Charging A Fee To Demo An Amplifier In A Brick & Mortar Store


I Saw a pair of pre-owned tube monoblocs for sale on an onlline forum for around $17k.
The seller has a retail store for hiigh end audio. The seller mentioned that there will be an up-front fee for the demo if a prospect comes to the store the amps are not purchased. The demo fee may also be used for credit towards any purchase in the store.

This is the first time I’ve ever heard of this. Is this now a common occurance in high end audio stores? I sent a note to the seller asking what the demo fee amount was....two weeks and I didn’t get a response.

Does anyone know what amount of fees are charged for a demo?
Bf85b117 4590 4be7 a756 d05f898cdaf9mitch4t
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Then you cut off your nose to spite your face. I'm sure there is an item or two you could use that the store carries. If you do not like the amps just buy one of those items. On returning the amps the dealer has to check them out and clean off any fingerprints and such which takes up his time.
I also think he is trying to weed out the people who are not serious.
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I have to agree with George on this one. This is outrageous.

The dealer who has to check things out, clean them off, etc. is merely doing what all shop owners have to do when people browse their merchandise. This is part of the overhead that they add into the purchase price for all their products. The notion that somehow this has changed is completely unbelievable. In my opinion, this is a risky venture by this shop owner to invent an upcharge for people who don't know better.
If you don’t like a store’s attitude or policies, simply don’t shop there. I don’t understand why anyone would get particularly angry about it, though. It’s not worth it and retail is a competitive business.

I bought a new headphone amp a few years ago and the first dealer I visited - which I had done some business with years earlier - told me they no longer accept any trades. I had a few high-end pieces I wanted to part with, so I found another dealer who carried the same amplifier I was seeking. He was happy to take my trades. Now he has a new customer. That's how it works.
First rule of acquisition,  "Once you get their money, you never give it back".

Regards
If I was a serious buyer I'd feel offended but there are so many tire kickers who have no intention of buying. If a reasonable fee was posted for like a 30 minute demo there is equipment I wouldn't mind paying to hear. I don't think it's fair to take someone's time if I know I'm not buying.

Look elsewhere! Not the way I’d do business.
Can you imagine as a dealer how many people who might "like a listen" with no intent of buying.  Must drive them nuts.  If you have $17k to burn on amps, an audition fee is not likely to be a big deal.  Furthermore, how do you make an informed decision without hearing it in your system? Especially with a tubed amp.  Paying a fee to hear it in my own system would make a lot more sense
This is for an in-store demo.

The amps will not be leaving the store.

Here is the listing for the amps:

https://www.audiogon.com/listings/lis9c0bg-audio-research-reference-750-1-pair-silver-finish-demos-t...

These amps already have 800 hours on them, AND you have to buy speakers with them if you want the $2K discount. They have a lot of chutzpah charging for an in-store demo given the circumstances.
Never heard of it.  Sounds like a bad idea.   You can take it or leave it.  
@mitch4t, What was the retailer going to charge you to audition the amplifiers?   Was there a fixed time limit, like 30 minutes, or no time restrictions?   If you listened and decided to audition another amplifier, would he charge you, again, for a 2nd audition?

I am not aware of any audio retailers charging to audition audio equipment.   As was posted above, I agree that the audio audition is "part of the overhead expense that they add into the purchase price for all their products". 

  


Well that's one retailer to stay clear of.
I know this outfit and the owner in particular. He attempted to charge me for a demo some years ago and I never retuned. Rude and unscrupulous he was in the brief interaction I had with him. Caveat emptor!
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Once upon a time, I entered a store and said I was interested in browsing what they had. I was not intending to listen to anything and made that clear. Salesperson said it would be $50 fee that could be applied to the purchase. I thanked him and left. I never stepped in again, but I did pass by many times and watched it close for good, as many stores have done since then.

Fast forward a few years and a few blocks away. I entered another store, made it clear that I was not in to buy anything, checked out first two rooms and had no pressure from the salesman at all. I went to one or two more rooms, ever increasing cost of the equipment shown, and was about to leave. Salesman told me I forgot to check the last room out and that I should as it was the best they had. Stack of dCS machines with other equipment to match performance and price and then some. I played some records and CDs, had a very relaxed chat with the salesman, and that was it. I bought a few things there over time. That store is still in business.
@mitch4t,

The seller is simply trying to get compensate for his time. While it’s not common to charge a fee for demo, the store owner is well within its rights to do so. As others have mentioned, if you don’t like the terms look elsewhere.

At this point, only you know the worthiness of these monoblocks. We can all criticize the unfair demo policy but at the end of the day only you know how rare or common are the opportunities to demo these amps. To me, $17k is a large sum and I would like to be 110% certain that they will work in my system before I dump this kind of money. So if the demo fee is not ridiculous and the store has something else to offer you can possibly use then I would take the leap of faith.

The flip side of this transaction is you take the risk of buying them unheard on a used market and ‘deal’ with reselling process if you don’t end up liking them.
Aug-25-2020Are you going to charge a fee for an in store demo?
Yes. We are. Although the fee can be used towards purchase of other electronics also. Too many hobbyists like to pass time hearing products. They ruin it for businesses.
"Too many hobbyists like to pass time hearing products. They ruin it for businesses."

I thought that audio hobby is all about passing time hearing products. No hobbyists, no business.
hgeifman..

I asked two weeks ago what the fee was and I haven't gotten an answer.
That dealer has been trying to unload those mono locks for over a year now.  I would run away as fast as I could. 
Charging someone to demo gear that they are selling is insane! The seller should accommodate you in every way possible, including sharing his or her expertise. There are many times when certain components do not pair well. On a different note the seller should ascertain the seriousness of the buyer if it is a private demo. I do private demos but I also ask questions about the gear the person has. If the person  has a Marantz receiver and wants to demo some MTRX/2 I would have reservations.
Sep-16-2020What is the inconvenience fee associated with an in-store demo...fully face masked, of course?

These are packed and put away. Can you tell me what kind of system would you want it demonstrated with ? Please call the store...Probably $500.00 which will be applied to purchase price of $16995.00

When you purchase products at retail prices, they are set up for you in the store ready for audition and also in home delivery and setup.
When we are selling DEMOS on products that retail at $60,000.00 USD for $16,995.00 then we have to charge a fee.
We have to do this as too many customers want to expand their hobby with no real desire or inclination to purchase. They burn 3-4 hours of time and make insulting offers. Just like you, our time is worth something. Charging a fee allows us to determine if you are serious. If you dont like the item, you can use the said fee to purchase something on the spot.
Spend your $$$ in another store....this is plain ridiculous IMHO.
@mitch4t is talking about norms and best practices, here, not about "rights." FWIW.
I hope this doesn't become a trend in other industries. Imagine going to a car dealer for a look see and test drive and being told, "Nah, it's gonna cost you to test drive this rust bucket."

All the best,
Nonoise
Yup, know where this place is. Weird store layout. No rooms, just  gear everywhere, in an open floor plan. I'd only buy from there if it is something you know you want at the price you want to pay. Better get everything in writing too.


I never in my entire life paid a fee however today there are to many tire kickers out there.There is no set fee as this is a big ripoff i would buy nothing from that dealer.Good luck with that one.
I could understand it if the item is not on display and the seller has to perhaps acquire the product first or even just set it up just for that.   

Even then, one can just say no whenever vendor terms are not acceptable.
Ok I looked at the gear. That’s not going anywhere for a demo without something, someone being pretty serious. THAT is a serious pair of amps... NO KIDDING... Probably cost 20-30 dollars in Electrical charges to get it warm enough to listen to.

To be real about it, you should go there to do the deal or NOT go at all.
I dealt with a WAREHOUSE in South SF, that was that way, wasn’t a demo fee as much as a, I had to open the shop fee. HUGE discount, demo and trade in stuff only. You went there knowing if you were gonna buy it or not.
I picked up a pair of VTL Wotans, for 6.5K, they had 3 pairs. They were taken in on an estate sale. 3 years old, a little under 40k a pair.
It was a 300.00 fee, just to look and make sure the valves were all there (another 3k from VTL factory for a set). AND use their forklift to load the heavy suckers. 3 sets of VMPS RM40s, at different times. 1/4-1/3 the price.

The VTLs were never taken out of the crate, never used..

Worth it for me..They have had some killer deals too, BUT not always a fee either. At least 4-5 sales people, different times, over a 10 year period. I guess they are still there..

I also remember, there were different areas, too. Different vendors, were staging their, used stuff or demos in a kind of Consortium, to save HIGH dollar floor space in the cities, SF central, Redwood City, ect. One stop shop, if you knew what you were looking for. This was South San... A lot lower rents.. and easier to load the REAL heavy stuff. NO HILLS!

Regards

smer319 

I'd like to come to your store for a look around, but it's gonna cost you.
OP
Even after you confirmed in-store demo that I gleanwd from your well worded post, multiple replies assume otherwise.
Sheesh.
Personally the only demo I would consider valuable enough to pay for is in-home. Otherwise you can''t hear source, speakers and room synergy.
This dealer is really reaching.
Those types don't get any of MY money

Back when I was in the industry, and even more recently since then, I have experienced and heard stories of people going into shops ( by both the shop staff and the listener ), listening for hours, and then, the listener leaving, only to buy the auditioned products, elsewhere, likely for less, either new or used ( off of the internet, or another store ), leaving the store who did the demo, without a sale. This goes on...we all know it. The policies are there for a reason. And, it does rid of the actual tire kickers. Knowing the policies before you enter, will determine what you do. I feel bad for the brick and mortar stores today, as they are up against an invisible enemy, the internet. In this case, it was product that was packed up and boxed ( what I understood ). Should be no different than a restocking fee, as per Tekton, Schiit, and others. Not worth getting angry over. Make up your own mind.Enjoy, have a good day, and stay safe.
@mitch4t,  Another question is HOW interested are you in these Audio Research Reference 750 Mono Block Amplifiers, list price of $55,000, on sale for $16,995?  Have you been looking for a long time?  Do you REALLY LIKE these amps for this price?   To be honest, I am surprised these amps are for sale at such a substantially reduced price so I guess that is another question to ask the retailer?    Are these amplifiers working okay and do their tubes need to be replaced?   Do these amplifiers come with any kind of a warranty?   What happens if they stop working after 30-60 days?   I am not a tube person so is 800 hours of demo use a reasonable amount?   How old are these amplifiers?  

@stereo5 said "That dealer has been trying to 'unload' those mono locks for over a year now".   This might explain the reduced sale price and would be a concern to me.  

Your post states you asked about the audition fee and there was no response (AFTER 2 weeks).  This is a MAJOR concern of why is the retailer not responding to a potential interested party.  It does not say good things about their customer service.  

IF you are really interested in these amplifiers, AND the charge to audition these amplifiers is 'reasonable', then I suggest you give them a listen.  The price is right so you maybe should give them an audition.  

HOWEVER, based on the ABOVE posts, several people have expressed various concerns about this transaction.   Based on my 'understanding' of the translation, the audition fee, the implied condition of these amplifiers, the retailer, etc., I have concerns about a possible purchase (IMHO) and suggest you do more research and investigating.   


 
Geek!   And I say that in the most respectful, Star-Trekky sort of way.  


First rule of acquisition, "Once you get their money, you never give it back".

Any retailer of course free to do anything they want within the limits of legality. I have to question a retailer who throws away one of the few things remaining compared to online though. This website and others like it are case studies in word of mouth advertising. That "hobbyist" may not buy him, but they will tell some friends, and they will go online and talk about their experience. It is hard to beat first hand praise.


I must say, though, I have my doubt about a hobbyist spending "3-4" hours reviewing anything in a store. If they don’t have experience with high end audio, then this would be rather boring for them, and if they do personally, then tend to know the value of time and money and most won’t waste someone else’s.


If this is truly a concern, a more reasonable policy would be too set a demo time limit, and it could even be short, i.e. 20 minutes. This is fairly justifiable as tube-life is not infinite and replacement cost is substantial for amps such as this. If you want to listen past 20 minutes, then you need to contribute to the re-tubing fund. Any serious audiophile will understand these costs and why there would be a limitation. Margin on used gear is also lower so more justification on a time limit.


Progressive businesses thrive, regressive businesses decline and fail. In my early career I worked for two companis that tried to extract every last bit of margin out of the customer, while I watched our competitors eat our lunch over time by reducing their margin, but selling more and more ultimately making more profit and also reaching an economy of scale we couldn't compete with.
Interesting situation. Auditions without a sale are just part of the business. The salesman’s job is to bond with the customer demonstrating the advantages of buying from him. A fee is absurd unless you can take them home for a few days. Even then I think it’s customer unfriendly.
@smer319  So, just how much is said fee?  I believe the OP never received clarification on this point.
"When we are selling DEMOS on products that retail at $60,000.00 USD for $16,995.00 then we have to charge a fee."

I am not in retail business, but I thought that when a a store is selling DEMOS, it is selling used items that rarely cost as much as the original retail. If $16 995 is really such a great deal, essentially loss for the seller, increasing a price to $40 000 and waiving auditioning fee may be the way to go. Even now, the line of tire kickers seems to be long. At least if we go by Audiogon clicks.

OP did a good job in advertising these amplifiers. Someone may get them. The question remains, though. How much will be OP’s fee for finally bringing the sale to an item not many were willing to buy?
WOW ! This is amazing. To make things clear this is a $60,000.00 pair of Amplifiers. This has been put into storage. We have to setup a complete vignette and connect everything. This is the reason we asked the customer who was interested to call us. We could set them up with Vandersteen, Vivid Audio, Martin Logan, Stenheim, Egglestonworks etc. To do this custom for a proper audition that makes sense, we need to be compensated. Simple as that. Hope this makes this clear.
It's easy to say rude things to dealers. Try running a store, be profitable and have people who request you to do 6 hours of work and then purchase product that is 1/10th the price used from ebay. In this case we have policies in place.

Imagine going to a car dealer for a look see and test drive and being told, "Nah, it’s gonna cost you to test drive this rust bucket."


Not exactly that, but something parallel to that happened to me. I wanted to test drive a Mitsubishi (roughly $30 000 or 40 000 car at that time, I do not remember anymore). Dealer asked for $5000 deposit before test drive he would be present at anyway. So I have never driven a Mitsubishi.

Speaking of judging the seriousness that the dealer from our amplifier story is talking about, I was very serious about buying that car on the spot. Now, the difference is that it was a new car and these are old amplifiers.
Point of clarification, you want to be compensated.


While I would accept that COVID times are different, certainly in normal times, your staff, the equipment you have on hand, etc. are sunk costs. You are going to incur them whether you have a demonstration or not. 

It is also a $17,000 amplifier, It is not a $60,000 amplifier. 
If they were gonna charge me for an audition, I’d probably gleefully unleash torrents of abuse on them. Just because. It would take a lot to keep my dander down. Then again. Were the sellers lovely folks? Was I absolutely smitten by the components? Was the seller offering to sweeten the deal a tad?
"Try running a store, be profitable and have people who request you to do 6 hours of work and then purchase product that is 1/10th the price used from ebay."


I doubt that anyone here is not aware of that. At the same time, people have their ideas. One of them is that some used amplifier is still used amplifier. From what I understand, it is a good one. Why not keep it and demo speakers with it? It is a $60 000 amplifier that you can keep for $16 995.

Good news, there is no such an amplifier on eBay for $6000, much less for $1695.50, at this moment.
@laaudionut asked: Sep-16-2020
What is the inconvenience fee associated with an in-store demo...fully face masked, of course?

@smer319 replied:
These are packed and put away. Can you tell me what kind of system would you want it demonstrated with ? Please call the store...Probably $500.00 which will be applied to purchase price of $16995.00.

So the amps are packed up and smer319 will get them out, set them up, and demonstrate them with gear the potential buyer requests. A $500 deposit is not an unreasonable request to do that. These are big, heavy, complicated amps. The buyer has the option to just buy them off the internet, unseen and unheard, like most of us do all the time, and not pay the deposit.

@mrdecibel said:
Back when I was in the industry, and even more recently since then, I have experienced and heard stories of people going into shops ( by both the shop staff and the listener ), listening for hours, and then, the listener leaving, only to buy the auditioned products, elsewhere, likely for less, either new or used ( off of the internet, or another store ),

We all know this is a big problem for retailers now, and it’s why many are closing up their stores for good. I think it’s a good idea to try to see the situation from both the buyer’s and the seller’s point of view and be a little less judgmental. I don’t think it’s easy to run a profitable audio store today.


Though I can understand the dealer's point of view, I can't accept it completely.
Given that the amps are used and fairly expensive, I see no reason to charge for an audition. Exactly how many people are wanting to audition these amps?
When I bought much lower priced merchandise on Audiogon from private sellers, they not only allowed me to audition, but invited me into their homes.
@OP, I think you should spend your money elsewhere, regardless of whether those amps float your boat.
Bob