Chocolate and misleading pricing


in Daily updates

Those interested in chocolate, or who delight in seeing fraudsters uncovered, should have a look at this exposé on Noka Chocolates from (via BoingBoing) The ten part series might be a bit excessive, but you get the idea pretty quickly.

Apparently, a couple of accountants (Katrina Merrem and Noah Houghton) have been buying bulk chocolate for about $17.82 a pound – melting it down, shaping it, putting it into fancy boxes – then selling it for up to $2000 a pound. All this while pretending that they are actually involved in the process of making the original chocolate, as well as advancing additional dubious claims about their methods.

Amazing the crazy stuff that people who make ‘premium’ branded products can get away with. When you exploit the perception that you are providing people with the very best, and charge them accordingly, it seems fairly easy to pass off the utterly mediocre as superlative.

Those still dubious should have a look at the superb Feng Shui / bottled water episode of Penn & Teller’s: Bullshit! (Season One, Episode Seven). In it, they fill a bunch of fancy bottles using a garden hose, then sell it to the patrons of an upmarket restaurant for high prices. Listening to the customers discussing the subtle ‘notes’ they experience, and generally praise the water – interspersed with footage of a crazed looking waiter refilling the bottles on the patio – is incredibly amusing. They even call one of the options “L’eau du Robinet” (Tap Water), and sell it for $4.75 a bottle.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessica December 28, 2006 at 6:09 pm

As my mother would say, there are a lot of people out there with more money than brains.

Milan December 28, 2006 at 6:10 pm


I don’t think caveat emptor does it here. These people aren’t just making unjustified claims, they are being straightforwardly fraudulent and willfully deceptive about what they are selling.

R.K. December 28, 2006 at 2:20 pm

Commodities are Veblen goods if people’s preference for buying them increases as a direct function of their price.

Anon @ Wadh December 28, 2006 at 7:17 pm

The Noka thing does sound pretty reprehensible, for reasons independent of whether people can be duped into buying expensive things through clever advertising.

Whether it is fraud or not, they deserve to go broke from the negative publicity that spins off from all of this internet furor.

Jessica December 28, 2006 at 8:49 pm

Perhaps it’s a function of growing up without a lot of money, but I tend to be suspicious of anything that comes with a premium price. Call me cruel, but anyone willing to pay $40 for four slivers of chocolate in a metal box deserves to be ripped off.

That said, I have a strong feeling that this is going to be a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes. The people who have been paying the premium will keep doing so, because stopping would be the same as admitting they’d been duped.

Milan December 28, 2006 at 8:52 pm


The psychology of ex-buyers, when exposed to this kind of information, would be an interesting thing to observe.

I agree that it is right to be skeptical about premium products, but as owners of Etymotic headphones, we cannot say that we never allow our skepticism to be overcome.

Ben December 28, 2006 at 11:42 pm

I remember a similar TV scam thing with cosmetics. They simply re-packaged cheap moisturisers and such and sold them for massive profit, peddling bull**** about ‘natural herb ingredients’ and the like. (Since they interviewed several victim/customers afterwards, I assume they were refunded)

On psychology, I believe it’s the case that most people experience ‘buyers’ regret’ after major purchases (I’m really talking cars and houses, but maybe major depends on your budget – for us the likes of PCs, iPods and bikes probably qualify) – that ‘did I di the right thing?’ worry…

Milan December 29, 2006 at 2:56 am


iPod Shuffle: amazing purchase
iPod 20GB: decent purchase
Extended warranty on iPod 20GB: superb purchase

iBook G4: excellent purchase
Etymotic ER6i earbuds: excellent purchase

Canon EOS Elan 7N: good purchase, but I would have been smarter to wait for a dSLR
Canon EOS Rebel G: very good purchase
Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens: very good purchase
Canon 28-105mm f/4.5-4.5 USM II lens: excellent purchase

Garmin GPS 76: good purchase
Bike from Beeline Cycles, Cowley Road: decent purchase, a bit liable to fall apart, but from a shop fairly happy to fix it

. April 11, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Ludicrously expensive bottled water for rich morons

By Mark Frauenfelder

Forbes Traveler has a rundown on costly bottled water, such as Berg, made from ice-age Arctic icebergs, and Bling, which comes in a bottle emblazoned with fake diamonds. I don’t know which more obviously brands you a fool: being seen with a bottle of Bling, or sporting a forehead tattoo.

Initially introduced only to “hand-selected athletes and actors,” Bling H2O is now available to the rest of us mere mortals. It has made appearances at the MTV Music Video and Emmy awards, but did anyone tell the celebs the water comes from Dandridge, Tennessee? Never mind, the point in this case is not what’s in the bottle as it is what’s on it: Swarovski crystals spelling out “bling.” The frosted glass bottle is labeled “Limited Edition Spring Water” and is sealed with a cork.

You can buy Bling H2O in bottles without crystals, but why would you? $441 per case of 12 bottles (750ml)

Per 750ml bottle: $36.75

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