U.S. Gear Prices
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Why do we pay so much more??

As some of you know, I'm more than a little pissed about the pricing "model" that most distributors are using in the United States market. As promised, I am documenting my effort to change the system here.

If you want to communicate your feelings to the distributors, here is a list of contacts (it will grow...):

Chris Grover
Sales Manager
Black Diamond Equipment Limited
2084 East 3900 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84124
chrisg@bdel.com

Peter Metcalf
President
Black Diamond Equipment Limited
2084 East 3900 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84124

An email to Chris Grover, Sales Manager at Black Diamond:

Hey Chris-

You don't know me, but I am a long-time BD equipment user. For many reasons, including a thoughtful letter I once received from Peter Metcalf, I have been a devoted customer and staunch supporter of your company.

I am taking the time to write because I think your post in the Couloir forum, while well intended, is somewhat inflammatory and is being copied to several other such forums on the Web.

In all honesty, I've known about the "zone pricing" and the mandatory selling prices in the outdoor industry for some time. I accepted it because I appreciate the way most of the companies stand behind their gear, and well, because I could afford to.

But the game is changing, like it or not, thanks to the Internet. I noticed today that the Grivel axe I paid $118 (plus 8.6% tax) for in the Pacific Northwest would cost me $56 (plus some minor shipping charges, but no tax) to order from a Euro company over the web. Though I know this is not your product, it is just too much of a difference. And it seems like rather than finding a way to work with this new "global consumerism", Black Diamond is trying to force suppliers and customers to cover it up. For example: Why can't I order your product from MEC in Canada any more?

Please, no more lectures about cost structures, overhead, import fees, etc. I'm no business wizard, but I do know that those things do not determine the cost of a product. The market does. And this market is starting to get fed up with subsidizing sales in other countries.

I don't envy you your position. I know that few in the outdoor industry are getting rich. And honestly, I'd love for BD to make tons of dough. But I do want you to even out the playing field. This good horse has been carrying the biggest load for too long.

Sincerely-

Loren Campbell

Postscript

I did get a somewhat thoughtful response back from BD. Unfortunately for them, they specifically asked that I not publish it on the Internet. As a reasonably scrupulous person, I will do as requested. But I didn't agree to not publish my response, so here it is:

Subj: RE: Your forum post on pricing 
Date: Tue, 31 Oct 2000 1:57:57 PM Eastern Standard Time 
From: Cascade Climber 
To: chrisg@bdel.com 

As you asked, I will keep your response to myself.

I'd just ask that you consider this:

You currently have a very loyal, dedicated customer base. We (I will arrogantly presume to speak for your customer base) think of BD as an honorable company founded by a legend and currently run by a very dedicated team. This is something that cannot be purchased or recreated overnight. Just ask the execs at ValuJet.

I think that sometimes, in situations like this, doing the thing that feels completely wrong is the best thing to do. Ford and Firestone tried to "get it all worked out" before they went public. And while I'm not equating this to that life and safety disaster, it is an example of what can happen when companies try to hide the truth in the name of "working out the details".

I suspect that if BD came out and said, "Yes, we've been doing this and we recognize that it won't work anymore. So here is what we are trying to do about it...", your customers would be much happier than they are reading that U.S. customers have to pay 50-100% more because of marketing and sales costs.

I appreciate you for listening (reading), and I look forward to seeing the industry, BD in particular, learn to work in this new business model.

Now, let's get some snow on the ground so we can bust out the skis!

Cheers-

Loren

My letter to Peter Metcalf

December 30, 2000

Mr. Peter Metcalf
President/CEO
Black Diamond Equipment Limited
2084 East 3900 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84124

Mr. Metcalf-

My name is Loren Campbell. Though you probably do not remember me, I wrote to you two years ago seeking advice as I contemplated a career change. Though I wrote to many leaders in the outdoor industry, only you took the time to respond. That you did, and the way you did was impactful to me in many ways, including my continued staunch support of your company.

I am, unfortunately, writing to you today to express grave concerns. I am sure that you are now aware of the rapidly growing frustration in the U.S. market over pricing discrepancies between the U.S and European countries. I recently became aware of the scope of this discrepancy through an Internet based bulletin board for climbers.

Additionally, there seems to be evidence that Black Diamond has pressured some retailers to cease shipping to customers in the United States, or to charge artificial prices equal to those in the United States.

I am not upset that there is a price differential. I am very upset at the scope of the differential, which seems to range as high as 100%. And to threaten or coerce retailers seems unconscionable to me.

 I initially raised these concerns via email to Chris Grover. His explanation that the costs of sales and marketing in the United States justify the differential is unsatisfactory. As an astute businessperson, Iím sure you recognize that the market determines the price of a product, not direct and overhead costs. This market is learning what has been going on and isnít very happy about it.

Black Diamond, resurrected from the bankrupt ashes of Chouinard by you and your employees, is a well-respected and trusted name in the outdoor industry. Your commitment to quality, and willingness to stand behind your product has resulted in a large, dedicated customer base. I urge you and your company to take a position of openness and leadership on this issue. And I ask, as a loyal customer, that you do something quickly.

I understand that this is an industry-wide practice and, as such, I will be sending similar letters to other suppliers. I am also writing to retailers to tell them that, due to unsatisfactory pricing practices, I am shifting my major purchases overseas until such time as this issue is addressed.

Sadly, at this time, I am no longer willing to purchase Black Diamond products. I simply cannot support a company that aggressively works to limit the purchasing choices of its customers through intimidation and coercion. I will gladly become a happy customer again, after these issues are addressed.

Sincerely-

Loren Campbell

December 2001 Update

I never received a response of any kind from Mr. Metcalf.

I've been told recently that Black Diamond reduced their wholesale prices in the U.S. significantly, but I'm not sure what that means. I did notice that the retail price of a Cobra ice tool is 10% less this year ($269 from $299).

I recently ordered a pair of LaSportiva Nepal Top Extreme boots from Telemark-Pyrenees. The price before shipping and duty was $190. Compare to $420 (before tax) locally.

 

This page was last edited on Saturday, July 03, 2004
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