Saturday, 20 August 2011

14:37 – Here’s my first cut at the 25 slides I’ll include in Slide Set A.

Amoeba, wm
Bacteria, three types (rod, coccus, spiral)
Blood, human, sm
Bone, dry ground, cs
Diatoms, mixed, wm
Euglena, wm
Fucus (brown algae), cs
Grantia, cs
Hydra, budding, wm
Liver, frog, cs
Liver, mammal, cs
Meiosis (grasshopper)
Meiosis I (plant cell)
Meiosis II (plant cell)
Mitosis, onion (allium) root tip [monocot]
Monocot and dicot leaf, cs
Monocot and dicot root, cs
Monocot and dicot stem, cs
Muscle, three types (cardiac, smooth, striated)
Mushroom, cs
Oscillatoria (blue-green “algae”, cyanobacteria), wm
Paramecium, wm
Penicillium
Rhizopus sp. (bread mold)
Spirogyra, conj, wm

Unfortunately, this slide set will be in competition with the junk Chinese slide sets sold by many homeschool supplies vendors, which typically sell for $35 or so. We simply can’t meet that price, and I refuse to use Chinese-sourced slides. Better, Indian-sourced slide sets typically sell for twice that much or more. Here’s a typical example, a $73 set of 25 general biology slides from Nasco. (Interestingly, in the absence of cheap Chinese slide sets, I’d probably have priced this slide set at $75.) Unfortunately, with cheap Chinese sets readily available, I suspect few home schoolers would pay $70+ for a set of 25 general biology slides, even if they are better than the Chinese sets. I think I’m going to price our Slide Set A at $50. At that price, we won’t make much money, but at least we won’t lose money. And homeschoolers get a good deal on a decent slide set, although I suspect many of them won’t realize they’re getting a better than usual deal.

And, speaking of prices, we’re going to have to raise the price of the chemistry kit once we’ve sold out the current batch. Each time I reorder, I’ve seen prices increase, often by 5% to 15% compared to orders from just a few months ago. The most extraordinary example is potassium iodide. Before the Japanese nuclear plant catastrophe, I was paying about $125 per kilo for reagent grade potassium iodide. I expected the price to shoot up and then fall quickly back to normal once the panic was over. The price did shoot up, but it’s remained there and from what industry sources tell me it’s likely to remain there. I just checked the other day, and the lowest price I found from anyone who actually had the stuff in stock and was willing to ship it to me was over $500 per kilo. I see that Home Science Tools is still advertising lab grade potassium iodide at $4 for a 30 gram bottle, which comes to about $133 per kilo. I’m half tempted to log on to their web site and buy every bottle they have in stock.

Well, more than half-tempted. I use a fair amount of potassium iodide in the kits, and I’m down to maybe 300 or 400 grams in stock. My regular vendor can supply me, but only at the higher current price. Lab grade KI is fine for most or all of what I do, so I just ordered 25 bottles of KI from Home Science Tools. That’s 750 grams, which’ll be enough for quite a while. I didn’t want to make a pig of myself, and not leave any for anyone else. So, if you foresee needing any KI in the near future, you might want to grab some while HST is still selling it at that price. My guess is that they’re using FIFO cost accounting and when that inexpensive stock runs out, they’ll reprice a 30 g bottle at something like $12 or $15. Either, that, or they’ll cut it from 30 g to 15 g and price it at $6 or $7.


Barbara and I made a post office run and then headed over to the lawn and garden center to pick up a 4 cubic foot bag of vermiculite, which I’ll use as an absorbent and cushion in packing the kits. U-Line sells pretty much the same stuff for a few bucks less, but charges more to deliver it than the stuff itself costs.

I was momentarily confused when I saw the sales tax rate on the invoice. I was thinking that NC cut the sales tax from 7.25% to 6.25% on 1 July, but in fact they cut it from 7.75% to 6.75%. Which brings up an interesting issue. I’m tax-exempt for resale purposes, but I still have to pay sales tax on items purchased for business use. For example, I include a purple Sharpie marker in each of the chemistry kits, so I don’t have to pay sales tax on those Sharpies. But if I buy a box of Sharpies for office use, I do have to pay the sales tax. My rule is that anything that goes in or on the box–labels, packing materials, and so on–is tax exempt. Technically, the vermiculite falls into that category because I’m using it for packing. Although no one would ordinarily think of it as “selling” vermiculite to customers, that’s in fact what I’m doing.

In reality, I usually buy only minor items locally, so I just ignore the sales tax as a cost of doing business. Technically, I could file for a refund, but it’s not worth the hassle. For example, I just ordered two things from Costco: a pack of 100 file folders, and a box of 500 coin envelopes. Costco, of course, collected sales tax on both orders. The file folders are for business use rather than resale, but the coin envelopes are used as packaging in a future kit. So, the couple bucks of sales tax I paid on those envelopes could be reclaimed, but it’s not worth the time to fill out the necessary form.