Inefficient markets, bullhorns, and buyer behavior

So I discover today that the bullhorn we borrowed for tomorrow’s bicycle tour (350+ riders expected) doesn’t work. What to do?

The plethora of possible bargains on the interwebs wasn’t really an option – even Saturday delivery UPS wouldn’t be on time, plus wow, that’s some expensive shipping. Some of my customers get upset about shipping costs, but the thing is, that part about actually moving stuff around is where local retail gets more efficient than the internet. Plus I couldn’t really buy the idea that the $29.95 model from “bullhorns-r-us” was guaranteed to do the trick.

So I made some calls, tried to find where I could definitely borrow one. Doing without wasn’t an attractive option, as we have a tricky intersection where a volunteer has to stand around for 4 hours and warn cyclists zooming up at 20 mph to go one way or another. Didn’t want to impede his job satisfaction, didn’t want cyclists on top of him going “WHAT???”

The interesting part, and this is what the marketing funny books mean by “the acquired set,” is that I’ve never bought a bullhorn before, but I had some definite ideas about where to buy one. I thought sporting goods stores, industrial safety supply places, and Radio Shack. Two out of three were roughly right – Sports Authority normally had them but was out. The safety people acted like they’d never heard of such a thing. Out of 5-6 Radio Shacks in the area, ONE had a bullhorn in stock. $99 and change, plus a lot of C cell batteries – got out for about $120 after tax. Ugh! The bike club needs to develop a bullhorn rental market to get their money back!

So I wasn’t far off, and this is a niche product that is, in fact, probably bought mail-order most of the time. Police, coaches, band directors, and race/ride directors probably constitute 99% of the world market… I’m just old enough to remember the CB craze, and how a lot of the mobile CBs had a PA capability, where you could put a loudspeaker under your grille and go to town – wow, that’s nerdy…

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