The vast majority of laboratory equipment manufacturers provide a list price, or a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for their products. Distributors such as Laboratory Supply Network and others are then provided with a discount from that list price as which we may purchase the equipment. But just as you may have heard about sellers on Amazon marking prices way up to offer massive “discounts” that aren’t really discounts (link), many lab equipment distributors are guilty of the same exact thing. Think that customary 10% or 20% academic / institutional discount you might get from those companies is actually saving you anything? In many instances, it likely isn’t. You’re probably just getting back to the baseline, or maybe even still paying more than list. And if you didn’t ask for a discount they’d just pocket the extra money.

But don’t take my word for it… Let’s take a look at some actual products. To show what the “big guys” do with regards to pricing, I’ll use Fisher Scientific, VWR, and Cole-Parmer as examples.

Quick disclaimer: The information in this post was taken on April 20th, 2018. All screenshots were taken on that date as well. Prices are obviously subject to change, so the pricing may be different when you’re reading this (although we at LSN generally only change our prices when our suppliers do, which is usually annually). Prices were rounded down so we’re not cluttering up your eyeballs with numbers that are effectively irrelevant.

Example 1

Q700 Sonicator with 1/2″ Probe
Actual 2018 list price: $5,400.

Fisher has it at $6,420 (18.8% markup), VWR has it at $6,604 (22.3% markup), and Cole-Parmer is at least close to the list price at $5,520 (2.2% markup). Click the thumbnails below to see a screenshot of their Q700 product pages with the pricing highlighted.

Fisher, VWR, and Cole-Parmer’s pages for the Q700 Sonicator with 1/2″ probe. Click to see full size.

This is an interesting example because Qsonica themselves lists their list price on their website, which a lot of manufacturers do not. Their website, as well the price on our own, is below. You’ll notice that clearly shows the list price along with the sale price of $4,860 (10% discount from list).

The price of the Q700 Sonicator with 1/2″ probe directly on Qsonica’s website, as well as the price offered on Click to see full size.

Example 2

Lab Armor 20 Liter Bead Bath, without beads.

Actual 2018 list price: $1,535.

Fisher has it at $1,858 (21.0% markup), VWR has it at $2,064 (34.5% markup), and Cole-Parmer has it at $2100 even (36.8% markup). I didn’t even expect this large of a markup. This is insane. At some of these prices, a 30% discount would still be a ripoff.

Fisher, VWR, and Cole-Parmer’s pages for the Lab Armor 20 Liter Bead Bath without beads. Click to see full size.

In comparison, we have it listed on sale on for $1,291, a 15.9% discount from the list price.

The Lab Armor 20 Liter Bead Bath on Click to see full size.

Unfortunately, Sheldon Manufacturing, who makes the Lab Armor Bead Baths, doesn’t show the list prices on their website.

There are a lot more examples that we could show you. Way more than we have time to take screenshots of and way more than you would want to read. These two examples were actually the first two that we thought of that all three of the aforementioned big distributors have. These aren’t cherry-picked – they’re demonstrative of what these larger companies do with their pricing.

So Why Does This Matter?

There’s a few big takeaways here, as well as a few things we want you to know about us.

NEVER pay list price for equipment from a large distributor. If you do, you’re probably getting fleeced. In fact, if you’re not getting a fairly significant discount, you’re very likely paying above list price. Even if you’re getting a big discount, you very well might be able to get a better price elsewhere.

As far as we’re concerned, we don’t think marking up or hiding “list” prices is honest. We always show the manufacturer’s suggested retail price so long as one exists (not all manufacturers have list prices, but the vast majority do). If we’re discounting, it’s from the manufacturer’s list price. If we’re marking a product up, we still show the list price (which we occasionally have to do for products where our margin is small and shipping costs are high, since we offer free shipping on many orders). It’s scientifically proven – and quite thoroughly so – that a shopper is more likely to buy a product that has a large discount than one that has a lower price. That’s one of the reasons for many distributors’ mark-up-then-discount pricing methods. They’re literally trying to game you.

We don’t play games with prices. We don’t believe that different customers should pay different prices because they’re from a large company, or from a particular industry, or they simply asked whereas someone else did not. That doesn’t sound fair to us. What we think is fair is advertising our best prices and offering those same prices to everyone. (We’ll often give volume discounts for large-quantity orders, but that’s about it.) So if you call us and ask us for a discount, please don’t think that if we don’t give you one it’s because we don’t like you, or we’re being stingy, or something like that. As you can see in the examples above, our advertised pricing can be well over 30% less than the big distributors. We’re cutting into our margins so you don’t have to think about if you’re getting a good deal. You can simply know that you’re getting a good deal. Doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter where you’re working. What you see is what you get. It’s simple, there’s no games, and we think it’ll make your lab equipment shopping a faster, simpler, more transparent process. That’s what we’re all about – “Simplifying Laboratory Purchasing Decisions.”