Gah. VENDORS, amirite?
Putting together lists of all the crap I need so vendors can wow me with their amazing New Lab Startup discounts has been the single most surprisingly unpleasant thing about being a new PI. In my brain I was all, SHOPPING FTW, but in reality I want to repeatedly smash my MagicMouse™ into my skull. Here's why:
a) Do you know what the things in your lab are called? I mean, do you REALLY know what they're called? Because the vendors probably call them something different, and it's going to drive you absolutely mad. For example, in my post-doc lab we had this thing, right? It had a flat top and you could put things on like western blot membranes or well plates for IHC, and it would gently swirl them around. We all called this a shaker. So I go to the vendor websites and search for a "shaker," and nothing comes up that looks anything like what our shaker looked like, and it takes me at least half an hour to figure out that what we were calling a shaker is actually an orbital rotator. Just shoot me, please. Half an hour, for one item. One item out of about 5000, because do you even realize how much stuff there is in a lab? So much stuff! Or, here's another example: what do you call the skinny metal thing that you use to scoop small amounts of drugs or other powdered substances onto a balance? A "powder scooper?" INCORRECT. It is a "spoonulet," FYI.
b) I had hoped that my local vendor reps would be familiar enough with the general needs of a new PI that I could give them a basic list that said things like "bottles" and "graduated cylinders" and "centrifuge tubes" and they'd be able to make some suggestions. Instead, I am fielding emails that say things like, "I don't know what you mean by 'microscope slide staining' and "please tell me the catalog #'s of everything you want." Well, dear rep, I would, if it were in fact possible to find anything at all on your website in a timely fashion.
c) And then when you finally do get the quotes, they're nearly indecipherable. For example, could you guess what this might be? "KIT CYTOTRAP XR RAT BRAI" I cannot, and a look at the product description on the website offers little in the way of clarification. Obviously, there's no picture. I have a guess as to which line item on my list it's meant to be, but the quote was about 3x what I've gotten from others, which makes me think it's the wrong thing. This same vendor also quoted me a $200 timer. Please, sir, why don't you know what I mean when I say "timer?"
What I wish is that there were a big store with all the stuff I need for my lab, and I could just shop by walking around and looking at things and scanning them with one of those guns like you get when you create a wedding registry (helped my sis pick out things at Crate & Barrel and it was AWESOME), rather than having to go nuts searching for things online, copy-pasting catalog #s, and not being able to see what I'm buying. I'm really looking forward to the SfN meeting for this reason (among others), because at least there will be lots of vendors there with lots of items for me to check out in the flesh...and call whatever I damn please!