Wilson Audio. Gray market?

A local guy has told me he can get me a pair of new Wilson Audio Sabrina speakers for $3,000 off MSRP.  He is not an authorized dealer, but he tells me he will be buying them from "an authorized US dealer" and will come with "a full warranty".

Looking at the Wilson warranty information on their website, it clearly says the warranty will be limited to 90 days if either (1) the warranty registration isn't returned within 30 days of delivery or (2) the speakers are not "professionally installed by the Wilson Audio dealer that sold the product to the customer."

My guy says once I have the serial numbers, I can call Wilson and they will confirm the full warranty.

He also wants me to pay him up front.

Sounds too good to be true, yes?
Great deal or rip-off if you trust him maybe its ok.
It may or may not be to good to be true. I've discovered that there is a lot of collaboration between dealers. Some dealers have networked with other dealers to gain access to components/manufacturers that they don't carry. $3000 off is a 19% discount, which means the dealers probably split the profit...some money is better than no money! I can't say that this situation is definitely the case, but I wouldn't be surprised.
what do you want to roll the dice on: saving (allegedly) a few bucks now with a deferred hit later, or running  a high risk of actually getting ripped off?

There are two parts to the grey market :

(1) unauthorized dealer sales that will negate any warranty ( bad but not necessarily fatal..... But you will take a deferred hit later when you try to trade them in or sell them privately later when buyer asks for OEM documentation)...


( 2) a fatal possibility: counterfeit fakes, mostly out of the Far East that will leave you crying in your beer with nada to show for it. It is VERY bad is the audio counterfitting/ grey market in China/HK, and it’s filtering its way over here. The more expensive the product, the worse the fake POS Chinese crap product risk. Google the NORDOST warnings and experiences about fake crap washing up on this side of the pond.

If the speakers are actually legit ( which appears dodgy at best based on seller’s terms so far ) ) then you best confirm the serial numbers and seller status with the manufacturer yourself FIRST before you do anything else.... Full stop.

If there is any question as to seller and/or product legitimacy, don’t forget that the manufacturer will do everything possible to seize and remove the product and cast out any dumb dealers violating their sales distribution agreements ... Do you Feel lucky going forward?

Trusting him? In God we trust, everybody else pays cash.

To consider paying him him upfront now first ? Fuhgeddaboud it until you have considered all of the rest above .... And consider PayPal to provide some measure of payment recourse against a buy gone bad,

there is no escaping that if sounds too good to be true, it usually is....full stop again.

He said he would accept PayPal, if I pay the 3%.  If I did that, would PayPal protect me if:

1. he never delivered the speakers, or
2. he delivered but they were knock-offs, or
3. he delivered, they're real, but Wilson says they won't warranty them?

Yes, I'll confirm the serial numbers with Wilson, and their eligibility for warranty, before any money changes hands.

Still mulling . . . thanks for everyone's insight.
Given how discounted legitimate Wilson's are in the used market, I'd pass. :)

Actually I think $3k off a pair of Wilson's is chump change. You could probably get that from an authorized dealer. Just be patient, and the deals will come.


I had no idea there were Wilson dealers who discount.  If so, you're absolutely right.  Does anyone here know of any who do?
I just read the Wilson Audio warranty carefully. It's my understanding that both of the conditions you cited must be met to have a warranty beyond 90 days. Also, to have any warranty at all they must be purchased from an authorized dealer. Even if he gets them from an authorized dealer, he is the original owner and warranty is not transferable. So he buys them using your name, only 90 day warranty because dealer did not install them. And again, both of those requirements must be met to have a 5 year warranty.

I doubt PayPal will protect you in this type of transaction.

That's what I think, too.
Too many red flags.  I'd pass on this one.
PayPal has a super liberal refund policy. They don't get embroiled in details unless the goods sold advertised "NO RETURNS" or words to that effect. All you need to do is return the product (on your dime) and PayPal will cover you. You can also call PayPal and discuss what your situation is. They are very nice to talk to.
   I bought a piece of gear two years ago from a dealer who advertised it WAY below retail. They did so I believe for the sake of cash flow. The tubes were labeled "2006" production date. This told me that they had inventory they wanted to move. Everyone in all industries can and will find themselves in this position from time to time. These are challenging times. Retailers and manufactures need to get creative to pay the bills. Nothing about this deal sounds fishy to me. Still, it's wise to protect ones self. Good luck. Joe 
Have you checked to see if there is a Wilson dealer near you?  If so go and visit them and see if they will budge on the price.  There is an well regarded Wilson dealer in Ann Arbor, MI - Paragon Sight and Sound.  They are one of the largest in the US.  Currently they have some new Sophia Series 3 for about half price.  This is probably an equal or  better speaker than the Sabrina for about the same money you are talking about.  They won't sell the Sabrina via mail order, but they probably will sell the Sophia.  They also get regualr trade ins, so check regular.  I'm not a Wilson owner and haven't bought anything from Paragon, but I have been to their store and they are nice folks.
Well, I agree with the earlier posters with the exception of the returned warranty card being required for the warranty.  This is absolutely an illegal requirement as you cannot be required to take an action through the mail.  Your bill of receipt meets the requirement to qualify for the warranty but there may be extenuating circumstances if you purchase them from a non-authorized dealer.  The real reason manufacturers want you to return the warranty card is to get your personal information for further contact.  However, I would be concerned about using a nonauthorized dealer and would make sure to check it out.
Ditto rlawry. The requirement to return the warranty card was prohibited by federal law 40 years ago. It's appalling that ANY manufacturer would still peddle that nonsense.
There is no need to have a middle man to secure a better price on any piece of equipment, everything is negotiable and if you find a dealer that won't budge move on to another. Recently called Lamm to secure a new preamp, they would not sell direct but gave me the name of two out of state dealers and purchased the unit for 18% off retail plus saved the tax and Lamm shipped direct to me and this was after contacting the dealer that advertises here on Audiogon and he wanted 10% over retail. Good luck with your purchase and do enjoy those Wilsons, I really enjoy my Sophias.
The only way you will be protected by paypal is if you have a CC tied to the account and use it. Your CC company makes the final decision on chargebacks, not paypal. Also get the serial numbers first and put them in the notes when making a purchase. In fact I'd get the numbers first then call Wilson Audio and speak with Jerron. He is very helpful. Who is the dealer? Regardless of reviews, there is a pair of Witt series 2 for sale on e bay. I have a pair that are mint running thru an all tube system. They sounded as good as all the Sophias and WP up to 6, then the others started to pull away, but so did the price. I run them in a 24 x 12 x 8 room and they fill the room easily. Personally I'd stay away from the offer you are talking about, but best of luck.
I'd like to thank everyone for all the great comments.  I've told the "dealer" I will order the Sabrinas after I have the serial numbers and Wilson confirms they will warranty them.  We'll see . . .
I once purchased speakers 'outside of authorized dealer' for cash knowing that the warranty will certainly void, but still the price was tempting and sweet almost half-way down for new pair of Sonus Faber Grand Piano -- $2200. 
Been very happy and not worried much about warranty on couple of resistors, caps and drivers that are easy to fix if SitHitTheFan which never happened.
Warranty is given for marketing to blow the price for product at least by 70% or higher.
You need better contacts. Sabrina retails at 16K.

My contacts can do better than your cost. And it’s straight authorized.
I'm all ears.  Please send to mike@ourislands.com.
Don't do it, it's not worth it; the headache and regret coupled to your already perceived risk is simply not worth the perceived benefit.  Everything described here speaks run away. Don't cry to me when this crashes and burns; I would never go near such an offer.

Warranty voided?  Are you kidding me?
Maybe I'm way off base here but why can't companies honor their warranty to any owner? The product is their product after all. I have had Dynaudio's and now Raidho and both companies warranty their products regardless if you are an original or 4th owner.
I would tell him to put you in contact with the dealer and you will not haggle. If he's making something off the top, which I'm sure he is, then let him make it. 

Huge discounts on high end audio shouldn't make you nervous. The margins are huge. 
Why would you even want wilson audio speakers when there's so much better out there for a lot less money. I mean any speaker company would charge you more if you were to get it looking like the side of an automobile with auto paint.
 In any case, if your really big on the wilson's I would deal only with the authorized dealer and if the dealer won't give you a little discount at least you will have a big piece of mind knowing that you did it the right way and your covered with any problems by the dealer. Good luck to you.
I work for a Wilson dealer and I can tell you most Wilson dealers would NEVER sell a pair of current models sideways to such a guy.  Why would they?  The Sabrina is very popular right now and there is no need for a dealer to give such a hot product away to a third party, knowing he is going to turn around and discount it too.  This friend of yours is already giving about half of the margin away by discounting it 20%.  NO, speakers are NOT like furniture with 80% margin, counter to the popular belief expressed by "smoothfidelity" above.  If Wilson caught a legit dealer moving a new speaker like the Sabrina "sideways" to another guy or "dealer", the legit dealer would soon NOT be a Wilson dealer I assure you.  Sabrinas sell just fine without needing to be discounted, at least in the Northwest.  This deal smells worse than 5 day old fish.  Walk away from this guy and buy from a legit dealer -- although you might pay more, you will get a real Wilson speaker with a real Wilson 5 year warranty.  Or wait until a used pair shows up at your local Wilson dealer, which they will sooner or later, as Wilson customers will often decide to upgrade to a better model and trade their first purchase in.   The guy's business ethic stinks too.  Take your money and run the other way!   

I am in 100% agreement with definitiveaudio above. I recently was in a similar situation for replacement tweeters for my WP 7's. The dealer I bought the WP's through is no longer a Wilson dealer, so Wilson would not allow him to buy and ship to me, nor would they let him buy through an authorized dealer across town and have them shipped to me. The other dealer placed the order, and Wilson shipped direct to me. Not exactly the same situation that you are in, but close enough that you can see how Wilson operates.

I'd stay clear of this deal, and work directly with an authorized dealer, especially when your dealing with this kind of money.

 Full price? More like "Fool Price".

I frequently see used Wilson speakers advertised at better discounts. I have not yet heard a speaker that did not sound better with at least a few hundred hours of use. [I picked up a pair of Avalon "Eidolon" speakers (list $35k+) for less than 1/3 list. They sound fantastic with ALL my tube amps. BTW, I could have paid full price, but I am not compelled to do that for status or ego-boosting bragging rights. I listened, I put down a pile of 100s and drove back home from Florida to northern Virginia. They love my listening space.]

That said, I think it unlikely to find a pair of the Wilson Audio "Sabrinas" on the used market, but in time... meanwhile, there are other Wilson models (some with higher list $). Along with many other brands that may also sound great with your rig. I would not twist myself into a pretzel over dealer-sourced or "used" unless there was no track record for the seller, I'd twist myself into a musical listening experience... and spend the rest on that seemingly absurd cable (again at discount). Dealers will discount. I quit work a year ago for some re-triangualtion, and have used the line "I'm not currently employed" to great discount effect on several pieces of audio gear from several dealers. I never mention my relative wealth.

Without comment on whether this is a good deal, I agree with rlawry that Wilson would have a tough time denying warranty service on this basis.  Grey Market warranty issues are real with some imported goods where warranty service is provided by a company other than the manufacturer (a distributor), but - in this case - Wilson is probably on the hook with or without your card being returned.  It's actually kind of important, too since Wilson has reportedly had sporadic issues with their paint finishes, which are apparently very expensive to fix.