Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off

  1. Jan 14, 2012 #1

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    So for those of you who don't know, PASCO is synonymous with physics lab equipment here in the US for undergraduates. Now, I'm teaching a proper physics class this semester where we use PASCO stuff. I noticed a cool electrical generator in our storage room ( http://www.pasco.com/prodCatalog/ET/ET-8771_energy-transfer-generator and http://www.pasco.com/prodCatalog/ET/ET-8772_energy-transfer-hydro-accessory/ )that you can use to show hydroelectric power generation. I rummaged around and for the life of me, couldn't find the water reservoir, which is sold separately for some ridiculous reason.

    Now, we all know educational equipment is ridiculously expensive, but I had no idea it was THIS BAD.

    http://www.pasco.com/prodCatalog/ME/ME-8594_water-reservoir/

    A plastic graduated cylinder and tube for $100.

    $100

    I don't even know the right question to ask to try to get at the core of what my concern with this is. How? Why? Pizza? I'm genuinely afraid to try to itemize how much all the equipment in our storeroom costs out of curiosity.

    PS. If anyone is wondering, the "Hydro accessory" is JUST the bottom attachment with the turbine in it.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2012 #2
    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    They're all crooks set out to rip off universities. We use Armfield for most of our lab equipment and they're the same way. Except we have to pay for crazy shipping from the UK to the US on top of crazy high prices.
     
  4. Jan 14, 2012 #3

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!


    You've hit a sore spot. I just finished putting three sons through college.

    That outrageously priced piece of plastic and that gold-plated book are a tiny part of the reason for these curves:

    COLLEGE-COSTS.jpg

    chart-wage-tuition3.top.jpg



    There is no justification for a $100 plastic graduated cylinder and tube, a $277 undergraduate level textbook, or a $20,000/year journal. Academia is the ultimate in unsustainable growth. It is pricing itself out of existence.
     
  5. Jan 14, 2012 #4

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    That is an interesting comment. I had never thought about it that way.

    One thing for us older guys that isn't all bad. With the failure of the education system, we don't see as many young hot shots trying to take our jobs.

    Also, with the apparent shortage in skilled labor, vocational schools and community colleges may be good option.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012
  6. Jan 14, 2012 #5

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    The costs these suppliers charge is absolutely ridiculous! Now, on one hand, the catalog price isn't usually what anyone actually pays. Every university I've been at has contracts for volume purchasing to get big discounts from the catalog price. On the other hand, those contracts are part of the problem that you can get locked into using one supplier or else expect to fill out a mountain of paperwork to explain why you need to order from a non-contract vendor, even if it's for the obvious reason that the item is cheaper.

    It's not just why the cost of education has gone up, but why the cost of research keeps climbing too.

    In the case of something like a graduated cylinder that needs to be fairly accurate, you can shop around vendors, but still need to get a graduated cylinder. For other lab equipment, it's worth thinking about alternatives. For example, for one project I did, we just needed large dishes that could hold heated solutions and other solvents to dip racks of microscope slides in. Instead of buying the ones in the scientific catalogs, we just got the inserts that hold the slides (hard to find something else for that task) and then headed to a local store to buy small corningware casserole type dishes that were a fraction of the price and ended being more versatile in the lab.

    Textbooks are another frustration. Universities are as much to blame on that problem. Not only are publishers coming out with new editions that don't have sufficiently substantial changes to merit a new edition, which keeps costs rising, but universities push faculty to publish, and if you're primarily in a teaching position rather than research position, the expectation is you'll publish a textbook. Well, how many textbooks do we need on the same subject? I easily have a dozen review copies of texts on my bookshelf on the subject of my undergrad course. They all have the same material. They don't even update content that's a decade out of date...or more! I had an opportunity to review chapters for two new books. On one, I pointed out the major errors in it and outdated information, and it went to press without making those corrections! The publisher asked me if I'd adopt the text and I told them absolutely not. The other is still being written. At least that editor has spoken with me since, and I hope I've convinced the editor and author to include more updated and accurate information. We don't need more textbooks, we just need someone to better edit the existing ones.
     
  7. Jan 14, 2012 #6

    Chi Meson

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    I personally love PASCO. I don't go in for their expensive and too-specific products, but their bread-and-butter low-friction carts, 2-meter tracks, and Smart Timer/smart-pulley apparatus will be forever on my lab tables.

    Other great PASCO things: low-friction turntables, thermal expansion apparatus, sonic motion detectors, basic Optics bench...

    It's quality stuff, and lasts for decades.

    For basic stuff, I recommend Frey.
     
  8. Jan 14, 2012 #7

    AlephZero

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    Time was when somewhere in your organization there would be a slightly strange guy, apparently livinng 24/7 in a "cave" in the labs built entirely out of junk equipment, who would have made you something like your cylinder in about 30 minutes, at no cost to your budget.

    But I guess most of those guys have been sacrificed to the two great gods, Elf and Safety.

    In PASCO's defence, there is probably a high cost associated with the very small sales volumes of this sort of thing. If the price was lower but they had a delivery time of say 6 months because they didn't carry any stock, that wouldn't make you happy either.
     
  9. Jan 14, 2012 #8

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    That is true. In a similar sense and as a matter of convenience for my customers, I provide low-volume sales for certain products. For low-dollar items, it is impossible to take enough markup to justify the time; sometimes by an order of magnitude or more. And the cost of shipping can be a real killer! But people want turn-key solutions so it goes with the turf. I make what I can but have to make up the difference with the high-dollar items.

    Small industrial suppliers specifically have to avoid the trap of selling too many specialty products at low volumes for each product. It can kill a business.
     
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2012
  10. Jan 14, 2012 #9
    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    We have a guy like that "living" in the basement of our science building. We even got to have class in his shop for 2 weeks during Intermediate Physics Lab 2.
     
  11. Jan 14, 2012 #10

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    How big of a difference can "small sales" vs "big sales" really be? I work at a community college of about 3,000 and we have, for example, 4 tracks for the cart/momentum activities. At my previous university of 25,000, we had 8. In fact, I don't believe we had more than 10 or 12 of anything unless it was used up in an experiment or fragile enough to need constant replacement. It makes perfect sense when you ship out a product 1,000 at a time and don't want to deal with people buying 1 of your product, but 1 vs. 12 or so?
     
  12. Jan 14, 2012 #11

    AlephZero

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    It's not so much an issue about how many you ship, more about how unpredictable the demand is. Try finding somewhere to buy a christmas tree + decorations in the middle of July for example.

    Somebody has to keep a warehouse full of one or two of everything that Pasco make, just in case some penguin can't find a plastic cylinder with a couple of holes in the side, a week before the next class demonstration. That's what you paying $100 for, not the cost of the bit of plastic.

    It's not just small suppliers either. We have exactly the same problem with spare parts for jet engines. Forecasting the demand for the stuff that you expect to be replaced at overhauls isn't a big problem. You can find out how much the airlines are flying easily enough. The problem is when some bozo sticks the tine of a fork lift truck through something that normally lasts "for ever" (unless it has a close encounter with a fork lift), costs say $0.5m, and takes 12 months to make unless you disrupt everything else on the production line. (And it comes in about 570 different varieties, so you don't really want to keep $285m worth of them in stock just do you have the right one available.)

    Actually, it gets even worse than that, because once in a while some stores manager at Extragalactic Airlines or wherever says, "Gee, we're going to underspend our parts budget by $10m this quarter - hey, I'll order this this and this, just in case we need them some time in the next 5 or 10 years, then I won't have to explain to my boss why the budget was wrong." If the standard contract is delivery in 30 days, suppliers can get screwed by penalties for late delivery for no real reason. And the same stores manager then complains about the high cost of the stuff he really does need, when the suppliers try to keep their business profitable...
     
  13. Jan 14, 2012 #12

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Re: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off!!!

    :grumpy: I'm going to just make my own. The day I have trouble making a giant plastic bottle that can hold a bunch of water and have a tube run from it is the day I stop calling myself a fisicist.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook




Similar Discussions: Holy crap, PASCO is a rip off
  1. Ripping off Hong Kong (Replies: 3)

Loading...