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McMaster-Carr catalogs,,,, AAAARHG! #*#*


Hot Rolled
Aug 23, 2003
Post Rock country, Lacrosse Ks
Got a letter from McMaster-Carr today. It goes as follows:

Dear Richard:
Thank you for your recent catalog request. We are sorry, but due to a limited supply we are unable to send you one at this time. We encourage you to use our internet catalog available at http://www.mcmaster.com. It features secure online ordering as well as current pricing and availability of all our products.

What is the problem with these people? I guess they used up the 1 dozen catalogs they printed off this year! I called them up and got the same run around as the letter. I even explained that at my past job I use to order though the company and when I would go look through their catalog to get the part number of what I was needing, I'd find all kinds of other things to order for future projects that I knew I'd be needing, and to save on shipping I'd just go ahead and order it right then! You can't do that on the web site. It was like bouncing beebee's off of a rock wall! They couldn't get the clue! AAARGH! :mad:

Ok rant over
What they're doing is trying to keep costs down. At current printing and shipping costs, it would easily run $20 to send you a free catalog. Then they'd have to sell you $100 worth of stuff to be back to zero. There are thousands of people who are catalog collectors who'd gladly take a free one, but wouldn't order 50 bucks worth of stuff from them in the next ten years. Since you are planning to buy from them I'd imagine you wouldn't want to be one of the real customers who's paying prices to subsidize the free catalogs for the lookers. There's probably some level of annual purchases where a person or company would qualify for a printed catalog, and I assume they'd tell you what that purchase level is if you asked. My guess would be somewhere in excess of $1000/yr.
Don't feel bad. They wouldn't even send me one at the museum. I don't mind really. They have an EXCELLENT online catalog, which is, in most cases, easier to navigate through than a paper one. Add that I don't have ANOTHER big book to deal with and it maks a lot of sense.

I agree that there is probably a level of sales that nets you a hard copy. As I mostly buy only screws nutplates, etc... I'll probably never hit the magic number either.
I probably spend three to five grand a year with McMaster. Not a big customer for sure, but I get a catalog about every other just thrown in the box. Next time I get one I will post a message, free to whomever wants to pay postage.
I don't think thats the problem. The last company I worked for had $500-$1000 a week of stuff from McMaster coming in the door. Their catalog was 10 years old! One day I made the comment that they should ask McMaster for a new catalog,,,, Oh that was a knee slapper, fall off of you chair joke for about a week. I'd walk into a room and about half of the guys would bust out laughing, just from thinking about it!
It did make my job in drafting a pain in the butt, they wanted any parts we ordered from outside vendors to have page number, catalog discription, and part number on the drawing. Not fun when you have to explain to some engineer half-way across the USA why you'r useing a 10 year old catalog and he can't find the same part in his 5 year old catalog to order parts for his $250,000 Gas Handling System/Flare!

I don't think the amount of stuff you get from them has too much to do with it.

We couldn't get one either, then suddenly after about 10 years we got one without requesting it. And we don't do a lot with them - less than $500 per year I think. I suspect the length of time you are a customer has something to do with it.

On the other hand, you have MSC - a much larger and heavier hardbound catalog that must cost more to print and to ship, and they give them away at every opportunity. They even had a huge stack at the Cabin Fever Expo offering them to everyone who walked through the door. That's a very different business model. It's no wonder that MSC has grown so rapidly.
I have two old ones I don't need, #109 and #108 (2002 and 2003, I think.)

Give me a call a the shop - 650-493-2131 and I can take a credit card payment for the UPS charge.


Frank Ford
Gryphon Stringed Instruments
Ever notice how McMaster's catalog doesn't have brand names in it for the most part? MSC's does have brand names, and those companies foot the majority of the cost of MSC's catalogs and their distribution. Good for MSC, and a relatively cheap way for the suppliers to put a catalog with their products in the hands of folks who are actually among those likely to buy something.
Not too long ago I got a call from the McMaster-Carr catalog distribution people. The guy was looking for a current address for a business in town and was asking information. I asked him why they kept ignoring all of my requests for a catalog. They had promised a number of times to send one but they never arrived. He laughed and asked if I had a DUNS (Dunn and Bradstreet) number. I said no and his response was that they don't mail catalogues to businesses that don't have a DUNS number. He thanked me for helping him out and sent me a catalog!
My new MCMaster-Carr catalog came in the mail a few weeks ago. What do you think it costs to print and distribute this 3608 page monster? I don't think I would want to be on the recieving end of the printing and binding bill.

I used to get them often years ago when I ordered a lot more than I do now. Then about 10 years ago they dropped me from the list. Tried for years to get a catalog, many requests, nothing happened. Then one day a MCMaster salesman dropped in, it was only a few weeks after that I had a new catalog. It is convenient to have the catalog as you can flip back and forth between 1000 pages without wasting time, but I do use the net catalog some. My older 109 catalog gotta be around somewhere, will look for it and if found will give someone a chance to make a home for it.

My annual purchases are in the $500 - $1000 range.

The website is pretty powerful. Order what you need from there a few times through out the year and you will start getting one every year. Thats what I did.
FWIW, you can get a DUNS number for free online:

D&B DUNS Number Web Site

I just did it and it was pretty easy. Apparently, it takes 30 days or so. Now maybe McMaster will send me a catalog
Probably not :confused:

Bob Welland
I know these aren't cheap books to get printed, but for somebody to shell out $90 plus shipping for a catalog? I've heard of loyalty,,, but WOW!
I consider myself to be fairly good at navigating web pages, but in my opion online machinist/tooling catalogs are very "clunky". Like with MSC or Enco or even Travers, I look it up in the paper catalog, get the part number and then go to the web page and use the "Quick Order" feature at the top of the home page. A lot faster and easier on my blood pressure by far.

Oh well,