delivery plus you buy today got free soundbar.”
“Uh, no. That’s out of our budget. What about that one?” (points to the cheapest model that looks like an unwanted child in the corner next to its shiny brethren)
The salesman gives me another condescending look. Now I’m a n00b AND a cheapo. Good job, Lionel.
2. The Upsell
But the salesman isn’t done. “You want that one ah? Caaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan. But that one is old model ah. Don’t have dynamic contrast. See it don’t look as nice?”
Translation: The picture quality isn’t as awesome as the other one. YES! Finally something I understand.
“It’s okay. We don’t watch that much TV anyway.” To be honest, the picture quality looks fine. I don’t need some ultra-realistic 3D Omnimax experience that makes me dive for cover when I’m watching the Avengers.
Salesman: “Orh. But this one only got standard 2-year warranty ah. Why don’t you consider the other one – just $500 more, you get better TV, plus extended warranty, plus you get a free Blu-ray DVD player.”
Dammit. He’s preying on our uncertainties. He knows that $500 more seems like a small price to pay for AN ULTRA AWESOME TV. He knows that a Blu-ray DVD player makes the more expensive TV seem like a better deal.
And most of all, he knows that I don’t want the TV breaking down after 2 years (mainly because I don’t want to put myself through this experience again).
“Hmm, let us think about it.”
3. The Decision
My wife and I are about 50% swayed by the salesman’s convincing argument. It’s the classic Increment Play: “Just pay a biiiiiit more and you get all this awesome stuff!!!”
But we take a step back and ask ourselves: What do we really want in a TV?
Basically, we want a screen to watch the occasional episode Fresh Off The Boat or Silicon Valley, probably no more than once a week. We’d probably connect our laptop to it because we’d be too lazy to figure out how the Smart TV function works.
Do we need a Blu-ray DVD player? No. Is it likely that our TV would break down in a couple of years? Nope. Are we willing to pay a 33% premium for a supposed better picture quality that we don’t care about? Hell no!
So we made our decision: We’re going for the cheap model. Because we’re cheapo n00bs when it comes to buying TVs, and we’re proud of it.
Lessons We Learnt
So in short, here are the lessons we learnt from buying a TV:
- Do some basic research, but don’t kill yourself over the details. Unless you’re a serious gamer/cinema critic, most of it won’t matter to you anyway. Learn some basic principles, like the ones in this article, and move on.
- There’s no such thing as a “best” brand. It’s a lame answer, but the definition of “best” differs from person to person. As long as you hit the major brands (start with Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Toshiba), that should more or less cover 80% of your needs.
- Salesmen do NOT have your best interests at heart. They will push the TV that gives them the best commissions. Here’s a good rule of thumb: The more commission a salesman gets, the worse of a deal you’re getting.
- When in doubt, stop. Yes, I know a deal might seem too good to be true, and the salesman is telling you that it’ll be gone in 5 minutes. Don’t believe him. There’s ALWAYS another deal along the way. I’ve waited for 6 months before buying a fridge, and I saw the exact same “TODAY ONLY” deal being offered 6 months later. Instead, take your time, take a deep breath, and decide if this is something you really want. Because ultimately:
- Know what you REALLY want. If all you want is a big screen, don’t be swayed by the shiny technical specs of the higher-end model. When you’re watching TV at home, you won’t be able to tell the difference anyway. Plus, one of the oldest tricks in electronics retail is that customers don’t use 90% of the features they buy.
Here’s some food for thought: Buying a TV is very very very similar to buying an investment. Can you think of the ways where these lessons apply to investing too? Bonus points if you leave a comment with your answer!