The Lab Manager's source of bulk supplies

Beginner’s guide to Ali Baba

Every lab manager ends up ordering supplies from companies like Sigma Aldrich, VWR etc.  However, if you are trying to keep things in budget, don’t neglect other suppliers.  One of these is AliBaba.

AliBaba is a kind of bulk e-bay.  You can find just about everything there, from lab tables to gaming dice, and get things far more cheaply than you’d get at a store.

There is a catch, however.  You could buy test tube racks for about USD 2.50 a piece, compared with about 25.00 from SigmaAldrich.  However, you’d need to buy at least a hundred of them.

So AliBaba is a great money saver if you buy in bulk.  If you can’t buy in bulk, or not in sufficient bulk, it is worth speaking with other lab managers in your organization and see if you can place a joint order.

Some guidelines on how to get a good order from AliBaba:

  1. Determine the maximum amount you want to order.  Don’t bother asking vendors if they will ship less; the answer is always no.
  2. Create an account with AliBaba and then make sure you contact at least 10 suppliers (about half won’t get back to you).
  3. Google the hell out every supplier (sadly, there are frauds out there).
  4. Make sure you get formal quotes from all five, and choose the top four.
  5. Then place your order.

On items like racks, lab coats, even certain chemicals, you can get a very nice discount.

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