you get what you pay for

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English[edit]

Proverb[edit]

you get what you pay for

  1. In commercial transactions, the quality of goods and services increases as the prices increase, i.e., the more one pays, the better the merchandise.
    • 2003, Michael Blumenthal, "For Whom the School Bell Tolls," Time, 7 Dec.:
      Though it may sound unapologetically capitalistic to say so—there are times when even a certain crass Americanism has the ring of authority: you get what you pay for.

Usage notes[edit]

Primarily used to denigrate inexpensive goods as naturally inferior – “This dollar beer tastes awful!” “What do you expect – you get what you pay for.” In this sense, particularly used in response to complaints by others (“what do you expect?”), or to express disappointment oneself (“oh well”). Also used to refer to expensive goods, to justify the high price – “I really like this car, but the price is a bit high.” “Well, you get what you pay for.” In both cases, the connotation is limitation – you get no more than you pay for (if you want quality, you have to pay).

Sometimes used with the opposite nuance, meaning that because something is expensive, it is thus high quality – “This luxury car is awesome!” “Yeah, you really get what you pay for.” In this context “really” is often used for clarity and emphasis, and the alternative phrase get one's money's worth is often used instead.

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