This might just be the end of brick and mortar


stores. Music direct just announced there 60 day return policy.
taters
Well Taters, tell us about it. Don't leave us hanging.
Put it to rest sputz, you have been preaching this for years, Go back to AA, you are loved by all there ;-) BTW: it is their 60 day return policy not "there 60 day return policy"
This won't end brick and mortar stores, but it might be another nail in the coffin (still need a few more to make sure it is sealed). This policy is essentially a retailer "warranty", i.e., if the item was damaged in shipment or defective. I don't think the intent of the policy is to "demo" equipment for up to 60 days, you might have a tough time getting them to accept "I just don't like it" as your reason for returning a piece of equipment. Especially when you do it multiple times. A good brick and mortar store will let you take home a piece of equipment for free, just give 'em your credit card. The other part of this offer is shipping, you might get free shipping to you, but the policy states return shipping is the responsibility of the customer. For a single item that might be OK, but if you want to demo several pairs of speakers it ain't gonna be cheap!
I recently had a (second) great experience where I was able to audition (reasonably expensive) gear in my own home/system for 10 days with no obligation to purchase and no cash or credit exchanging hands except that I paid one-way return shipping. In this case I ended up purchasing the piece and will receive a brand new one in the finish I want, after some customization I requested is completed. Excellent service and business model, IMO.
I haven't been in a B&M shop in over 5 years because I think it is disrespectful to shop the store and then buy from an on-line vendor or buy used. I have also had very good experiences purchasing direct from well-known boutique manufacturers.
Unfortunately, the B&M shop cannot compete with these models. I believe there is still a customer base for the B&M shop but, unfortunately, that base has been squeezed from one end by the Best Buy model, which now carries mid-level, main-line gear, and by folks like Music Direct and Audio Advisor, and at the other (higher level) end by savvy on-line retailers who are now offering in-home auditions, lower prices due to no middle mark-up, and generous buy and try policies with low cost, no hassle, return options. At the mid to upper high end level, excellent results and customer service can be had by dealing directly with boutique designers/manufacturers who are passionate about their products and about customer satisfaction.
I see B&M shops hanging in either as a "showroom" for businesses that do the majority of their sales on-line, or in major metropolitan areas where there are many customers with a lot of money and/or not a lot of time to mess around on-line so they want to be able to walk in, hear it, buy it, and enjoy it without a lot of research, trial and error, shipping back and forth, etc. I could be wrong but that is where I see things going.
Brick and mortar will always be around i like Music Direct but a great audio store will always be better.
Nada chance !!!

Low fi, mid fi and cheap Chi-fi be may be ordered up online ....sure ...but quality built and superior performance High-end hi-fi is only available at a dealer; and that coupled with a relationship with your dealer will not be replaced by these types.
For some reason I always dread going to Best Buy and only go there when absolutely necessary. Never listen to audio gear there.
I think the end result of this will be that the B&M stores will cease to offer the brands that Music Direct carry, e.g. Marantz, Denon, etc, but other brands that require B&M dealers will keep their doors open.
Much in the same vein as CD(s), not a chance at all. On-line vendors could never offer a 'showroom' experience.
Additionally, the high-end to ultra high-end gear will always require a B&M operation to sell its wares.

One thing that must stay in context, is that, a relationship followed by customer service by both the dealer/retailer and manufacturer!

Happy Listening!
What!? Real high end is available direct from the builder and stores are not the only place to get real high end gear. Where did that statment come from?
Strongly agree with Grannyring. There is great gear at every level available direct from small builders.
If a B&M has great customer service and can truly consult, like John at Audio Connection and a few others around the country, then we will still have stores going forward. I personally pay the extra to the stores to get products that not only sound great, but great together. Too many components don't sound good together, but a great dealer will know what has synergy. In the end, I feel that I've saved a ton of money by getting what it right up front. Too many folks on here and who buy from the net are never happy and keep buying and selling at either big or small loses. To me, that's a waste of time and money.....but that's just me.
They are the one's offering the 60 day return policy. That's basically means you have 60 days to return product, no questions asked. They used to give a 30 day policy but recently changed it. I think the only reason they are doing this is to squeeze brick and mortars. There is not one brick and mortar in the country that will give you 60 days to return something. Most sales at brick and mortars are final sales. No returns.
No, I don't think so. I would speculate, however, that if it wasn't for Home Theater being the big hitter, high-end two channel would not be enough to keep the doors open at many shops.
Too many folks on here and who buy from the net are never happy and keep buying and selling at either big or small loses. To me, that's a waste of time and money.....but that's just me.
To ME, mistakes are an important ingredient in gaining valuable experience and knowledge. You will never learn anything new if afraid making mistakes.

I find the journey is as important and fun as the destination. It's so satisfying when everything clicks.

I always do my homework before purchases so don't cycle through gear very often. But this is a hobby and hobby do cost $$.

Too many components don't sound good together, but a great dealer will know what has synergy. In the end, I feel that I've saved a ton of money by getting what it right up front.
This is where experience from mistakes and successes will help in building a balance satisfying system.

If you don't have any experience, how do you know what you really like and not what B&M just sold you?

I personally pay the extra to the stores to get products that not only sound great, but great together.
Not me. I find most B&M are just audiophiles like myself with similiar amount of knowledge and experience. With the internet and audio shows, I don't need B&M.
"Most" is the key word and they "do" ask questions. Taters (sudz on AA forum), Did you actually read the policy?

- Music Direct offers a 60-day money back guarantee on most equipment/accessories (excluding fluids, pastes, aerosols and special order items, none of which are returnable).

We'll require an explanation for the return (defective, damaged, etc). Don't be surprised if we ask you some pretty detailed questions about the reason for your return. Hearing first hand what our customers are experiencing will enable us to provide you with the best possible service.

Returns will not be accepted without a Return Authorization #, or RMA# which must be obtained by phone or email. An RA must be obtained within 60 days of the purchase, and Music Direct must receive the package within 15 days of issuing the RA. Note that after 60 days all sales are final. Please write your RA# on the outside of the shipping box (not the product box). Failure to do this will delay the processing of your return. Your return package must include the following: a copy of your invoice, a note detailing the reason for the return, all original packing materials, including cables, power supplies, instructions, remote controls, warranty cards, etc. Your package must arrive in resalable condition. If these instructions are not followed your return will not be accepted.

If your return package is deemed acceptable after inspection, Music Direct will refund the purchase price of the returned item. Shipping costs will NOT be refunded. Return shipping costs are also the responsibility of the customer. Music Direct will absorb the shipping costs only in the case of defective merchandise (this does not include shipping costs for defective music titles, which is the responsibility of the customer). Please note that if defective merchandise proves to be non-defective upon inspection, or if Music Direct otherwise determines the customer is exercising chronic abuse of the return policy, the customer will be charged a re-stocking fee at Music Direct's discretion. Music Direct also reserves the right to impose a re-stocking fee at our discretion for any returned item that is damaged, cosmetically dinged or returned missing accessories. Also please note, if you received Free Shipping with your initial order and you returned the non-defective item, we will deduct the initial shipping fee from your refund. Any and all packages that are refused delivery and sent back to music direct without an RMA number will not be refunded the initial shipping charge and a restocking fee will be added to the return.
I would like to share my experience with a 60 day return policy with a well known online speaker seller.
I ordered and paid for the speakers in June 2014. After about a 6 week wait for them to be built, I received the speakers about mid July 2014.

After a month, I decided they weren't for me. I requested a return. At this time I was asked about my amplifier. It is a very high end tube design...the speakers were designed with tubes in mind. Well I was told that the speakers did not really mate well my brand of amplifier. It was suggested I change my amp. Well this did not suit me as I like the amp and was not going to change it.

After a few more emails I was told I needed to WAIT the entire 60 days before returning??? I did that and finally returned them as new.
Weeks passed, I heard nothing. Got in touch with the email rep and the story was they had been busy with shows...etc. After several more emails, I finally got a refund to my credit card. This will be on the next statement...six months after the order was placed.
Long story, but buyer beware.
Taters, I disagree with your statement "That basically means you have 60 days to return product, no questions asked". From the Music Direct 60 day return policy, it states "We'll require an explanation for the return (defective, damaged, etc). " This is NOT a free demo as you infer.
This entire thread is based on a false premise.

Per Taters: "They are the one's offering the 60 day return policy. That's basically means you have 60 days to return product, no questions asked."

When I read the return policy, here's what I see: “Music Direct offers a 60-day money back guarantee on most equipment/accessories (excluding fluids, pastes, aerosols and special order items, none of which are returnable). We'll require an explanation for the return (defective, damaged, etc). Don't be surprised if we ask you some pretty detailed questions about the reason for your return.”

Taters, how you get "no questions asked" out of the return policy's actual language is beyond me.

Pmotz said it best earlier: "This policy is essentially a retailer "warranty", i.e., if the item was damaged in shipment or defective. I don't think the intent of the policy is to "demo" equipment for up to 60 days, you might have a tough time getting them to accept "I just don't like it" as your reason for returning a piece of equipment."

Nothing in the Music Direct return policy tells me that Music Direct has adopted The Cable Company model.
I have always interpreted MD's earlier 30-day policy as effectively an in-home demo, though I don't think I've ever tested it. My guess is the change to 60 days is to match Crutchfield. I doubt it will increase the volume of returns for them (30 days is generally enough to make a decision), but it may increase sales. Certainly makes me more inclined use them.
Muzikat,
Mind sharing who the online speaker seller is?
I think this information is valuable for future buyers.
"Taters, how you get "no questions asked" out of the return policy's actual language is beyond me."

Some people hate B&M stores so much, they'll say anything.

Back to the OP. Has anyone ever done business with MD? If you haven't, you'll find that its a very high pressure type of environment and the people that work there don't know much about audio. They probably need to offer a better return policy just because of their own incompetence.
Music Direct and/or its policies have little to do with the demise of the Brick and Mortar Stereo Shoppe....which caught a full tailwind without any help from Music Direct. There are simply not enough target customers remaining, who have not found other ways to buy their gear, to support B&M stores. Some will survive, because of their location in major metropolitan areas, because they have significant on-line sales, because they are extremely well run by passionate proprietors, or a combination of these. Without at least two of those three attributes, success will be very difficult.
I'm pretty much in agreement with Mitch2 (did you mean tailwind, toward demise, or headwind, to buffet their advance?)
We have short memories, I think. Even in the heyday of the 'stereo store' (before we needed to distinguish so-called 'Brick & Mortar' from its virtual counterpart), there were a lot of shortcomings with the conventional dealer 'model'- dealers could not conceivably carry every line, couldn't account for synergies among brands they didn't sell (not sure they did it effectively even among the brands they did), and wanted you to buy what they were selling, not what you thought you wanted. Forget the attitude issues, the lack of support, and the limited knowledge- most dealers could not deliver what they promised, and that's why the premium charged wasn't worth it to a considerable number of customers. Today's high end dealer doesn't need a retail store front, operates by appointment, makes house calls, provides support, loaners and takes good care of long term customers. That costs money and there are probably only a small handful of dealers in the States that are able to do that. The rest- well, remember when 2 channel stereo basically crashed as a consumer product, and most dealers turned to home theatre as a revenue stream? And now that you can buy most of that online unless you are looking for a large 'install,' they are back to where they were- yes, probably a small handful have enjoyed the 'bump' from renewed interest in analog, but I gotta believe that the business has been suffering at the middle price point for decades. (No animus against dealers, btw, just an observation, based on a fair amount of experience).
I'm fortunate enough to live in NY where there still exist a small number of "bricks and mortar " shops. The one that is most like the old days is Stereo Exchange in the city - walk right in, look around, listen, and they probably have it in stock to carry out. Pretty amazing considering the capital investment required to fund that sort of inventory these, or in those days.

I keep my audio and video interests apart. I appreciate the picture quality that today's flat screens offer, but I've found surround sound to be more annoying than enticing. I have to admit that I haven't bothered to purchase a true audiophile surround system, but I've never found it justifiable. On the other hand, I'm still chasing the two channel audio dragon going on 33 years now and I still enjoy it.
So how is it that companies like Audio Research, Wilson, Magico and the hundreds of other high-end manufacturers are able to push their product. Who are the first buyers of this class of gear? What are the supply and distribution chains?

I agree that B&M stores are falling by the weigh-side (sp?), so how are these companies getting their product to market ... and ultimately into the hands of retail customers.

Zd 542, I totally disagree with you. They have a guy that works there named Bess. He probably knows more about analog than any other dealer in the country. I would bet music direct sells more turntables than the top 5 audio dealers in the country. Besides Bess they do have some other knowledgable phone reps. If you want to deal with reps that have no knowledge call Audio Advisor.
Music direct gives you a 30 day trial to try out the equipment and see if you are happy with it. Now they are offering you 60 days. I don't believe this has anything to do about warranty. I will call music direct tomorrow and ask them why they are now offering 60 day return policy. Then I will report back my findings.
Bifwynne, high-end USA audio manufacturers, like the companies you listed, have USA based dealer networks with locations typically in major metropolitan areas. Many of them also do a thriving overseas business.
Bifwynne...Audio Shows open to the public is having a huge impact on the market. Yes, there is a lot of equipment sold at the shows, but more than that it allows audiophiles to hear/experience many different options and go home and order the equipment or find it on a site like AudioGon. The Audio Shows, like the one I recently attended in Denver, brought in people from all over the country. I believe there will always be a place for high-end audio shops, but there may be fewer of them as time goes by. There are lots of Home Theater installation companies doing well without store fronts. High-end two channel only stores are almost a thing of the past. The high-end world is changing and not necessarily for the worst in my opinion.
"11-16-14: Bifwynne
So how is it that companies like Audio Research, Wilson, Magico and the hundreds of other high-end manufacturers are able to push their product. Who are the first buyers of this class of gear? What are the supply and distribution chains?

I agree that B&M stores are falling by the weigh-side (sp?), so how are these companies getting their product to market ... and ultimately into the hands of retail customers."

They control their dealer network. If a dealer wants to sell the brands you list, they sign a contract that lays out everything they can and can't do. Most, if not all, of the companies similar to the ones you list, will not let anything other than a B&M store sell their product.
Some of you guys don't understand how business works. Sorry, that's the reality here. We've heard the stories about returns...I too have had a problem similar in the past. I just won't buy that way. You don't save money in the long run either. Shows aren't great places to hear products that you want. The rooms stink and you can't hear your own music for hours...YOu hear only what they have in the room. Good luck with your mail order.....There are and will be top stores....the top ones will stay in business and the lousy ones will leave..just like a real market...
I'm with Ctsooner -- good point!
Guess now what will happen with prices and with mark-up...
Oblgny- I don't know if you remember what made the Stereo Exchange special in the early days- it was a bazaar of used high end- you could walk in and find the last flavor of the month at a decent price compared to retail or the usual discount. I bought tons of stuff from Dave in the old days- after the used market shifted to A-gon, the store lost that mojo. And, SE shifted to home theatre, as a lot of dealers did. I have fond memories of the place and used to enjoy some of the staff, who have moved on in different directions. I still speak to Dave occasionally- he is a good guy.
Home Theater and Computers, SmartPhones, ate up the income that used to buy audio.
For 90% of the buyers it was never the music, just what was kool at the time.
Schubert- true, and since my niece, a millennial, seems perfectly content to watch a film or listen to music on her computer with a small ancillary sound system, this stuff has functionally replaced hi-fi and even 'home theatre' gear, rather than just being a diversion to something else.
I just confirmed with Bess at Music direct that it is indeed a 60 day return privilege and not a 60 day warranty like some of you had said. You have 60 days to review a product and at the end of 60 days if you are not happy with it you can send it back for a full refund. If you send it back you will have to pay for shipping and insurance. The only items excluded are fluids, cartridges and special order Items. He said it is the best return privilege in the audio business.
"11-16-14: Taters
Zd 542, I totally disagree with you. They have a guy that works there named Bess. He probably knows more about analog than any other dealer in the country. I would bet music direct sells more turntables than the top 5 audio dealers in the country. Besides Bess they do have some other knowledgable phone reps. If you want to deal with reps that have no knowledge call Audio Advisor."

With something like this, I've got no problem with being proven wrong. I haven't dealt with them in a few years, so maybe they fixed a few problems. Although, I don't know if I would agree that they know more than any other dealer in the country. I can name a few others that may be just as good. I also agree on Audio Advisor. They set the bar pretty low. Its hard to believe, but they used to be really good. It was a long time ago, but they used to have a great reputation.
The guys that work at Audio Advisor remind of guys that work at Best Buy. They are basically retail clerks with no knowledge.
I can promise you that Nick at Audio Connections knows as much about set up and sound than all the other old timers. How can say that Bess knows more than anyone else in the country? How do you know since you don't got to B&M stores? I have been to many great stores recently. These guys all know a ton about analog. Does Bess know how his turntables, arms and cartridges sound with preamps they don't sell? How about how well they mate with my Ayre integrated amp and Vandersteen Treo's with top AQ cables? I bet he has no clue unless he recently went to a B&M to listen to Ayre and Vandy's, which I doubt. I get that you love Music Direct and I use them for vinyl purchases. I have nothing against any good dealer and I consider them a very good dealer, but aren't putting anyone out of business. Those of us who shop B&M don't want to deal with mailing stuff back etc....
Business has and continues to change. Going direct is indeed good
business and one can indeed save big sums of money. Often times the
gear is also much better. Small boutique companies making extraordinary
gear out of passion and innovation. We are all buying online more and
more for most things.

High end companies are increasing prices very sharply as the demand and
volume continue to decline for their products. These expanded prices and
margins are further exaggerated with high dealer mark-ups. This ever
expanding pricing cycle of high end gear is simply out of control for many of
the big brand, dealer pushed products.

Yes, exceptions exist, but goodness the prices asked for amps with so so
parts quality is astounding to me. $20,000 speakers with 50 cent resistors
and $10 caps. Tube amplifiers with puny power supplies, cheap parts and
so so trannys for $10,000 - $20,000.

As a long time Aphile I am getting more and more disturbed by the
unreasonable pricing so evident in our hobby.
They may not put Audio Connection out of business because he is one of the most knowledgable dealers in the country. Most dealers are not Audio Connection. Most dealers are marginal as it is. Something like Music Direct offering a 60 day trial period could really hurt those marginal dealers. At this point all Music Direct has to do is convince some of the big hitters out there to come aboard and you will see dealers dropping like flies. Don't think it can happen, we'll just look at some of the lines Music Direct carries now. It would of been unheard of 10 years ago. Places like Music Direct are doing big numbers out there and some of these big boys who have recently been acquired by conglomerates are all about the bottom line. Not to get off subject but even a well known company like Ferrari is going to start producing more cars. People said it would never happen. Things are changing in the market place fast and one day you will see companies like Music Direct and Acoustic Sounds carrying a lot more high end brands. These companies have more exposure to the market via their website and mail order catalogues than small specialty retailers.
Zs542. Regarding Music Direct -- they indeed may have changed. You mentioned that you haven't dealt with them for a few years. I've only dealt with them for a few years -- and have never sensed that I was dealing with a high pressure salesperson. That would have turned me off.

OTOH. Based upon the folks that I've dealt with, I can't give an opinion regarding their product/industry knowledge.
Bess at MD really knows his analog. I call him every now and then. Nick at Audio Connection really really knows his analog. I buy from Audio Connection if I am looking for something carried by both places, like my latest Dynavector cartridge. For those items not carried by Audio Connection and other local dealers that I like, Bess at Music Direct is it.
Whart, I agree with you regarding SE. I've been dealing with Dave and Alan there for the past few years. They're still the most old school store I know of around here. I have a store literally around the corner from where I live which used to be a good store - it still is if HT is your bag. Problem there is they stock ZERO. I've auditioned equipment there and after once having waited 6 weeks for a REL sub I gave up. After that, it's been SE for me - and they're 55 miles away.
So when you buy from MD you might be getting something that
has been used for 2 months so do they resell it as used? I am
not comfortable with that policy!
Taters (sudz) says:

“I just confirmed with Bess at Music direct that it is indeed a 60 day return privilege and not a 60 day warranty like some of you had said. You have 60 days to review a product and at the end of 60 days if you are not happy with it you can send it back for a full refund”

Not true and lots of hurdles to jump over.

-From the MD website:

Music Direct offers a 60-day money back guarantee on most equipment/accessories (excluding fluids, pastes, aerosols and special order items, none of which are returnable)

- "Most" being a key word.

We'll require an explanation for the return (defective, damaged, etc). Don't be surprised if we ask you some pretty detailed questions about the reason for your return.

Returns will not be accepted without a Return Authorization #, or RMA# which must be obtained by phone or email. An RA must be obtained within 60 days of the purchase, and Music Direct must receive the package within 15 days of issuing the RA. Note that after 60 days all sales are final.

If your return package is deemed acceptable after inspection, Music Direct will refund the purchase price of the returned item. Shipping costs will NOT be refunded.

- "Deemed" another key word.

Please note that if defective merchandise proves to be non-defective upon inspection, or if Music Direct otherwise determines the customer is exercising chronic abuse of the return policy, the customer will be charged a re-stocking fee at Music Direct's discretion. Music Direct also reserves the right to impose a re-stocking fee at our discretion for any returned item that is damaged, cosmetically dinged or returned missing accessories. Also please note, if you received Free Shipping with your initial order and you returned the non-defective item, we will deduct the initial shipping fee from your refund. Any and all packages that are refused delivery and sent back to music direct without an RMA number will not be refunded the initial shipping charge and a restocking fee will be added to the return.

- A simple saying: " I don't like the way it images in my system and I want to return it", I bet just won't cut it. It's going to cost you, especially heavy items. You will not get a FULL refund, maybe only the purchase price minus expenses.
Yogiboy, that is a good question. I'll send them an email and see what they say.
Dill, if they are so negative on returns like you Insist. Why would they offer a 60 day return privilege? It doesn't make any sense.
Anyone going to see Richard Vandersteen on Saturday at Audio Connection? I'll be there from start to finish as I am looking at a few upgrades and it's a long drive so it's fun to hang out. let me know if you are going so we can meet.