Why the price of Thomas the Tank Engine will get you all steamed up

Irish Independent

September 25th, 2008
Belinda Higgins

Shopping around and researching online has never been so important — as highlighted by some price comparisons between the current Argos and Smyths catalogues.

In a recent discussion on an Irish parenting website, one mother alerted users to the fact that she paid €29.99 for a toy in Smyths — and then noticed the exact same product retailing in Argos for €72.99.

Dublin mum Julie Galvin has a 21-month-old boy. She says: “I bought my son a toy in Smyths last week. It was €29.99. I saw the EXACT same toy in Argos for €72.99. I couldn’t believe the price difference, whatever about a few euro, but €43?

That’s an incredible price differential for the same toy — the Thomas the Tank Engine Sodor Adventure Land Deluxe.

Other differences include: Little Tikes camera — €49.99 in Smyths and €57.99 in Argos; the Chou Chou My First Tooth Doll — €39.99 in Smyths and €51.99 in Argos; the V-Tech Digital Camera — €64.99 in Smyths and €85 in Argos; and a JVC Mini DV Camcorder — €199.95 in DID Electrical and €229.99 in Argos.

A spokesperson for Smyths confirmed that the toy products are identical in all four cases.

The above prices and products are available to view online on the Argos website (www.argos.ie), Smyths website (www.toys.ie) or DID (www.didstore.com) There have also been substantial price increases on some products when comparisons are made between the Argos spring/summer and autumn/winter catalogues.

A Metal Triple Sleeper Bed cost €294.99 at the start of the year and now retails at €399.99. The Oslo Bunk bed was €329.99 and now costs €459.99. The Cussina Walnut Dining Table and eight Chairs was €799.95 and is now €1,021.95. The latter product retails on the Argos UK site (www.argos.co.uk) at £679.95 — or €855.

When contacted, a spokesperson for Argos declined to comment on price differences on individual items, but did issue the following statement: “Argos strives to be the best value general retailer and, with over 1,700 pages of products in the Irish catalogue, we are committed to offering choice, value and convenience to all our customers in the UK and Republic of Ireland.

“Unlike our competitors, we have to publish prices in the catalogue which will last for the full six-month lifespan of the catalogue. This means that the prices published in the catalogue are the maximum prices that customers will ever pay.”

However, consumer watchdogs state that it’s important for consumers to do their own research. “If the prices differ that much, then it just shows the value that there is in shopping around,” says Diarmuid MacShane, of www.valueireland.com.

“What’s particularly interesting is that people wouldn’t have had to leave the comfort of their homes to find out the price differences. All the information necessary to make the right and cheapest choice is available on the internet,” he adds.

“Argos is obviously pushing the boat out in charging what they’re charging for those items, but it’s also obvious that they’re charging those prices because there are some people who are willing to pay those exaggerated prices.”

The National Consumer Agency (NCA) also advises shoppers to do their research before parting with their cash. “As there is no price capping in Ireland, retailers are allowed to charge what they want,” says a spokesperson. “The NCA are delighted that this issue has been raised as it highlights the savings to be made by shopping around.”

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One Response to Why the price of Thomas the Tank Engine will get you all steamed up

  1. martin blood March 28, 2009 at 23:49 #

    My son recently made his confirmation an after his count up he was delighted to find that he had enough money to buy the new Guitar hero band pack from Argos @ €250.00, he was going down in the morning to pick it up so I decided to check if was in stock in our local store via the web.
    I searched Argos and clicked on the u.k site by mistake and I was shocked to find the exact same item retails @ £164.50 approx €178.00 and allowing €10.00 for the vat difference the item still worked out €72 cheaper in the u.k FROM THE SAME CHAIN STORE.

    In the end we bought the item from an online store in the u.k at a cost of €153.00 leaving my son €97.00 to recycle into the Irish economy.

    I would like to think that foreign retail and service companies before coming to Ireland said, we now have an ideal opportunity to supply the Irish public with much cheaper products than all the Irish companies have been suppling them with so far.

    However I suspect it went more like, WOW these Irish will take any S*^%( you throw at them lets get in there before someone else picks THIS CHERRY.

    In conclusion I think its time we bypass the shop fronts of the foreign companies or at least go back to back to been fleeced by our own.

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