What’s the Catch?

There was a year or two in high school when I was aware of ad blocking browser extensions but did not install them. Today, I can’t even imagine the experience of browsing the internet with ads everywhere. Or, for instance, sitting through youtube ads waiting to skip them. Sometimes a friend, coworker, or family member will show a youtube video on their computer, which will play an ad. Internally, I want to scream, “why are you watching this? Don’t you know you don’t have to? Installing an ad blocker takes like three clicks!” But then I remember when I didn’t have an ad blocker either, and wonder why it took myself so long. 

When I told my parents to install an ad blocker, I got quick and dismissive responses, like “whatever, I don’t worry about that” and “oh I don’t know anything about that technical stuff”. They acted like they would not have been able to install it (it’s trivially easy), were reluctant to even try, and were a little annoyed that I even brought it up, me with my CS degree. “You don’t know how much it could change your experience!” I tried to say, “it’s just three clicks!” When I told my college friend he could block ads on his computer, his response was more telling, “what’s the catch?” I think that was my former opinion too. Something so unambiguously good for the consumer can’t be real, it must come with some hidden inconvenience. Maybe the software spies on you or something. 

More recently, I had known about bluetooth for about a year before I started to actually use it. Now I see bluetooth as so unambiguously good. The value of being able to walk to the kitchen while listening to computer audio is not knowable until you experience it. Even so, why did it take me so long? To be completely honest, I think I was turned off, of all things, by the word, “bluetooth”. That word sounded so fake-trendy, like a fad I wasn’t in on. But that wasn’t all… there must have been some reason why I used headphones with wires for over a year. Yesterday I tried to convince my dad to use wireless headphones with bluetooth. He had a litany of excuses. “It will take so long to set up!” No it won’t. “It will loose connection all of the time!” No it won’t. “It will be annoying to turn on and off!” No it certainly won’t. It takes one button press and 2 seconds to turn on and off. 

But I assumed all of those things too at one point. And I have a theory about why. It was hard for me to believe that a product could just actually be good for the consumer, with little to no catch. It felt so unusual. There was (or is) a version of the efficient market hypothesis in my head: if such-and-such is actually so good, why doesn’t everyone already do it? (While at the same time, if such-and-such really is already popular and used by everyone, I’m likely to dismiss it as a hot fad and think myself “above” it all!) I’m too arrogant; I – or we – need to realize that some things, some technologies, really are positive-sum. I don’t think positive-sum thinking comes natural to humans, but it should. 

This all has implications, not just for entrepreneurs, but for sales people. When a product is too big of a quality jump above its competitors, potential customers may doubt it. Maybe in some cases it would be necessary to understate the capacities of the product (Maybe they teach this already; I’m not not a sales guy).