Why are brick and mortar HiFi dealers so bad?


I have rarely found a reasonably decent HiFi dealer and I live in the New York metro area where there are probably more per capita than anywhere else.  I've been to a lot of shops and I'm tired of the smug attitudes, the lousy customer service, weird return policies, etc.  Friends state that the owners are jaded because people come in and listen to a bunch of gear and then go buy it elsewhere or pre-owned on web sites like Audiogon.  If that is the case, figure out a better sales strategy or shutter your store.  I've moved onto Music Direct and Audio Advisor and Upscale Audio.  Buy it and try it on your own system in your own listening room with a money-back guarantee.  If you know a decent HiFi retailer, please pass it along.
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Head out to Verona, NJ and all your problems will be solved.  Tell Johnny Audiogon sent you.
Your're welcome to Stockholm, Sweden at any time ;)

https://perfect-sense.se/
I agree with 2leftears (above)
The only good ones I know are both retired now. All the ones left in the Seattle area are awful. Maybe its me, but they seem even worse now than 20-30 years ago. Back then most places were happy to help and indulge me or even just let me alone to listen. And when I say indulge, they let me bring my own interconnect, CD player, amp in the store for side-by-sides. This was at several different stores. One even let me lug a Dynaco ST400 and compare with his ten times as expensive tube amp. Not sure they would these days. Maybe some would. I don't know.

IMO these guys are their own worst enemies. The superior "you're not worthy" attitude they project is short sighted yet purposeful. They are after all going for the market niche of guys with ten times or more the money than brains. They know hooking just one of these is worth hundreds of thousands. I'm not kidding. A recent system at Definitive was $1.3M. That's not even the fun part. They will get that same loser for another $50 large, easy, by blathering him up with acoustic treatment, dedicated power, basically all the same stuff the same sort here are always knee-jerking onto. GIK, anyone?

What they really want though is Home Theater. That's where the real money is made. Plus those guys, they know right off the bat they're deaf as doorknobs else they'd never go 5 minutes with as bad as multi-channel sounds. But with HT they get to sell 3, 4, 5 times as much stuff.

No wonder they have such disdain for us who just want a really good sounding stereo.
I once concurred with the OP, but then I met John Rutan at Audioconnection.
He’s the only dealer I have found in 40 years that not only knows his stuff, and doesn’t try to sell you anything until your are ready.

Bob
I truly enjoyed going to high-end stores when I lived in L.A. Yeah, some places were run by high-handed snobs and others featured systems that just couldn't cut the mustard, but I always did my best to buy locally whenever possible.  What a luxury being able to walk into a place and hear true high-end sound!  It's something that allowed me to develop both an ear and sensibility.  It's only recently that I moved to a tiny town thousands of miles away from retailers and've been forced to turn to mail order.
@millercarbon

If someone were reading your post and didn’t actually know better, they might arrive at the conclusion that the better audio stores are simply catering to the wrong people.

You seem to be inferring if a consumer has reached a certain financial strata that their hearing and taste declines considerably at an inverse direction than their financial resources. You also infer that their intelligence suffers at just the moment that their financial success is ironically on the uptick. The more financial resources someone has, they must be dumb, with no hearing and no taste.

This is a troubling trend indeed.

In all sincerity, what you seem to be describing as your ideal audio retailer is more like a hobbyist's clubhouse. The idea that you should be able to drop by with your gear, interconnects and a desire to just play around is actually kindof of quaint when you think about it.

Once again, these people are in the business of making money. Those that do, stay in business, those that don't.... I remember a few shops like you describe back in the day. They usually evolved from being in the repair, tube, mom & pop shop into a hifi shop. Usually owned by a bench tech, likely a WWII era tech at that. The military trained alot of wonderful people who helped our hobby develop. Unfortunately, its a flawed business model today.
ghasley, its not flawed it just doesn't exist any more. 
Sales people know right away whether or not a customer is "qualified" or not. The biggest tell is what car they drive up in. Qualified customers always get treated better. It is just how sales people behave. You want great service at a modern Hi Fi shop, buy a Porsche. 
Well to keep things positive and give Millercarbon a larger sample size than just Definitive ( who btw loaned me a $10 k Levinson price a decade ago for a weeklong trial on just a handshake), he and really anyone in Seattle area should check out Advanced in Tacoma ( while owned by Definitive ) is has the Havens/Hardesty dna and vibe.
Eric ( and George the tech ) at Gig Harbor Audio are great, they probably even have your old Dynaco amp...

finally for the OP ++++ for Audio Connection in Verona
@mijostyn  A number of years ago I pulled into a Boston area high end store the same time as a guy in an arrest me red Ferrari. I was dressed in a 3 piece suit and he was very casual. The sales guy couldn’t do enough for me until he asked about the Ferrari and I said I would love to have one.  His reaction was priceless ! The owner of the store who I had dealt with several times wasn’t like that. He treated everyone the same so I found it more amusing than upsetting.
How I dress makes a difference to how I'm treated in audio shops; more condescending and dismissive the more relaxed my attire.

Also, I'm humoured at best. My questions are specific and I know a little, so they are not interested. Even though last visit for a couple of things I had $1000 in my pocket, and the time before I had $3000.

When I buy, home trial is my preferred, but that is now uncommon.
OP - Get thee to Audio Connection in Verona and thy concerns shalt be allayed by Sir John of Rutan.😀
I'm in my 60's. Been to alot of stores and can only remember two out of all of them as being bad experiences. 
My CEO friend dresses down to car shop just to gauge the salesman's attitude, he has surprised quite a few.
Joining others who mentioned John Rutan at Audioconnection in Vernon, NJ. Take an NJ Transit out there if you don’t drive.
Can’t help you on the east coast, but I actually suspect Portland has more audio stores per capita. And they are all awesome, with very little attitude, low pressure, etc. Many allow you to try stuff at home. We also certainly have more record stores per capita. As an ex NY-er, the days when Manhattan was the center of the world are long gone. 
Every city/town has at least one or a few independent audio equipment dealers. The first feature is to look for one that has a top notch in house repair capability. These type of places do exist. Many of them have a small inventory of new equipment but may have access to order from a lot of manufacturers. You may find that these type of businesses accommodate customers in a more humane way than the mega operations.
millercarbon,
Try John Zimmerman at (yet another store named) "The Audio Connection" in the Ravenna district/Seattle. John has been in that small shop for decades. He's got an amazing ear and encyclopedic knowledge though his in-store selection is pretty limited. He's opinionated and very interesting.
RE: Portland (where I live now), there are a lot of shops. Sales attitudes span the spectrum.

Finally, "Take Five" in New Haven, CT has been super-nice, friendly and accommodating, even though I up-front mentioned I was simply visiting the campus and not in the market for equipment.
Worked for Audio Lab in Phoenix from 1973 til IRS took away the keys, owner failed to pay taxes. After two weeks of intense training was given the keys to the store and left alone. The owner was starting a new business Car Stereos Unlimited. I tried to give every person the same attentiveness, no matter who, how dressed. We did trade ins based on the Orion pricing guide. If someone wanted to bring in their gear to interface with the stores, never a problem. We sold Akai, AR, Harmon Kardon, Cerwin Vega, Janzens and Utah speakers as house brand.

Purchased my first good speakers from the competition, prior to Audio Lab, one and then the other 2/3months later. Went back to purchase the second speaker, and the salesperson (same one) immediately took me into the same sound room to hear the new great thing, ’Gales’. They no longer carried ESS brand. Showed him my receipt, said I was here for my second ESS AMT4, the look on his face was pure disappointment, Just another 249 dollar sale. Yes they still had the single left over speaker. ESS Heils had a lifetime warranty on the Heil mid/tweet motor. Went back the store 3 years later for warranty and was told to pound pavement. Never went back. Now I live in Redding CA. Best Buys is the ’Big’ audio shop here, no mom and pops stores anymore.


How you treat people counts for me. Also worked for Radio Mart in Redding for 12 or more years. Audio lab and Radio Mart both had the same philosophy. Alas the manager and then the owner passed away. Millercarbon and others do any of you remember the mfgs spiff program?

+1jrpnde

The owner of Take Five in New Haven retired, sold the business and its been relocated to Middlebury.
Or, fly to ATL. HiFi Buys there features two delicious listening rooms along with friendly and knowledgeable service. 
When I was last into high end audio 25+ years ago there were good stores but if you look at what has happened to society and sales of everything today it is a totally different world (including for the sellers).

Trying to actually audition or AB any particular components in a store today might be theoretically possible but in practice very difficult.   Online reviews and the ability to easily sell used components are a godsend.  
Of course your friend is correct when he told you the local hifi dealers feel used when people shop, listen, question then buy elsewhere. Finding a retailer that does not survive off the teat of the Home Theatre sow is rare. Mostly they have folded. Gig Harbor Audio, Brooks Berdan  and Hawthorne Audio -Seattle, love that sign out front which announces that the store is "a nice place" are some of the few I have enjoyed spending time in. But honestly I never bought anything there. Someday perhaps but that won't pay their bills.
It was my very great fortune to meet "Blake" three and a half years ago at Audio/Video Choices in Phoenix. My last stereo purchase had been in 1985 at Definitive where they sent me home with NAD and Polks. 
Last week the owner of AV Choices closed his doors after 13 years to retire.
We threw a retirement party at the store two Saturdays back.
I am going to miss that place. Even more I will miss the ridiculously 
honest, unbiased and totally accurate information Blake shared with me.
I now enjoy a system (following Blake's tutelage) put together for about $9k that creates what I call that 'magic' sound. As to OP's question, be patient and you will be rewarded. Make it an educational journey. You may enjoy the learning process. Go to  Axpona if possible. Join a local club if one exists. If not join the nearest one and read the newsletters. 
Many manufacturers have gone "direct" and as such offer a trial period.
You pay freight both ways. Cheaper to fly/drive there sometimes.

For those in the Seattle area, I have found Olson’s HiFi (olsonshifi.com) to be very good.   They aren’t pushy, they have rational advice, they lend components for people to try at home, and they have a generous return policy.   They also stock and evaluate very interesting brands.

I’m just a regular customer there and have only had positive experiences.   I don’t like to bash places, but there is no other place in the area that I would even consider.
I live on eastern Long Island. Back in the 70s and 80s there were plenty of places to shop for audio. Today the closest one is 30 miles away, and they are moving. You can buy plenty of Theater equipment, since there's a best buy in every corner. I do business with a family that owns 60 independent appliance stores in the NY metro area. Although the manufacturers they have are limited, they do have Marantz and Yamaha. Through them I have been able to special order some of the higher end equipment these lines offer and at dealer cost. I've spent about 5k on about 10k worth of equipment. I made my choices solely on reviews, as no one carried the models I was interested in. So today I'm happy with how it sounds, yet curious about the vast array of equipment I read about on these posts. I hope to attend a show so I can actually here some of the gear I read about on this forum.
One more recommendation for John Rutan and staff at Audioconnection in Verona.
There are a few left in SoCal: Try Audio Revelation in the San Marcos/Carlsbad area; Jay has been amazingly helpful regarding cartridges and phono preamps (including having the designer of my phono preamp call me--from Switzerland!-- to debug a noise problem I was having, then fabricate a custom length umbilical which he swapped out--for free- with the standard length cable.  You don't get service like that anymore from very many dealers.  I also used to patronize Jonas Miller (Santa Monica), Absolute Audio (Santa Ana), and Havens & Hardesty (Huntington Beach and two other locations).  Ah, those were the days!
I'll tell you about my experience with Graeme at CDF in Montreal. I went there for the first time wanting a little info on a Line Magnetics amp knowing that he sold said product. I didn't want to irk anyone so I told him up front that I had seen one of these used and thought of buying it. I'll never forget his reaction. His very words were "Go for it! I've got you covered". I have been a loyal customer ever since and have highly recommended him to anyone looking for SET and high sensitivity speakers. Extremely knowledgeable! 
The Audio Connection (Seattle) is one of the very few places you can audition Chapman speakers, which should be better known than they are.
Here in Asheville NC I'm basically limited to:
-Best Buy, with it's always changing floor personnel.  You generally know more than the sales person, so it's 'get in/get out'.
-Guitar Center, good for the odd hardware-ish stuff.  If you're not buying an 'axe' or drum kit, you're left alone.
-Moog; the museum is fun, but...*shrug*

ATL is the closest 'serious' venue for Anything.
Just because AG is in Greenville doesn't mean squat.  AG itself is an 'on-line entity' without a storefront....

Other than the venues listed above by their supporters, the storefront 'boutique audio shop' is a rare breed.  Treat them well, give them your support and business when you can.

I've visited various vendors in the Triangle area, Charlotte, and others in my travels with a 500 mi. radius of 'home'.  Most are HT shops; when I walk in I get 'short-shrift', since I'm driving my company Dodge dually (a 'working truck', not a 'Cowboy Cadillac' that will Never see dirt).

Most of what I see within their walls is Familiar...
I haven't seen anything I would call 'exotic' since I  lived in the Houston metro area some 15 years ago....

That was the last time I saw some Krell gear.

It's become an 'on-line world'.  Resign self to 'shipping costs' to/from your door, or lavish your IRL time to your 'local' shop...

...or they will follow the dodo into extinction.

(Hi dwmaggie...;) ^5's *G*)
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@asvjerry if you ever find yourself in Nashville, TN I'd love to have you visit. I spent some time in an Asheville after a motorcycle crash in the mountains; lovely city from what I saw in the helicopter. ;P

- Colin

https://gestalt.audio

@gestalt some wicked good riding and driving roads near Asheville as you no doubt knows.... the devils corkscrew comes to mind
@fatdaddy2 I second your high opinion of Jay but I had heard he hung up the spurs and retired ????
The only legitimate dealer I have dealt with is Alber Sportis who owns Precision Audion and Video in Chicago.  I purchase some expensive gear without knowing him and he was twice as good after the sale and he priced things better than the local dealers.  If you call him, tell him Larry Edwards in Denver sent you.  He is straight up and a great guy to deal with.
Colin, noted...and Thanks....*tip of hat*  Any and all input is appreciated.  Asking the Google is still shooting dice...;)

Been through Nashville, but stops have been mostly for gas and Starbucks *L*  Know that helicopter well...MOMA flies over my shop on it's various missions of mercy, and I can hear their helipad as well.

tomic601 is likely referring to the Tail of the Dragon.  Wonderful, a curve every 100 yards on average for 7ish miles.  Even in a car, it's 2nd gear and keeps you busy. *S*  There's a couple of others in the area; I like the 'hill climb' roads personally; it's easier to control one's momentum going Up, as opposed to downshifts and burning the binders going Down... ;)

(Used to ride 2 wheels, but a tad too 'friable' these days.  I bruise if you look at me hard....damn DNA, anyway....*L*)

"Asheville: Cesspool of Sin" thanks to a House Rep's blurt.

I fit in. ;)
Too old (and married, Damn) to leap into the big Pool...

...but I can still wade....and Watch....;)

(I'm allowed to Look.....as long as I don't drool or get Grabby...)
Thanks, Larry.  I/we were in Chicago last year on a weekend 'speed tour' escaping our 'work encampment' in Lexington KY.

Went to see the Fields Museum, which overrode 'audio interests' since time was short.

Metro Chicago is 'combat traffic'. like most major metros of late.  Met a Ferrari owner in a parking lot, chatted him up....'Love the car...can't drive it here anymore.  Want to buy it?"

(Would love to as well...my license would vaporize in short order.
Would also have to find that winning Lotto tix in that parking lot, blowing up against my leg....)

"Thanks, but no....I'd have the same complaint, with some variables.."

Local roads, more suited to 4WD, for one....*L*


Thinking of The Devils Drop , much closer to Asheville than the Dragons Tail, you can of course scare yourself still via utube.

NC 151
tomic, Oh...That roller coaster....*L* (Didn't know it by the 'D.D.' moniker...I'm so 'unhip'....)..
First driven when new to the area, some 15ish yrs. ago...

"Oh, here's this nice shortcut off the Parkway...(she said)...."

Downhill then, with a Pontiac LeMans GT, one stayed busy....

Uphill since...more my cup of 'tainment'...*G*
Different ride as well...

Chatted up a waitress @ Grandfather Mtn. that lives in AVL 'bout 1.5 yrs ago....said she made the drive 'twixt there back/forth in about .5ish hrs. on the Parkwy. in her sedan...

(Forget the make, but 'twastn't a Beemer or the like....a nice, 'normal' sort of ride...)

Thankfully for the tourista, this is occuring in 'off hours'...Flat F'n Flying, no doubt.  Familiarity cedes Restraint....

Apex Everything. *L*
Spring & Summer, we get the bike & car crowds in town....

As well as 'touring' the local pavements, they visit the Biltmore estate to the tune of 1.2 mil yearly...and rising....

Hotels are popping up nearly as fast as the 'niche breweries' which makes for 'twisted tourista'.  Makes for 'interesting street moves' on their part....'cardiac arrest lane changes', mid-road pauses, left turns prohibited but done (badly) anyway...

Better to be in a thriving small city, though...;)
...but still no audio shops....

(Back to topic.....)
Most brick-and-mortar stores sell Mass market stuff that you find in the magazines. The better stuff is usually the very small production, one-man operation stuff.
The Detroit area still has a few really good brick and mortar shops.
Audio Dimensions, in Royal Oak
David Michael Audio, in Royal Oak
Paragon in Ann Arbor 

not all mass market at all
@devilboy    ...and 'personal 'puters started in garages..;)
I remind myself of that....

& biketony, if I'm up that way I'll try to visit. *S*  Help keep them in existence in the meanwhile, and thanks...
When in SoCal, and especially if you fly into John Wayne airport (Newport Beach), do yourself a huge favor. Walk across the street, get Starbucks if you'd like, then head on over to Excel Audio. Talk to Mike, the owner/proprietor. He WILL take care of you. He has many excellent brands at many different price points and he knows how to assemble systems that sing. He is the most friendly and genuine dealer I know in SoCal. Not saying I've been to them all, but I've been to many of them. Mike and Excel are the real deal.
Regarding Seattle hi-fi shops above ... I happen to live near the old ’hi-fi zone’ in Ravenna/Roosevelt. I have bought gear and spent much time in the Audio Connection (very small selection but John is helpful and his single listening room is great), Hawethorne (outstanding selection of speaker brands but there’s a weird vibe/attitude going on), Definitive (music matters is fun but they are ALL about stupidly priced custom installs and AVR rooms - I don’t think they have a clue about 2 channel). In the past 5 years both the independent Magnolia (used to sell some fun brands like Arcam, etc) and Speaker Lab have disappeared unfortunately.

Fortunately, there are other shops in Seattle as well - Gig Harbor Audio is awesome and where I have acquired my latest pieces from (Line Magnetic & Spendor), Burt @ SeattleHiFi has tons of brands and has lent me gear for weeks without blinking (if you can track him down). There’s also Tune Hi-Fi and Olsens though I don’t know them so well. Given the demise of the brick-and-mortars hi-fi shop and what I read about other cities, I feel that we are very fortunate to have a number of shops left in Puget Sound. Some are great, some just so-so ... but many different brands can be listened to, which is the important thing at the end of the day.
NOW, This is the sort of info that 'we' as dedicated audiosorts need to know. *S*  And I'll thank y'all for it....

(Some may say 'demented', but they haven't drunk the Kool-Aid...so they can wallow in whatever chilly puddle of 'bleah* they 'approve' of..*disturbed obscure laughter*)

'Scuse....I'm subject to odd fits...;)

Look....This is Wonderful Info for All of Us.  If anyone within the view of these posts has the inclination and the time to compile all of this data of these 'True Believers', these gentlemen (and ladies; I try hard not to be sexist about this or that) that put their beliefs into brick & mortar...

Please, DO!

Collect these comments.  Start a forum.  'Do' a website; or find one that exists already, update/add to it, and spread the link/location of it....

I'd love to do such, but I'm a co-owner with spouse of a business that absorbs the bulk of my time.  'Real life concerns' gobble up the balance; which we're all pretty familiar with that daily trudge....

"Jer, the dog just puked on the bed...I'm doing dinner and listening to The Food Channel's (*X*).  Can you deal with it?  Oh, and the stove has f'd up again...."

I'm positive that y'all are familiar with The Drill.  Or something like it...;)

But...it'd be fantastic if one or some would or could 'do' a compilation of B&M dealers of the equipment that strokes our desires. *S*

Make it simple so anyone could add/update, add a comment, provide an address/website/email/phone/hours/name(s)/in stock/displayed....

If you don't want our 'predilection' to 'dinosaur' into oblivion, if you want our desire to make 'Real Audio Reproduction' to devolve into ear buds 'n cells....

Somebody, Please....Grab this flag, and head uphill.
An 'audio' Iwo Jima Moment.

YOU could be The Guy.

A co-worker of some decades ago was related to one of those brave men.  I opined that he must be immensely proud of him.

His comment:
"They just wanted to make a Point of it, and went back to staying alive!"

Another was the son of one who got marched into the site of the first nuke test blast site in the U.S. desert.
He (at the time...Now? Likely dead) was the last remaining survivor of that idiocy.  The rest dead, due to radiation exposure...)

(I've been, for rationale unrealized, exposed to these people, and their legacies...but I'll take it as a huge hint of sorts....)

If I can take this comment/exhortation/plea to inspire/infect Anyone to do more that bitch 'n whine....

After all...y'all would cringe if a 'oddball troll' like yours truly ended up doing it for y'all.

You'd squirm anytime you'd access it.

I already have a concept that y'all will Love.  Wait for it. *G*

And 'love/hate' is already impressed into the commentary of the equipment and approaches 'discussed' in these 'lectric lanes.

Surprise Us.
Pardon...but I'm 'constructively pissed'.

As noted, 'subject to fits'.....;)