IMO, MAP is stupid and anti-consumer. Contractual obligations that extend beyond that to assure that a retail will not sell below SRP, even more so. I understand why OEMs like it, and why dealers have to play along, but that doesn’t really change the fundamentals. It is an attempt to subvert market forces, and while it’s in someone’s interest, it’s not in mine. Ultimately, it’s ineffective too. As long as you have the time to do some legwork.
Obviously, the best workaround is to buy used, or new-takeoff (NTO), kit. Where possible, I leverage this heavily. Much of what makes my bikes complete bikes was sourced from Facebook or eBay using exactly this approach. There are a few items though that I’m not comfortable buying grey market; either new, or used. Helmets and bibs, topping the list for different reasons ;).
The catalyst behind this ranty thing is, as you might have noticed, I’m helmet shopping. But, the one I want is from an OEM that has a very strict MAP policy, so finding a good deal online is hard. Make that impossible, even the overseas discounters are blocked here… What’s the solution?
(Quick aside: I’m generally totally OK with importing kit from overseas, but helmets are a bit different because they have locale specific certifications. It’s probably the same thing globally, but it might not be. I wouldn’t put it past OEMs to manufacture different helmets for different safety standards, so even if it were possible to import a helmet, it might not be the best idea. Just not worth the risk.)
The solution is to ring up dealers and ask what their best price is, someone will break ranks. Someone always breaks rank. It is, after-all, a multi-player repeated Prisoner’s Dilemma. The optimal strategy is to cheat. And sometimes, the OEM even facilitates it.
Many offer a discount code for buying something direct if you sign up for a newsletter. Some are open about it, some are not. It doesn’t hurt to sign up and see what happens. If you get a discount code, it’s an easy thing to ask for the dealer to match, or beat, the price; worst case you get a “no”. All is not lost without a code, the code just makes it easier, you just have to do the legwork to call. Just leverage the OEM’s who-has-this-in-stock feature to narrow the list :).