Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Service Review: Get in on Deals and Rare Finds on Massdrop

For those interested in deals on popular consumer goods or enthusiast goods that are often too esoteric to be found at mainstream retail, discovering Massdrop is to come across an unexpected cache of awesome.   Once you've gone down on your first group buy, you and your wallet had best be prepared, because with a fresh influx of new offerings each week, it's unlikely to be your last.

The principle behind Massdrop is simple: utilize the collective buying power of a large group of consumers to negotiate the best pricing on popular items, or make an otherwise unobtainable rarity available to interested buyers. The result in my case has been a bit of the former with a sizable dose of the latter.  I've gotten the odd electric kettle and Leatherman multitool for a few dollars below Amazon pricing, at the cost of having to wait for satisfaction around a week longer than Super Saver Shipping would have taken, but the true value of Massdrop's services lies in the specialty items that may only be available to the U.S. market through their group buys (at least at non-exorbitant prices). 

For me, these have fallen into primarily three categories: mechanical keyboards (and related accessories), former Kickstarter projects, and Magic: The Gathering paraphernalia.  Mechanical keyboards comprises one of the largest product categories on Massdrop.  Everything from popular models not commercially available in the U.S. like the Poker II or Leopold FC660M, to a custom-made-for-Massdrop acrylic version of the popular TeX aftermarket aluminum casing for 60% keyboards, Massdrop takes the results of suggestions and polls from its communities and liaises directly with suppliers to bring hard-to-source products to the masses.  Former Kickstarter success stories like the Ti2 Pen are also made available for those who missed out on the original campaign.  And for MTG fans, hard-to-source products like the European DeckTutor Four Card Album or Japanese KMC Perfect Fit Sleeves are available from time to time at semi-reasonable bulk prices.

Joining a group buy on Massdrop does have a minor learning curve.  Those used to lightning fast fulfillment from Amazon or eBay may balk at the lead up times most drops require, especially for customized products that begin manufacturing after the drop has ended.  Bottom line, if you need something fast and can get it elsewhere, you probably should.  Pricing for widely available items may not always be a deal as well, as several mainstream products offered by Massdrop have failed to undercut the extremely competitive pricing offered by big online retailers like Amazon, once you've factored in Massdrop's somewhat inconsistent shipping costs.  Those shipping costs are particularly problematic if you're outside the U.S., as they can become prohibitively expensive, or may even preclude shipping to your country.  Some made-for-Massdrop products have had some QC issues, but Massdrop has generally been very proactive in resolving them when they arise.  

In the end, for deal seekers or niche enthusiasts looking to source some rarer finds, Massdrop opens up a world of opportunities that might otherwise not be available to you.  Your wallet may not be happy, but odds are once you've joined in on a drop, it probably won't be your last.

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