The curtain raises, the band strikes up and the show's host Vinny Slick enters, sporting a gold metallic suit and surrounded by scantily clad female hostesses.
Slick: 'Welcome folks to another rip-roaring session of the Price Is Wrong. And whoarr, are we gonna have a good time tonight. As you've heard, the cost of personal computers is falling faster than Bill Clinton's trousers, and that of course means ... (winks at audience)'.
Audience: 'A price war.'
Slick: 'That's it. A price war. And so, on tonight's show, we have two PC dealers who'll be battling it out. But first the rules.'
Behind the screen we have a large corporate customer who wants to replace his old 486s. Our dealers Mick and Bill have to convince him they have the best kit. But they'll also be trying to beat our Lossometer - the longer it takes to clinch a deal, the more their stock depreciates. Off we go then.
'So Mick, what can you offer?'
Mick: 'Well, we have significant savings on IBM Pentium IIs with MMX if that's what's wanted, but our best prices start at around the #700 mark for a PC 300 PL.'
Slick: 'Audience. what do you think? Should he stick at that price or go lower?'
Audience: 'Lower! Lower!'
Slick: 'Over now to Bill. Can you do better?'
Bill: 'Sweet as. I can offer much the same spec but with Compaq boxes, and I'll even chuck in a free monitor, delivery and installation.'
Slick: 'Fighting talk, eh! Back to you Mick.'
Mick (glancing anxiously at Lossometer): 'Alright, I'll throw in interest-free leasing and take the customer's old kit off his hands at 10 per cent above book value. He'll get the write-off tax allowance, a wedge up front and the latest PCs.' Slick: 'Audience - is that a good deal?'
Audience: 'Lower! Lower!'
Mick: 'Alright, tell the bloke behind the screen he can have that, plus my 'ouse and free use of my wife, mistress an' golf clubs. Can't say fairer.'
Bill: 'I'll match it. But tell the geezer that, as an extra touch, we'll also descale the u-bends of his toilets with our tongues.'
Slick: 'Well before our customer decides, there's the final round of tonight's contest - humping gear. Mick and Bill, you have two minutes to load as many PCs as you can on your back and climb our makeshift flight of 200 stairs. On your marks, get ready, go.' (Half way through the exercise the gong sounds).
Slick: 'Sorry guys, you've been timed out by our Lossometer. Your stock is now obsolete and the customer's decided to stick with his 486s until your firms go bust and he can buy all he needs from the liquidators. But let's hear a big hand for Mick and Bill. You've been great sports.'
(Exit Mick and Bill weeping)
Dave Evans is a freelance IT journalist.
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