Geoarbitrage: Item price around the world

By Joseph

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Having lived in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the US, I've always been surprised by the price differences of similar products in different countries.

Purchasing a pair of slippers may seem like a simple act, but the complex supply chain and pricing strategies behind the scenes are far from simple.

Most consumer goods are manufactured in China nowadays. When I bought a pair of slippers in the US, it cost around $20, but when I searched for the same item on Taobao, it was only $2.

The price difference is staggering—10 times cheaper!


As a kid, my parents always encouraged me and my siblings to learn English because America was touted as the greatest country in the world. However, as I grew older, I discovered that most consumer goods are made in China, and businesses sell the same products to people in the US at vastly different prices, earning huge profits.

The first thing that crossed my mind upon discovering this odd fact was: Why not buy the product from China and sell it in the US? It seemed like a lucrative business opportunity!

However, upon deeper investigation and comparison of more products, I realized that the price difference isn't as straightforward. Factors such as brand presence, cost of living in different countries, and the origin of the product come into play.

For instance, the slippers I found on Amazon had over 2000+ reviews and looked appealing in the pictures, but the seller was an unknown LLC. Conversely, the slippers I found on Taobao had a similar design, with the only difference being the brand.

For everyday products, brand recognition might not matter much. People simply want a product that gets the job done. This is how businesses capitalize—they sell essentially the same product at a slightly higher price and somehow convince consumers that their product is superior with a plethora of reviews.

Do you know the brand of your cutting board, utensils, or even your toilet brush? I certainly don't. Yet, I can easily recall the brands of my laptop, phone, and tennis racket.

It's challenging to form an emotional attachment to a cutting board, but it's effortless to do so with a laptop. This is why businesses can charge more for laptops than for cutting boards. Conversely, if businesses know that you don't prioritize brand recognition, they might still sell you the same product at a higher price, since now you're more concerned about the reviews.

This is why I appreciate Costco. Despite the membership fee, it guarantees quality products. The cutting board I bought online from Walmart and the slippers I purchased from Amazon left me feeling cheated—their quality didn't match the glowing reviews.

I rarely encounter dissatisfaction with products from Costco. Plus, it saves me time on reading reviews and comparing products. I can simply go to Costco and purchase what I need without worrying about quality. As people age and their income grows, this type of assured quality business model becomes more appealing, as they have less time for research and want to avoid trivial concerns.

Niche product

So, have Americans done anything about these pricing strategies?

I've stumbled upon some interesting insights regarding niche products with brand recognition.

Recently, I started boxing and needed to buy boxing gloves. I discovered that the price of boxing gloves in the US is around $80, whereas in Taiwan, it's over $100—despite neither country being the product's manufacturing origin; they are made in Thailand.

We haven't even discussed income disparities between countries, yet the product's price is already higher in Taiwan than in the US.

Thus, Americans are no longer naïve. They establish brands and sell products to other countries at higher prices. Especially for niche products, consumers are willing to pay more for the brand.

Should I now purchase boxing gloves in the US and sell them back to Taiwan? It seems amusing, given that the boxing gloves are manufactured in Asia, yet they're priced higher in Asia than in the US!

Cost of Living

We're aware that salaries in the US are higher than in Asia, but to compare the quality of life, we must consider housing costs, food prices, and income.

In the US, housing prices are perhaps five times the annual salary, while in Taiwan, they're likely seven times the annual salary. Higher incomes and lower housing prices make the US a preferable place to live. However, this simplistic comparison might lack depth, as other factors like labor costs, taxes, and more need to be considered.

The Future Landscape

As someone in the tech industry, I've noticed that some of the most successful companies focus on a specific niche and excel in it.

Will this trend reflect the future positioning of different countries in the world?

I'm unsure if a country should be run like a company, but I sense that the ability to leverage each country's unique resources will be crucial in the upcoming decades.

What are some niche items you've noticed that are priced differently in different countries? Share your thoughts with the audience!