I nearly got duped by the Great HDMI Cable Con

The Great HDMI Cable Con is alive and well in the 4K HDR era, as our Games Editor, Brett Phipps, found out for himself on a recent visit to a popular UK High Street retailer.

I’m a bit of a sucker when it comes to new tech. You don’t have to dress up a piece of kit with a sexy trailer full of flashing lights and nonsensical buzzwords; just tell me it’s better than the thing I have and I’m yours.

It’s the reason why, among other things, I’ve “needed” to own every video game console the second it lands on the shelf. And, of course, it means I felt obliged to upgrade to a 4K TV recently, even after I discovered one of these new super-telly-o-boxes would cost more than my monthly rent.

In hindsight, it was a dumb, immature and impulsive decision, but once I decided I wanted one, I simply had to have it. Call it Naive Consumer Syndrome.

Having settled on the Samsung 55-inch KS7000 – I should have gone for the 49-inch version, but don’t tell my fiancée she was right – I popped to my local electrical store to make the purchase.

Before we go any further, I should make a confession: as much as I’m an obsessive about all things game-related, I can be a bit of a dummy when it comes to pretty much everything else.

World languages? I’ll just have whatever’s in the first picture on the menu, ta. DIY? Not a chance. PC hardware spec sheets? Matrix code to me. So I spoke to our resident TV expert, Ced Yuen, about the telly I’d set my heart on, and he assured me it was a solid choice. So off to the nearest High Street I strode…

Walking into the store, one of the staff members asked if I knew what I was looking for, to which I practically sang:

“Yes, the Samsung KS7000, please – 55 inches!”

Perhaps foolishly, I thought that was the end of it. I would simply pay for my new TV and leave. But then came the inevitable upselling attempt, and I was presented with all manner of additional things that I didn’t really need.

Did I have an appropriate wall mount for the TV, for example? Conveniently, this particular outlet just happened to sell them – some for as much as £100. Luckily, I’d already hit up the local B&M and bought a perfectly adequate one for £30.

Up next? HDMI cables. Well, this is where things got a bit interesting.

Watch: HDMI 1.4 vs 2.0 vs. 2.1

“They’re on clearance”

Like I said, there’s a reason I’m the Games Editor at TrustedReviews and not the Home Technology Editor, or even the Computing Editor for that matter. I like games. I know games. And while I know enough about tech to get by, dive too deep into the nitty gritty and I’m just as easily confused as the next person.

So when I was offered three “superfast” HDMI cables, I was a bit stumped. What was superfast about them exactly? How were they different from the random HDMI cables I’d acquired over the years?

I was told they usually retail at £30 each, but were being sold for clearance and I could have the lot for £20. Bargain, right? Maybe, but part of me also thought I could smell something fishy, so I decided to conduct a little experiment.

I confidently told them I worked for a “tech company,” knew that the “superfast” claims were bollocks, and already had a bunch of them in a box at work. I had no idea if I was actually right, but I obviously have a decent enough poker face and – a few taps on the till later – all three HDMI cables were mine.

For pennies.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t tempted by the first deal. I had even looked on Amazon and saw that it was selling “superfast” HDMI cables for £5 a piece, but the thought of having three – all of which looked high-end and snazzy – had me intrigued.

My pleasure at being proven right was tempered by the slightly bitter feeling of being upsold on iffy grounds. Surely £20 for three, allegedly down from £30 each, was an extreme piece of discounting?

Yet now, having played the whole “I work at a tech company” card, I’d gotten them for a few coppers. Were they really on clearance, or was that just a ploy to get me to part with more money?

Generally, the staff in this store were excellent, so rather than wanting to see them tarred and feathered, I just felt a bit dismayed, as I knew they were ultimately just doing what they’d been told to do in such situations.

After all, a shop assistant on a weekend afternoon doesn’t set company policy, do they? No, they follow it. I’m delighted with my new TV, but concerned that others might fall victim to similar ruses.

Heed my cautionary tale

The lesson I learned – and it’s one that I hope you all share with your friends and family – is to regard pricey accessories and the “deals” attached to them with a healthy dose of scepticism.

When it comes to TV tech in particular, the advent of 4K HDR has resulted in a whole new layer of confusion, and I doubt I’m the first over-eager consumer to nearly get mugged off by such a ploy.

Heed my cautionary tale and, before your next major tech purchase, make sure you’re armed with all the necessary knowledge before hitting the shops.

Our Home Technology Editor, Ced Yuen, adds: “Sadly this sort of story is very common – at least up until the part where Brett narrowly managed to avoid being mugged off. He got by with a healthy dose of scepticism, or perhaps the person manning the till wasn’t really committed to the act, but plenty of people end up paying a lot more than they need to. Here’s all you need for your new shiny TV: a High-Speed HDMI cable. That’s it. There is no ‘super-fast’ HDMI. Even for testing TVs over £3,000 I happily use a non-branded one from Amazon, costing less than £5.”

For a more in-depth look at the murky world of HDMI, John Archer’s look at the why you don’t need to waste money on HDMI “Premium” cables is the place to head next.

Been upsold accessories you didn’t really need? Let us know in the comments below.