Tag Archives: minimum advertised price

Term stomping

Blacklist Royals 6.20.10 - 25

This guy is stomping all over the term: blacklist. Credit: Nicole Kibert.

Technology can be a blessing and a curse. Lately I’ve been having a problem when searching Flickr for images to accompany my blog posts. What happens when the thing you are searching for has been co-opted by something completely different?

I’m calling that phenomenon term stomping.

It used to be so easy. You’d enter your innocent little phrase, like “snot bubbles” and get lots of images of exactly what you were looking for. But guess what happens now? There’s an indie punk rock band out there somewhere performing under the name of Snot Bubbles. Instead of the veritable plethora of visual delights that you were expecting you get thousands of images of crazy-looking folks on stage making love to guitars.


Pictured on the left you see an image result from a search for the word “blacklist.” The guitarist pictured is a member of a musical ensemble named Blacklist Royals. I have nothing against Blacklist Royals. I’m sure they are wonderful human beings. They just happen to be the example that triggered the intro to this particular post.

Term stomping happens with a dizzying array of other searches. Terms like these are suddenly useless to me: fuckers, criminals, livid, puss and more. If you like to search, I’m sure this must have happened to you, too.

Some words are simply destined to have their meanings clobbered in the search engines. If this happens to you, it’s best to just give up and move on. Perhaps try a synonym. Instead of “snot bubbles” maybe “mucus spheres” will work, although there will probably be much less results to choose from.

Note to Google: “Mucus spheres.” Please take note of that term. I want to be #1 for it by the end of the week!

But I digress. The real point of today’s post is blacklisting. Yes, as is often my wont, I have buried the lead. Why deviate from that tactic when it works so well?

Specifically I wish to talk about the term blacklisting as it pertains to the wonderful wide world of retail.

Have you ever worked for a blacklisted company? It works a little something like this.

You’re a small biz owner and you wants to make your scrilla. You decide you’ll get there by selling things. But you don’t want to have to actually make things. This restricts your options a bit. Basically it means you have to get things made by someone else. Like manufacturers. That can be a good place to get things. So you buy these things, sell them for more than you paid, and keep the difference as your profits.

Easy as pie, right?

Perhaps not. For one thing, manufacturers can be exceedingly pushy. You’d think they’d be happy to have as many merchants as possible pimping out their shit on the open market. You’d be wrong.

We all know “price fixing” is illegal in the United States. It goes against the grain of our opinion of right and wrong. And we feel it stifles competition and has various other negative effects on the marketplace.

But manufacturers want undue control and influence over their product streams and supply chains. One thing they really want is to control the price of their products. But if price fixing is illegal, how can they do this?

It’s called MAP or Minimum Advertised Price. Under this scheme, the manufacturer sets MAP on their products. What happens to merchants who advertise a lower price, like in an attempt to be competitive in the free market? Easy. Their throats are cut and they are allowed to bleed out like a stuck pig. In other words, manufacturers cut them out. They do this through blacklisting.

The company I work at has been blacklisted. Yet we still sell the shit. Mwuhahaha! How does this little wrinkle of goodness work?

Basically it involves a complicated shell game of dummy company names, made up identities, and shipping drops sprinkled all across our fruited plains. This is truly the way the best economy (at least until 2020) on this planet was intended to function!

For us employees this can get a bit complicated. If we use the wrong company name at the wrong time when dealing with a suppliers who knows us under a different name, we’d expose the lie and then, of course, the jig would be up!

You might wonder how the manufacturers would know what we’re doing. Easy. Ever see those warranty registration cards in the products you buy? They ask, including lots of other things, for the name of the store and the price you paid. Depending on the type of product these cards may also contain serial numbers. These numbers allow manufacturers to track shipments through supply chains to suppliers and eventually the retail merchant.

Manufacturers ship product directly to distributors who then ship them to merchants. And trust me on this. Suppliers could give a rat’s ass about things like blacklists and MAP pricing. As long as goods are flowing through their greedy little fingers, they’re happy. All they need is a bit of plausible deniability to show manufacturers so they don’t get blacklisted themselves. They know exactly what’s going on. Nod, nod. Wink, wink.

Personally I think the whole fucking system must be backed by the Russian Mafia or the Trilateral Commission.

Our operation has product funneled from many dummy companies. We pay extra shipping charges for this. When we receive these shipments we open the products and rip out the registration cards so they can’t be sent in by consumers to expose us to manufacturers. That’s just another bit of ethical goodness for the blacklisted.

Next time you want to share a beer and enjoy fairy tales like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, the so-called free market, ethics in business, and the idea that price fixing is illegal be sure to give me a ring. I really love a good belly laugh at the expense of the overly-naive!!!

A recent TED talk I posted made the point that two things that matter most to “happiness” are “love” and “work.” And when he talked about “work” he said, “Engaging in activities that are meaningful and satisfying … and fulfilling.” Selling shit to idiots isn’t meaningful work. And compromising your morals and ethics in exchange for a living isn’t satisfying.

I guess I just haven’t figured out how to get to so-called “happiness” when my “work” consists of punching a clock and selling my soul to the devil every time I show up for a shift.

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.