The first bike shop I worked in was just a corner of a hardware store. Our clientele wasn't particularly interested in the minutiae of tubing butt profiles, chromoly versus aluminum, Shimano's complex and arcane product hierarchy, and the like. So I learned quickly to point out visible differences between different bike models that would justify the difference in price from one to the next.
One easy marker (at least in the late 1980s) was wheel retention: the cheapest bikes had bolt-on wheels front and rear. Spend a little more, and you'd get a quick-release front wheel - which could be sold as "easy to remove so you can fit the bike in your car." Another rung up the price ladder got you quick-releases front and rear, which made flat repair so much easier - a dubious value proposition when most people brought their bikes to us to fix their flats, but at least it was a visible thing I could point to.
For those who weren't impressed with wheel retention, I'd turn to pedals. The cheapest bikes had all-plastic pedals. Further up the line, you'd get plastic bodies with metal cages. And the good bikes would have pedals with both metal bodies and metal cages. Now that we're in an era where all bikes either come without pedals (under the assumption that the buyer will add their own favorite model of clipless pedal) or come with those cheap, all-plastic pedals as test ride placeholders, it's hard to believe that pedals could actually be a selling point, but there you have it.
That formative experience has left me as a bit of a metal-pedal snob, though. So it's a bit surprising that my main steed is now wearing these:
What can I say? The supply chains are weird these days, I'm a cheapskate, and I wanted something big, thin, light, and concave, so I put aside my anti-plastic bias and gave these Tioga Surefoot Slims a shot since they seemed to tick all the right boxes on paper. Too soon to give a full, definitive review, but I like them after a few rides. We'll see how they hold up after a few months under my paddle-feet.