OEM: Outrageous, Extravagant, Markup

OK, so the solenoid on my John Deere Gator had been on its last legs for about two years.  It was no biggie though, that's what screwdrivers are for.  (as an added bonus, you can also use them to drive screws)  

About every tenth start, I would have to short out the big and little solenoid terminals.  Recently, that frequency had increased to every fifth start, then every other start, and then finally, even the mighty screwdriver failed to do the job.  Time to get a new solenoid.

My wife would have preferred that I fixed the thing properly at the first sign of trouble, but that's not how I roll.  I like to milk every last drop of life out of something before I'm am forced to spend money on replacing it.

I think my wife had a bigger problem with it because she doesn't know how to short out a solenoid with a screwdriver, so every time it failed, she was dead in the water.  I never felt too sorry for her because she had a two years to figure it out.  I call that a missed learning opportunity.

Anyway, I had to finally get a new part.  Just for fun, I went to the John Deere dealer to see how much they wanted for one.  I knew it would be pricey, but if it was thirty dollars or less, I just might have bit, because that would have only been twice what I think they are worth and then I wouldn't have had to mess around with ordering one online.  (I hate fuckin' around typing in stuff on the computer.)

Well, I asked the parts dude how much a new one was and (are you ready for it?) he said eighty two dollars without even blinking an eye.  Eighty two dollars?  Eighty two dollars?  That's over five times what I think the damned thing is worth.

While I was there, I checked the price of a new fuel pump for my Scag riding mower.  That unit had been acting similarly to the Gator, occasionally failing with increasing frequency.  I temporarily solved that problem by strapping a gas can on top of the fender and sticking a longer fuel line into that, straight to the carburetor.  (Gravity feed, eliminating the need for a fuel pump)  My wife thought that looked too rednecky and dangerous, but Danger and Redneck are my middle names.  That didn't matter here though, because She drives the Scag (while I do the hard stuff, like trimming and mowing where no one would dare take a riding mower), so I had to fix that particular problem immediately and correctly, which is totally not my style.

Now, how much do you think they wanted for this thing?  That photo above is darned close to actual size.  All it is, is two pieces of plastic that sandwich a rubber diaphragm.  I imagine it has a little check valve in it too, but that's just about all there is to it.

Bear in mind, that you can buy a brand new printer for your computer for about forty five dollars, and there's a lot more plastic and a lot more of a whole bunch of other stuff in a printer than a fuel pump.  

I bet that they make a whole bunch more fuel pumps than printers too, so even if they were of the exact same complexity, economies of scale would dictate that the fuel pump would be much, much cheaper than a printer.

They wanted sixty two dollars for the fuel pump.  How is that even possible?  I suppose it's entirely possible that  a solenoid could be eighty two dollars and a fuel pump could be sixty two dollars, but here's the really incredible part.  They had both items in stock.  That means that there enough idiots out there, willing to just bend over an  pay whatever they're asking to justify having them on hand!

Needless to say, I ordered both parts online and paid thirteen and nine bucks for the solenoid and fuel pump, respectively.  I also had to pay five dollars shipping on each item, but big deal.

What about quality?  It's irrelevant in these two situations.  Both parts are easy to get at and replace if they should ever fail again.  One of the studs on the new solenoid did strip out of the housing, but I was able to just steal one of the studs out of the old one and it worked just fine.

What about value?  I only paid about thirty two dollars total, for these items.  I believe that if I my online purchases had resulted in receiving nothing more than empty boxes, I would have gotten more for my money than if I had paid the dealer almost one hundred fifty dollars.  


  1. I know the feeling! I got my Mom's used New Hollander fixed last year. Had to replace the ignition switch with key. A cheap ass assembly of plastic was over $70. I guess you could get one from an auto store, but then you would have to hack the wire harness. Time vs labor? Hmmmm......

    Checking forums, it was only a $25 part about 10 years ago or so. Yeah, talk about extortion via inflation.

    1. I find it hard to believe that manufacturers make the maximum by overcharging for parts. They've got to be losing so many sales this way. There's got to be other people like me, who will go to almost any length to avoid being ripped off by ridiculous markups of 4 and 500%, but at the same time would gladly pay double what something is worth for the sake of convenience.

  2. The worst one I ever saw was a heater fan switch for a Ford 550C Backhoe they had at a place I used to work at.
    It had an enclosed cab and the little switch got broke somehow and it was my job to get the fan working again.

    I got online and found the closest outfit that sold parts for those and they had a micro fiche file you could look stuff up on and then a price sheet.
    This little switch was a one inch square rheostat.

    I figured twenty bucks max.

    When I looked it up it said SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY DOLLARS!
    I figured that had to be a typo so I called them up and had them check it.
    Nope, that was what they were asking for a one inch square switch.

    I asked them if they had one in stock and by golly, yes they did. I then asked them how long they had had it in stock. The gentleman replied he wasn't sure but it had been a long time.

    I asked him if maybe because it was overpriced by seven hundred and thirty dollars that it might have something to do with that and then hung up.
    I wound up throwing a ten dollar single pole, double throw toggle switch at it so it had two speeds and called it good.

    1. $700 for something that can be replaced with a $10 part. Yeah, that's gotta be some kind of record.

  3. Forty some years ago, on my first day working in a sporting goods store, I had to put price tags on a bunch of exercise equipment. I was putting on what suggested retail was, but I had the invoice for the stuff, and I was marking it up 300 to 400% over our cost. Holy Crap Batman!

    1. At least the customer was getting some exercise equipment for his money. How about those weight loss programs that charge people for attempting to lose weight? They are literally getting nothing for their money. I can't figure out why people are willing to pay for a program that offers expensive low calorie food and tells you to eat less, when they could just do that on their own and pay nothing extra at all.