High End Store Rant

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Steve Marsh, Sep 14, 2002.

  1. Steve Marsh

    Steve Marsh Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi All
    As for Hi-End audio stores. I think they are going to run themselves out of business. When the big chains started I used to stil prefer the small store but that has changed.
    Here is why.
    If I buy a product from a chain (say future shop or A&B) and do not like it I can take it back for ex of full refund in 30 days with no cost to me. At the Hi-End store the same product becomes a keeper weather you are happy or not unless it is defective. If it is defective in most cases they will give you a new one or if you are unlucky they will have to send it for repairs. Now if you have done some shopping there in the past they may give you a loaner and in the process make you feel as if they have done a great big favor for you. LOL
    IMO the only reason to buy from the High End Palace is if there is no chance of getting the product from a chain.
    So this is how I do my shopping.
    First I try to deciede what I want. If the chain carries it I do not go near the Hi-End palace. If they do not I ask if they can get it in. If they can not then I put on my flackjacket and head to the palace. I tell them what I need and ask if I can borrow there display model on a day they are closed to make my decision. If they say no I run away or if it is something I really want bad I may roll the dice.
    Meanwhile I have been listening to the spew about the diff these high end cables make over my modest (not garbage) cables. They do an A/B comparisson and I hear no differnce or at best very little diff. But my hearing must be bad cause they hear approx 30% improvement. LOL
    I say ya ya and agree with it all suggessting I may get them someday but not now.
    By the time I leave weather I buy or not I have a sour taste in my mouth.
    So I feel these Hi-End stores will eventually dissappear unless they clean up thier act. They need to dump the sales pitch and loosen thier policies to compete with the chain. Why would I spend more at the palace with a higher risk? I thought the small store was all about service but those days are gone and the chain clearly beats them here too.
    My point is this. I would far rather deal with the salesman at the chain who knows (usually but not all the time) diddly. I have already done my research so I know the facts anyways. If I end up doing an impulse buy. No Problem as thier policy has a built in safety net.
    Please do not misunderstand my point. I understand the little guy can not compete direcly on price with the chain but I feel there are other ways. They should understand the consumers POV and be willing to make some allowances or changes to policy. Why can't you bring it back for a refund? After all you have already paid more (in most cases) than at the chain?
    Just my 2 cents
    Steve
     
  2. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    Your point is well taken, and not uncommon. What you need is a better "high end" store. I have no problems with the ones I deal with. I've been going to them for a long time, they know me, and I am usually able to work a better deal than at the chain stores. The single thing that makes me hate the chain stores is exactly what you mentioned - the salespeople. I have little tollerance with incompetent people who can't answer a question if I should have one. In my area, there are only 2 shops that carry two of the brands in my system, so I am stuck with them, and it hasn't been a problem because I have been treated very well by both.

    If I can find something at a chain for less, I will obviously go for it, but if I can get it at a shop that takes care of me, I'm going to support them, even if sometimes I have to spend a little more for hard to find items.

    The return policy is a whole other deal. I agree with you on that, and I don't really understand their reasoning. I would expect, it has to do with the fact that they are not chains, and do not have the leverage with their distributors that the big chains do. They basically don't buy in the same volume that the chains do, so they can't drop the price as much and negotiate special deals because they are bigger. The chains save money on TVs this week, so they can drop the price of a DVD player and run an ad to get people to come into the store.

    Why the small guy has problems with returns, I don't really know. When my CD player died 6months after I bought it, I took it in, and they offered to swap it out or charge me a little more for a better player, which I did. I certainly wasn't going to wait 6-8 weeks to get the broken one back.
     
  3. Steve Marsh

    Steve Marsh Stunt Coordinator

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    John
    Not a big fan of incompetence myself but..
    I would rather deal with that than the guy who knows his stuff but feels he knows more than you (which may very well be the case) and deciedes to try and snow you under.
    I used the 30% example because that actually happened to me. Now I may not have the best hearing in the world but 30%. How can you even attach a number to it? We all know that the difference between cables does exhist but in most cases it is a small tweak. OK differnce between speakers 30% sure but cables.
    These guys know me and I have bought plenty of equip from them in the past. So I was insulted by the line. My apologies to him if he was being honest and really thought he heard a 30% diff but I doubt it. I was biting my tongue. I could have said to him. "30% eh. Why don't we try a little double blind." I think I know what the response would have been to that. Instead I just agreed that I heard a small diff and left it at that. As a result no bridges burned.
    You are right. not all the stores are like that. There is another Palace in town that gives you a little more credit for your intelligence.
    Steve
     
  4. Luis C

    Luis C Stunt Coordinator

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    Putting aside the sales pitch...
    Most small, independent stores cannot "lend" you a unit (even if you paid for it on a CC) because IF you return it, they are stuck with a open box item that they may only have had two of to begin with. And an open box item cannot be sold as new. The majors can send back an open box, $3500 receiver and exchange it for a new one from the supplier because of the overall volume they are purchasing at from the distributor. The small independent does not have this option. He just gets "stuck" with a used unit. If anything, I would go and "test drive" your questionable purchase at the major and then when you really decide what you want, go and get it from the independent.
    One comment:
    Since you claim that you have already done your "research" and know what you want, why do you feel the need to return an item once purchased? Kinda contradictory wouldn't you say? [​IMG]
    BTW, a really good "boutique" shop will carry very little (if any) of the product any major retailer will have and vice versa. I have yet to see a regional or national chain carry Conrad-Johnson or Pass Labs or Theta or even Quad.
     
  5. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    NO stores that I have ever talked to, high end or not, will lend ANY gear that is not already an open box/demo item. One of the places I deal with the most will take my CC #, with no charge to it, and lend me anything (within reason, usually speakers) for a few days. The other places charge the full amount, but fully refund the price when the item is returned. They note it as a "demo", not a "purchase", so there is no question about why the unit is coming back.
     
  6. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

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    My local high-end dealer that carries Accuphase, Conrad-Johnson, Classe, Meridian, Lexicon, Adcom, Marantz, Pioneer Elite, Integra Research, Rotel, Totem, Mordaunt-Short, Energy, and many others will take anything back for a full refund within 30 days.
     
  7. Steve Marsh

    Steve Marsh Stunt Coordinator

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    John
    When I referred to loaner I was referring to open box only.
    Luis
    When I say research there is only so much that can be done. How many people do you think were more than a little surprissed after doing thier homework and researching as much as is rasonable to find out that thier brand new Marantz 8200 would not allow you to adjust speaker volume w/o starting the test tone? To me that is a deal breaker but is not in the litrature and is not a defect so it can not be returned as defective.
    Keith
    You found one of the better ones no doubt.
    Steve
     
  8. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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  9. Luis C

    Luis C Stunt Coordinator

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    When I put "lend" in quotes on my post, it was mean to make your eyebrows lift. I am referring to the comment that Steve made about purchasing a unit and then returning it later. This term is sarcastically used in the high-end home market as "in-home lending" because many consumers come in, "buy" something on a CC and then decide they don't want it and return it because "it doesn't fit in with my decor" or some other ridiculous excuse. Please, before the flaming arrows are set to fly, I am NOT referring to ANY of the people posting here. I am just using this as an example of the reason independent retailers have quit using this customer service. Also, the majority of these independents will let you return something you are not satisfied with if you have been a loyal, long-term customer.
     
  10. Doug Brewster

    Doug Brewster Second Unit

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    My complaint with high end stores is not that they won't take things back, but with the way they treat you to begin with. A large percentage of them give you the impression they don't usually deal with ignorant, financially restricted individuals such as yourself, but will sell you something if you insist. This has been my experience for 30 years. I really appreciate being able to "shop" a store by auditioning components. Many high end stores act like you are not at all serious or intelligent enough to warrant these auditions, but feel obligated to walk you through them. They can be very condescending and arrogant. Occasionally this happens at a "midfi" store, but not often.

    I doubt the high end stores are in any real jeopardy or closing if they are well-established. They appeal to higher income clientele and these people tend to return to them and avoid other stores.
     
  11. John Garcia

    John Garcia Executive Producer

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    No flaming arrows, just my experience. Luis, I'm not saying you are wrong to use the term "lend" either, just that most of the places I deal with I simply ASK them "What is your policy regarding in-home demos of equipment?" I continue to deal with the places that allow me to listen to something in my setup and environment, so that they don't end up with a dissatisfied customer. I accept the fact that they won't lend me new gear, as well as the fact that I would rather have one that has been somewhat broken in already.

    I completely agree with your comment regarding people who actually purchase something, without ANY research or even a serious audition, and find that it either doesn't have some feature they wanted or they simply don't like it.
     
  12. Stephen Hopkins

    Stephen Hopkins HW Reviewer
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    I've had experience with some higher end stores in the Atlanta area (HiFi Buys for the majority) treating me as if I'm wasting their time when i come in. They see a 20 year old college student inquiring about $1500 receivers and they raise their brow and brush me off as quickly as possible. They show me just enough courtesy so as not to be noticed by other customers. Just because I'm not their usual up-scale clientel, they don't even take the time to see if I'm a serious buyer. One time, when i asked to do an AB test of a Pioneer Elite 45TX and a Denon 3802, a salesman told me that they only do that for "customers looking to make an actual purchase". Just because i'm 20 years old means i'm not capable of making an "actual purchas"? What if I'd saved my money for a few months to purchase something nice and was really looking forward to making an informed purchase, just to be brushed off be some arogant salesman? Then, when i finally do get a salesman who is willing to help me, they are rude if you seem to know as much about the product as they do. If you seem to be more knowledgable than they are, they either keep trying to one-up you in a back and forth battle of audio trivia, or even worse, simply dismiss you as wrong and try to make you look dumb to satisfy their own need to think they're superior than their customers.

    I love the high end stores. I love to see what i might have soon, what i may never have, and what's new on the horizon. I hate salespeople at high end stores. The profile people more than the Atlanta Police Department, and that really drives me crazy. I guess a college student isn't capable of buying from a high end store, atleast not in it's sales peoples eyes.

    I guess the days of "The Customer is Always Right" are dead and gone.
     
  13. DaveLenhert

    DaveLenhert Stunt Coordinator

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    That also drives me nuts! Since i'm 28 and rarely dress in anything very nice (usually jeans and a t-shirt) i'm seldom taken seriously when looking at $2K equipment. I buy what I wan when I want and try to be as educated about the product as I can prior to looking at it. I'll tolerate the sh*t of a salesman if they are the ONLY dealer that carries the product I want. However, that tolerance only goes so far. I FINALLY got some satisfaction the other week when I went looking at a new amp. After going into the dealer and looking around for 15 minutes at their "selection" the sales person finally came over to acknowledge my existence (there was only one other person in the store at this time). I asked a few questions about the amp I wanted (Aragon 8008x5). As usually, they asked me what kind of specs I wanted as he attempted to steer me in a totally different direction. At which time, I politely as i could told the dealer that the only reason I came to his store was to look at the Aragon line and the local sales rep for Mondial Designs had given me their name as a "good" dealer and if they weren't going to help, I'd call him back up and ask for another dealers name. I then turned and started to walk out the door, it took the dumb struck dealer about 1/2 way to the door to realize what had just happened. At which point he he almost ran me down to get my contact info so they could call me as soon as they got one in. With a polite smile on my face, I said "That would be nice". Damn...I just enjoyed that WAY too much!! [​IMG]
    Oh..just remembered this incident I had about six months ago…. I was at the dealer that I have bought most of my system from, the salesperson that I usually deal with was out on some vacation and I needed a part that day. So, one of the other salespersons helped me for a few minutes. During the help, he was treating me as someone who would visit the store once and disappear forever and he wouldn’t get a dime of commission from. They have a nice computer system for tracking all purchases and it displays how much the individual has spent at the store, so when he asked me for my info, the computer reported that I was indeed a good customer. He slipped and said “Oh”, but he quickly regained his composure and said “Is there anything else you might need Mr Lenhert”. I couldn’t help myself so I laughed and told him “No”. I just couldn’t believe he had slipped with the “Oh” comment, that definitely had made my day!
    -Dave
     
  14. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Chiming-in with a few nuggets of my own experience...

    1. I hate "big-box" electronics retailers. You know them, their flyers are in your Sunday paper, their ads are on TV, their salespeople (with some exceptions) are less than helpful, and their prices are relatively inexpensive. Do I shop at them? Yes. For DVDs, CDs and the like, and that's about it.

    2. 'Boutique' audio shops can be equally frustrating, with their idiosyncratic customer service (all or none, in my experience), limited return/exchange policies, and other quirks. Do I shop at them? Yes. Generally, their salespeople are more helpful, more knowledgeable. Their prices are, usually, negotiable and they tend to reward loyalty with discounts. In my experience, at least. Perfect situation? Hardly. A few weeks ago I posted my experience at a local high-end store, where I paid for a new item and got something unexpected in the box (a repackaged Marantz receiver). Will I shop at that particular retailer again? No. And I told them why, in person, and in no uncertain terms.

    3. I don't shop websites like Ubid or accessories4less or etronics. I'd only buy on-line from an authorized dealer with a liberal return/exchange policy and good customer service. J&R and Crutchfield have treated me well. Crutchfield is certainly not a discount dealer, but their customer service is phenomenal, and what you pay extra for in the price tag is generally made-up-for with their excellent service.

    This weekend, I spent almost 2 hours at a local 'chain' high-end audio shop. The salesman A/B compared a Denon and a Yamaha receiver for me, while I sat and enjoyed. He offered me 5% off the MSRP, plus an additional discount that he would work out with his manager. He took his time, worked hard to get the sale, although he put no pressure to close the deal right away. In fact, he encouraged me to go to the "big-box" store and demo something else for a frame-of-reference in order to complete my comparison shopping. That's the type of service that I would pay more for, although in this case I'll wind-up paying less.

    Not a commercial, not quite a rant, just some thoughts as I'm watching the Jets get pummeled by the Patriots (sigh).

    -AM
     
  15. Leo_P

    Leo_P Second Unit

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    One day I was interested in looking at some Def. Tech. speakers, so I headed on over to Park Ave. Audio here in NYC. I was in there a good 20 minutes and was COMPLETELY ignored. I was walking around, into the listening rooms, touching everything to see if somebody would AT LEAST tell me to stop touching things, nothing. So I go to the counter and I'm waiting behind this guy who's shooting the breeze with the 2 guys back there. I finally ended up getting my questions answered, and not very nicely. I will NEVER go back there!
    On the other hand, early last week, when I was shopping for a 5-channel amp, I walked into this place called Stereo Exchange and this young guy came right up to me and was very helpful. I told him I was very interested in a Rotel amp, but I didn't have the money on me, plus I wanted to do a little more looking around. So I go back the next day, to buy the amp and he's not working that day. This time about 5 minutes passed and I was being ignored. So I walk up to the front, where the 4 people who work there are chit-chattin', and I say "Excuse me, can I get some help? Please!" with a total attitude. When the dude finds out I'm ready to buy a Rotel amp, all of a sudden he wants to be my best friend! I hope they don't work off commision, 'cause that means the J.O. got it, instead of the helpful young man.
    But you know who should be REALLY upset here? The big shots at the various audio/video companies who rely on these dealers to be their representatives. As an example, if I was the head of Definitive Technologies, I'd be upset I lost a potential customer because of the jacka$$es at Park Ave. Audio!
    Thanks for letting me rant[​IMG], I feel much better now!:b
     
  16. Justin Lane

    Justin Lane Cinematographer

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    High End shops are really hit and miss. Some provide excellent service regardless of the customer while others will practice straight out age descrimination (I am 21).

    About a week ago I went into a high end shop decently dressed looking to buy a Sony ES SACD player. Well, after being ignored for about 15 minutes as I looked at the various models, I had to flag down the saleman on duty who walked right by me without even asking if he could help. He acted like it was the biggest problem of his day to actually wait on a customer. I told him what I was interested in, and he did not even attempt to explain the various models to make a sale. When I inquired about the item I was interested in, he said all they had left in inventory was the floor model, and offered it to me at full price. I then asked him what kind of discount he could give me since it was a demo and touched by many people in who knows what fashion, and he offered %10 off of their price which was full MSRP to begin with. At that point I told him no thanks at that price for a used piece of equipment. He lost a sale as I was looking to buy that day, and have since sworn to never shop there again.

    If a store is not willing to give me the service I desire, my dollars will go elsewhere.

    J
     
  17. Adil M

    Adil M Supporting Actor

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    Guys, if you find a good salesman, make sure he gets the commission. It's simple consideration. Vote w/ your dollar and give the money to those who deserve it, not whoever happens to be there w/ his handout. *Almost all sales people work on commission.
    Maybe YOU can "help" fix the situation at these dealerships, but let's get real they are on commission, they prioritize and they have to be efficient and there are too many J.O. customers that screw around w/ you during busy times like weekends costing you tons of money.
    Most good ethical salesmen will quit due to customers not management! That's my current situation. I'll be gone after Christmas. I've learned to deal w/ "mixed reviews" management, but all my so-called faithful and loving customers don't blink an eye when it comes to buying it from "random idiot employee." I have had multiple customers right rec'ds about me and came back and bought from others..!? If you enjoyed someone's service or it stood out from the others, buy it from them and lo and behold you rec'd them to a friend (drums and cymbals).
     
  18. Sebastien David

    Sebastien David Second Unit

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    Exactly.
    Leo, we salespeople get really frustrated when customers don't even have the decency to make sure the sale is in our name if we're not here...

    Hopefully you mentioned that you were served by the young guy and he got his sale or at least part of it, but if not it's pretty shitty for him. Commission is how we make our money, and if we spend all our time working to get a sale only to see the customer go away and come back the day we're not here (it happens A LOT) it's very discouraging and just makes us want to change professions.

    You can gripe about service etc. but I could give you a thousand examples of really bad customers. As much as snobby salespeople tend to ignore younger customers, snobby customers tend not to give too much credit to the younger salespeople (i.e. me) even though after a year of working at my store and without the pompous title of "hifi expert" everybody comes to me for advice on audio...

    All parties are guilty here. It's easy to gripe about salespeople and stores, but this business is not easy sometimes and a little consideration from the customer goes a long way to getting you a better deal. By the way, 5 or 10% off MSRP is not a great discount. Try to get 15% on high-margin items like speakers, hifi electronics and CABLES!!!

    --gets off soapbox--

    -Seb
     
  19. stephen_z

    stephen_z Stunt Coordinator

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    Steve,
    It can be a crap shoot no matter who you're dealing with. In my recent upgrades, I've dealt with a couple of high end dealers for my speakers (Triangle) and electronics (Rotel). One dealer let me take home a brand new black RMB-1075 as a "loaner" while I waited for my silver/black two-tone to show up 2 months later. The Triangle dealer seems to really care about providing the best bang in 2-ch sound for the buck in a given price range. There have also been other dealers who wouldn't give you the time of day if you're just "browsing" to see what's new.

    Even when you're dealing with the main stream merchandisers (BB,CC,GG), I find more rude and unscrupulous sales people trying to scam you into a purchase. My latest episode was a "misquote" for pricing for a specific manufacturer of 128M compact flash memory..."No, I didn't quote you that price for Lexar"... he opted to lie instead of apologizing for his "error". I was so incensed, I walked away and he lost a commission on 2 digital cameras ($1000) for a difference of less than $30.
     
  20. Doug_B

    Doug_B Screenwriter

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    Yup, definitely hit or miss at the high end shops. I've been to enough of them to have experienced the good ones, so I prefer to buy from them. It's not surprising that the better salespeople (in terms of personality, helpfulness, etc) are the ones who are into music/HT. They understand what I'm after when I walk into their shop for the first time with by backpack full of CDs or DVDs - "here's the remote, let me know if you need anything else." On the other end of the scale, I've had dealers who wouldn't let me touch the volume control; well, I worked them hard, knowing at the end I wouldn't buy from them.

    I totally agree that the customer should give the sale to the pewrson who helped him previously. With respect to any salesperson who helps me out, I make sure to get a business card from him, and I ask what days and hours he works. I will often call a previously helpful salesperson before I go there to make sure he's there (and give him time to set up the components I want, if necessary). As a result of this behavior and repeat visits, I have been able to get demo equipment home from a few places and get a couple of excellent discounts from one in particular with whom I continue to do business even though it's a trip for me.

    Doug
     

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