Why newer isn't always better

Buying the “latest and greatest” products might feel exciting, but it could cost you big time — and not just in terms of price.

March 2017 marked the release of Nintendo’s newest home video game console, the Switch, a big topic of conversation for my 11-year-old son and his friends. While none of the boys (to my knowledge) knew anyone who actually bought the $400 device, they nevertheless had a slew of opinions about its merits and drawbacks — including a widely-reported problem with “dead pixels” on the LCD screen that some were calling a defect. (For its part, Nintendo says dead pixels are a “normal” part of LCD screens and doesn’t consider the product defective.)

The kerfuffle provided a great teachable moment about why it’s not necessarily a great idea to rush out and purchase a new trendy item, but also underlined an increasingly obvious fact in our quick-to-market economy: being among the first to own any new product involves a fair amount of risk. Not only are you paying top-dollar for the “privilege” of lining up at midnight to make sure you get that coveted buy, you also face the possibility that it’s a dud or hasn’t got all the bugs worked out yet and, in some cases, there’s even a chance of serious health and safety concerns.

The most egregious recent example is, of course, Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 phone, which was recalled shortly after a splashy release last year because its batteries had a nasty tendency of catching fire. Early purchasers of the Note 7 were subjected to bodily harm at worst and, at best, an annoying and timely process of having to return and replace the device.

And, such risks aren’t limited to tech products. Take a quick look at the Government of Canada recalls and safety alerts page online and you’ll find vehicles, food, cosmetics, and a vast array of consumer products that for one reason or another are not considered safe. Obviously, not all of these items are new; some may have been on the market for years before the concern came to light. But logic dictates that those who are among the first to buy and try anything — whether it be a tech upgrade (Windows 10, anyone?), fashion (say, Lululemon's overly sheer yoga pants) or food trend (remember the cronut burger?) — will take on the most consumer risk.

What’s the upshot? Taking a wait-and-see approach before pulling out your wallet to buy the “latest and greatest” may not only save you money — it could also save you time, frustration and health.

Keep the conversation going

Have you ever been among the first to buy a new product, only to find out it had major issues? Tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of CPA Canada.

About the Author

Tamar Satov

Managing Editor, CPA magazine
Tamar is a journalist specializing in business, parenting and personal finance. She blogs regularly in this space with advice and anecdotes on her efforts to raise a money-smart kid.