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You know that saying "you get what you pay for"? Well, that's not always exactly true. If what you're buying "starts from" a certain amount of money, there are two possibilities:

  • It's the most basic, bare-bones edition, the one you shouldn't be buying if you're a self-respecting consumer. If there's a picture, though, you can bet it'll be of the most tricked-out version there is. You don't really want to settle for less, do you?
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  • It starts from this price... but it sure doesn't end there. Don't forget to add in taxes, fees, charges, insurance, shipping, handling, delivery and the tip. In extreme cases, these costs are higher than the price of the actual product, but at best they'll be obliquely referred to in eye-straining fine print at the bottom.

Some adverts will display a top-of-the-range model (or focus on it, with other models in the background) while loudly proclaiming that "Prices start from $XXXX!" and consigning the disclaimer "Model shown is $Y,YYY,YYY" to the small print at the bottom of the screen.

In the UK, the Advertising Standards Agency sets a requirement that for any 'starting from' price, at least 10% of all products covered must be available at the price, and judgements consistently chastise advertisers for failing to adequately demonstrate that this is the case.


Compare and contrast Freemium.

Examples of the first variety:

  • Although game consoles have always had accessories (and price packs including those accessories with the console), the current generation of consoles have explicitly named "editions". For example, the Xbox 360 has the "Arcade" and "Elite" versions, and the discontinued "Core" and "Premium"/"Pro" editions. The PlayStation 3 has mutiple models (usually only about two at once), differing primarily by harddrive size, and the Wii... is just the one Wii.
    • The Core And Premium versions of the Xbox 360 are particularly guilty of the trope: The Arcade version is $100 less, but only included at 32Mb memory storage "card", had a wired controller, and did not have digital optical audio. The Elite had a wireless controller, digital optical audio, and a 20Gb detachable hard drive. What's so bad about that? The 20Gb hard drive alone cost $100, and the digital optical audio "conversion kit" would not be released for another two years. The Core eventually became known as the "shitty" version, as opposed to the "entry-level" Microsoft was promoting it as.
  • Ads for "funeateries" will promote combos — basically prix fixe menus, without pretentious foreign languages — that "start at" a certain price, for the cheapest option for each course (as well as a disclaimer noting certain areas, inevitably including New York City, have a higher starting-from price).
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  • Several long distance coach companies pull the following trick. Prices start from £1 when there are exactly 4 seats (or even just 1) are at that price, the rest are more expensive, possibly even more expensive than non-budget lines.
  • Subway and other sub shops offer five dollar foot longs, but only for a limited set of subs that use cheap ingredients. There isn't much in the way of substantial subs that cost just a little more than $5.
    • Subway also has their line up "starting from" 6g of fat, but this is only for a few six-inch subs, and there are virtually no 6-inch subs that have between 6g and 14g of fat.
  • New cars often straddle this trope by having features added by the dealer that you don't really want, but are on every car on the lot. The armrest that gets in the way of 1-2 and 3-4 shifts, the vinyl pinstripes that ruin the car's styling, and so on.

Examples of the second variety:

  • Prices for airline fares often don't include taxes and charges, which can be as high or higher than the price of the actual journey. If you've never flown before, seeing the price of your first airline ticket can come as a shock.
  • Prices for cable and satellite providers also often don't include taxes and fees, plus the cost of renting converter boxes, DVR service, adding premium channels like HBO, etc. (And you still get your shows interrupted by annoying commercials!) And often, they'll have a great introductory price for the first year for the actual service...which balloons up to the full price the following year, and often increases each year after that. It's little wonder that many consumers are choosing to "cut the cord" altogether and just watch what they can get via antenna and/or streaming services.