yep, it happens, probably quite frequently.
and some people do more research than others when searching, so its more likely to happen to some people.
i try not to worry about it too much - this kind of stuff happens - don't obsess over having wasted the money is what i say.
btw, there is absolutely no question in my mind that paid market has a dramatic (perhaps dominant) effect on making a program popular. the issue is scary, depressing, pervasive, and stubborn.
one of the things we can all do about it is use our voices to overcome marketing hype. if you know of a superior program that can't afford marketing, tell your friends, post it here, post reviews on sites. let's make DC a place where people can come to find the best tool for the job and not get unduly influenced by marketing money. we can be part of the chorus of voices that helps people cut through this stuff and find those rare gems in the software desert.