Of all the incentives lab supply companies have in their arsenal – there is one guaranteed way they can entice you to buy their products…
The world of lab consumable sales is a competitive battlefield of cut-throat companies all fighting over a handful of confused researchers somewhere in the middle of no-mans-land. Each company looking for a weapon in their arsenal to give them an edge.
Much like that metaphor, those poor researchers end up feeling stretched and confused.
Over the years I've been offered all kinds of things to entice research money out of my account; competitions, a free iPod, a day out in Swindon and even the chance to be an advert. But all of these have been nothing compared to the convincing power of lab snacks.
I'm not sure which company did it fist, but lab snacks are snacks that get shipped with our lab orders as freebies to enjoy with our newly purchased items.
The first lab snack I was ever sent was by a chemical company that shipped me a packet of sweets with my order of Bovine Serum Albumin. Somewhat confusingly (and possibly dangerously) the sweets were in an identical chemical pot made up to look like sweets. Luckily the parcel arrived after my morning coffee and I spotted it before automatically filing them in the chemical store.
Well fed Since then, I've been sent a metric ton of random sweets with orders. The parts for my laser always arrive with a packet of dried fruit and nuts and a stick of gum (presumably to get nut bits out of my teeth). When I was setting up my new lab a while back, I was ordering so frequently that I got enough boxes of snacks to completely cover a desk. My kids had a very varied sweet diet that year.
And it works! I have heard colleges say that they will use one company over another because they get snacks and they were running out. I knew some students that were collecting the free snack boxes just so they could add to the giant wall of snack boxes they had created in their office.
But that's not to say that snacks are always a good thing.
One company that I won't name always ships snacks with their items, regardless of size. Which is an issue because the things I often order from them are around 0.25 cm in size which looks a little ridiculous alongside a massive box of 15 different types of sweets. Starts to feel a lot like ordering off a sweet shipping company that include free optics in their orders.
I welcome this new trend in getting all my snacks for free from lab supply companies. Salaries are pretty tight in the research sector and if I can reduce my food bill in favour of free snacks, I'm all for it!
And any companies wishing to explore new ideas for snacks are very welcome to send me some to try. I will provide detailed feedback on your snack choices to help you decided what to send people in the future. This is absolutely not a ruse to get free snacks… unless you’re okay with that in that case it is, please send free snacks.
Dr Matthew Partridge is a senior Research Fellow at the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton but describes himself as a biochemist who has accidentally ended up working with optical sensor systems.