We’ve all been there and we know how frustrating it can be. You spend hours trawling through supplier websites to get an idea of comparative quotes in your particular specialist area, only to find the right products, but without a price listing.

So, you move to the next step, which is to order a catalogue and wait for it to download (blocking the photocopier for hours) or to wait for it to come through by snail mail, only to find that the catalogue doesn’t show any pricing either.

By this stage, you are ready to throw in the towel. How can this be so difficult? Don’t supply companies understand the budgetary constraints you are under? Do they understand your lab life at all? Do they realise that you don’t have the time to trawl through endless listings without getting to the information you really need? Ultimately, don’t they want to sell you their products?

Of course, the answer to the last question is an emphatic ‘yes’. But the reasons for making your life apparently more difficult are complex.

Firstly, there’s the issue of competitor advantage. If everybody’s prices were listed, competitors could make commercial adjustments accordingly. On the surface, this only has an upside for the customer, forcing companies to compete openly against each other. But in a highly sophisticated market, there is a danger that quality products with a high value would be judged unfairly against inferior items and skew the market. Equally, lower value products might be offered to market for a higher price, if companies felt it would be possible to charge known competitor rates.

But even more significant is the fact that prices vary, not just from one supplier to another, but according to circumstances. Of course, you would expect to pay less per item for buying in bulk. But prices are also determined by a number of other factors, from currency exchange rates to transportation costs. The supply chain can also alter the cost offered to market, with special consignments allowing for preferable offers. To keep up to date with the most competitive prices in this specialised market and ensure that all listings on the website were available in real time would be very demanding.

Plus, if websites struggle to show accurate pricing, then they would be equally at a disadvantage when demonstrating value-added customer assistance. To give an example, if we know you are using a certain slide printer (for example), then we won’t sell you incompatible slides, even though there might be a price advantage in doing so.

In other words, we would rather concentrate our efforts on encouraging you to speak to us directly to get the right product to your doorstep than spending our time endlessly (and often inaccurately) updating our website.

It is also true that companies reserve their best rates for loyal and reliable customers. This is partly about buying in bulk, but it’s also about regular standing orders for supplies, or buying equipment as well as consumables. Because if we can offset costs from one item to make another item more competitive, then that’s what we will do.

In honesty, this is partly about locking you in to a long-term relationship, but it’s also about getting to know your lab, and how it can function most efficiently. If we know you are struggling for storage space, for example, we can provide the right solutions to suit, such as tissue bags instead of tubs, or regular small deliveries of xylene instead of a glut in one go.

So, it’s important remember that however frustrating it may seem to trawl through websites without getting to a price, companies have their reasons for doing so. Those reasons have nothing to do with making your lab life difficult, and everything to do with encouraging you to speak to us directly to get the price and service you deserve.

Because, ultimately, we are simply here to help you run the most efficient lab.