What is the most expensive part of your cue?


Posted by Bert VAN MANEN on November 15, 2014

Bert van ManenLet me help you answer that question. It’s not the tip, even though they are outrageously overpriced these days. It’s not the shaft, even though Molinari, to name just one of several fine brands that will hate me tomorrow, charge more for a 314-2 than I paid for my first car. And surprise surprise, it’s not the butt either.

It’s the name.

We are being fooled, people. We are being hustled, scammed, ripped off and laughed at. Manufacturers of billiard products have become alchemists. They used to make billiard supplies, now they make gold. One simple psychological discovery changed the entire industry in the new millennium, and it was this: billiard players will pay ANYTHING, 20 % too much, 80 % too much, three times the value, if you can make them think it will improve their game.

Moori, Predator and Fuji have tips on the market that cost 15 – 20 Euro. Billiard gloves go for 12,50 -17,50. Kamui makes chalk, CHALK, for crying out loud, that costs 25 Euro. Rubber grips cost three cents and a fart to make, and they sell for 12 – 18 Euro. Multiply by 1.25 and you have the price in dollars. It is insane, it’s complete and utter highway robbery.

Why do we pay up with a smile? Because this particular grip will help us get a better stroke. The glove is not just an ordinary glove, it breaths, and Kasido uses it. The superchalk will prevent miscues (I think it comes with a manual, a serial number and a helpdesk in Rangoon). The tip is not just a 20-cent piece of leather, it is laminated and treated. At that price I tell you, I hope it was treated by Dr. 90210.

Feed us more bullshit, and we’ll give you more money.

Back to cues. Let’s say you are Longoni, you have a Zanetti cue on the market for 1100, and there is a Jaspers model for 900. Now you get a chance to sign Danish veteran Tonny Carlsen, and produce a cue with his name on it. You couldn’t possibly sell it for 900 or more, people would not buy it. Carlsen is a great player, but he is no DJ or MZ. So you price it at 700. Would you now tell your factory staff to use the bad wood that lies outside behind the shed? Would you make sure the butt and the shaft don’t fit together as well as they do on the MZ cue? Of course not. You use the same high quality materials and the same production process, maybe embellish a little less in terms of inlays and paint. I have never played with the Carlsen cue,  but I am sure it is an excellent product. This is just a made-up story, an example. It’s not even about Longoni, it is about every brand of factory-made cues.

The point of the story is, that they can make their quality product, sell it for 700 and make a good profit. (I firmly believe they could sell it for 500 and make a profit.) So where does the price of the DJ and the MZ model come from? It comes out of thin air. You’d expect it to be: cost of materials + cost of production + cost of marketing + profit margin = X. In reality, it is all that, and then several hundred Euros added to the X, because X + Y is what people are willing to pay. There is no added quality. There is certainly no added average, which is what they would like us to believe most. The only thing added, in abundance, is margin. They just took you for a few hundred. They placed the idea in your mind, that the quality of the player and the quality of the cue named after him, MUST go hand in hand. “The Jef Philipoom cue is probably good, but the Sung Won Choi cue and the Caudron cue must be better”. Name it “the Bin Laden model” or “the Joran van der Sloot”, and nobody would fork over the extra two- or three hundred. But it would be the same stick, and it would be just as good.

And have you noticed that shafts also have a name these days? You can buy the regular cue, or you can pay 70 Euro more, and get it with “the FY2-shaft”. Three out of four people will not even give it a second thought, and they will pay the extra. Those shafts must be better, they cost more. But wait, I must get back to the store. You can pre-order the FY3-shafts now, they come out in April. Maybe I can sell those crappy FY-2’s to my nephew.

Have Adam, Theory, Schuler, Karma, Buffalo, Paramount, Hanbat or Layani found a bunch of very rare trees that only grow on the Galapagos islands, with wood that has never-before-found qualities? And only the wood from THOSE trees will be used in 2015, for the superb FY-4 shafts? I don’t think so. Do you? Then how in the world does the cue business convince us that the FY-4 is a better shaft than the FY-3? By making it more expensive. That’s good enough for us, that’s all we need to know.

Billiard players are gullible, billiard players are easy targets. They want to emulate Caudron and Blomdahl, and where do they start? They buy the cue that FC and TB did NOT win all their titles with. Billiard players are fools. I am entitled to say that. I paid 14 Euro for the grip, 25 for the chalk, and I am saving up for a Molinari.