First of all, sorry for the bad English, "it would cost him (FlowSyn) a lot more than the time and material that it would take to do it himself". I should have said, "It will not be CHEAP".
My point in even commenting was that I felt this narrative seemed to lack information. We don't know if this is an Aldrich, an Aldrich wanna be, a small chemical company with a list of specialized products or a custom synthesis lab. I was guessing it was a company with a list of specialized products, which is what suggested to FlowSyn to contact them in the first place.
Granted, even a small company very well may not have everything stored on a shelf (nor does Aldrich). With many of these small companies, you can look at what they advertise and imagine what chemistry they have expertise in, e.g., pyridines with Reilly or fluorochemistry with Fluorochem. From that perspective, you can think that the PhD chemists think about what they can advertise based upon what they can make. (Check ads in C&ENews.) If they advertise something, it is my belief that they either have synthesized it already or have some reasonable expectation of being able to synthesize it and a price range. They shouldn't advertise crap they cannot deliver. I would think it is a waste of time and money to place an ad and then tell customers they cannot afford it. Why place the ad in the first place?
I understand the cost of a chemical depends on starting materials, yield, purity, and labor, which is always charged back to the customer. It can also include specialized equipment which may make the surcharge of a company worthwhile, like Fluorochem.
Wasting time? I can get three painters to drive to my house and give me an estimate. I can judge whether one of those painters really want my job unless it was extremely profitable. I can judge that from the estimate. That isn't a good analogy, but it does show the nature of wasting time. A car dealer, Farrari or Ford is like Aldrich. If you ask them how much, it is on the sticker. FlowSyn was asking how much. Doesn't sound like this example either. It sounds more like a custom race car, $500,000 minimum and up depending on options. Want to have your washing machine repaired? The service tells you it is $200 minimum, $100/hr labor, and parts are extra. This sounds like what DrCMS is referring to, except the salesperson neglected to say, there is a $50,000 minimum and a 90 day delivery time for an order placed today. Obviously, I am naive and do not know what the minimum charge of this phantom company actually is, but it seems like this part of the discussion is missing.
I commented because I felt that FlowSyn's question indicated he did not know this information. Even with three or four emails, it still didn't seem as though it was being provided. If you want to avoid wasting time, tell him what he needs to know. If you want avoid spurious inquiries, tell everyone what the price range is. If you are reluctant (because it is so damn high), then give contact information and let the salesman on the other end give this out. (I think the ISIS chemistry packages are like that.)
I am not denying phantom company's high labor cost, risk in estimating the deliverable yield, cost of starting materials and scale, but phantom company should be knowledgeable of their business. In making inquiries, I often use the strategy of asking for a ballpark estimate. Academic inquires could be given this right up front if you wish to politely kill those inquiries. I often suggested to someone that their answer will not be considered a quote. I have never found that I cannot find a price range. Is it nearer $500 or $50,000? If the salesman suggests I get on my bike and ride out of sight, ….
Final comment, my company always had some anxiety that our CAS searches, Aldrich orders, small company orders, and worst of all small company orders could be monitored. I think a custom synthesis company had to sign a non-disclosure agreement with an order. If I were a hungry small company and an inquiry like this came in, I begin searching for what grant money that university had, and who the researchers were. I'd try to determine if I should try to tie up that intermediate, post haste. What did I do to get this information, nothing. That would be my priority.