Makerbot... at Sams Club?
Okay, so I know I'm literally a month behind, but I didn't see it in person until this morning. Makerbot has teamed up with Sam's Club to offer its 3D printers at Sam's Clubs across the country. While on the surface, this seems like a great step forward for the Make movement I would be lying if I did not have my doubts about the viability of this idea.
At first glance, it would seem like partnering with a big box store like Sam's would be great for business. You now have your product in front of millions of Americans every day. Millions. Every. Day. You absolutely cannot miss the display at my Sam's Club, it seems pretty much as close to the entrance as the fire code would allow. The issue lies with the lack of traction that 3D printers have had in recent years - especially the issues that have been well documented at Makerbot. As much as I love the technology, I do not think Sam's is the best venue for 3D printers at this point. Best Buy even carries 3D printers and I don't trust their "technical opinions" about anything.
If you look at the product from the perspective of a potential buyer are you comfortable spending almost $1,400 at Sam's Club for a product that is not as plug and play as it should be for the mass market? Also, will customer service be able to answer your questions about the product? I do not have anything in particular against Sam's Club, but I do not have faith in how well their staff has been trained to answer questions about how this thing even works let alone speak intelligently on the consumables necessary for this product. I feel like the whole affair seems rushed. Now, if you have done the research and understand what you are about to get yourself into then Sam's is actually a great idea given how much the price has been lowered from Makerbot's MSRP. The lower price is also troubling if you think about it.
I do not see this ending well. I have honestly had reservations about the rapid commercialization of 3D printers since Stratsys acquired Makerbot. I understand how big business works, especially when it comes to getting their hands on smaller companies with niche markets. My only fear are the wider ranging implications if this all goes sour. I think its neat that I have many choices in 3D printers today. There are also a ton of different brick and mortar stores that stock them. That however does not make it right. Until 3D printers are as functional as ink jet printers were circa 1998 I will continue to feel a certain type of way everytime I walk into Sam's,