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.

Showing 6 responses by cd318

@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.
@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...


"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.
@prof ,
"We’ve all had some really bad audio salesmen experiences right?

Here’s a couple of mine:

Local dealer had a speaker line I was very interested in possibly purchasing. I showed up, system was essentially already set up so no effort from the salesmen. Big store, virtually no other customers there (I purposely went at a dead time). As I’m listening I note that the salesmen are just standing about, not having to do anything as there aren’t any other customers. Yet about 20 minutes in to my audition tracks, once of the salesman walks over, turns down my music, and starts giving me the hard sell - "well, what’s it going to be? What is your decision? Are you walking out with these today?" No more listening, it was just pushy, pushy "buy now or not, your listening is over."

I left furious not having been able to get a good idea of whether I wanted the speaker or not.


Ended up in a small room listening to some speakers. Second-In-Command audio salesman has accompanied me and proceeds to talk ENDLESSLY about the speakers and everything else as I’m trying to listen. I can’t concentrate on a thing. I’m hoping he’s going to stop, but he never does. Eventually I ask as politely as possible "I wonder if it’s possible I could listen alone just for a little bit. I find it helps me concentrate best."

The guy left in a huff. Clearly went to tell his boss. The Boss comes in with a sort of "So you think you can mess with us?" smirk, pulls up a chair and sits directly behind me, making occaisional remarks. Clearly a passive agressive move that ruined the experience."

Your unfortunate experiences clearly highlight the need to examine the finer details before trying out a new idea of strategy.

The last thing we’d want is for unscrupulous dealers to exploit this proposal by profiting this concept of a demo charge.

As @jon_5912 said,
"I think if you pay for an audition you’ve got a strong basis for asking to be left alone.

Otherwise it’s an uncomfortable situation where the dealer fears he’s being taken advantage of and is antsy about it.

Why not arrange an agreeable transaction ahead of time?

X dollars for an hour of listening while being left alone."

I am also one of those that would prefer to be mostly left alone during a demonstration. It can be quite stressful whilst you’re in that hinterland between ’yay and nay’.

[To think, once upon a time there used to be listening booths where you could listen at leisure to 45s and LPs in private before deciding which ones to buy].

In any case, this proposal to charge a demo fee should be an attempt to improve relations between customer and dealer, not worsen them.

Having clear terms beforehand could help here.

Removing or at least alleviating the time/cost pressure of a store demo for the dealer (or the transportation work of a home demo) would seem to be a good idea.

Surely it’s better to try to find some way of improving things than they currently stand?

Fair enough, but bear in mind that Hi-Fi dealers are rather thin on the ground these days whereas builders and plumbers are not.

Unless it's Christmas, or a Sunday.

Maybe the real problem is that audiophiles are also rather thin on the ground in these difficult days?

Anyway it's pretty important that we either retain brick and mortar dealers, or we still have plenty of shows we can easily attend.
Speaking of which, after 2 years I finally got to go to another audio show.

This time the UK Audio Show was held at the De Vere Staverton Estate near Daventry, some 60 miles north of London.

Highlights for me included the EJ Jordan Marlows. These metal coned bookshelves were driven by a pair of Nagra tape decks. An astonishingly capable and vivid sound for something this unprepossessing.

I'd never heard any Kudos loudspeakers before but the sizeable Titan 707s certainly made up for the wait. A muscular yet tonally expressive sound made for a rare combination. Many large speakers I've heard tend to get somewhat bleached out amidst the dramatics, not the Titans.

The Kerr K320s, now in their 3rd iteration, sounded as masterful as ever. Perched on what looked like some Townsend speaker bars they sounded progressively more like a reference loudspeaker than ever.

The active Monopulse S were also as good as I recalled. If anybody wanted a speaker that could sound great from just their smartphone/tablet/laptop etc (no other amps /sources required) this would be it.

Finally a mention for the unusual looking Vitavox speakers. Not anything that would catch your ear immediately, but after a short time it became increasingly apparent that here was something different.

The sheer absence of any perceived harshness (or grain if you prefer), was very enticing. You really could listen to these for a very, very long time indeed.

They seemed to make other designs sound harsh by comparison. If you ever wanted a speaker to totally eradicate listener fatigue, this might be it.

As a show bonus we got to hear Russell Kaufman of Russell K loudspeakers give a lecture on how he builds loudspeakers from assembling the drive units by ear, then the cabinets, then the crossovers up.

The demonstration included direct comparisons between different drivers, and contrary to what I'd been led to believe, there were quite significant differences between them. The ribbon tweeter in particular, sounded quite different to the dome in this instance.
Many thanks to all concerned, especially the organiser Roy Bird for all of his stirling efforts in overcoming what must be unprecedented levels of difficulty.

The standard seemed unusually high this year, there just didn't seem to be many headache inducing rooms as I've sometimes found in the past. Credit to all those concerned.

There's some good photos up on the HiFi Pig website courtesy of James Starbuck.

A timely clarification.

That’s the problem here.

Just how does a dealer compete with the internet?

Or is all retail as we know it, ultimately doomed?

Not that long ago I wanted to buy some Adidas training shoes. They had to be all black, have non memory foam inner soles, be breathable /cool to wear, and look reasonably smart.

I found some online and then looked to see where I could buy some in-store as I couldn’t imagine buying shoes without trying them on first.

In the end I had to, as the nearest store was some 19 miles away.

I wasn’t too pleased about this but thankfully they fitted really well.

I’m definitely not one of those people who doesn’t mind the extra hassle of returning things, but who knows, maybe even that will have to change as in-store options continue to diminish at their current rate?