Great dealer experience - AV Auth in VT
I read some of the threads here about bad dealer experiences last night, and wanted to pass on news of a good one, because my experiences have been so much better.
I can't say enough about Audio-Video Authority in S. Burlington, Vermont. The manager (Chris) and owner (Ron) there have treated me right in every way; they have really gone above and beyond.
I've been looking into improved audio for a month or two. I shopped a pair of speakers three or four years ago, and discovered this was the best place in town, but ended up buying a used pair at another local shop (one downside of AV Authority is that while they have some demo units, they don't sell much used stuff).
I came in to buy a $500 receiver. They had a Denon that met my requirements. I asked to hear some better gear just for comparison sake, and they played some Rotel for me, fully expecting that I wasn't likely to buy it anytime soon. I was amazed at the difference. They spent an hour with me that day, and an hour apiece on two subsequent visits. They never pushed the higher-quality gear. They let me listen and decide.
When we talked pricing, they weren't offended, and were willing to discount off list as long as I was considering multiple pieces (even if I just started by buying one!). They really seem to value the long-term relationship.
Finally, the manager (Chris) had me come in afterhours so he could really play with setting up equipment with no switchboxes in the way, and with the speakers of my choice (I hadn't like the Rotel gear in some configurations). He allowed me to bring in my own equipment (my speakers)and a competitor's amp (!) that I borrowed and brought in (I wanted to compare a good integrated to their separates, and they don't have any higher-end integrateds). Chris acted like he had all the time in the world, and really enjoyed doing the comparisons. We played with cables, his better speakers than mine (but he didn't dump on mine either). He stayed until 9:30. They really claim (and act like) they enjoy the long sale more than the quick one (and they get those in the complete home install market -- where people building high-end houses take their advice with no audition), because they say they want people to appreciate what they are getting, and to buy for the music, not for snob appeal.
I took the Rotel stuff home to try (new in the box, 30-days to return with no restocking fee), and returned the integrated to the other dealer. I then borrowed Acurus gear I had heard and liked at a third dealer (more expensive, but available at cutout pricing). I liked the Acurus pre-amp better, so I called AV Authority and said "I think I want a better preamp". They had me come by that day and pickup a Classe demo they were willing to sell at 30% discount. They had been keeping in my stated budget with the Rotel. Actually, they had me listen to the Classe briefly just for information sake, but with different speakers, and different room, I hadn't liked what I had heard, and also was put off by what I was guessing the price to be (I guessed higher than actual).
So now I have three pieces of their gear at home. You bet, I noticed the difference with the Classe pre-amp once I had it at home and did A/B comparisons to the Acurus pre-amp. And while I like the Rotel power amp overall better than the Acurus power amp, I would really like an amp that combines the good characteristics of both power amps. I will be calling today to see what we can do about a step up on the power amp side as well.
So I like to think that we've got a win-win going here -- they are getting a larger sale (and future sales - tuner, CD player, second amp/preamp for the rest of the house), and I am getting a good deal and the feeling that I made a really good choice in terms of the music.
There are three other high-end dealers in town, and they have treated me decently also (I think being in Vermont is a plus for this kind of relationship). But none has given me the same stellar combination of the right equipment for my needs (the other shop providing this level of personal service only sells integrateds in my price range, and they didn't measure up to separates), great service in the store (during and afterhours), good prices, and great policy about in-home demos.
Sorry about the long post, I just want to let people know that working with dealers can definitely be a positive experience. I am definitely better off for not going the "internet-only" approach (if only because I pushed my budget up with actual listening).
If anyone is in Vermont or nearby upstate New York, I highly recommend AV Authority (I am not in any way associated with them, etc...)