Why Apple Can Charge $19 for a Polishing Cloth

It turns out that $19 is a very common price point for Apple accessories, and it all has to do with some retail psychology

An employee cleans an iPhone Apple XR during the press visit of the new Apple Store Champs-Elysees on November 15, 2018 in Paris, France. Polishing costs at Apple cost $19, which is a common price point for their smaller accessories.
This is actually much nicer than Apple's official $19 polishing cloth.
Chesnot/Getty Images

When it comes to buying Apple gear, things are rarely cheap.

But the tech giant has figured out an ideal price point for their smaller items like cables, wired earbuds and even screen cleaning cloths: $19. That’s the cost of 18 different items in the Wearables, Home and Accessories category of the Apple store, according to an investigation by the Wall Street Journal.

While Apple itself wouldn’t comment, other industry experts think they know the reason for the unusual price point. “When you go below $20, those people don’t think twice about it, even if [the item] could be competitively priced at $1,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at venture-capital firm Loup Ventures. And that dismissiveness is especially true if your online shopping cart already contains, say, a new MacBook Pro ($1,999) or a pair of AirPods Max headphones ($549). What’s another $19?

As well, ending a price in 9 is called “charm pricing,” and it’s a common retail practice. It’s been backed up by research from the University of Chicago and MIT, which noted that “use of a $9 price ending increased demand” in three different experiments, even if the “9” priced item is a bit more expensive.

A folded Apple Polishing Cloth
The Polishing Cloth is one of 18 items on the Apple store priced at $19

Also, charging $19 for a cleaning cloth or a cable that you could get cheaper on Amazon or Walmart is also a signal to Apple’s customers. “Apple wants to make sure that their consumers constantly feel nice,” as Abir Syed, partner at e-commerce consulting firm UpCounting, told the WSJ, while noting the inflated prices make shoppers “feel fancy.”

The good news? It’s OK to pay a lot for a high-end Apple device, as you’re getting your money’s worth. And for the cheap stuff? The Apple experiment was so successful, you can’t even get that $19 cloth until January. So you may be forced to bargain hunt.

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