Sure. I do it all the time. Just be up front about it.
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I used to make a point whenever visiting a new city, either in the US or abroad, to seek out and visit the local audio shops. It do much anymore, mainly because I am quite happy with my system. One would think that after all these years of buying and selling and trading I would finally find audio nirvana. Well I'm getting pretty darn close.
I do it, but I go in with a purpose. In other words act like a buyer...I'll say I'm looking for some speakers in the $--- range. Once you're with a salesman in a sound room, you can inquire about some of the other gear.
But I always say that I'm a couple months away from a purchase.
It's so much easier to get a salesman's attention than in years past when they would look at you and give you the "once-over."
I'm in retail, and my fellow sales associates have a lot of unflattering names for people like you; but the one YOU should remember is "timewaster". Don't think that the salespeople you are doing this to don't know (and resent) you. All stores that sell luxury goods have regular non-customers who make a habit of coming in and pretending that they are going to purchase something. They do it for different reasons. Sometimes, it's to pass the time. With others, it's just a case of dreaming about things they can't afford. There are also those who want to try on or hear in this case, things that they actually want, but have no intention of buying new. They are going to buy online used, and they have already resolved to do that.
Of course there is nothing wrong with browsing in a store that you have stumbled upon, or even deliberately looked for. The problem is that people like yourself are wasting the valuable time of the commissioned sales associate who is there trying to make a living. While he is doing a fruitless demo, or just shooting the breeze with you, he is missing his next turn to wait on a client who may actually want to buy something from him/her.
I live in the Phoenix area, and there is one very large, and one small high end audio store near where I work in the city. I was in the small store once with a friend who needed service on his turntable. I was interested to look around while he was doing his business, but I made it clear that I was not a customer. The other store (US Tube Audio in Scottsdale) has a lot of things that I would love to see and hear, but for the reasons stated above, I will not go into that store and pretend to be a customer. The fact is that for many years now, I have bought my equipment online, whether new or used, mostly here on Audiogon, or from manufacturers that sell direct to consumer. I readily admit that I do so because I can't afford to buy most of these items new, even though doing so comes with certain advantages.
So Lowrider, I don't know what you do to earn a living, but I will make a guess that you don't appreciate having people interrupt you while you are trying to do it. Maybe you have never looked at it from the point of view of the salesperson before. If not, then you should. If you have, and you still continue to do it, then you should consider changing your screen name from Lowrider to Lowlife.
Roxy54 wrote "The problem is that people like yourself are wasting the valuable time of the commissioned sales associate who is there trying to make a living. While he is doing a fruitless demo, or just shooting the breeze with you, he is missing his next turn to wait on a client who may actually want to buy something from him/her."
Wow! Do you purchase a book every time you walk into a Barnes & Noble? I don't want to flame you for what I assume is a defense of brick and mortar stores, but I don't share your attitude about casual visitors.
I can't speak for any other dealer, but I enjoy having people come by my little store and listening to gear. You never know when someone will decide to buy a piece of gear, and I get a lot of referrals from guys who haven't bought anything but have mentioned a piece of gear I carry to a friend.
There might be a few guys who drop by on a regular basis and aren't regular customers, but many of these guys have become audio friends. Many have shared some wonderful music I hadn't heard before or just come by to enjoy the sound. I am flattered that guys would take the time to visit my showroom, and visitors have always been respectful and well behaved. If I am busy with another customer I will politely excuse myself and return when I am finished.
But that's just my opinion.
Roxy54 with your attitude its doubtful sales is a good career path for you. Grow up son this is part of the business. I agree anyone just looking needs to be up front about that. There are ways to treat these folks without alienating them from a possible future sale, or from them recommending YOU as a resource.
Roxy54, I understand what you're saying and you make a valid point, albeit rudely. But with the limited amount of HiFi stores in my area, the salesman gets to know me and I have ended up buying items within the year. It's not like I'm pretending to buy in a Ferrari dealership.
I do tell them I am in an auditioning period, because let's face it, many folks on this forum are in a constant state of upgrading. I have found due to the poor economy, the salesmen are more open to developing relationships with the customers. I'm not going into the $20K speaker room; clearly that would be wrong if my income bracket could only afford $6000 spkrs, but I would ask to see speakers higher up their line.
You may call me a "tire-kicker" or worse but when I'm treated right by a salesman, I'll be back and ask for him personally.
And it's part of the salesman's job to know the risks of having someone waste their time. When I went back and forth between 2 stores looking at speakers and 6 months later bought speakers at one of the stores, I'm not thinking that I wasted the other salesman's time.
My friend and I make the rounds in the twin cities audio shops once or twice a year and are always met with the same contempt by the sales staff. Neither of us have intentions of buying mostly because I would rather spend money elsewhere than with a store that treats customers like they are a nuesance. In the last year we have both spent combined around $18000 dollars on audio this year and not a penny went to a local brick and mortar store. Every time we go in we are usually the only customers in the store and the consignment pieces sit in the shelves for months. I am not suprised these stores are becoming extinct.
Retail workers never look at the other side of the story. Maybe you should inform the customer on the downside of buying such gear online. I personally would never (and have never) bought anything more expensive than headphones and a headphone amp online. The local shop where I buy my gear appreciates the fact that I buy from them so much that I saved $300 on my speaker cables compared to Cable Co prices. That's something people don't think about. The perks I get as a customer are ridiculous and not obtainable anywhere online. I demanded that my local shop sell Hegel and he did it. He kept in touch with me while they filled out and sent in all the necessary paper work. It's give and take and if you've never experienced this, no wonder your local B&M closed down.
Mitch and Joman,
I agree with both of you that I got a little heavy handed at the end there, but he's treating it like it's a game, and believe me, that's just what it is. It is really annoying to read a flippant post like that when you have to deal with this issue 5 days a week.
It's not a joke; it's selfish and inconsiderate. Both of you may or may not realize just how much time people like this drain from a salesperson's selling time. Some spend 90 minutes prying information from you so that they feel confident about making their purchase from the internet, while others have nothing to do and assume that you are in the same situation, so they bend your ear for an hour or so about what they own and where they bought it for a price you wouldn't believe.
So forgive me if I don't have a lot of patience. Maybe someone else who works in retail will step in with their perspective.
I thought I made it clear that I am not abusing the privilege of honoring a HiFi salesman with a possible sale. This is a hobby and a business where there needs to be information exchanged and demos given.
I like Donjr's statement...
Half the people that go in with no plan to buy probably find a way to buy something after they do it.
My most recent visit resulted in an exchange with the salesman about our taste in music and about the vintage system he is building. And after that he showed me a pair of Dynaudios (his choice), then showed me his favorite TT in the store; well out of my price range.
His passion about this hobby of ours will take me back there to buy those speakers.
It's not an atmosphere where there is contempt for the buyer (or the tire-kicker).
I wrote mt post before I saw your response. I aplogize to you for being abrasive, but in you original post, you did not explain yourself as completely, and it sounded as if you were just saying that it was acceptable to lead salespeople on with false promises of a possible future purchase.
In response to you and Onhwy61, I am not burned out on selling, and I actually get a great deal of satisfaction from it most of the time. Yes Onhwy61, I do value my time, as I imagine that you do yours.
And it is true that I frequently strike up a relationship with a casual browser who later becomes a valued customer.
Selling expensive luxury goods is not like selling groceries, it doesn't always happen the first, second or third time.
All that I am saying is that because of the position I am in every day, I have more respect for the time of others in the same position. Shoppers who are insensitive are not in the majority.
Roxy, thanks for the response. And as I read back my 1st post, I see that I should have elaborated. My thinking is that at some point, one of us will be making an upgrade and it requires some exploring in these high-priced candy stores.
I have no doubt that you often see customers that have no intention of buying from you; and then there's the person who wants a demo from you so he can go buy the item online.
It's probably obvious to your staff who the tourists are and that really is wasting your time. And I see how the online issue must be an extra burden on the sales staff; who's to know if this guy will come back.
I'm glad we have cleared up this misunderstanding.
Here's the thing though....when I go into the HiFi shops the sales staff as well as the owners are more often than not aloof and apathetic unless you tell them you are planning on making a purchase. That's insane. The equipment is on display for a reason. If I ask to hear something I do not expect to be met with eyes rolling and the the sound a pop can makes when you open it. Its your job Hello.
Christ I may not have the money today but who knows in a week a month or a year I might. Maybe I catch a financial windfall and I come back and buy a whole system. But if In our get lousy service I'm not spending it in that store. Often times I see sales staff migrate to the customers with suits and ties and ignore those in casual dress. That is a big mistake. I know quite a few blue collar workers that spend a lot of money on this hobby and they all say the same thing about the shops. Entirely too much snobbery so they spend it elseware. I'm not saying all the audio stores are like this I'm just stating my experience as well as many others I have spoken with.
I haven't been in an audio store in at least 10 years. Am I missing anything?
After I don't know how many years of selling this stuff, I do not get the urge. The last audio show I attended I was an exhibitor and I think that was close to 20 years ago.
So, here's what I think about the topic. As a salesman you are, in essence, a servant. You gamble every time you take on a customer. Sometimes you get a customer who has done enough homework to know what he wants and just buys it. Easy! The next one will spend two hours having you switch between two nearly identical speakers trying to determine which one better meets the various parameter she's read about in the magazines but cannot identify even with help. Imaging is the biggest concern so that needs to be explained, demonstrated and re-explained. Eventually you learn that these speakers will not be on the same wall and will be placed at different heights. It doesn't matter what the hell he buys, which turns out to be nothing. Meanwhile, Elliott, the jerk they just hired who doesn't know a dome from a ribbon sold the first guy I mentioned a $4200 power amp. Where the hell are the aspirin?
So, there's two sides to this and nobody's right if everybody's wrong. You have to realize that the whole thing is a crapshoot. If that is not something about which you can feel comfortable, try selling insurance or real estate. I think you will find those fields have their own problems. Nonetheless, sales is the one place where a person with no real training or education can make a damn good living. Be grateful you have a job with regular hours that isn't dirty or dangerous. I don't think Mike Rowe ever took on selling audio on his show.
I look at it a little differently. Example - I love nice watches. I dont buy one every time I walk in to Westime or Tourneau. But, as I have bought most my watches at Tourneau I am qute allowed to walk in and look at what ever I want (same with my hifi dealer - I earned that as I try to only buy from him). When I walk into a new (watch)store, I do so on Sundays in the AM when they are empty and the salesman usually gets a KICK out of talking watches with an educated customer, even though he aint buying (walked out with 4 magazines for the plane riide). I go into the hifi stores in the city all the time. I just let them know I'm looking at the goodies and no need to tie up a salesman. They appreciate it and let me stay until the capuccinno machine is empty.
One of the things I love about our wonderful hobby is a visit to a terrific audio shop for a few hours of just "hanging out." I've spent many a fun filled afternoon at such places as Sound By Singer, Lyric HiFi, Stereo Exchange, Altair Audio, Audio Connection, CSA Audio, Innovation Audio, Adirondack Audio-Video, and many other high end retailers over my thirty years as "a music loving audiophile." I have always been totally "up front and honest" with the sales staff ..... sometimes I was there to plan a purchase, and other times I was just there to enjoy music played on systems that I could only dream about actually owning. For me, this is an important part of our hobby and I don't recall ever misleading a salesperson or being treated rudely by one. And over the years, I have many times referred somebody to one of these fine shops and many major purchases have been made because of my recommendations.
If we are to allow our high end audio passions to develop and to allow the high end industry to continue to grow, we need to constantly try to bring new people under our wings and encourage them to listen to quality components and systems. The best way to do these, besides inviting "audio newcomers" into our homes, is to encourage them to visit high end stores to "hang out and listen." Perhaps more systems will be sold and more music loving audiophiles will be developed. For me, it all started in 1973 with a Panasonic all-in-one receiver/8-track player-recorder/turntable/speakers combination ....... After many, many hours in all those great stereo stores, I eventually worked my way up the equipment chain, having spent many thousands of dollars on a lot of different gear.
I am incredibly happy with my current system and I love listening to music. I owe it all to all those wonderful sales people at all the great stereo stores for the chance to "listen and hang out."
as a former real estate agent i can offer my opinion on 'lookers'...it is part of the job to take risks with potential customers and if you are only willing to work with people that need a house in 5 minutes you are either a billionaire or not cut out for the job. salesmen all get together and tell war stories but at crunch time you put on game face and try to make the best of it and figure out what the person is really looking for etc. i see nothing wrong with shopping if you honestly tell the guy you are just in the looking stage and tell him you do not want to waste his time etc.. HOW ELSE IS AN AUDIO SHOP GOING TO ATTRACT LOYAL CUSTOMERS IF THEY DO NOT EXPECT AND TREAT KINDLY THOSE NOT READY TO BUY RIGHT NOW? a bona fide audiophile salesman will hopefully enjoy the opportunity to talk shop and create a return customer. if not, then too bad for him and the owner who has this guy on the floor. the abuse you took on this post was not justified in my opinion.
If people don't want to bother an audio salesman with no intentions of buying they can go to an audio show instead. There are so many now that one can go and hear without buying anything and not feel guilty. The shows have way more equipment and so many people under one roof that you can have a great time.
Serious Brick & Mortar stores will know how to qualify you and your intention not to buy. If they do not, they would have been put out of business long ago. So, if you are near New York City, put yourself to the test by going into Lyric, on Lexington Avenue. Oh, be sure to bring your brokers monthly statement with you, otherwise they will know you are not a serious buyer. Lyric knows how to 'qualify'. As a 'relationship' store they want to visit your home to check out how 'serious' you are. Let us know.
Id say retail sales is a two way street.
My experience back in the day was when both customer and salesperson were thoughtful and considerate of each other, things tended to work out for the best. I had very few cases personally where that was not the case over the years in that I was formally trained (by Tandy Corporation/Radio Shack) to always focus on the needs of the customer.
We were taught that anyone who came into the store had some problem that they were looking to solve and our job was to solve it. That included the many "potential customers" who were "just looking". If you focus on their needs, they often become actual customers.
PErsonal face to face customer service is the ONLY thing a B&M store can offer people these days.
With the attitude that if you come into my store not intending to buy you are a nuisance, I fear one is doomed to eventual failure.
Just my two cents as a former retail guy back in the day no longer involved but perhaps with some useful perspective.
This is for Lowrider57......
I have gone into no less than 3 high end shops in the greater Boston area and at any one time or another, all the salesmen were hanging around the front desk engaged in idle chit chat with one another. How in the hell am I wasting their valuable time when the store is dead and they are just killing time waiting for 6pm to come so they can go home?
There are some rules to follow, I believe. Mainly don't ask for a demo of something you intend to buy elsewhere. I go to 2 or 3 stores or have in the last few years, who are interested in HiFi and me, put on local small shows etc. They won't get a sale first time, but I respond to their enthusiasm and interest.
I bought an Arc Reference 75 from one last year and have just ordered a Grounding product from another. We had been in E-mail correspondence on this and that, teaks etc and he volunteered that he though this product would work well, he sent me it, no cash deposit, it did work well and I bought it.
This is a luxury not life basics business, sometimes you have to show interest and for want of a better word, develop a customers interest. I respond to that and they get a sale. Most of these guys are sitting around all day waiting for a customer, they need to get out there and develop an interest from customers with small shows, music or cinema evenings etc
ALl this protocol for what to do or not in any store is a load of crap.
Go ahead and kill off B&M stores all the faster if that is what people want by making rules about when to go or not and how to act.
Just don't complain when the tables are turned and others do the same to you!!!!
Total stupidity!!!! I don't think I've ever been inclined to say that about anything I read here until now.
Customers have their needs and that is what the store should be concerned about period in order to suceed.
I'd encourage everyone to go to as many B&M stores as they can but of course be forthright in why you are there when asked. Then the sales guys can decide what to do or not from there.
It's that simple. Good honest communications. Then just let the cards fall where they may.
07-11-14: JwmAmazing to think that someone that walks into your store could be a 'bother'. Also, I believe that walking into any store with no intent to buy that day that one should not feel 'guilty'. Yes, there are audio shows that one could attend...but why can't I just go to a store and look around?
Something is wrong with a hobby if one needs to steel himself before walking into a store.
THis thread and the anti-customer opinions expressed by some is just another thing that would seem to make it evident that high end audio is totally out of touch with the modern world and needs to either change or face eminent extinction. At least in the case of B&M audio stores.
I do NOT want to see that happen but fear for it even more after reading this thread.
"Mithc4t, I'm talking about those people who only buy on the internet or just like to waste time without ever buying"
How about giving them a reason to maybe do otherwise, like just talk with them to see how you might help when they come in with no strings attached?
If the topic of buying off internet should come up, give them a reason to consider otherwise. A little kindness and attention might just help.
Fact is the internet is the biggest competition for any B&M store these days.
So B&M stores need to "know your enemy" and figure out a strategy to compete. The economics of scale with a mom and pop B&M shop surely cannot compete on price, so the only thing left is SERVICE!!!!!
Discouraging customers from coming in unless they are going to buy is the worst form of customer service. THat's all about the what the dealer wants, not the customer.
Guess what? No dealers/stores without customers. No customers without a reason to come in.
Customer service is THE ONLY ANSWER!!!!
Talk as in most things is not only the cheapest form of customer service, but possibly also the most valuable.
People long to talk to others about their problems. The internet tries to provide this sometimes via chat sessions, etc. but it can only happen best face to face.
Smart businesses will talk to their customers and listen to what they say to help improve the business. If they do not or cannot.....well good riddance.
I can offer my perspective from the other side...I own an Internet business, selling jewelry (average purchase $1500), so my business competes against B&M stores - I try to poach customers based on price, and convenience, but I'm at the disadvantage of not being able to shake a customer's hand, or show them product face to face.
I can tell you that for B&W stores that don't take care of their customers, who provide poor, inattentive service, they are screwed - I will eat their lunch, and they should fear my business. But I'm also partnered with some B&M stores, and get to talk strategy with them, and the stores who DO take care of their customers, and provide personal, attentive, considerate, friendly service have nothing to fear from me. I'm a fly on an elephant's back to them, I'm meaningless. They will beat me 9 times out of 10 for a sale. Because people WANT good service, they want pleasant interpersonal buying experiences. They only come to me when they realize that there's no point paying more when they're not getting more, and I then win the sale.
For all you B&M stores out there, you should never concede that you're going to lose the sale to the cheaper, online vendor. It should be your mission to convince every customer who walks in your door - even those who you believe want nothing to do with buying from you - that YOUR shop is the place to be, and the place to buy from. If you take the attitude that buyers will buy online no matter what, it will become self-fulfilling and you will lose. I believe this because the only reason my business pays the bills is because there are enough of you out there who've already conceded defeat to online vendors like me.
And FYI - many of my customers are men, buying for their gals, so this isn't a "men are different than women" thing either.
Brick & Mortar high end audio stores are a necessity. People that come into the stores, simply to demo equipment and buy online are the reason why the B&M stores are disapearing. That doesn't imply that the store dealers shouldn't have competitive prices. They should. But on line typically meant that no state taxes were applied. This gives the on line dealers a distinct advantage over B&M stores. However, I miss Tower Records, circuit city and other stores. I really miss book stores. I love the smell of books. but, it is really hard to find book stores now. I've spent years establishing a relationship with my favorite store in San Diego. Stereo Design. I'm confortable going there. I still go into other stores to see what they have and the attitude is the same everywhere (unless they know you). They look you up and down first, determined without speaking a word to you that you can or can't afford their stuff or that you don't know anything about music or equipment and treat you like one of the lost boys. Until, that is, they ask (as they always do) what equipment do you currently have. When you tell them, their faces change immediately. I was in Stockholm a year or so ago with my ladyfriend at the time and visited a mid to high end audio store. the salesperson was to say the least indifferent boarding on rude. I was actually looking for a small system for my friend but wasn't getting any attention at all, which was funny to me. However, when he asked what I had, and I told him, his attitued changed immediately. So, this attitude isn't solely attributable to America. When I left, I had no intention of ever doing business with them again. Here's the thing, when it comes to me spending my money on anything, the salesperson cannot treat me as if he is doing me a favor by taking the time to speak to me. I'm spending my money, not the other way around. I live in Los Angeles, and just like what was presented in the movie Pretty Woman, in LA, you never know who is walking in the door. They could be dressed in jeans and be incredibly rich. you just don't know. So the best thing to do is treat all potential customers with respect and consideration. Because that one customer may be your best sale of the week. I go to my favorite store to spend time listening in their best listening room on the best equipment just to see/hear if my system is lacking in some way on my music. And you know what? They let me listen. Because the know me and they know if I'm inclined, I will upgrade. But, they also know that I typically come in with no intention of buying anything. Doesn't mean they can't show me something to consider does it? Also, their used equipment room has some very nice used equipment. But for new equipment, I will buy from them every time. I appreciate them, their knowledge and consideration.
People that go to B&M stores to try on shoes or clothes or listen to high end equipment and then buy it on line should never complain that the stores are disapearing. What did they think would happen?
So, my opinion is to establish good relations with the B&M stores and dealers. When purchasing new equipment do so from them. Nothing wrong with used stuff. For some things, that is the only way to go in order to afford them. But, when I get the time and money to upgrade my amps to the Audio Research REF 250 amps, I know where I will buy them.
I understand that times are tough in the B&M shops. It's a very tough business to be in, now, more than ever. That said, there are clear success stories out there. Obviously, there's many variables involved with success but this thread got me to thinking of an old mentor from my younger days. He was one of the most successful salesman in a team of successful salesmen. Not naturally good looking but he made himself very attractive. Sharp, aggressive, funny, smart, high energy. He was like a loveable shark! I'll never forget him telling me once how it didn't matter what the product was, he considered himself a SALESMAN 1st and foremost. My favorite quote of his was "I should be able to pick a turd up off the street and make you feel like you MUST own it!!". I loved this guy (RIP). Because of him (and others like him that I used to deal with) I've always seen the stereotypical audio sales guys as being kind of whiney.
"So, my opinion is to establish good relations with the B&M stores and dealers."
No doubt always a good idea to operate with good faith.
There are limits though. Good relationships are a two way street and can be hard to accomplish when goals and priorities are different.
Personally, I have bought recently both online and from a couple local B&M stores. I am willing to pay a premium for good customer service. Good sound in home audio is not easy. Most people need the kind of help that only someone knowledgeable in the area can provide. That has value.
It would not be proper for one to go into a store, spend considerable amount of time with a consultant there, end up liking the product being proposed, and then buying elsewhere for less.
Thing is there are many reasons why a particular sale might not occur and the seller will never know the reason for sure. SO best to just invest their time wisely if truly so busy, and let the cards fall where they may.
Many times these days when I go into audio stores, the stores are mostly empty and salespeople not busy helping others and seem more than happy to spend some time chatting on whatever topic I might have in mind.