Have you paid too much for your iPad?

ipadFinancial institution CommSec recently published an interesting global retailing index called the iPad Index.

The index ranks the cost of a buying an Apple Air 16 GB wi-fi iPad in 51 different countries converted into US dollars at prevailing exchange rates, mirroring The Economist’s much more famous Big Mac index.

The latest iPad Index shows Australia slipped from 4th cheapest country to purchase the popular computer tablet in September last year to 13th on the latest list – still (surprisingly) one of the cheapest places in the world to buy the gadget.

The fall down the list reflects a decision by Apple to lift local pricing rather than currency fluctuations – the Australian dollar was around 94 US cents when the index was compiled, hardly changed from an exchange rate of 94.3 US cents in September last year.

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The Apple iPad Index

Malaysia at $494 is actually the cheapest place for Australians to buy an iPad, saving you around US$68 off the Australian price ($562). Canada and Japan both add sales taxes to their purchases, pushing their iPad prices well above $500.

As the index shows, you certainly wouldn’t want to buy an iPad while visiting  Brazil for this year’s Fifa World Cup while much of Europe is also a no-go zone for cheap iPad purchases, mainly because of high taxes.

Alternatively, if you’re a Kiwi heading over to Australia for the Bledisloe Cup, you could save yourselves around $90 by purchasing an iPad over here.

Even if you’re not planning any overseas trips, the fall in Australia’s iPad Index ranking is interesting for a number of reasons:

Firstly, it could be interpreted to reflect Apple’s gouging of its Australian customers at the same time as its also gouges those who purchase songs and movies on iTunes (ABC show The Checkout highlighted this recently and provided a way around it), whilst gouging the Australian Tax office by shifting all of its taxable profits offshore. If you’re not feeling the Apple love, perhaps a Samsung or Google Nexus device will do instead.

Secondly, in the word’s of CommSec chief economist Craig James the index reflects why “on-line shopping sites and the power of travel are putting pressure on Australia retailers to remain competitive”. “If local pricing isn’t responsive to exchange rate changes then Aussie shoppers will increasingly look overseas to purchase imported items,” James says.

Thirdly, for investors, the current index could be interpreted to mean that the Australian dollar is overvalued if you compare it with the cost of an iPad in California ($543) but undervalued if you compare it with what it costs in China ($578) where all iPads are manufactured.

Fourthly, the higher price may also reflect higher Australian freight costs, tariffs and mark-ups.

So it’s a useful index both for retailers who want to remain competitive and for consumers, if they’re planning a holiday in the coming months and want to upgrade their tablet.

Alternatively, if you’ve got a friend visiting from Argentina or Brazil or Europe, a visit to an Australian Apple store might be a good suggestion.

Loyalty programs: 11 years to shop my way to an ipad

loyaltyThe small lady behind the counter scowls when ever I order a coffee and give her my loyalty card to mark.

I’ve not yet seen her smile, perhaps she is incapable.

She doesn’t have a stamp, as most cafes do, but scribbles a signature in Chinese characters over one of the eight oval shapes that must be filled in before I get a free coffee at Coffee Kingdom (corner Market Street and Flinders Lane).

You’d think a smile might be a nice gesture since I choose her cafe among the myriad of alternatives to go to for my afternoon caffeine fix.

But no. She takes my money and signs my card like a teacher marking the report card of one of her least pleasing students.

I can only wonder how she is going to react when I fill in all the eight spaces and give her my card instead of money and ask for a skinny cappucino.

Will she spit in my coffee when I am not looking? Will she burn the milk? Will the coffee cup be only half full?

All this has got me thinking about loyalty programs.

A couple of years ago, I racked up enough points on my Virgin velocity card to buy an 80 GB ipod classic. It was pretty much top of the range back then – I still have it and use it often – and I was pleased with myself for having bought it for “nothing”.

But of course that’s not the case at all.

I first had to rack up a couple of year’s worth of trips to and from Sydney, a couple of overseas trips to London and back and one or two to Johannesburg and back – all on Virgin to get enough points to buy the gadget.

A while back I thought about writing a blog post about how much shopping I would have to do at Coles to qualify for say an ipad on the Flybuys loyalty program.

On Coles’ Flybuys program I need 113,800 points to buy an ipad 2 with wi-fi and 3G capabilities.rewards

Currently, after a couple of years of grocery shopping ( I don’t do all my shopping at Coles I confess) I have a whopping 5,700 points, which qualifies me for two movie tickets at Hoyts (worth about $40) with a few points to spare or just enough for a six month subscription to the ABC’s Gardening magazine.

So after years and many thousands of dollars spent on groceries, pet food and lately, nappies, I can cash it all in and go to the movies or subscribe to a magazine.

But what about that cherished ipad?

Flybuys does provide a calculator so I can estimate just how much I need to spend at Coles or Kmart or Liquorland to put in my order.

If I were to spend $100 per week on groceries at Coles, this would gives me 400 points. And lets say I spend $50 a week on average at Target (200 points) and $50 on booze at Liquorland (200 points) I’d rack up 800 points a month.

Divide that by 113,800  (minus the 5,700 points I already have accrued) and I get 135 months or just over 11 years.

More than a decade of loyal spending!

Of course in 11 years time, the ipad will probably be replaced by a device implanted behind the eyeballs operated by thoughts and god only knows how many points you’ll need for that.

(Ok, I’ve been watching too many sci-fi movies, but I do believe the next Samsung smartphone will have “eye-scrolling” technology)

The bottom line is that most loyaltly programs throw scraps at loyal customers in return for valuable information about spending patterns and the type of products we might like to buy.

Consider this. I got an email from Flybuys today offering me a bonus 200 points if I shop at the Coles kosher range before passover.

Now, I don’t imagine that catholic priests that do their shopping at Coles – and have never once bought  a kosher chicken at four times the price of a non-kosher one  – will have received this offer.

And I know why I got it.

I’ve only once ever shopped at Coles for kosher food. My mother came to visit last year from South Africa and we bought a kosher chicken and a few other things to prepare a traditional Friday night shabbat dinner.

Of course I duly swiped my Flybuys card and surprise, surprise – I’m on the kosher mail out along with all the regular kosher buyers from Bentleigh and Caufield.

(They must have ignored the bacon, hot cross buns and shaved ham I’ve bought in the past).

Shabbat Shalom indeed!

I should add that loyalty programs are brilliant if someone else is picking up the cheque but you score the points – such as businessmen who fly regularly on the company credit card. I think of the movie “Up in the air” and George Clooney receiving his special graphite loyalty card for racking up a 10 million air miles.

On a smaller scale, I could offer to get the coffee round at work and earn a free coffee everyday at Coffee Kingdom.

Imagine the look on her face!

‘Gadget’ peer pressure or “what’s that piece of cr*p you’re using?”

351571200_1db3e97f22_zI’ll come right out and say it. I don’t yet own a smartphone.

Shock. Gasp. Horror.

I still have one of those Nokia cheapies.

It’s not that bad.

You can search the web if you’re nostalgic and fancy recalling what dial-up internet used to be like… and it has maps that load up just as you reach your destination.

I also don’t own an ipad or any tablet, though I do have a kindle, which my wife bought me for my birthday.

Don’t get me wrong, I like gadgets and if money were no object I’d buy all of them, Stephen Fry-style, in one big splurge (I believe Fry has quite the gadget fetish and likes nothing more than to come home with a crate load of the latest techno gadgets).

I just seem to be making the transition to new technology a lot slower than most and delaying the capital outlay.

It took my wife and I an age to buy a flat screen digital television.

A year ago we were still watching movies on the equivalent of a postage stamp.

It was only when we realised that going to the movies  would be hard when our Edie was born (read my post: My eight months without cinema for more on this) that we splashed out and got a 42 inch beauty for a bit of the home cinema feel.

Funny thing is, some of the older technology is a better suited to my purposes.

For example, going for a run, the tiny little square ipod shuffle (the one Apple brought out in 2006 and are still selling) that weighs as much as a feather and is smaller than After Eight dinner mint is perfect for the task – why bother strapping a full-size ipod to your arm and running lopsided? (Actually, I’ve seen people wearing full-sized ipods or iphones on both arms to balance themselves out I imagine – no kidding.)06shuffle_earbuds

But I have to say, the pressure is rising and I am starting to feel like I’m living in the dark ages for all my lack of technological accoutrements.

It started with a phone call to a family member, which ended with me being admonished for not having an iphone.

“What? You don’t have an iphone?

“What kind of phone do you have?

“You have what?

“Jaysus.

“Well you better getter one.”

This was followed a few weeks later with this somewhat bitter aside: “You know, if you had an iphone or a Samsung Galaxy I could send you a photo of what I am describing right away?”

“So…when are you getting one?”

Then over dinner with friends a couple of weeks ago “You know you should really get a smartphone. You’re a journalist. You’re a blogger. You really need one.”

And then in the office earlier this week, I was ambushed by my colleagues “You mean, you don’t have an ipad or an iphone?”

Snigger, snigger.

Joke about wife not letting me buy one.

Snigger, snigger.

OK, everyone just calm down. Put away your “Steve Jobs RIP” banners. I get the message.

Yes I know:

  • I’m the only one on the train who doesn’t whip out his smartphone to tap out a message, update their Facebook status or tweet a thought for the day.
  • Yes there are old grannies with perms and tissues tucked under their hand knitted jerseys that can swipe across a smartphone screen faster than flip through a magazine.
  • And yes, the rumours are true, they’ve started giving out an iphone and a book of McDonald’s baby happy meal vouchers (haven’t you heard of the McSlop?) with all new babies born in Australia?

Truth be told I do find myself paging longingly through store catalogues and admiring the phones and tablets on offer, but then when I see the prices or the contracts and the monthly fees I tell myself I can manage another month with my piddling device.

I recall the very first mobile phone my father had.

It was the size 0f a mini rocket launcher and weighed as much as a brick. It could just squeeze into his bedside draw and had a long aerial that you pulled out army style. Boy, was it cool!21581808_45a7b5da91

Flashing forward in time…I’m sitting on court number one at Wimbledon, pork pie in hand, jealously studying a bloke in sunglasses and a tan, snooty girl-friend on his arm, checking his email on a small squarish device called Blackberry.

Whatever happened to those? Apparently even child soldiers in Africa refuse to use them.

But I know it’s only a matter of time before I’m tapping away on a palm-sized gadget, making 1970s-faux images with Instagram and sending witty tweets about advertising slogans while walking around the city during my lunch break.

Hopefully I won’t end up as one of those freakish stories you read about in a little item on page 12 of Mx: man hit by bus while crossing road, laughing at silly photo of monkey wearing underpants on his head on facebook.

Tap tap.