Are the fanboys who wait outside Apple stores for hours to buy new iPhones and iPads basically slaves? Are the hundreds of dollars some families spend year in, year out on new Apple products tantamount to a tax?
A Reuters column about “America’s costly obsession” over Apple gadgets argues that consumers have grown so accustomed to dropping money on new Apple tech, that these annual expenses—reportedly an average of $444 per household, up from just $150 in 2007—can be described as the “Apple tax.”
“Remember, this is not something that consumers are being forced to pay,” Reuters’ Chris Taylor writes. “They are dipping willingly into their own pockets, because they’re essentially slaves to the devices.”
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Unsurprisingly, the “slaves” didn’t like the way they were being depicted. The MacObserver, for instance, declared the column “egregious in both the scope of its stupidity and its lack of accuracy.”
Mac Daily News hammered on the absurdity of there being an “Apple tax”:
Newsflash: Some people actually use Apple products to – gasp! – make money. Imagine that. Most of our Apple devices are our very stylish slaves, minimalist minions that generate many times more than they cost upfront or to maintain (right around $0). Other Apple devices that we have mostly for our own enjoyment (Apple TV, iPods, iPad mini, etc.) deliver high quality and value for the money.
Salon’s Andrew Leonard also chimed in:
What makes a tax a tax? The fact that you are forced to pay it! If you are willingly dipping into your own pockets to make a discretionary purchase you are not paying a tax. (It’s even harder to reconcile the slavery metaphor. Slaves don’t pay taxes, either. Are we paying a tax, or are we owned, lock, stock and barrel?)
We may chuckle at the folks who sleep overnight—or pay a big premium—to be among the first to get their hands on the newest iPhone. Such behavior may seem illogical, even a bit obsessive. So does habitually spending hundreds of dollars on devices that are marginal improvements from devices one already owns.
It’s hard to argue, however, that anyone is being forced to spend money in such fashion. For that matter, all sorts of consumers drop good money on things that others find downright silly. Money spent on Apple gadgets isn’t any more of a tax than money spent on cable TV or golf or shoes or NFL season tickets is a tax. They’re all voluntarily expenditures.
As a Forbes contributor put it:
This isn’t compulsion, slavery or even addiction. It’s a rational choice by consumers based on their own estimations of their own desires. As such it isn’t a tax: it’s a premium being paid to satisfy their particular desires.