18 Oct. 2006
SETI League
PriUPS Project


A Wry Awry

My hard drive is making funny noises* and I think it may be going awry.  I will need a replacement for it soon.  Needless to say, I want to get the best price for a replacement that I can, so here's what I'm planning to do:

  • Get the manufacturing part number, serial number, and any other number I can find on the mechanism.

  • Send a fax to the florist, to the hardware store, to the tire and lube shop, and (of course!) to the chocolatier.  I've done business with them before, after all.

  • In this fax, I shall request price, delivery, length of quote validity, shipping weight, and confirm that they agree to my purchase order terms.

Although these establishments don't purvey disk drives, they see in me an opportunity to profit.  So in turn they will:

  • Discover who actually offers the disk drive.

  • Each will send the manufacturer a fax asking for a quotation, with the same information that was requested of them.

  • Wait for the quote, mark up the price so they can assure their profit, and send it to me.

When I have received all the quotes, I shall first, before actually considering the price:

  • Verify that I have given them custom within the last year and that all went well.

  • Confirm that I didn't get a leaky tire, bad tool, or stale chocolate as the case may be.

  • Determine if any of the prospective vendors are owned by women, "minorities," (whatever they might be now), or by others whom I generously feel like overpaying.  If so, I will multiply that vendor's price by a fraction so it appears lower.

I'm almost there!  Now I will vet all the vendors with my friends to make sure they haven't done anything naughty and aren't on any of their "do not patronize" lists.  Once I confirm that, I can arrange to order the disk drive.  Unfortunately, between the time I started this process and the time I get to this point, the drive will have irretrievably crashed, I will have been sitting on my hands for a month or so, and the drive will have gone obsolete.

A Commercial Aside

I try not to burden this personal blog with commercial trivia, but during this past week we saw a process like this from the other end.  We were flooded with faxes from companies of whom we had never heard, all looking for the same parta disk drive as it happened.  Presumably one of our customers needed a replacement or a spare, and felt that contacting us was just too outr.  Hence, the onslaught of the middlemen.  You can imagine just how much of a discount the end user was going to get after going through middlemen, each of whom marks up the price.  And you can imagine how much discount the middlemen are going to get, after mercilessly pestering us for quotations.

Who was the end user?  We don't actually know, but I would be willing to wager that it was a branch of the government, and have no doubt the USDUC had a hand in suggesting and validating their procedures and practices.  USDUC can be very persuasive:  They have case after case of $300 hammers waiting to admonish the recalcitrant.

*Thank you for your concern.  In fact this is just a parable, and no disk drives have been harmed in its writing.  Besides, everything around here makes funny noises, and I've learned to ignore them.

Richard Factor

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