Friday, December 31, 2010

The Genie Effect

If you wish for something hard enough, it may seem to come true.  But beware, genies can be deceiving!

In the January 2011 issue of Sport Aviation, there was an article describing the "Genie Effect" written by Dave Matheny.   A friend of the author wanted to buy an ultralight airplane in the worst way, and set about doing so in the worst way.  He found what he thought was the answer to his dreams - an obsolete, limited production ultralight that was made by a company that went bankrupt in the 1990's.  And for "only" a few thousand less than the cost of a nice, working airplane, he could have this marvel, which was disassembled and in boxes.  Needless to say, not only was it a bad deal, it was a nightmare.

The Genie Effect describes what happens when you want something so badly that it seems to appear before your eyes!  But what is actually happening is that you are projecting your desire onto something that is less than what you really wanted.  And there is no shortage of people out there, selling clapped-out motorhomes, boats, cars, airplanes, houses - you-name-it - preying upon people with stars in their eyes who are victims of this effect.

How do you avoid the Genie Effect?

First, never, ever want anything that badly.  Yes, a fancy Harley or a fast boat may be "desirable" and you may want one - badly.  But as soon as you give yourself over to "having to have" such an item, well, the seller has you over a barrel, and you are going to get screwed.

Second, along these lines, be prepared to walk away from the whole deal.  You don't "need" a Harley or a speedboat.  So you can afford to wait until the right deal comes along - and the longer you look, the better you will be able to spot that right deal.  In addition, the longer you look, the more likely you may talk yourself out of it - after looking at motorcycles for a year or so, you may decide that the fun part was in the looking, and your burning desire to be a biker, like so many other things in life, burned itself out, saving you a lot of money in the process.

Third, avoid weird deals and oddball products.  In any consumer genre, there are always the lemons and wanna-be products that never quite panned out the way they were supposed to.  Winnebago LeSharro motorhomes, for example, were built on a Citroeon front wheel drive truck chassis, so you can imagine how well that worked out.  People buy these used "for cheap" - thinking they found the motorhome of their dreams, only to later realize it was a nightmare when they can't get any parts for it, or find anyone to work on it, either.  Walk away from "orphan" products, one-offs, products from out-of-business companies, oddball houses, and the like.  Chances are, there was a good reason these products were wildly unpopular.

Fourth, stop looking for screaming deals and settle for reasonable bargains.  It is nice to buy something for 1/2 its retail value, but it rarely happens.  So don't go looking for those kinds of deals - chances are, you will end up getting burned.  The "bargain" boat might have transom rot, or the "steal of a deal" motorcycle might actually have been stolen.  If something is priced "too good to be true" chances are, there is a reason for it.  Once in a great while it is a smoking deal, but don't count on those on a regular basis.  Spend a little more and get a good bargain - stop looking to "steal".

When you wish for something so badly and then a Genie appears, apparently offering to grant you your wish, be cautious!  There are no such things as Genies, just as There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch (TANSTAAFL!).  So you should be suspicious when something appears to be "too good to be true" because it probably is.

The ending for the EAA story was a happy one.  After looking at the boxes of parts carefully, and going online and realizing that the stuff was just overpriced junk (and the seller a dreamer), the fellow spent a little more money and bought a more popular model ultralight in flyable condition.  It was not the apparent "screaming deal" he thought he was going to get.  But a flyable airplane beats boxes of parts anytime, in my opinion.

Genies are deceitful!