Fair point. I have to drive a few hours and while it sounds disingenuous, when I call I act like a complete newbie and they are instantly nicer to me. I have noticed that when I ask detailed questions that indicate knowledge of equipment the kindness evaporates on the spot. We have one Audio store in this town and he literally looks down his nose when he talks to a customer and simply exudes arrogance. The other thing that helps if I am on site is to mention I am a builder and some of my clients ask about setting up HT and prewires. This always makes them even more happy to help. The last thing I want to do is start discussing any technical details for fear of triggering their superiority issues.
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I don't get it. Rant over. Please don't respond that you have an amazing dealer. I'm sure they exist but they are the exception. What I am describing is the typical customer experience.
Right. Typical. We got em here in Seattle. Over the last 30 years it has gotten steadily worse. It is all due to powerful economic forces you can do nothing about. But to the extent you understand what is going on you can at least make the one decision that will help both yourself and the market which is to opt out.
The powerful economic force is that to sell high end Magico etc takes expensive and well-appointed retail space, and a skilled and knowledgeable sales force. None of this is cheap and so the dealer needs his fat 60% gross margin because with all those expenses he really only nets about 5%. And yes at those prices 5% of a big number is a totally livable number- but not if earning it takes too much time. So everything every step of the way is pressing the market to sell high ticket gear to people with money to burn. That ain't you.
So opt out. Consider it as Rocky says a mercy killing. They are gonna die anyway. Don't make things worse auditioning or haggling, make it a clean kill by never going there in the first place. Learn to read reviews. Learn to search out and sift through all the information you need to do the right thing. Believe me, it is out there.
Never come around here asking anyone about anything. Waste of time. All your questions have already been answered. Come around here to read what others think, and practice being a reviewer yourself. Because you are. Every single thing you ever bought you reviewed. Only you just didn't take time to write it up. Instead you bragged or belly-ached.
Taking the time to thoughtfully write it up helps everyone. First and foremost it helps you yourself, because it makes you seriously think about a lot of aspects you might never have seriously considered before. It makes you a better listener. It makes you much more aware of what features really are important to you. Because you write your impression. Not what anyone else thinks matters. What YOU think matters.
This also helps everyone else in that we rely on these impressions. I haven't set foot in a store or show in years. Heck, I have my own shows now! I'm not alone. Other audiophiles have friends over, these if you do them right are terrific opportunities to listen and learn.
So now you know why, and now you know what to do about it. Go forth and spread the Gospel!
I have a great dealer LOL called the internet….
I travel a lot, get to go all over the world and I stumble upon some great gear. If I want it I find it in the US and buy it.
Really a lot of these high end guys are as you stated they are looking for a whale. They are not looking for long term relations with their clients. One and done.
Why the attitude regarding commissioned salespeople? No offense intended, but you are displaying a common prejudice regarding salespeople.
The difference between what you experienced, and commissioned salespeople is this: The person you dealt with over the phone has no idea what business he's in. He actually believes that he's in the audio business, a common mistake made, especially by propellerhead techno-freaks.
A professional commissioned salesperson, on the other hand, understands that he/she is in the people business and that his/her success, and very livelihood, depend upon how he/she treats the customer. What the professional salesperson knows is that the first concern is to find out what the customer's needs are, and then to satisfy those needs. And then ask for referrals.
I speak from experience here having spent over 50 years in commissioned sales.
I once worked for an ultra-high-end audio dealer and watched the guy, over time, mastermind his way out of business. You've described his attitude very well in your post. His people skills were nonexistent. He was actually bothered when people would come into the store. He told me once that they bothered him because "they take me away from my paperwork."
There were many times that I had demonstrated equipment for qualified customers and was just about ready to close the sale, only to have this nerd (the owner) come out of his office, proceed to start talking about slew rates, capacitors, resistors, etc. At that point, I would watch the customer's eyes glaze over and then watch them walk out the door without making a purchase. He kept blowing multi-thousand dollar sales until finally, he had to close the doors. All the customer wanted was to get well-reproduced music in his/her home. They were not looking for lessons in electrical engineering.
No matter what I said to the guy, he just never got it. As a result, his investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars went right down the tubes. To this very day, I still don't think he gets it.
In general, your assessment is right on the mark. Why people with no people skills opt to go into a retail business is beyond me.
So many of these high end dealers are only after the wealthy guy that comes in, spends less than an hour there and orders a complete home theater or 2 channel system and writes a check for $50k or more on the spot.What makes you think that is how high end dealers work?
I might well buy from a dealer if they were actually nice, friendly, and encouraged hanging out and getting to know their gear. But they don't.You're visiting the wrong dealers.
I would never go to a high end store that required an appointment. Because this creates a huge pressure situation for you to purchase that day ... What I am describing is the typical customer experience.Why would you fear a "huge pressure situation?" I suppose that could happen under any circumstance but if it did, you could simply walk away.
Why are you convinced your fear is "typical?"
I understand your frustration. I remember back in the 80’s and 90’s I used to go to high-end stores to audition systems way out of my price range. I hoped for no other customers. The sales people would quickly figure out I couldn’t afford the stuff and ignore me. But I would get to listen to great equipment. Typically they would have some young minimum wage kid to take care of me… so the really knowledgeable guys were free for high end customers. Probability of sale low.
Fast forward to the 2000’s. I am a busy executive flying all over the world with no time, but with money. So, I know I will be in Delaware on Friday. I call up the high end shop… tell them what I have and sound I like and make an appointment. They set the main room with all the appropriate equipment. So, I walk in, have the whole place to myself. Probability of sale… very high.
I now have a dealer that I have had a close relationship with for 20 years. He brings equipment to my house for me to try. My dealer will occasionally spend an afternoon at my house listening to music. Recently I was auditioning a $20K amp, he brought over a $17K DAC that I didn’t ask for or want… he just said, “trust me, you want to hear this”… About a week later out of respect for him I tried it. 30 seconds later I sent him a message and said, “Sold, order one for me”.
So, who is a business owner going to cater to? Many people that have money have no time. Today it is hard to find people to take low paying jobs. So, the business guy does what he has to to remain in business.
@ghdprentice Your positions are exactly what any high-end dealer that is successful will follow and adhere too.
Professional high-end audio sales people in this day and age is often a one man operation or partners that are very knowledgeable and have good customer skills.
They focus on an experience for the by appointment customer, that is looking for a specific piece of equipment or system. It does no one any good to have low paid individuals as an ambassador of an upscale business that could instantly ruin the reputation of a dealer that is trying to cultivate life long relationships with customers that are seeking expertise and great sound!
I can’t see many open 9am-9pm audio drop-in high-end audio stores these days. Margins are typically 40% of retail, not 60% as someone alluded to earlier. Retail space is extremely expensive per square foot these days and that is why many high end dealers have gone to conducting their businesses from a residential address. It helps the retailer watch their costs, allows them to spend more quality time with a customer and allows them flexibility to deliver/setup systems with their limited budget business models.
In the end people will buy from a retailer that has earned their trust, supported their issues and satisfied their itches. This is hallmarks of successful long term businesses.
Prices are always an issue, but a dealer that turns a customers wants into "a need", garners all the customers they could ever dream of creating. That is when a dealer becomes a friend and partner for life.
I think dealers like you mention are simply trying to find the business model that will keep their doors open and some money in their pockets. Clearly there are exceptions to all of this but as an audio hobbyist clearly that store isn’t going to be catered to people like me. It’s catered to deep pockets. “One and done” mentioned above is appropriate except if that big purchase leads to another big purchase for their beach house, then a long term relationship is desirable. Does that mean they miss the occasional big purchaser? Probably, but at the expense of catering to a lot of non purchasers which may require additional staff to serve.
That sort of experience is probably typical of any luxury goods dealer (For example me pulling up in my Hyundai to a Porsche dealership) though admittedly I don’t have a lot of experience with luxury goods retailers. The hobbyist (me) would just eat their time with no significant financial reward for them. Do I like it? No. That’s not how it used to be in my hifi dessert part of the country but that’s just how the business is these days. The hobbyists are relegated to the internet and hifi shows, after all it’s the internet that’s forced many dealers to have that sort of business model to begin with but there were some like that even before the internet.
For me, I’ve been fine with relying on the internet. Buy and try. Don’t like it, sell and move on. If I were ever in the market for new Magico’s or Wilson’s, well that would be a different story as I would then become one of the customers a retailer would want in their doors.
if I'm a serious buyer I have no issues with appointment only...I do miss wandering around the half dozen nice stores we used to have here, though I have a great one an hour away...too many "customers" know they will never buy new from the dealer, despite extensive auditioning, sets up a difficult situation for all...
Oh, the internet can be a whole lot better than "Buy and try." There is this thing called learning from others experience. Most only learn from their own experience. This is another level. It can take some time to get it down. Once you do though, wow.
I just got a Soundsmith Strain Gauge found used. This makes close to 20 years perfect record being really happy with gear bought without audition based entirely on reading, mostly studying other audiophiles impressions. To be honest, the stuff I am finding now doing it this way is much better than I was doing based entirely on auditions, and that was even with a seriously good dealer helping me.
Partly this is because I am a lot better at it now. But also a big part of it is I no longer have that crutch to rely on. Having a good dealer is a two-edged sword. They help you save time by knowing your taste and budget and matching you up. But they also limit. Because let's face it no dealer has everything. The internet however does.
So now I am free to choose from everything available everywhere in the world. Huge advantage.
The one guy here who gets it is ghdprentice. No surprise. He happens to be just the sort of more money than time stroke a check customer dealers want. Good for him. These dealers by the way are not "struggling" they are rolling in it. Just look- dropped off amp and DAC, $37k and the guy strokes a check. $17k of which was pure impulse purchase- $17k, 30 seconds!
They aren't turning us normal paycheck guys away because they are struggling. We are the ones struggling. With reality, I would say.
So it is that in this topsy turvy world we accept reality by going virtual. Heh.
Some people love Tekton speakers for the reasons they love Tekton speakers. That’s great! Said people love telling people how great they are. Also great! Buy and try has demonstrated that the ones I heard aren’t the sound I’m looking for. Trying equipment in my home with my equipment trumps advice on the internet, though opinions and reviews from trusted sources are always taken into consideration to help narrow my choices.
I gave up on bricks and mortars with store fronts long ago, pre-interweb time. I discovered in home dealers willing to spend more time with you, knowledgeable and more willing to negotiate on price. I often purchased demo items as they were often rotating equipment, not trying to sell you entire systems.
High end dealers near me now really more HT than 2 channel stereo, far more profits here and plenty of deep pockets in my area.
I don't know how illuminating this is, but a furniture maker our family business contracts with from time to time was former audio salesman, 1980's into 90's at one of the best audio stores in my area (still in business). He knows I'm an audiophile, loves to tell me how much he despises audiophiles, describes them as arrogant know it alls, excessively aggressive in negotiating prices and service demands. Funniest of all, states obsession with sound quality rather worthless, believes his present Linn system is all one needs. Wonder how many audio salesmen have this attitude, laughing at us behind our backs.
I have a few very good B&M dealers within 1 hour of my home and a couple that I don’t care for. I do find that the trend toward appointment only is becoming more commonplace. I guess the downside of that is, I can’t stop in on impulse but the plus side is if I set an appointment to hear e.g. cartridge and PreAmp combination, it is ready to go when I get there. The other thing I like is I can listen without having background music from someone else in the store. But I personally like the face to face sales/buying approach, that is just me, old fashioned?, maybe. Although I have made friends with other customers in the store and been exposed to music that I would probably not have heard as well.
But in the long run I have found better deals and service via B&M than website.
In the end each dealer has to set his MO based on his business financial footing, fail or succeed, it’s his balls on the table. But if I don’t like a dealer then I don’t go in his store, even if he is the only Brand X dealer in the state.
Personally, I want to see small business survive, that really takes courage especially in today’s business climate. Audio, media, clothing etc, it is a rough terrain out there and I will support whoever treats me as a valued customer. I think sometimes the “stand offish” personality is tension of a businessman hoping to pay the rent. And being understaffed today is more common than it ever used to be, a person can make more tax free standing on a corner with a cardboard sign than having a job.
My opinions of course and I expect contrary rhetoric and that is your right, but just wanted to share another point of view on the subject.
The internet has given tremendous opportunity to younger and less well healed audiophiles. If you have more time and learn to research well you can save a ton of money and have orders of more choices than from a dealer. Like MC says there is a limit to auditioning. I am glad I did what I did when I was younger
BTW, my dealer is doing pretty well… after building his business for twenty plus years.. starting out of his house. But he is not rich by a long shot. These guys can make a good living… the few that do well. But it is not a way to get rich, period. If he had put his effort into being a general contractor, or developer… he would have more money (remember for the first ten years he made just enough to survive). My guy sells on the internet, and lots of low end stuff (he has two employees that make good livings). It takes a lot of skills and work to run a business like this. He programs his own web presence and does some programming on the side, “just in case”.
20 plus year ago I walk into a SF bay area, well known at the time Store front. Me and the wife. I know exactly what I want to buy. I wait, I wait, I wait. NO ONE ask me a question or gave CRAP. The wife had 50k in the purse and a gun.
I walk around look and wait. Finally a guy looks up from his view screen and yells across the floor. Hay MAN what can I do for you? My wife looks at me, I look at her and we start walking out the door. We look pretty common, just Dick and Jane all grown up so to speak.. Spot is waiting in the car...
I leave that store and go to north, south, east and west to the Bay areas Stereo stores, I travel 100s of miles every weekend for 2 months..
I gave up, call a guy in TEXAS and he said fly out let's make a deal. It took him 1 minute to figure out I knew what I wanted.. Said he would make it worth my while to come out and visit him..
We remained friends with a post card EVERY Bday, Christmas/New year card and always asked how the wife kids and Spot was? He retired 10 years ago..
We had a few BBQs and both visited our ancestors grave sites in Rosebud Texas.. BTW he paid for the plane tickets, hotel rooms, food, and transportation. He flew me and the Mrs to the Alamo too. First class guy..
I bought 65+ K over two weeks. I took the receipts to the FIRST store in SF, I wore the same pair of Bib Overalls!
66,500.00 the wife took his picture, he was actually crying..
I had to leave the whole STATE!!! To get treated like a human..
Great story oldhvymec. Goes to show you can never judge a book by it's cover. Never pays to prejudge anyone based on their looks.
Reminds me of the time when I used to go listen to a friend learn to play piano back in jr. college. They had many sound proof rooms and the one my friend used also had a harpsichord. He was a quick learner having only played guitar but made some really impressive progress. A natural if I ever saw one.
One day this kid came in after he'd finished and we were just hanging out. That kid had old overalls on as well with hands that looked like he just got done planting the lower 40.
When he sat down at the harpsichord and started to play some Bach, our jaws dropped. We stayed the whole time he played just soaking in the music. You never can tell.
All the best,
I agree with the OP.
I think the local retailers need to realize it is almost 2022 and adapt their business to current times and expand their market via the Internet. There is no denying that this is how the world is going especially with the younger generations.
"Local" is relative. The world has gotten smaller.
To be fair, manufacturers also need to adapt to this and stop limiting their dealers by geography. I don’t get it....sounds like a racket to me.
Maybe these local shops could become the next TMR Audio or PS Audio.
I would bet that in the future more manufacturers will start making the move to a direct to consumer model that would make all of this moot.
The biggest complaint I have heard for a dealer here in Montreal (Canada) is that he found himself catering to a substantial customer base that have no intention of buying from him. They come in only to waste his time listening to some gear that they have seen online at a cheaper price. So, these "customers" go to the dealer, occupy a listening room and waste his time listening without ever buying anything.
Hopefully, he came to identify them and now ignores them.
But, he usually gets burn once or twice before figuring out the gimmick.
To me, that is the greatest threat to the dealers: non-paying customers who just abuse his place and his time.
Many other dealers were suffering from the same situation and the pandemic did not help at all, and we lost many dealers in Montreal.
Codell (the one I was talking about) still survive because they have an excellent service and good prices.
But, there are always "customers’" who are trying to cheat ...
I think the audio store guys are stressed and underpaid and have trouble making sales.
The way of the world revolves around greed. Big business wants to streamline the route between your wallet and theirs and this means that the middle man will suffer the most.
The days of a salesman spending time with the teenager who clearly can't afford what he's in the store to ask about (but the salesman thinks that one day he might) are basically gone.
You know what, I love this post. We have a high end store in Gig Harbor Washington and the store owner is a dick. Always feel like I am putting him out every time i go there and i could buy anything in his store....almost. Anyway, I dont go there anymore and I have made purchases there. So.... I get it. Some of these guys have no idea what makes a consumer click. And by the way, buying local? That just means not buying from someone else who is also local to someone else.... big whooop
I walked into one here in my city in SoCal and they asked me to make an appointment and come back. I didn't. They wanted to know what component I am ready to buy. I told them I would know it when I saw it. they frowned. I never went back. Tried another store that is farther away but recommended by a friend. They want an appointment. I asked if I could stop by after my hike just north of their store. they weren't encouraging. I've bought 2 amps, a preamp, and a DAC since these stores turned me away.
Good points. I hadn't been to ANY audio retailers since Ieft DC for Huntsville, Alabama in 2006. And even in DC then there were only a couple brick & mortar stores left.
Whilst I certainly never felt pressure to make an appt and any retailer in 40yrs in the hobby, I must say that the fairly newly opened AVIQ in Huntsville, Al (Macintosh, NAD, Classe, Klipsch, among many other brands) gave me the EXACT opposite impression of OP's experience. And I was SO happy just be in a high end store again! They'd been doing custom high-end home installations for 25yrs-ish and only opened the store rather as a hobby than a profit center. So they expressly made it clear that I, or anyone else, can just come in, shoot the sh** (can't believe I have to edit that word here), listen to some fine audio eqpt and music with really no pressure to buy anything. And as the OP says, they know that they'll be the first place I go when I might want to buy something and certainly where I will recommend someone to go if they are looking for high end gear.
OP makes a great point. I had the same experience about 5 years ago here in Scottsdale with US Tube Audio. They advertised here all of the brands that they carry and it sounded great. On a day off, I spent an hour driving there to check them out, only to find a professionally printed sign on the door (apparently used frequently) saying that they were out on an installation!
I have two problems with that. First, there should always be someone minding the store during business hours. Second, if you are going out on installations during business hours, you should advertise "by appointment only", which they didn't.
To make matters worse, when I politely called them on it, they got nasty and threatened to report me to Audiogon.
Another post to produce a cascade of opinions. Sure, many have experienced relations with these "brick and mortar" dealers whether high end or not. First, the products a dealer offers must be ones you've already researched as prospective candidates. Then, if required, make an appointment for an audition. If the appointment turns into a pressure tactic to coerce you into buying...walk out after deciding if the product is not what you want.
Like the OP stated, every location has exceptions to the tactics used by some independent dealers. The OP also stated the "typical customer experience". I wish I knew exactly what that is? We are probably not talking about "typical" purchases such as buying a shovel at Home Depot.
i cannot argue with the op’s titled assertion that poor customer service is one big reason why brick and mortar hifi stores struggle - no doubt this is true, many examples of this for sure
but as usual, there are many other sides to the story as to why this happens
- brick n mortar hifi retail is a darned tough business, these stores usually struggle mightily, even in pre covid times
- owners of these stores are often enthusiasts and not the best business people, sales people or managers -- these are small businesses, and leaving side the owner's issues it is hard to attract and keep talented employees
- many many 'customers' abuse these stores and the time/energy of the personnel there - visit, touch and feel, yack yack, then buy online
- many many customers, ones capable of buying pricey gear, are often jerks who mercilessly grind the store for a few hundred bucks of profit, like it is sin to cover their overhead and make a buck
- most importantly, as one wise poster stated below, once they have committed the time, capital, energy to have such a business, these retail shop owners just do the best they can, and do what they need to do to get by, stay afloat
that all this often leads to poor customer service, overlooking potentially attractive customers in jeans and tee shirt that come in the store... it is all part of the terrain and part of the chosen life... no one is perfect, actually far far from it... for better or worse, they only have the time, money, talent, skill (or lack thereof) that they have, and are just tryin’ to get by...
Hmmm, appointments, limited hours and probably limited selections? Why not just join an audio club with enthusiastic members with diverse equipment that would be glad to share their experiences and knowledge with you? The audio industry is in sad shape with the exception of a few national dealers. They forgot that the looker today will be a customer tomorrow with more dollars to spend.
Audio clubs can be good, but so can "high-end dealers." My local shop in Ann Arbor only required an appointment during Covid days, but not in general. It is a great place to browse, talk to knowledge folks, and demo potential purchases. They also host night events, complete with wine and cheese, where new high high end products are demonstrated. They serve every customer here in Ann Arbor, MI.
I’ve many times walked into a store with thousands in cash ready to buy (not just audio, once it was for a Porsche SUV!) and walked out with nothing. The ONLY thing brick and mortar stores have to offer over the internet is service. And most don’t understand that. When I worked in audio in the 80’s way before the web there were plenty of people just price shopping or just looking. So that is a BS excuse from stores today.
I've been a pretty successful sales rep throughout a couple of careers- and I like commission. Wouldn't work for any other kind of pay. The worst thing to me? A schmk who knows the word 'commission' wants to talk to me about my money.
Do you have the nuts to talk to your Doctor about how he gets paid?
Ask him if he'll work for less? You don't. What do you think your lawyer works on? You don't ask them to work for nothing.
Don't worry about what I'm getting paid or how I'm getting paid- worry about not being a punk-a#s tire kicker, which an experienced pro will figure out pretty shortly.
It's not anyone's job to entertain you on the Saturday afternoon that your wife has the kids on the faint hope that you might have the dough at some point to match all your high-end rhetoric. When you do get it, will you spend it with me because I was a really nice, patient guy with you? No. That's not what tire kickers or johns do.
i wish there was a high end audio salon within 2 hours of where i live. only in the big cities it seems. i've been there and been treated like dog$#!+ stuck on the heel of their fancy italian shoes, but i was assertive in terms of listening to their equipment with MY music. they basically treated me as an afterthought but it was a slow day for them so they tolerated me, and surprised the hell out of them when this rag-wearing hippie bought something off of them even if it was entry-level. they treated me a bit better after that. but they closed down before i could get to know them better. what a world. i miss that place. it made me feel like i was a classier person in there.
The ONLY thing brick and mortar stores have to offer over the internet is service.Well, they also offer the chance to listen to the products they sell. You cannot do that over the internet, unless you count a 30-day return policy. That can work pretty well for small components. It could be inconvenient if you had to return something as big and bulky as speakers.
Another thing many brick and mortar stores offer is a trade-in option, or consignment sales, in case you don't want to deal with selling it yourself.
I’ve gave up on our local brick and mortar store for reasons very similar to yours. I honestly tried many times thinking maybe they were having a bad day or they were short staffed and so on. But time and time again, I got the ’you’re wasting my time’ attitude or no service at all---not even a ’hello’ when I walked in. Another thing that annoyed me (but I tried to overlook) was that they kept the place untidy. Everything was dusty, the floors were old and clutter everywhere. But time and time again, I gave them the benefit of the doubt. My last visit was when I went in to look at some vinyl and got the ’attitude’ again and I’ve never gone back. I’ve traveled to northern VA and a couple of other places within 50-100 miles to purchase my components and got great service. My online source has been Music Direct and they are great to work with. If my local store goes out of business, no tears from me. Maybe someone with a little class and good business sense will buy them out.
Lot of grumpy old men on this thread? The world of sales has changed in the last 20 years. Thanks internet. If someone wants to open a store, it's their business to succeed or fail. They have the right to run it any way they choose and you have the right to reward them with your hard earned dollars or not. Wonderful world that way. Also, one person's idea of a great sales experience will not be the same as the next. You want that prefect retail experience? Risk your own money and open a store. Sounds like many of you know exactly what it takes. You' ll make a killing? The rest, just chill out and listen to some music.
I have be careful with word here. This idea that store should be there to serve you is knuckle dragging liberal philosophy full of expectation that group exist to serve your need. This guy there to earn income to pay tax to keep kid educated and country safe not please anyone or else they moan groan about it.maybe solution you go see guy and tell him you spend 10 hours week there and work commission. Maybe you satisfy you need and help this guy and maybe make some money yourself too instead of discourage people from like business that strugggle.