Daily Archives: January 9th, 2011

The Quest for the Blue Yeti

My quarry would lead me on a strange journey

I’d heard of the Blue Yeti. I’d even seen one myself once. I decided to go on a quest and find the legendary beast for myself. Along the way I found adventure and revelations that I’d never expected…

What it a Blue Yeti? The “Yeti” is a USB microphone. It is made by a company called Blue Microphones. Hence, the Blue Yeti.

Since I plan to do a “podcast” in 2011 I’ve been trying to learn more about the Yeti. (Don’t expect the standard sort of podcast from me. As usual I plan to put my own spin on the concept.) I’ve even held a Yeti in my very own hands (my boss bought one for his wife as a Christmas present) and I’ve watched a few reviews on YouTube. It seems like a nice product.

My boss said he paid $99 for it including free shipping. That was a few weeks ago.

Note: All pricing information that follows is based on my research, experiences and internet searches on Saturday, January 8, 2011.

I went to the manufacture’s web site at http://www.bluemic.com. They offered it for sale at $149.99. Plus a $4.95 handling fee. Plus $8.64 for FedEx Ground shipping. (The cheapest shipping method they offered.)

The Blue Store checkout page for a Yeti

That’s $163.58 for the privilege of purchasing direct from the manufacturer. Sorry, but that’s not “value added” enough for me. As the old saying goes, I guess there’s a Blue Store customer born every minute. I decided to press on and look elsewhere.

My next stop was eBay. I figured they’d have some deals where, although I might have to bid, I’d still be able to get it cheaper. Earlier this week I only saw two listed, and they were both $149.99. This morning things have improved slightly. Perhaps. There is one currently at $70 + $5 shipping from a seller with only one rating that is described as “practically brand new.” Perhaps an opportunity for a deal.

There’s another listed for $96.88 with free shipping and a “buy it now” button from MacMall, a “top-rated seller” with over 5,000 feedbacks and a rating of 99.2% positive.

I then tried shopping.google.com. This is where things start to get slightly confusing. I searched for “Blue Yeti” and the first result was something called the “Blue Microphones Yeti USB Condenser Plug Play Microphone Accessory Kit.” The “kit” apparently includes the Yeti plus some other stuff, like headphones, earbuds, and pop filter.

B&H Photo-Video-Audio is listed as a seller of this “kit” for $96.88 and free shipping. (Hmm. The exact same price we saw earlier.) However, when I click their link, I’m taken to a page where I can buy the Yeti a la carte. No headphones, no earbuds and no pop filter. This system feels extremely deceptive to me.

Additionally, the landing page at B&H did not display the product price. Instead of a price the site said, “To see our price, add this item to your cart.” A link was also provided if you wanted to see why. I clicked that link.

Why we don’t show prices

B&H enters into Minimum Advertised Price (MAP) agreements with some suppliers. According to these agreements, which vary in details from vendor to vendor, the retailer can sell an item for any price, but may not advertise the item for an amount less than the Minimum Advertised Price which is set by the supplier. Retailers agree to MAP contracts because the vendor makes it worthwhile for them to do so. A retailer who abides by the agreement can count on getting first news and early shipments of new products, and generally enjoys a favored status. At B&H, while we abide by our MAP agreements, our lowest selling price is always what you pay.

In my research of the Blue Yeti this seemed to be a normal kind of thing. I found several other web sites this morning that displayed similar messages for this product. I did add the item to my cart and the price of $96.88 with free UPS Ground shipping was confirmed.

By this time I was starting to get a good feel that the price of $96.88 was going to be the best deal out there, at least on a new Yeti. Still, I thought I’d check one more time and went to shopping.yahoo.com. There the lowest price displayed seemed to be $149.00.

I tried the Amazon.com link at $149.00. The product landing page showed the “list price” as $149.00 but didn’t show the actual price. Again it was hidden. Clicking a link revealed the price to be $96.88 with free shipping. Definitely some kind of a trend here.

Because our price on this item is lower than the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, the manufacturer does not allow us to show you our price until you place the item in your shopping cart. Retailers like Amazon have the legal right to set their own prices independently. Adding the item to your cart allows Amazon to show you our price consistent with our goal of always offering you the lowest possible prices on the widest selection of products.

Adding this item won’t require you to purchase the product. You can easily remove it from your cart if you decide not to buy it.

We realize that this is an inconvenience and are regularly working to educate manufacturers on how their policies impact our customers. We welcome your comments and suggestions in our forum on this topic.

Interestingly enough, Walmart.com seems to be more than willing to let me pay $149.00. Perhaps not always “low prices,” eh? Frustratingly, I had to register on their goddamn web site just to confirm my order total during checkout. Perhaps ecommerce web sites hiding important checkout information behind “registration” will be a topic for a future post. I couldn’t help but notice that the checkbox to request email notification of their special deals would automatically re-check itself upon every page refresh. Interesting!

A final web site in the Yahoo results called “UnbeatableSale” seemed to be willing to sell me the Yeti for $149.99 but by this time I was spent. I wasn’t about to register on any more web sites just to see the real costs.

My initial response to “Minimum Advertised Price” (or MAP) was, “What the hell? That’s bloody price fixing, isn’t it?” I was shocked to learn that in the United States, the practice is legal and was recently (2007) upheld by the Supreme Court. Apparently MAP agreements like those involving the Blue Yeti on B&H and Amazon.com are legal. I still find it very interesting that somehow they all ended up on the exact same retail price, right down to the penny and including the free shipping. I may just be your garden variety idiot, but that sure smacks of price fixing to me.

Anyway, I hope this documentation of the hunt for the Blue Yeti was eye opening. I know it was for me. Perhaps it’ll be the first topic on my new call-in talk show coming soon. If I decide to buy a Yeti, that is.

Let the internet buyer be motherfucking aware.