I work on a lot of projects and sometimes I need parts I can’t procure locally. Often, when I can get them locally, they cost an arm and a leg. I don’t mind supporting my local vendors, but I’m on a budget too and when I find a part that costs two to four times the price I can purchase it for online, then I have to seriously consider placing an online order.
For example, several years ago my son joined the school marching band. He decided to play the clarinet (he has since changed to percussion). We bought his instrument through the school recommended instrument vendor. The total cost was ~$1,200.00. I was shocked. Mind you, this was not a top of the line clarinet, but is was a quality instrument and we were assured it would serve him competently through his band career.
When we arrived home, I decided to do a little research. I first looked at other music shops around the country. For the exact same instrument (make and model), the cheapest price I found was ~$950.00. So, given that we purchased it locally, the price was a little more palatable. Then I looked at eBay. My search turned up the same make and model clarinet, in new, un-played condition for ~$450.00! WHOA! I almost choked.
A year later, he decided to change to percussion. His new choice required a drum kit. It needed to be one of quality, so just about any name brand would do. This time, I did not make the same mistake. I went to eBay first thing, searched for “beginner drum kit” and eliminated anything that was not made by Yamaha or Pearl (the two brands his band director recommended). The price from the local vendor – ~$800.00; the eBay price – ~$250.00 for a Pearl Drum Kit with snare drum, practice pad, bells, sticks, mallets, instrument stand and rolling case.
I know that local vendors need to feed their families. I assume the eBay vendors have families as well, so I believe this is a moot point. I believe that local vendors charge the prices they do because they can, not because the have to. Does it make me angry? No, I’m a capitalist. I believe you should charge whatever the market will bear. However, the capitalist shopper checks all his options. When the local vendor’s price is only marginally higher, say no more than 20% above mail order, then I tend to purchase locally. I say “tend to” because other factors come in play for that extra 20%, like customer service.
Back to eBay. eBay is my friend. eBay is your friend. Whether I’ve needed switches, microcontrollers, copper clad circuit board, soldering tools, motors and a plethora of other parts, eBay has come through. Don’t discount buying used either. Often an eBay vendor will guarantee a used part, component or device isn’t Dead On Arrival (DOA) at a significantly lower price than new. This is especially helpful if there is a reasonable chance you could destroy the part during experimentation. Why destroy a new part when trying an experiment?
So, my advice to all the gearheads and makers out there, add eBay as one of your major resources. You won’t regret it.