Yes, fully agreed, paying full retail Stinks.
Something to think about...If you are selling your used truck and thinking of getting $7,000 for it and someone offers you $13,000 for it, will you say no?
What I can say to echo comments here, is that this is simply "retail market technicals" at work...if there is demand by consumers to pay $700, why would a company sell it for $300? This applies to even those purportedly "green" companies like Patagonia. Yes, this is a bummer for us consumers on a budget particularly in this economy, but the fact is that there are enough people to pay that much for them to justify selling it there at that level. This is the basic tenent of capital markets and supply and demand. Tell people the same jacket was used to make a first ascent on K2 and have a "signature edition", and you can charge $950 or whatever.
I was in the local Patagonia store for their recent 50% off summer sale, rumaging around to find the best discounts. I ended up buying a $9 T-shirt, marked down from $24. Another guy was there with his Land Rover outside double parked, buying an armfull of new jackets that rung up to over $3500, without even looking at the sales rack. Not all folks in NY have money to burn, but some clearly do.
There are three basic costs in the retail world: original cost to make, wholesale and retail (yes, there are things like Jobber rates, but let's assume just three levels for now).
The range of a typical retail markup is quite large, but let's say the average markup is 2.3x from wholesale, but could be 10x (1,000%) - i.e. what the retailer pays for it; the cost to make it is much lower to the manufacturer. A "manufacturer" could either buy an item from an offshore source or actually manufacture it..lets say a name brand buys a t shirt from a merchant in Vietnam for $8. The name brand will add a logo, resell it wholesale for $25 to retailers with the name brand tags sewn in and tacked on, then the retailers will sell it for you and me for $70+tax.
From source and $8, several things realistically must be added on to stay in business and maintain operations in the black before a profit is seen - i.e. General Administrative and Selling Expenses, the manufacturer needs to recover packaging and sewing/prep costs, labor, land transport and shipping back to the US, local levies and taxes. Then, factor in rent they must pay for their retail stores or corporate HQ, other overhead, utilities, insurance, pensions, healthcare for its workers, etc and the sales price to the retailer must cover all this first, THEN a margin is added to it. Other factors like foreign exchange rates, the recent runup in commodity prices and fuel cost volatility also play a role.
For a place like Patagonia which makes and sells its own gear, the local Patagonia store IS one of the retailers, hence the same price as you see in REI, etc.. The more a retailer buys, often the greater discount from wholesale they receive. You wonder when you see a 50-70% off sale...yes, they are still probably earning a profit on some of that stuff even with those discounts.
OK, enough retail talk, let's get back to climbing!