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I wrote a small letter to the Alexander reed company - just to see. I received a very nice response and thought that I would share. I still wish the reeds were more in line with Rico or Vandoren Products.

MY LETTER:

TITLE: Love the Reeds - VERY EXPENSIVE

I love the Superial Reeds and plan to continue using them; however, can you loose the tins and bring the cost down. $17 to $22 for 5 reeds is REALLY expensive. Other reed makers are also putting reeds in elaborate packaging - It's simply not needed. I need more reeds per $ and not packaging.

Thanks for your time.


REPLY:

Thank you for your interest in our reeds and let us see if we can explain a bit about their cost.

First we have our own a stock of genuine S. France Var cane, the same type that comes from the same area where the first reeds for saxophone were made in mass production over 100 years ago. The price of this cane has climbed steadily over the years and there is nothing we can do about that. We are lucky to be able to get it at all as it is not in the large supply it once was. You might notice that some companies state that they use "French" cane when in fact, while they might manufacture their reeds in France, the majority of their stock comes from S. America or other countries. We believe our cane to be the best, but it is more expensive and there is no way getting around that fact.

Next, in the past 2 years, the Euro has climbed steadily to reach record heights in this last year and we are forced to pay considerably more for our production than in the past, as well as import tax in Japan. On top of that, there have been price rises for labor and all the materials related to our business including shipping because of increased gasoline prices.

We should point out the labor involved; there are 14 distinct step our reeds go through before they reach you, among them; the cutting of the cane stalks, the aging, gauging and splitting the cane tubes into blanks, machining, stamping, packing then in Japan, unpacking them, and checking each and every reed under light for table flatness and hand correcting any which need it (something no other company we know of does), then putting them into the holders, including the instruction sheet, labeling the boxes, putting them in airtight packing bags and finally nesting them into the shipping boxes.

Regarding the packaging...We don't feel ours is elaborate, it is the same we've had since we began about 15 years ago and it should be noted that even printed paper boxes aren't cheap these days as well. We think our boxes protect the reeds well and also can later be used as reed holders.

We also believe, to make an analogy, that you cannot buy a Mercedes Benz for the cost of a Volkswagen. Simply stated, we put more into these reeds and they cost us more to produce.

We received a letter just this past week which illustrates another interesting point. A player wrote us that because of their playability and longevity, our reeds properly broken in averaged about half the cost of the ones he had used previously. Considering he had to buy, on average, eight ordinary reeds to obtain two playable reeds, ours ended up being cheaper for him. To his mind our reeds are not overly expensive; the lesser reeds are way overpriced, as he put it.

We have to agree with this assessment and what lead Tom Alexander to come up with these reeds in the first place was that he found on the job he was throwing away most reeds in a box (of other brands) because they simply didn't work. So while it might seem that some other brands are cheaper, if you only end up using a lesser percent of ones that work you are actually paying for more in the end run.

We hope we've answered your questions and concerns A. Greene, and thank you once again for using our reeds. Like so many other players who are either in the top ranks of the jazz world or beginners who are looking for the best, they all come to our reeds because there is no substitute for their quality.

Good Luck,

The Alexander Reeds Team
 

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This is interesting, and an argument can be made to support their views, but it didn't really pan out for me when I have tried the Alexanders. I think cane of any origin can be variable as to humidity and temp. differences, and the perhaps less consistent nature of reeds of other brands actually can help in that regard--if the reeds are playing soft, I can use a stiff reed from a given box--if they are really stuffy at a given time I can gravitate toward the softer ones of a box. With this in mind and a similar approach to break in and storage I can get similar results with many brands and not just the higher end reeds like the Alexanders. But, if you have a set-up that really clicks with the cut and sound of Alexanders perhaps it is worth the extra cost...
 

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That's an excellent letter and is characteristic of Alexander Co's committment to customer relations.

As noted on another recent thread (and my own experience as well) not all reeds in a tin are ready to play, however, and that brings the cost, therefore, of a box higher still. Furthermore, and this is not Alexander's problem, what ever happened to an old fashioned pen knife or some dutch reed and refining the reeds one has? They don't have to be expensive. I surprised myself recently by getting some Rico yellow box reeds and they played just fine.
 

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One obvious place to cut costs is to sort, check and pack them in France. Importing them to Japan obviously adds to unnecessary tax and transport to the cost. I can't believe that it would cost more to pack them where they are made than it does in Japan. There are parts of Provence that would welcome the work and would probably even assist in the setting up of the facility. There are other manufacturers down there that, I assume, pack and quality control locally and they could do the work under licence. It would seem that we are paying extra because the owner isn't running an efficient business. The cost of Rico reeds in Europe is much higher than in the US and Vandoren costs more in the US. This can only be because of the export and import costs. With Alexander we are all paying those extra charges, except, I hope, the Japanese.
 

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.......and I bought two boxes of 10 reeds 1 tenor and 1 alt and only 4-5 played nicely (and I use the breaking-in method Alexanders suggests), the rest were not satisfactory at all....and at these prices 26,75 Euro alto and 33,60 Euro tenor (thank-you very much!) I won't be buying them for much longer!.......Vandoren will do just fine!
 

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JimD said:
With Alexander we are all paying those extra charges, except, I hope, the Japanese.
When I was in Japan, everything was so expensive that I bet saxophonists there pay just as much as the rest of us. Maybe more.
 

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Somehow I thought that might be the case.
 

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I used the bari reeds for a while, they were quite good, but ended up being SO expensive (over $6 per reed if they were all usable, and at best I would get three... So I guess that would be $10 per reed...) I finally came to the conclusion they just weren't worth it. I'm trying to make a living here...
 

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I think the fact that somebody took the time to provide a thoughtful response is really cool.

I found it interesting that they mentioned the ever-declining U.S dollar to the Euro as a culprit. I haven't noticed any other brands increasing their prices (across several or all retailers) except for Alexander's. Anybody else increase their prices recently? I would think this would impact prices the U.S. pays for say, Vandorens.

I think their reeds are good and seem to last pretty long, but DEFINITELY not "$18.99 for 5 reeds" good. And on Bari sax??? No way.


-Dan
 

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nice indeed that they took time to answer.....they have done so also on this forum occasionally. However the fact stays that they are price-positioning themselves somewhere too high in a market that has a lot of players even in the luxury segment.
Let's face it, reeds are probably a substantial return for the shops selling them, their mark-up must be substantial. Buying reeds on-line is very much more convenient than at a shop.

The first step to take to save money is to buy on line and by-pass the middleman.

At the same time, Beware of the fakes!!!! Vandoren has been changing their packaging and aknowledges the presence of fake Vandoren on the market on their site. There's plenty of money to be made on reeds!
 

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We also believe, to make an analogy, that you cannot buy a Mercedes Benz for the cost of a Volkswagen. Simply stated, we put more into these reeds and they cost us more to produce.
A Mercedes that doesn't work would just be a pile of rubbish with a hefty price tag. I've had Volkswagen equivalent reeds that have played as well as Alexanders and lasted just as long, or longer. There is a danger that people accept the idea of higher cost as adding perceived value. Like designer clothes. Reed from South America is just as good as most of the stuff from the Var and claims to be superior because you use French cane fall into the same area of advertising guff as the idea that you are reassuringly expensive. Alexanders claim to be cheaper because of less waste is fine but only if they are consistently better and there are enough of us who have found that the 80% success rate is not well founded.

I like Alexander reeds but find it harder and harder to justify laying out wads of cash in the hope that I'll get get eight excellent, or even good, reeds out of ten. Cutting a good reed costs the same as cutting a bad one. I accept that quality control adds to that but paying to send them half way round the world and then back again, packing, unpacking then re-packing the things is a really poor business model and we are asked to pay for it.
 

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Gonzales reeds from Argentina are also very good.....but they are sold at a price in Holland ( now) that isn't very different from other brands.... .
I've just mailed Rigotti, I guessed that buying direct would give some advantages, but....no, they sell at more or less the same price as a shop here in Holland...... It is ridiculous that I pay less for Vandoren mail order in America that in Europe!
 

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10 pieces of vandoren reeds cost also about 32€ (don't forget the VAT in europe...), for the françois louis, we climb to 40€!!!

hopefully, i can get my alexanders for much less than the 32€ I had to pay for the vando's!
 

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In UK, Alexanders are about $40/10, Jazz Select about $35, and Vandorens $28.
...(Fibracell Premiers are very consistent, I've found, but at about $10 each, posted from the USA!!!)
 

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There is no doubt that reeds are cheaper mail order in America than in Europe, if you pay that much for Vandoren in France they are ripping you off....we pay less even in Holland...... and it is a French product.
However Reeds are big business everywhere...being a consumable a saxophonist with a cheap saxophone is likely to spend more on his reeds than on his saxophone throughout the life of this!
The Mark-up is very considerable indeed and the prices have been sky-rocketing in the last years .
 

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rogerb40uk said:
In UK, Alexanders are about $40/10, .....
hopefully, I get them for cheaper....
 

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It may be overlooked, but Tom Alexander lives and works in Japan, so importing the reeds to Japan is a step of the process that cannot be left out (to assure quality control).

After reading the response to the thread starters letter, I have to chime in and say that Alexanders explanation rings very true and is not rife with the puffery that you often get in a customer relations form letter.

Import tax here is very high and gasoline has gone through the roof. In the last year and a half or so, I have seen gasoline rise almost 50% per liter.:shock:

Also, I have been playing these reeds for quite a few years now. I get INCREDIBLE mileage from every one, because I rotate them, and do not leave them on the mp....One box will quite literally do me nearly a year-there are no throw aways (I play 4 times a week now in different settings).

I have never gotten a bad reed from Alexander. I have on occasion taken some reed rush to the table area of the reed to make it just a bit smoother; all of about 2 seconds of sanding....that is it.

By far the best reed I have ever used, and if they keep the quality at current levels, I will never change.
 

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Randall said:
.....By far the best reed I have ever used, and if they keep the quality at current levels, I will never change.
Wow that is a commitment!
Never say never.

I rotate reeds too. I just take reeds ouf of the box and treat them as Alexander says (I had learned that method from my first teacher several years ago). The fact of the matter is , like others on the forum, I found that some reeds were not responding as they should, namely producing a muffled sound. Percentage vary, but I never get more than 6 good reeds (of which 2 very good ) and 4 which are not what they should be and which I diligently chuck away. I could certainly be working on them, and I do try to rescue them, but one of the points of buying expensive materials is to have acquired something which has had the attention of a professional and doesn't require mine which would be, at best, the one of an amateur reed technician, right?


Now, I am no doubt a lesser player than many other Alexander endorsers here but I am , like many, perfectly able to make comparison judgement if not an absolute one, if one reed is good (for me) I can certainly tell that the " bad ones" are not like that one.


I commend the fact that Alexander takes time and energy to answer the complaint letters, but I don't like to read that their answer is invariably....it is not us, since Tom Alexander (and I certainly believe that he does test-play them), no doubt a superior player, finds that all the rejected reeds play very well......hence, it must be your fault. Now, if my judgement is faulty and not capable to establish the quality of some bad reeds, how come I find some reeds good and others not?

The customer is not always right....but they are most certainly not always wrong! An attitude less dismissive of problems will most certainly produce good results. The current one can only drive, dissatisfied customers somewhere else.
 

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Import tax here is very high and gasoline has gone through the roof. In the last year and a half or so, I have seen gasoline rise almost 50% per liter.
All the more reason not to go through the ridiculous process of importing and exporting French made reeds to Japan and back. It may be that Tom inspects every reed but somehow that seems unlikely. Is there no one in France who could be trusted to do the quality control, under strict instruction from Tom if necessary? I'm sorry Randall but the way things are done is just not good business practice and we are all required to pay for this if we want to play the reeds. I also think that the reeds being expensive is part of the marketing, it makes them more glamorous if they cost more and so there is less incentive to be more efficient. Also, this may or may not matter to people, the carbon footprint of Alexanders is a disgrace.

Incidentally they cost about £27.00 for 10 in the UK which is more like $53. Tom told me that he isn't responsible for the cost in the shops suggesting that it's the sellers that are raising the price. I'm not sure why they should do that with Alexanders but not Rico or Vandoren.
 

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JimD said:
.....the sellers..... are raising the price. I'm not sure why they should do that with Alexanders but not Rico or Vandoren.
Because they can get away with it! Very upmarket you see......they come in a tin box, old fashioned good product....grown in France and made and personally controlled in Japan.....only the best players play it (....not like that Rico or Vandoren stuff).....must cost a fortune!

The Mark up for reeds is for sure ( or more than) 100% and again shops sell a horn once in a while but sell reeds every day, there is more money to be made in this things (and all the other accessories) than out of a quality horn.
 
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