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Recently Fine Paints had a Saturday shop visit from a longtime client – a retired professor of Economics at nearby Dartmouth College. The Professor made a few points about consumer behavior and Fine Paints in particular that any Fine Paints client might find thought provoking. He observed that many purchasers will automatically rule out the most expensive product in a category based upon the belief that a very high price must represent luxury and not real value. A purchase in the “upper mid-range” is frequently considered the prudent choice. Although that purchasing philosophy is often the wise way to go, he continued, it should be rigorously avoided when it comes to purchasing paint.

To quote the Professor, “The relationship between quality and price is much looser or less correlated with other products than it is with paint. A recent vintage Ford should be able to give you overall performance and safety not far removed from that of a Mercedes and a well made pair of good American shoes will hold up as well as the finest Italy has to offer. The imported auto and shoes may offer a style edge but they’re clearly LUXURY PRODUCTS because, on an annualized basis, they actually end up costing much more than good, functional domestic alternatives.

Fine Paints of Europe is not a luxury product because on an annualized basis (labor and material combined ) it is less expensive to use than one of the mass market paints from a big box store which is perceived as being less expensive.” He added, “With paint you get exactly what you pay for – and what most homeowners and even professionals don’t realize is the magnitude of the dropoff between first place and second.”

Our visiting Professor made a very strong case for the concept that cheap paints are actually a luxury product – affordable only to those who are committed to conspicuous and wasteful consumption. Do the math. Pay a little more for the product and avoid the expensive habit of repeated repainting while enjoying a much more beautiful and easily maintained coating.

To many of us, his message sounded very much like the academic version of the Fine Paints of Europe mantra of the last two decades – THERE IS NOTHING MORE EXPENSIVE THAN CHEAP PAINT.”

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We heartily agree – materials costs are typically less than 10% of our projects.  And we can add our own 2 cents from direct experience; a client, convinced by a consumer interest magazine, demands that a cheaper but ‘better rated’ big box brand be used for his new, custom-built home.  We fail in our attempts to dissuade him from this course.  The project is complete, the painted finishes are pedestrian at best – poorly textured, visually coarse and throughout, photographing the underlying wood grain through the primer and finish coats.  Alas.””

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