I have recently joined a printmakers group called INKTERACTION (http://inkteraction.ning.com/) that is quite amazing to me. at last count almost 2000 printmakers were members, exchanging ideas, imagery and for all I know cookie recipes.
I did come across in a period of 24 hours a disturbing aspect to the world of printmaking supply. Graphic Chemical & Ink has always been straightforward with our customers when it comes to terms and pricing. The old line has always been that we don't offer free shipping because we can't find the truck line that will ship for free,
In an exchange with a relief artist, I mentioned that we have an alternative product that might be of interest to her - the Vinyl Relief Plates from Japan. She was quite interested because the cost of unmounted linoleum from her supplier was very expensive. In her response, however, she mentioned that she used that source because they were somewhat local and they offered free shipping!
At that point the antenna went up, and I began researching the issue. In the same vein as the old saying that "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch" there is equally no such thing as free shipping. Oh sure, somebody could cut a deal to win a bid or something, but in case you haven't noticed shipping charges from all carriers have been going through the roof lately, and they weren't that great to start with!
In this young lady's case, her "free shipping" cost her approximately $80, on a shipment of 50 feet of 36" wide lino. Her source charges $21.25 per running foot of 36" wide material, while Graphic charges $16.50 per running foot of the same lino. So, her neighborhood supplier charges $237.50 more for the same material - but the shipping is free. Shipping charges from Villa Park to that location would be about $150 or so.
Then, because I was wound up about how people look at pricing, I was checking out a website for one of our distributors. I noticed that this dealer sells our 514C Bone Black for a reasonable price - good for them. Unfortunately, they felt compelled to mislead the customer about the savings involved. Their site shows the list price at $ 24.99 for the one pound can of Bone Black. I have to assume that it's their list price because ours is $12,50!
There is an entire industry out there that preys on the fact that page placement is everything. If your website isn't in the first 3-4 in a category, your chances of someone stumbling onto your site is almost nil. The problem is that it all costs money - and where do you suppose the money comes from - from you. Small manufacturers cannot compete well in that kind of market. I hope it doesn't sound like whining. It's just a fact of life. but consider who the companies are that actually make the materials that you buy. Most of them are small - even smaller than Graphic Chemical if that's possible. Many are struggling with the economic situation and several have closed their door within the past few years. I urge you to give some consideration to supporting the little guys, while they're still around.