At least every six months, I cram myself into the fetid belly of a Trans-Atlantic 747, spend 12 hours trying not to fling to the ground and jump on the spine of the small child rhythmically kicking the back of my seat, and fly back to my home town for a couple of weeks. I have my reasons: steak-and-cheese subs and Taco Bell. The seduction of home town girls who were too good for me in high school. A beloved nonagenarian uncle who seems likely to explode into a poof of dust at any moment, despite the fact that all the evidence I have so far indicates he is probably immortal. But as the dollar tanks, I find myself increasingly scheduling my trips home according to gadget release schedules.
This can be maddening. For example, right now, I’m looking to make a trip home sometime in June. The cheapest tickets are from the very end of May to about June 12th, at which point, the prices jump up a couple hundred bucks. But here’s where it gets tricky: I want to update my old first-revision MacBook Pro when I’m home. Now, according to Appleinsider, there’s a good chance we’ll see new MBPs soon. Apple is also holding a developer’s conference from June 9th – 13th. So basically, if they announce a new MBP and Jobs says “And you can get it now!” it’s probably too late to get one. So is it worth spending another couple hundred bucks to travel home at the end of June? Well, sure… provided Apple releases a new MBP in mid-June. Otherwise, it’s a waste of money.
In a simpler world, I would just buy my new laptop in Europe, but buying electronics in Europe is for land-locked fools. For some reason — and that reason is an industry-wide indifference to gouging European customers and an enthusiasm for making them subsidize their American customers — the suggested retail price of a piece of electronics is always translated at a 1:1 exchange rate from dollars to euros. A $2,000 laptop will cost you €2,000. There was a time, when the dollar was a little stronger, that you could justify it to yourself. Sure, you were paying a 20% increase in the price, but that was roughly accountable for by VAT. But now that the dollar is worth 0.62 European cents, that two thousand dollar laptop will cost a European $3,186.18. The discrepancy is the price of almost two round-trip tickets to the States!
Keep this in mind next time you see a gadget blog optimistically translate the price of a new piece of European tech from Euros to dollars at the official Oanda exchange rate: it is the sort of simpering naivete that only an American gadget blogger — buying his tech at half-price with a currency imbued with the strength of sopping toilet paper — could ever have.
There’s no two ways about it: buying electronics in Europe is for morons.