The Logic of Cheap Pens

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I’m quite the utilitarian in many aspects of life – valuing usefulness over brand and aesthetics. One area is writing pens. I don’t spend a lot on them, since I think the cheap and basic rollerball pen does a great job.

So I buy those cheap rollerball pens – they cost $3 to $4 for a pack of 10. I thought one pack would be enough to last a year. I also wondered how the pen companies would survive with customers like me.

How wrong I was! Over time, the pens would go missing. Each time, I would put 2 or 3 new ones in my bag. After a while, they would disappear, and I would have to replenish them. Within a few months, I bought a few packs (of 10). Yet somehow, at the critical moments I can’t seem to find a single pen!

(Or maybe, moments become critical when you need to write something but cannot find a pen?)

I’m starting to see the logic of this business which is about cheap + bulk. Cheap, so that it doesn’t hurt you so much when you lose it. Bulk, so that you always have a new piece to turn to when you lose one. (The exception is when you get to the last piece in the pack, in which case you buy a new pack and the cycle starts again.)

Perhaps too, because it is mass market, the pen looks like it could belong to just about anyone. Somebody may think that the pen is theirs and keep it. Or maybe they think you won’t notice it when it goes missing.

Having said that, if people mistakenly take one another’s pens, at some point of time things should even out. I take yours, and you take mine. But no, pens that disappear seldom appear again (or perhaps you don’t recognize them, as opposed to say, a uniquely designed “Hello Kitty” pen).

Perhaps that’s what keeps those pen companies profitable and they continue to churn out cheap pens in bulk numbers.

Sometimes, the more we have of something the more we are likely lose it. True about life too?

Photo credits:

Angela Mabray via photopin cc

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