Ahhh, music to my ears: this very moment I am listening to my consultant lab manager have a conversation with a vendor about the upcharge VWR is putting on a big piece of equipment and driving him a hard bargain to get the price to match the lower one Fisher can get us for the exact same item.
And happiness is knowing I don't have to have any of those conversations!
We're trying an experiment: the woman who has been managing my PI's lab for the last couple of years is starting up a business as a "lab setup consultant." This lady knows her stuff, she knows all the vendors, reps, best quality discount supplies, how to combine orders to get freebies, and she is a tiger! She will hardball them and pit them against each other, all in the politest, sweetest conversational tone possible so they never know what hit them until they find themselves agreeing to throw in this or that extra, or take another N% off the already discounted price.
I am paying her far, far less than if I hired someone full time to just use about 1/4 of her time, with the added value of that skill and experience level, to help me make the most of my startup money for setting up my lab. She has already saved me thousands of dollars (even beyond the usual academic or institutional discounts) AND (this is the best part for me) she does everything so I can just focus on hammering out this last two months' worth of experiments to better characterize some of my systems while I still have everything setup in my PI's lab, and I don't have to have uncomfortable conversations or get upsold on the things I need. It's like having a personal shopper--the only decisions I have to make are about the particulars of things I am picky about like pipettor brand and 96-well filter plates (and, as pinus reminded me, big huge specialty items for which only I know what I want). I LOVE IT!!!!!!!!!111!!1!1!
Think about it: if I had to do all this myself, I would be spending at least 1-2 months almost full-time sourcing, getting quotes, ordering, setting up all of this stuff. For less than it costs to hire even a part-time technician, I get more value for money and my own efficiency is increased a hundred-fold. By the time I move, most of what we need to start doing work in the lab will be ordered and I will have been able to advance the current state of the technology by two months at high productivity ratio (postdoc time), rather than it taking us about six months in the new lab to get to the same point as we get in gear.
If anybody else starting up a lab wants her contact information, let me know. Hah.