Does anyone remember the scene in UHF where a bunch of Asians, hiding in a supply closet, yell “supplies!” when one of the bad guys opens it? This post’s title reminded me of that scene.
Back to business. I spent this ENTIRE past weekend ordering clinical and office supplies online. I didn’t think it would take this long, but I think I got some pretty good deals.
If you’re pressed for time, the fastest way to shop for office supplies is at a brick & mortar retail store. You can just walk around the store and pick up whatever you need. If you want to get the best bang for your buck, order online. If possible, try to use an out-of-state vendor to avoid paying 8 to 10% in sales tax, and try to order as much as possible in one go to save on shipping.
First, I did some comparison shopping. Since it’s impractical to compare prices for every little thing, I just compared a few random samplings. Between Office Depot, Staples, Officemax, Quill, and Viking, Viking ended up being the cheapest overall, even after applying coupons on Quill. Viking was cheapest for mainly basic office supplies like pens, paper, folders, tissue, hand soaps, etc. I was able to find better deals on Amazon for bigger things like electronics and furniture.
Although Viking is based in Florida, they still charged me sales tax. My guess is that they have some agreement with distributors in California, especially since my orders arrived in a day. Still, even with sales tax, Viking was still cheaper. Shipping is free for orders over $45, and you also get a free gift for orders over $125. I chose a $25 iTunes card, which I’ll probably end up selling on eBay.
I wasn’t sure how complete my shopping list was, so I actually painstakingly browsed through every single category to see what I needed. This part is why I spent the whole weekend doing this stuff. In total, I ended up spending about $1,000. I probably saved an extra $150 to $200 for all this work, which is trivial in the grand scheme of things. However, since I will incur these costs recurrently in the future, I’ll probably save 15 to 20% each time I make an order. The nice thing about most of these sites is that your previous purchases are saved on a favorites list, and you can reorder everything with a single click.
Howie’s note: don’t forget that certain credit cards like the Chase Ink cash will give you five points back for every dollar spent at office supply stores. If you have a AMEX card frequently they have offers you can opt in to for discounts off office supply stores and online ordering. As an aside, AMEX recently gave me $225 in points for charging $450 to prepay my ATT cell phone service on my AMEX business platinum!
Another option is to go into the store and comparison shop with amazon prime.
I wasn’t organized as Ho Sun and made a bunch of trips back to the office supply store to buy stuff that I forgot to get the first round. Obviously you can’t do this as easily with clinical supplies.
The options for clinical and ophthlamic supplies are a bit more limited. I mainly looked at Henry Schein, Eye Supply USA, and Eye Care and Cure (thanks for info beetles). Even with AAO contract prices, Henry Schein was way more expensive than the other two sites. The only good deal I found on Henry Schein was for Ethicon sutures. Other than that, Eye Supply USA and Eye Care and Cure had better deals. Of these two, I found that surgical instruments were about 20% cheaper at Eye Supply USA. Everything else was sort of an even split between the two companies. I compared prices by adding everything I wanted onto one company’s shopping cart, and then comparing each item’s price on the other company’s website. Once again, I made 90% of my purchases on these two websites.
I made my remaining purchases on Amazon and eBay, including Steri-strips, a Mayo stand, and Viraguard wipes. For most marketed eye drops, I plan to just get samples from drug reps. These things would be so expensive otherwise.