Demos - To Charge a Fee or to Not Charge a Fee?


One common dealer complaint is that customers sometimes use them to audition equipment only to later purchase it elsewhere.

How much of that is true is not known but it must happen. Such is the nature of some folk.

Therefore, how about abandoning the time honoured practice of free demonstrations (also shared by the car industry) and start charging a fee?

Would $10 an hour be sufficient? 

Surely, even in quiet part of a quiet day it must cost the dealer considerably more than that to provide the facilities and staff to facilitate a satisfactory demonstration.

I don't know how others may feel, but I'd be more than happy to pay for the service.
cd318
I recall a sign above the counter of various service shops stating their hourly rate.  XX per hour. XXXX if you watch.
Or you could just offer price matching. 
I worked selling stereos on commission for a long time.  To pay up front for someone to sell me something makes me throw up a little bit in my mouth.  If you want to drive away customers charge them to listen and when you go out of business they won't be able to hear your equipment to compare, so that'll teach them or you could do your job and create value by purchasing the equipment from you and make a customer for life.
Just as a side note I also DVR sports and shows so I can fast forward thru the adds.  If I time it right I can end the same time the game does.
 
$10/hr sounds about right. For just being in the store. After all some people just walk in and out never buy a thing just look. But the store had to have lights and heat even for that. It is only fair. They can collect that along with the parking fee. $10/hr sounds about right for that too.   

That is just in and out. If you want to listen I would expect another $10/hr. Of course you would tip your retailer if he has to acknowledge your presence. To play a CD probably $10. Records $20. Only fair.   

Why not? cd318 is happy to pay. Sorry. My bad. "More than happy." 
One model could be to charge a fee but to deduct that from any purchase. At least that way, the dealer gets some business (and it becomes essentially free for the buyer as long as something is purchased...)
I worked in several audios stores, there’s been looks-looks forever, yes I am sure it’s gotten worse, but even knowing how hard it is to be a store owner and a salesman, I would walk out if someone said pay me upfront. In fact in the city I live in there is an audio store where the owner says if you want advice There is a charge of  $100 an hour. I had several thousand in cash on me, but only got to listen to him for 20 minutes telling me how great and smart he was. I left without hearing any equipment and ended up buying the equipment online that I wanted and that he had. 
Post removed 
That guy sound like big dope charging $100. How about I charge him hundred dollar to teach him make real money investing. What big dope.
I’m with danager.
I think that talking about a fee is really dope.
It’s the quickest way to go out of biz.
There are too many places that offer free returns a price matching now days to set up as a nickel dimer. If you can’t keep the lights on get out.
Why would an audio dealer be any different than a car dealer? An apple store? Going thru open homes before buying a new home? Would you pay to do these things? An apple store, you are actually playing/using the device. A car dealer, you are actually driving a car for an hour or maybe a weekend and working with a salesman and not buy from that dealer.
I haven’t dealt with an audio dealer for over 2 decades, I attend multiple audio shows a year like ces, rmaf, etc
@isochronism 
“I recall a sign above the counter of various service shops stating their hourly rate.  XX per hour. XXXX if you watch.”

It’s xx if you watch; xxxxx is you worked on it first. 
Mine also had,”We’ll make this the best thing you’ve ever had, it it takes every last dime you’ve got”
Would $10 an hour be sufficient?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
No no no
Free shipping, return ship you pay + a  10% restock fee is more than fair both sides.
Come on man, if the dealer has to pay both ships with no restock fees, they will ALL go OOB.
Voxativ has NO RETURNs.. Never buy a  speaker froma  company with NO RETURN policy, = Proof the speaker is not what they claim it is.
IIRC, many years ago there was a Ferrari showroom in a hotel lobby in Vegas charge $10 for admission.
I never waste a salesman's time....  so to me that would be insulting.  You are going to charge me a fee to demo something that I'm looking to buy ? 

   No thanks.    The folks I regularly do business with pretty much know they are going  to get my business,  and that's why they have no problem setting up a demo.   And they know if I walk out without buying something, I will be back soon because they are my first choice whenever I need something hifi.

I understand everyone's time is valuable,  but can you imagine taking a car for a test drive and paying a fee?   Ridiculous 
Lol, NO! It’s part of owning any type of retail store or shop. There will always be people who look then buy elsewhere. Do car dealers charge for a test drive? Just my opinion. 
That sounds great!

   When I’m done listening to the amp/speaker pair,
I will gladly accept a check for my time. 
   Will use the $ for lunch after listening to their components!

   There is a high end audio place by me who never, not once have ever given a price break for anything. 
  So earning $10/hr is perfect, make $40 and have a nice supper for the boss and I 
I don’t have much sympathy for retailers. After all, your equipment depreciates 50% as soon as you leave the store. 
I don’t have much sympathy for retailers. After all, your equipment depreciates 50% as soon as you leave the store. 
This discussion seems pointless. Sure it may be nice if one can be compensated for their services all the time including carrying inventory to display products, but this ignores the fact that people are also driven to reduce costs to stretch their purchasing power. This is true even back to the days of bartering. Asking for fees to inspect inventory generally only works for exclusive high demand low supply products, otherwise the fees would drive customers away and limit exposure to new perspective customers which in our limited niche high-end audio can not afford to do. Sales is like fishing- nothing is guaranteed.

I don’t have much sympathy for retailers. After all, your equipment depreciates 50% as soon as you leave the store.
Retailers do not control product depreciation which is caused market supply and demand.  
That’s the chance you have to take I was a dealer for a number of years ,if you know how to help build system synergy  with other products ,and and are competitive in $$ pricing then no need to loose the sale many dealers that loose the sale are cheap many times plain and simple you should get a minimum of 15-20% off 
the price especially if buying more then one item . I used to offer lay away also ,no refundable for 6 months to lock in sales ,
this way too ,you lock in   a good price ,as well as the sale.

At least $50.00 an hour for time wasters.
When I was shopping for a pair of speakers a few years ago, a dealer about 50 miles away had a pair. I made the drive and auditioned them. I really liked the speakers and was prepared to buy their demo pair which had been on the floor for a few months. I knew I could get them on the internet at a 25% discount from MSRP. But when I asked about even a 10% discount for this pair, the dealer said absolutely not. Retail or no sale.

So I was fine with buying from the brick n mortar guy. But I walked out and did the internet deal. This is one reason why they can't keep the doors open.

Oz


Depends on whether retailers want more potential customers, or less.
Hello, 
I think if you go into the store and listen in the store no fee is required. If you want to demo the item in your home then you should pay. You technically are renting the equipment. If you end up buying then you get you rent back as store credit. A lot of people do not know what it costs to run a business. Can you imagine the electric bill for an audio store. Just put yourself in the owners shoes in todays market. Also, If everyone started to take advantage of the brick and mortar stores there will be none to visit in the future. Remember this in a few years when your paying fees to keep YOUR money in a bank. Some banks have already started this. Don’t worry no charge for $25,000 or more left in the account. Because I am sure everyone has $25,000 to leave in an account. 


.......Surely, even in quiet part of a quiet day it must cost the dealer considerably more than that to provide the facilities and staff to facilitate a satisfactory demonstration.

 cd318
The store has that hard cost whether I come in, or not.
Maybe we should define demo... are we talking in-store or home demo? If in store, no fee, that's part of doing business. In home demo, then I think a fee is perfectly acceptable (as long as that fee is deducted from a purchase). I have a local dealer that I've been buying quite a few things from. He always lets me bring stuff home to listen to, but he also knows me well and knows that I will buy from him if it works in my system
I’ve got thing in my mind. You alway be honest and bring up Audiogon at dealer unless you like cheap democrat that try to say everyone get free services while you tell tax man to get you best deal while you want it to come from another guy pocket. It can’t be help there lot of it about.
Have wife dress to treat employee well and always bring nice compliment to dealer. Good manner dont cost nothing do they.
@audiojan ,
"Maybe we should define demo... are we talking in-store or home demo? If in store, no fee, that's part of doing business. In home demo, then I think a fee is perfectly acceptable (as long as that fee is deducted from a purchase)."



You're right, this needs to be more specific.

I don't think any retailer would want to insist on a charge for anyone visiting or browsing in their store.

I was thinking of some kind of financial recompense for the extra work involved in setting up a system specifically tailored to a customers preference eg front end, amp, speakers etc.

This could apply equally to in-store or home demos. The fee demanded could be left entirely up to the retailer.

In the result of a successful sale, this arbitrary fee could be waived, but the point was to deter those that take unfair advantage of the services provided by some dealers.

Whilst we still have some left who are willing to demonstrate their products.

Demonstrating audio involves experience and knowledge as well as being attentive to the customers wishes.

It is nothing like selling iPhones.

Heck, those guys aren't even giving you chargers anymore!
They're not responsible for demonstrating anything, or providing any extra service. 

They're not dealers, they're simply retailers.
Demoing equipment and giving advice is how the retailer earns his 40 (or so) points.

Brooks Berdan charged list price for the cartridges he sold, but that also bought the customer cartridge "run in" (playing the cartridge for 20 hours or so, to relax the suspension), and expert installation and alignment
If any retailer, audio or otherwise, wanted me to pay for the honor of me auditioning their wares, and hearing why they are the best and what they sell are the best, I'm not biting. Sorry- but the dealer mark up includes the cost of doing business and that includes marketing. 
@zavato ,
"Sorry- but the dealer mark up includes the cost of doing business and that includes marketing."


This is where it gets sometimes gets messy.

The often beleaguered dealer can find themselves between a rock and a hard place.

What to do then? 

Relationship break up leading to any or all of the following?

Exaggerated mark-ups?
Increasingly fancy cabling and accessories suggested?
Suggestive language and smooth persuasive sales techniques?
Prejudice and rudeness towards certain customers viewed as 'timewasters'?

In the meantime the customer might begin to see the dealer as a stuck up mercenary with both eyes on the monthly sales chart who is only out there to exploit. 


Now if only there was some other way to maintain a more mutually beneficial relationship between dealer and client...


Demoing equipment at the store should be considered part of the business.



But I’m perfectly fine paying for in-home demos. That’s asking a lot having the salesman haul the equipment to my house and letting me have it for a while.


A local salesman hauled the Joseph Perspective speakers to my placefor an in home demo. I said I’d pay but he waved it off as part of his job.   (However some other dealers charge, and I'm fine with that)


It turned out I really liked the Perspectives, but not quite enough to replace the speakers I already owned. And I needed to sell the speakers I owned in order to buy new speakers.



I told the salesman that the in home demo made me realize I couldn’t part with my speakers but also wanted the Perspectives. Therefore I would save up money and if I still wanted Perspectives by the time I had saved for new speakers, I’d buy them from his store. Later when I had accumulated enough money for new speakers and checked a few more out I decided on the Perspectives. So instead of buying them used for less second hand, I came back and bought Perspectives from the same dealer when I could. I want to support dealers to the extent I can.


Similarly, around the time I was contemplating the Perspectives I was also interested in Devore O/96 speakers that I demoed a few times at a local shop, a very nice salesman there.



At the time I demoed the O/96s a few years ago I had the money to buy them new from that dealer IF I decided on those speakers. I would not have demoed them if I wasn’t in a position to buy (or at the very least, if I’m ever in an audio store and there is some interesting gear set up, I"m up front if I’m looking to buy or not. It’s the salesman’s call then if he’s fine having me listen. It’s actually a smart thing to do - I’ve been led to purchases I didn’t know I wanted just by dealers letting me listen to stuff...in fact, that’s how I ended up buying the expensive Perspective speakers).


Now I find myself in a different spot. It’s a few years later, I still have the itch for the Devores, but at this time I don’t have the money to buy new.
And don’t see buying new as likely possible at this point.


But I could possibly stretch to buy them second hand.



On the other hand, they are very finicky speakers and it’s only an in-home demo that would let me know if they work in my room.


The Devore dealer offers in home demos for a fee, which as I said I’m good with. However I’d never ask for a home demo if I weren’t going to buy the speakers from that dealer.


I’ve sometimes wondered if a dealer would do an in home loan at higher rate of pay than he’d normally charge, if the customer acknowledges up front he wouldn’t be buying a new pair.


I’m interested in what a dealer would think of such an offer, as there is perhaps something I’m missing that makes it an unattractive proposition.


More likely route is just buying speakers second hand and selling if they don’t work out.


I support charging a fee for a home demo. In this case the dealer should deliver the product and set it up. The fee is refundable if you buy the component. Problem is that you must charge a fee that may, by some standards, be considerable. 
I would pay 50 an hour to demo. I’m sure there are many looky lous who have no intention of buying new which I am one of. 
I don’t normally demo  it but I am always gonna buy used. So for that demo on what I’m buying I would pay fitty. 
I’m sure there are more than a few of us who’ve used the dealers gear & facility only to purchase elsewhere. It’s hard enough to stay in business these days, particularly with this modality. So if dealers can make themselves a little coin and keep the lights on by charging for custom listening sessions or renting equipment out for you to try at home, that would be ideal in this day and age. Judging by the number of gear stores that aren’t there anymore, how can you argue with dealers thinking of new ways to keep the roof over his head?
I’m with danager.
I think that talking about a fee is really dope.
It’s the quickest way to go out of biz.
There are too many places that offer free returns a price matching now days to set up as a nickel dimer. If you can’t keep the lights on get out.

And there were way too many places that went out of business being nice guys to 'tire kickers' who come in armed with dreams and promises.
Only the guy who's not serious about buying would really bellyache about helping the guy who pays rent, lights, goes to trade shows, reads the trades, buys & finances stock and pays employees only to be the last guy paid when you finally buy the speakers after 12 visits.
The reason he can't keep the lights on has plenty to do with the entitled little mindsets of sneaky little non-buyers who need their wives permission to buy a CD, using his store, his time and his merch.
That said, I do think the $10 an hour thing is a little cheesy. I'd rather rent you the equipment.
"Sorry- but the dealer mark up includes the cost of doing business and that includes marketing."
This is where it gets sometimes gets messy.
The often beleaguered dealer can find themselves between a rock and a hard place
What to do then?  
Relationship break up leading to any or all of the following?
Exaggerated mark-ups?
Increasingly fancy cabling and accessories suggested?
Suggestive language and smooth persuasive sales techniques?
Prejudice and rudeness towards certain customers viewed as 'timewasters'?

In the meantime the customer might begin to see the dealer as a stuck up mercenary with both eyes on the monthly sales chart who is only out there to exploit.  

I'm sorry, but have you ever said to the place where you get your paychecks, 'no boss, I don't want this $1,200. Gas for the car only cost me 20 bucks this week and I'm just happy to do the work to provide service with integrity and see to it that customers are happy. Give me $600'?
Of course he's a mercenary! Do you think he took a second mortgage out on the house and came to work in the morning to stroke you?
You bet I'm going to kick out the time wasting tire kickers. It doesn't take long to qualify a punk who ain't buying and I don't waste time and pay my bills with time wasters.
No one does. You want someone to be nice to you?
Call your grandmother.
@gents
You bet I’m going to kick out the time wasting tire kickers. It doesn’t take long to qualify a punk who ain’t buying and I don’t waste time and pay my bills with time wasters.

For sure!

My dealer has given me some screaming good deals over the past 20 plus years, along with great customer service. I stop in occasionally as a tire kicker to see and hear what’s what and he’s happy to accommodate—he knows I’m not an impulse buyer and there’s a good chance I’ll come back and drop some dough. He’d probably pay me the $10 to get me in more often. Lol
@gents,

"I'm sorry, but have you ever said to the place where you get your paychecks, 'no boss, I don't want this $1,200. Gas for the car only cost me 20 bucks this week and I'm just happy to do the work to provide service with integrity and see to it that customers are happy. Give me $600'?"


I guess I've been fortunate in that I've never been in a position where I had to work for money alone. I was always easily bored, so the work came first and the money second.

I've mainly worked in the public sector where I was able to provide some kind of service to our 'customers'. For sure, employers can drive you crazy at times, but I'm working with them, not for them.

My real employers are the public that pay the taxes.

I've never been particularly ambitious either. Perhaps I should have been more ambitious and have made more money by now.

Sometimes, in my Walter Mitty type moments I've regretted not being able to do more to help friends and family financially by alleviating some of crushing grind of poverty some of them found themselves in.
Even with a generous welfare system like the UK's, that can sometimes happen.

For me a good life is one which you try to fill with fun and interest, and do some good for others along the way.
Let's not also forget that, as far we know, this is a one way journey where each and every moment only comes round once.

Previously I've always been on the side of the customer, always trying to get the best deal, the most 'bang for buck' but hey, guess what?

Dealers are people too.
bslon
... My dealer has given me some screaming good deals over the past 20 plus years, along with great customer service. I stop in occasionally as a tire kicker to see and hear what’s what and he’s happy to accommodate—he knows I’m not an impulse buyer and there’s a good chance I’ll come back and drop some dough.
Exactly, and I've had similar experience. As with many businesses, relationships matter. That is sometimes overlooked by those who are only seeking the "lowest price." The irony is that - because of the kind of customer they are - they often don't get the lowest price. Not in the end.
It makes sense for businesses to charge for anything of value they provide.  The ability to demo gear has value.  I really like the idea of charging since people who want to try something out at the store and then go buy it at the cheapest place online would have to pay something.  Dealers have to make all of their profit from those of us who try not to be bungholes so I'm sure we end up paying more than we otherwise would.  

The idea that the dealer should provide a lot of value for nothing via advice, demos, loans, etc. is a relic of a time before the internet and before such a high percentage of people were selfish turds.  


I would pay $10 to watch a video of people's reactions to being told, "Yeah I know I'm in business to sell, but you have to pay me first."   

Brilliant. 
@millercarbon the people who will have a big problem with this are the bungholes who want to use the dealer services for free and then buy off the internet.  Those of us who would prefer to have and support local dealers won't have a problem with it.  
it’s tough running a store when the managerial help want you to send the kids to private school, rent you and Mama a Benz and comp the uptown apartment all under the table. Tubebuffer almost had it right.

Relationships w dealers are crucial. Not the whole equation.
I demoed a hegel h360 from holm audio  a few years back along with several other products and once I made my decision I asked the salesman for a discount he said no so I asked to pay them for the demo time as I was going to go ahead and buy one used online if they couldn’t budge. On the drive from the store the shop owner called and asked what I was paying for the used one online and after I told him he made me a competitive offer to buy his demo. 

Where there’s a will there’s a way
@millercarbon the people who will have a big problem with this are the bungholes who want to use the dealer services for free and then buy off the internet. Those of us who would prefer to have and support local dealers won’t have a problem with it.

I don’t think that’s quite accurate.

I guess it depends on exactly what we are talking about.


It seems awfully odd to have to pay simply to have a salesman demonstrate a product he wants to sell you.

Especially if YOU the customer are taking time out of your schedule to make the trip to HIS dealership, to offer yourself as a potential customer.He’s got the equipment set up...he should be able to demonstrate it for a customer.


I can’t think of any other business where a customer shows up to check out the wares of a salesman, and has to pay the salesman for the privilege. Can you?


Home demos are another thing, though. That’s hauling gear, sometimes heavy, out to do a "house call" at someone’s house. I can see paying for that.




It's completely accurate, just not usual.  High performance audio requires dealers to exist.  Differences are generally subtle and it's important for there to be places to figure out what the differences are.  Most dealers have disappeared.  Whether other businesses do it isn't important.  What matters is who is providing value to who.  The value is the dealer providing the opportunity for a consumer to decide whether relatively subtle differences are worth the cost.  That's way more important than whatever else dealers do.  
NO...it's part of the business unfortunately, hopefully you will get a sale, if not, you tried.