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Knowledge may be power, but having everything everyone has ever reckoned about every pair of headphones to ever exist at her fingertips is a recipe for paralysing indecision for Gabi Lardies.

It took me months to buy headphones. I wanted the mod-cons (noise cancelling, wireless), I wanted them to last for ever (for my ecological and ethical concerns), and as the annoying consumer I am, I wanted it all for the best price possible. I have a small head so I was looking for reviews saying they were a bit tight.

I scoured the websites of electronics stores, compared prices, read their product reviews, then read review websites and Reddit threads. I pestered friends who I consider to know about technology, tried on their headphones, and got Mum’s opinion (you can always count on her to think things are expensive). After all that, there was no clear winner of which headphones should get to crown my little head every day. In the end, the decision happened when two stars aligned. My friend laughed at me in a sad way when she found out I hadn’t bought any yet, and PB Tech had a sale on.

I might agonise more than some willy-nilly spenders, but I’m not alone. Seventy-one percent of consumers research before buying always or most of the time, according to MIBE’s New Zealand Consumer Survey 2022, released this May. The number is growing – back in 2016 it was only 57% of consumers. Women are slightly more likely to do it than men (73% v 64%), and those aged 27-36 are the most chronic researchers (85%). Only 3% of people said they never research (who are they?).

In the old days life was easy

Once, there was no internet, and people would just go to The Warehouse and buy the second cheapest discman that came with headphones. Maybe they would chat to the shop attendant, who might have known nothing at all or been a super tech nerd. Once they’d popped in two AA batteries, in went the latest NOW That’s What I Call Music! and people were happy. I reckon this would take 30 minutes tops, and be a rather pleasant experience, so why do I have to punish myself with months of indecision?

It’s good to be a selective and informed buyer of stuff. We should buy things we need, like and can afford that align with our values, and knowing what we’re buying ideally ensures that outcome. We also don’t want nasty surprises – over half the people in the consumer survey had experienced a problem with something they bought in the last two years – so the worries are not completely irrational. Besides, I was just buying headphones. Imagine if I was buying, say, a baby’s carseat? 

The internet has created another little world of pain as it appears to offer us more and better stuff and information. Everything everyone has ever reckoned about headphones or carseats or anything else is at our fingertips and it’s simply too much. Sometimes, they start talking about the V1 chip from the M5, DSEE upscaling to improve compressed content, or beam-forming microphones. I study the words diligently, not understanding a thing and wondering – are they trying to say pure immersive bliss? 

Buying stuff is hard. Buying online is even harder because what’s available is not geographically limited. I’m not limited to what The Warehouse has in stock, or the shops at my local mall, or even what’s in the country. I can buy anything – the decision is all mine. Terrifying.

Some people solve the dilemma of what to buy with brand, and even product, loyalty. They will buy a pair of shoes, wear them out, then buy an identical pair. It’s very practical and quite boring. I don’t think you should trust any brand ever, so I am dubious of developing loyalty. 

Op shops are an easy option by simply presenting you with what they’ve got for cheap and no environmental or capitalist-related guilt. If there are three matching plates and another two which don’t match but are cute – perfect, sold. But I didn’t find any wireless noise-cancelling headphones there. 

It’s apples and oranges and we just have to pick. Which dish rack should we buy from Kmart? The wooden one gets mouldy but the metal one rusts, so is either better?

With the headphones, I’m pretty sure I was comparing oranges with oranges. They were all headphones. I set the filters to only see the wireless and noise-cancelling ones, and ordered them by lowest price. They all worked, charged via cable, had similar battery lives, came in black or white, and would have fit my head just fine. One orange was as orange as the other.

I knew this, in theory, the whole time. But I was scared of making the wrong decision. Buyer’s remorse is painful. I might go on a website tomorrow and see way better headphones for cheaper, or a terrible review of my ones. I try to forgive my brain for being like this.

Refurbishing corporate laptops not only gives rangatahi opportunities, but it keeps tech waste out of landfill (Image: Getty Images)
Please help me when I have to buy a new computer (Photo: Getty Images)

Two weeks after ordering, my crown came in the post. I think the headphones are all good. They fit my head and they make noise. I haven’t really figured out how to best use all the noise-cancelling features because it has to be done via an additional app and it’s annoying. Unfortunately the bluetooth is, for some mysterious reason, not compatible with my late 2012 MacBook Pro, even though I updated the software especially. My computer speaker is broken and sounds like a demon, but it’s fine because the headphones came with an optional cable and I guess I don’t really need them to be wireless.

For the seven in 10 readers who will be researching before buying stuff – well done, it’s us stress pots holding these companies to account. Perhaps though, the personal price we pay is too high. Stress is not good for you, time is money, and I think any pair of headphones would have crowned me just fine. We’ve been trying to make the BEST decision, but we should just aim to make a good enough one, and get along with life. Good luck out there.


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