Had I’d walked into a hifi shop unaware of this practice and a guy told me there’s a $500 fee for an audition, I would’ve been offended and felt insulted.
Let’s be honest. The OP did not walk into a dealer and ask to listen to some gear on display. It has been said more than once that these amps are boxed up and in storage. These amps weigh 170 lbs each. They have 16 power tubes each that need to be biased.
Does anyone really expect to walk into a store and tell the owner that he would like to give the amps in storage a listen because he’s never heard them, and he might be interested, and then expect the owner to say sure, come back tomorrow because it’s going to take me a few hours to get them out and set them up? Really?
I’m sure you can go to Sunny Audio and listen to the gear on display for free, even if you’re obviously not a serious buyer.
I would love to see all you outraged people open up an audio shop. I’d love to come and talk audio with you and do some listening, maybe 2 or 3 times a week. Of course you’d be cool with that, right?