Why are laser pointers cheaper than laser pointer batteries?
August 19, 2011 9:01 AM   Subscribe

We have young indoor cats who require constant stimulation, and of course that means that having a working laser pointer on hand at all times is essential. I can get laser pointers really cheap ($1.49) at the dollar store, with batteries included. But if I just want to replace the batteries it costs an arm and a leg. What gives?
posted by aunt_winnifred to Technology (12 answers total)
How many of what type of batteries does the pointer use?

My guess is that they are including the batteries at a loss to get you to buy the pointer? Or they aren't included as a loss _and_ the second set of batteries are severly marked up.
posted by dgeiser13 at 9:13 AM on August 19, 2011

What type of battery are you looking for? My company (a tool distributor) sells various cell batteries like watch batteries by the each for something like 80 cents. Perhaps find a local tool place with a will call so you don't have to pay shipping? Would offer more help if I knew what type of battery and where you're located.
posted by Garm at 9:14 AM on August 19, 2011

Best answer: I've recently had exactly the same problem. I think they use really, really cheap off-name batteries in the laser pointers, but when you go to the store to buy the batteries you can only get the name brand ones that cost more per-battery than it costs to buy a new laser pointer. If you go on Amazon though you can buy the batteries in bulk for cheap. Like here are 50 of the size my laser pointer takes available for less than $5.00.
posted by radiomayonnaise at 9:16 AM on August 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Most of the button batteries that are sold in brick and mortar stores are silver oxide. They have a high power density(last longer), and more even voltage over time, and also better quality control. Things like watches and hearing aids function better with these batteries. But they cost more.

The cheap alkaline batteries have a lower power density, and the voltage drops as the battery fades. There is also far less quality control in the manufacturing process- but man, they are sure cheap. These are what comes in your pointer, and what radiomayonaise linked to.

Typically, when it comes to batteries, you get what you pay for.
posted by rockindata at 9:23 AM on August 19, 2011

It's probably kind of like printer ink. The cartridges they come w/ aren't full of ink like the ones you buy separately. You can almost buy a new printer for the cost of ink but it won't last as long. I suspect if you spend more on a set of batteries you won't find yourself replacing them constantly.
posted by no bueno at 9:39 AM on August 19, 2011

Laser pointers are something people will buy as a fully functional item. Stocking batteries is a pain in the ass and an inventory nightmare. You'll sell your laser pointers, you may end up with batteries in stock past their sell-by dates if you choose wrong.

So it costs the store more to deal with batteries than it does with laser pointers. And anyone buying large quantities of batteries is going to online vendors and buying 50 of them rather than buying them one-off at the local store.

It's not the cost of the battery, it's the cost of the inventory and the unsold stock and all of the rest of that stuff.
posted by straw at 9:51 AM on August 19, 2011

ebay is a good source for batteries for things like this - you can buy enough to last years for a few dollars
posted by exogenous at 10:07 AM on August 19, 2011

They make laser pointers that use AAA batteries. Use rechargables.
posted by wongcorgi at 10:30 AM on August 19, 2011

I read a story once, and I swear it was on metafilter, about how laser pointers are actually a really bad idea for cats, basically because the cat can't ever CATCH the dot, it's disruptive. Just something to think about. I found this, but it's not what I was looking for.
posted by TomMelee at 11:04 AM on August 19, 2011

That invisible hand of Adam Smith turns out to be baloney ... the market doesn't drive prices ... or not in the way you would expect. Your laser pointer is, in your market, worth (and sells for) less than the sum of its parts sold separately ... but there isn't a great market or distribution for its parts ... thus they get sold together. I'll bet that you would have difficulty finding same the off-brand batteries for sale separately ... and there is your issue. Cheap batteries are bad business in the wealthy west.
posted by jannw at 11:44 AM on August 19, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! I am going to buy some batteries in bulk and stop buying laser pointers.

TomMelee, you know I've thought about this. The killing part of playing seems really important to them. I usually try to follow up some laser pointer play with some good-old-fashioned-toy-mousie-on-a-string play, so they can get in some grabbing and biting. The first time I brought out the lazer pointer the cats were so freaked out that I got kind of concerned - like they'd seen a space alien. Now they know perfectly well that I am controlling it, where I store it, where the light comes from, how the on/off button works, etc. They are in on the game and it's up to them if they want to suspend their disbelief or not.
posted by aunt_winnifred at 12:23 PM on August 19, 2011

They sell loads of very cheap batteries in bulk at the dollar store
posted by Poet_Lariat at 5:08 PM on August 19, 2011

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