GOLDSTEIN: Robert, today, you can go online and buy that exact cable that you paid – whatever, 45 bucks for – today, you can buy it for $3.61.
A while back, I got this big flat-screen TV for my bedroom. It was a banner day. Took it out of the box, set it up over there in the corner. You know what it doesn’t come with? It doesn’t come with the cables you need to connect it to all your other stuff. So I go to Best Buy, like, hey, I got this new TV. And he’s like, yeah, you’re going to need an HDMI cable. And bad news, they’re $45 – $45 for some wires and plastic. And I paid it. I paid it because otherwise, my TV was just a big thousand-dollar black painting on the wall.
SMITH: Yeah, I should have waited. Now, we take it for granted that things get cheaper, that there is competition in technological items. There’s technological advancement. But we became interested. How does this exactly happen? How does something that used to cost $45, that I was willing to pay $45 for, how does that now cost three or $4?
GOLDSTEIN: And there’s this one particular company that got famous for selling cheap HDMI cables. The company is called Monoprice. And when they emerged a few years ago, they started out as sort of this cult secret among nerds who loved buying cheap cables. But pretty soon, other companies started noticing as well. Bernard Luthi used to work for one of those companies.
BERNARD LUTHI: And I remember. I remember sitting in a room with our CEO, and he asked us, have you heard of this company Monoprice? And he said, they’re eating our shorts in – around the cable business.
GOLDSTEIN: Eating our shorts.
LUTHI: Eating our shorts in the cable business. Is that a term – eating our shorts?
LUTHI: No. Well, maybe they were eating our shorts. GOLDSTEIN: Luthi was so impressed by Monoprice he went to work there. He’s now the president of the company.
SMITH: The story of the HDMI cable is something that Monoprice does over and over again, and not just with cables but with speakers and cameras, electric guitars, literally thousands of other things. And for all that gear, the basic idea is the same. Take something that’s popular, take something that people love, and figure out how to sell it for less. (SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
SMITH: Hello, and welcome back to PLANET MONEY. I’m Robert Smith. GOLDSTEIN: And I’m Jacob Goldstein. Today on the show, we figure out why some stuff gets cheaper, like, say, consumer electronics. There’s no law that says they have to get cheaper. And yet, year after year, decade after decade, they do.
SMITH: Today, we visit a company where people make this happen. GOLDSTEIN: I went out to Monoprice a few weeks ago. Their headquarters is in this super generic office park in the awesomely named Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. It’s at the base of the foothills just outside of LA, and they’ve got their offices there and this big warehouse.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It’s probably about 174,000 square feet in size. GOLDSTEIN: I feel like everybody always says how many football fields, something like that is.
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