Folks, I admit to a perverse fascination with the contradictions I find in most AV stores, which can be summed up simply: They are in the business of selling televisions, yet seem to do everything in their power to make their product look terrible. In shopping for a CRT recently for my Pop, I once again encountered this paradox, and actually attempted to confront it. STORE 1: Mid-level AV store, mixing some low-priced gear with many high-end displays - plasmas, latest RPTVs and best CRTs - but with "so will you be purchasing this today?" attitude. They have a DVD feed of "Dumb And Dumber" running on all the displays in their "high-end" section (plasmas, RPTVs). It is, of course, obviously the 4:3 version, being stretched to fill all these widescreen 16:9 displays, resulting in a crappy distorted image. Here's the first exchange, verbatim: Me: "I have to ask you this: I'm curious why you've chosen to play a DVD with a 4:3 aspect ratio on these displays." Salesman: Dull, uncomprehending stare. "huh?" Me: I mean, you've chosen a 4:3 DVD - a square image - to play on these widescreen TVs, and you have the displays stretching the image to fill the screen. Which is why the people on the displays look all stretched, distorted, and fuzzier than they should be. Salesman: Dull, uncomprehending stare. "Oh, that's just a DVD that we put on the screens..." Me: (Slightly disoriented by that non-sequitor) "But if you want to fill the widescreen TVs, why don't you just choose any widescreen 16:9 - sized DVD transfer - which will fill the screen with an undistorted image. I mean, you want to sell these things, right? I wouldn't buy a display that looked like this. Salesman: Dull, uncomprehending stare. "He-he...what would you like to purchase today, sir?" Another salesman took over and, while I was demoing a Sony CRT told me how wonderful the image was when combined with the progressive scan player he was using. I pointed out he was using the S-Video connection. He said: "Yes, that way you don't need the three cables..." STORE 2. It has pretentions to "serious home theater," with many dedicated rooms. Most of the HD displays are displaying HD. Of course, those widescreen displays not showing HD are playing DVDs, virtually every display on the "wrong" aspect ratio. I encounter a Panasonic 50" plasma and ask if it's all right to spin a DVD I've brought. "No problem, sir." Of course, the plasma is set in "ZOOM" mode, unnecessarily blowing up the image and smearing it. I ask for the remote. No one knows where it is. While the guy is looking for it I approach the manager and some other salesman. "You have a very expensive plasma display there and it is stuck in ZOOM mode, which is seriously degrading the image. Do you have the remote?" The manager shrugs, so do the salesman. "Sorry, no remote." Me: "Don't you think it's in your best interest to find it? If you want to sell such an expensive display, don't you want the best image it can put out? I certainly wouldn't buy based on it's current image, with the distortion." Manager: Shrugs shoulders, total, complete, utter disinterest in pursuing this idea. "Sorry." Turns away to salesmen. STORE 3. Salesman in high end store showing me displays, the conversation turns to plasmas (I own a Panasonic plasma). He says: "They're all nice, but personally I'd say the best value are the Sony plasmas we have, the ones set in the nice clear plastic (XBR)." Anyone who knows something about plasma knows Sony are the WORST value, dollar for dollar, of any plasma....the XBR models are much more expensive as you are paying for the "Jetson's" look, while taking a display that is outperformed by many plasmas half the price. RESULT: Not a single store had a display set optimally, and in fact did their best to undermine the potential of all their displays. And if I had no knowledge of AV gear, I'd have been seriously led astray by each and every salesman I encountered. Un-friggin'-believable. Thank goodness for forums like these where we can learn and exchange information, and not rely on the "experience" of salesmen. The end.