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Grand Blanc, MI, USA
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I've been building these RTC breakout boards, which require a small Schottky diode. Nothing special, pretty generic requirement.

Shopping at Mouser, I find a suitable one that costs $0.04 or $0.05, and I order a dollar's worth.  Most of a year goes by, and I run out of diodes. I go back to reorder, the same part is now $0.37 each and still over $0.20 in quantities of 100.

I don't think much about it, it's easy enough to find a suitable replacement, and I order a dollar's worth of another diode for $0.04 each.

Months go by again and now the second diode is $0.26 each and nearly $0.15 in quantities of 100. Lather, rinse, repeat, I find a third diode but I'm getting miffed now so I order 100 at $0.04 each. At least I won't have to go through the rigamarole quite so soon next time.

I wonder whether anyone can explain what's going on. It's also happened with other generic parts, e.g. 100nF MLCC caps, thick-film resistors, etc. A variation on the theme is when I go back to reorder, the price is about the same, but now there is a minimum order quantity of 3000.

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Its called supply and demand - if there's a shortage the price goes up.

There have been a whole series of knock-on problems due to natural disasters
in the last few years, and occasionally a semiconductor production line crashes
due to technical problems.  People also speculate on components.

I've long ago adopted the strategy of searching for the cheapest part for a generic component
like a small-signal schottky or a 74HC part.
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Stuff like price instability and MOQs are among reasons that most supply chain managers insist on at least a 2nd source for all parts on their BOM.

Raw material prices fluctuate.  Perhaps product on the shelf today was built with less expensive material (or more expensive material).  When it comes time to re-order, the component prices will be different.

Distributors maybe the lower prices as attempts to get a particular product/part number off the shelf. 

The MOQ change might be because the particular part number (or vendor for that part) wasn't popular so when it came to restock, they decided not to break up reels.  Or have decided not to break up the reels they have left.

Factory loadings fluctuate as well. 
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Is the crazy pricing isolated to Mouser?
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Grand Blanc, MI, USA
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Is the crazy pricing isolated to Mouser?

Unknown, I tend to use them more frequently than Digi-Key or others so no data elsewhere.

Seems odd that parts like that (Rs, Cs, very much commodities) would fluctuate so much, especially when it seems there is always at least one manufacturer with significantly lower prices. Seems like supply and demand, raw materials prices, etc., would all be fairly equally distributed in such cases.
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A year ago (probably longer) Mouser changed the back-end of their site.  Before the change they were almost in lockstep with DigiKey on price.  Since the change I've notice some prices have diverged and that Mouser's pricing seems to change more often.  My impression was that they were using a few "key" parts as loss-leaders to draw customers away from DigiKey.

What you're describing seems like "customer specific pricing".  The next time you notice a big jump in price, use a different browser / computer to recheck the price (ideally a computer with a different internet facing IP address).  Or, ask someone on the forum to check the price.  If there is a difference then they are picking on you (trying to squeeze a little more money out of you).
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This is definitely typical in the world of wholesale electronics.  I worked for a summer in part sourcing, and pricing fluctuations like these are a huge concern.  They tend to be driven by supply and demand at the component and material level.  Factories tend to make parts in batches, and one large order can deplete the world's supply until another batch is made driving prices up.  Things can also happen at the macro-level much like floods in Thailand disrupted the supply of HDDs a few years back.

Where I worked, we would try to beat this by negotiating long term pricing for 3 years by guaranteeing a given long term demand to the supplier.  Of course this is only an option when you are using more than 10-100K of a part annually and not for us lowly hobbyists.  Some suppliers have been known to change part prices multiple times each day.  Specifically TTI(Mousers parent) and Avnet are known to adjust prices very often.
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A year ago (probably longer) Mouser changed the back-end of their site.  Before the change they were almost in lockstep with DigiKey on price.  Since the change I've notice some prices have diverged and that Mouser's pricing seems to change more often.  My impression was that they were using a few "key" parts as loss-leaders to draw customers away from DigiKey.

What you're describing seems like "customer specific pricing".  The next time you notice a big jump in price, use a different browser / computer to recheck the price (ideally a computer with a different internet facing IP address).  Or, ask someone on the forum to check the price.  If there is a difference then they are picking on you (trying to squeeze a little more money out of you).

Good idea, I'll check it out. "Customer specific pricing" seems fairly evil. I'd bet Amazon does it too.

That last diode I ordered has a NEW icon, "New Product: New from this manufacturer." Not sure if that was the case on any of the previous iterations but something else to watch. Maybe they try to attract you with low prices, then increase them later.
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Perfect price discrimination is an arguably underdiscussed element of a market economy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Price_discrimination
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"Customer specific pricing" seems fairly evil. I'd bet Amazon does it too.

I know for a fact Amazon used to do it.  I don't know if they still do.
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Seems odd that parts like that (Rs, Cs, very much commodities) would fluctuate so much,

I speak from experience. 

We have entire teams of people dedicated to determining pricing.   Capacitors are especially difficult because of the number of different raw materials used for each type.  I maintain the material science for capacitor technologies is as complex as most IC technologies.

It's easy to write off Passives as "commodities".  While they are, that doesn't mean they aren't subject to the same market demands as everything else in the world.  Sometimes in the race to the bottom, nobody wins.
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Grand Blanc, MI, USA
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I speak from experience. 

I know that you do, and I appreciate that very much!

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We have entire teams of people dedicated to determining pricing.   Capacitors are especially difficult because of the number of different raw materials used for each type.  I maintain the material science for capacitor technologies is as complex as most IC technologies.

It's easy to write off Passives as "commodities".  While they are, that doesn't mean they aren't subject to the same market demands as everything else in the world.  Sometimes in the race to the bottom, nobody wins.

Did not mean to denigrate your product.  Heck, PCs are commodities and servers too anymore.  Markets are seldom rational so perhaps the best response to their vagaries is to not over-think things. "It is what it is."
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