Wednesday, January 27, 2016

What is the price of HPLC acetonitrile?: an experiment in price transparency

Something that bothers me about spending on lab supplies is that it is very difficult to track the price of certain supplies. The amount of transparency is quite low; with that in mind, I plan to track the price of a 4X4L case of HPLC-grade acetonitrile weekly indefinitely as a public service.

I initially plan to look three places: the Sigma-Aldrich website, EMD-Millipore's site and also P212121, a site of Sean Seaver, a chemblogosphere stalwart.

Sigma-Aldrich (4X4L, HPLC grade, ≥99.9%, 34851-4X4L): $1,150
EMD-Millipore (1X4L, HPLC grade, 99.8% min (GC assay), AX0145-1): $288.00*
P212121 (4X4L, HPLC grade, Purity >99.9%, PA-30000HPLCCS4L): $135.00**

Of course, the issue here is that there are special VWR/Fisher/whatever deals, special shipping fees, fuel surcharges (quite amusing in a world of $1.99/gallon gas). I am curious to see how this goes. Readers, your thoughts on how this recurring feature could be improved?

*I know that EMD-Millpore offers 4X4L cases, but I can't find them on their public websites.
**There's a minimum of 5 cases. 

16 comments:

  1. Fischer might be worth adding to your list in case the separate Sigma/EMD listings converge or one is discontinued, what with Millipore-Sigma and all.

    The issue you point out about special deals is pretty big, I doubt anyone but small academics pays list price for HPLC solvent.

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  2. Oh man, I loaded up on $146/4x4 on a promotion from sial this summer... Glad I did!

    --Small Academic (never pays retail)

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    1. Then it's department store logic. List price is astronomical so you can feel like you're getting a deal. Wouldn't be necessary if it was priced appropriately to begin with. But then again, solvent's a commodity and they have to convince you to buy theirs over someone else's (near) identical product. So you get into "limited time" offers that really just cause customers to hoard until the next deal is available.

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  3. One Australian price: https://twitter.com/MartinStoermer/status/692500327451529219

    "via our bulk store Sigma Chromasolv 2.5L AUS$26 ea"

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  4. I have never paid list price for HPLC acetonitrile or methanol...always had a deal/discount.

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  5. Fair enough, but I don't have to get a good deal on gas for my car, you know what I am saying?

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  6. For what it's worth, I have Sigma's reference 34851-2.5L for 239.50 EUR list price. Discounted at 15.30 EUR...

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  7. CJ: One should stick with Pharmco-aaper and to me they have been reliable for 8+ years. I am not their spokesperson but try it!

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  8. Make sure you get quotes, which will give you some discount. Then, send Fisher the Sigma quote and ask them if they can match it, and vice-versa. If it is item where there are competitors you can usually get will into 50% discounts.

    No competitors, and the quote may pay for shipping.

    I think the lack of transparency is on purpose. Most will buy stuff without getting quotes and will pay list price, at least until they see its way too high.

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  9. With a promo code, I can get HPLC-grade acetonitrile from Sigma at $140-165 for a 4x4L. Our university has a deal with VWR, so we can access various supplier websites through a portal and get plenty of discounted prices that way.

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  10. People get careless when they aren't spending their own money, and the amount of oversight can vary dramatically from company to company. A lot of people get lazy and just buy everything from Aldrich because there's no incentive to put in an extra few minutes to check competitors' prices and save the company money.

    One game I've seen the lab supply / research chemical companies play is offering wildly overpriced office supplies. Depending on the company, a chemist might have an easier time getting a new desk chair by hugely overpaying for one from a lab supply catalog. I worked at a company where I'd get grief for ordering office supplies outside of official channels, but could buy pretty much whatever I wanted from the Aldrich catalog no questions asked.

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    1. I agree. For example: never get a lab book from Fisher, always Amazon. 90% discount there.

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  11. And to think I used to burn through a few bottles of this a day as an analytical chemist....

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  12. Interestingly, 1 L of HPLC acetonitrile in (US R1 university)'s stockroom is cheaper than the other 1 L bottles of acetonitrile they sell. So we're just using HPLC grade as a general solvent, at least till that changes.

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  13. well, the disrepancy will disappear soon, as EMD-Millipore is the US trading name of Merck Kgaa Darmstadt, which as we all know acquired Sigma-Aldrich. So in US it will be just Millipore-Sigma. In Europe the situation is different, Merck was forced to sell its solvents business (to Honeywell).

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  14. Could set up a weekly/monthly analysis of a "basket" of common chemicals, similar to consumer price index.
    4x4L acetonitrile, HPLC grade
    2.5L sulfuric acid, ACS grade
    4x4L toluene, ACS grade
    1kg triphenylphosphine, ACS grade
    ...
    You get the idea.

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