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Predictably Irrational

A few weeks back we decided to get a new TV. As a researcher I started doing my due diligence checking out a variety of sources. Our old TV had been around since the early days of HD and was a CRT to boot (though still HD - c'mon what do you think I am!). So I was really looking forward to buying something that weighed considerably less, took up a lot less space and looked a lot cooler. It was fun going through the various attributes - 760/1080, LCD/Plasma, LED backlighting, HDMI connections, Internet Apps, 3D! It's been a while since my engineering days when I studied the innards of TVs, and the technology has certainly evolved remarkably since then.

I narrowed my choices down to a few brands primarily based on the screen size that would fit the space, and really started focusing on a Vizio  model. As you may know, Vizio has become a real player over the last few years. Initially they competed on price, but more recently have made a splash with features and quality. Some of the reviews I saw online in fact, put Vizio near the top of the rankings. I was particularly taken by the Vizio Internet Apps (VIA) which makes it absurdly easy to get internet content directly on your TV. I was really looking forward to the Netflix app. Not being a current subscriber, the ability to stream so many movies simply and directly through my TV was huge. The price was very competitive too, so we decided to go with Vizio.

The purchase was made through Costco online and the TV arrived about a week later. After upgrading some accessories, I started connecting it. The process was very easy. The remote was simple and elegantly designed. Best of all it had a slide out QWERTY keyboard (a big hit with the kids) to access Facebook, Twitter, etc. The onscreen instructions for set-up were very easy to follow and the whole thing took very little time. Then we sat back to enjoy the content and that's when the trouble started.

The picture started shaking, froze and blanked out. Just for a few seconds. That's normal when connecting new devices, I assured everyone confidently. Then it happened again. And again. Uh oh!  When it didn't do any of this, the HD somehow became SD. I was getting very concerned, so I called Vizio's customer service. The rep tried a few things but nothing changed. He said they could send a repair person over "in 5 to 7 business days". Meanwhile I had unhappy kids at home and can't watch the Phillies or the NBA Finals. That did it. Off we went TV shopping again, but had decided to eliminate Vizio from our consideration set.

The rational part of me said the glitch in that one TV was very unlikely to be repeated again. Vizio has been tested by expert reviewers and gets high marks. The predictably irrational part said I would be a fool to buy the same TV again. Guess who won? So this time I bought a Panasonic from Best Buy after grilling the sales associate with endless questions. The TV worked beautifully right out of the box. It has the Internet apps I coveted, but the Vizio certainly had more features and flexibility. But no matter.

The funny part was that my seven year old, who really liked the Vizio, asked the very rational question - isn't it possible that if we buy the same TV the problem won't be repeated? Does that mean children are less susceptible to irrational biases? Hmmm...maybe I should check with Dan Ariely.

Tagged in: Choice

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