A question asked on The Wall at HeatingHelp.com caught my attention and had me thinking of you. Here ‘tis:

When you are doing a job, how do you find the best prices for products? Do you go to the same supplier or do you get quotes from a few suppliers? Do you have any business tips?

The first contractor to answer said that it depends on the job. He said that knowing his prices and having them in a database really makes his estimating go a lot faster. The other option would be to try to price-shop every piece of pipe, fitting, valve, and whatnot, and that would probably put him out of business. This guy uses two local suppliers for nearly all his equipment. He particularly likes one of those two suppliers because they stock only American-made steel pipe and fittings. He sees copper as a commodity and has no preference as to its origin. He notes that both supply houses price copper about the same.