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Shopping Local Audio Gear is Getting More and More Challenging

by October 03, 2022
Speaker Saloon

Speaker Saloon

Normally, I am not susceptible to marketing via “info-mericals” but a few months ago, while scrolling through my normal band of channels (287 backwards to about 232 on DirecTV) I came upon a promo for GENERAC. This company makes, what seems to be, an industry leading AC power backup system for your entire house. It isn’t solar powered (which is cool in its own special way) as much as it was powered by natural gas and-or other fuels in most configurations. The idea is, when your power goes out, you have a reliable, local backup solution. Like Tesla (and others in the solar space) you could add battery backup, which was appealing. The show talked about $3,000 type costs with “act now” level pricing that you’d expect from consumer-direct marketer. That’s kinda where I bailed out on the process to get back to ‘The Cooking Channel’ or something else more in my lane for TV viewing.

1-electrician

The next day, I was driving past the local electrician’s store front and noticed that he had a big sign for GENERAC in his window, so when I got home, I called them. The owner, whom I’ve done business with before for other house electrical issues, showed up himself to do the bid. Now, I know this local sub is relatively expensive as they only come with TWO electricians and they charge nearly $200 per hour for their services even if you just need a light bulb changed. The company’s advantage has been that they get to your house quickly and seem to solve issues pretty effectively, thus worth a little extra money to keep the local subcontractors thriving, right?

I wasn’t able to spend a ton of time with the owner that day during his process, but he emailed me his bid later in the day. Before he came to my house, I told him I was looking for a “starter system” with hopeful room to grow. To be clear with you… I never expected to get a solution for $3,000 but more likely double that, again with room to grow in the future. What I got was a bid for $17,900! I called the guy and asked him, “What the hell, dude”!?! And his response made him the first person to actually verbalize the quid pro quo so honestly when it comes to shopping locally here in Los Angeles. He said, “Look man, you live in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Los Angeles, so you can afford it!” I am not sure how often this “assumptive close” (to use a technical sales term) works, but he lost me right then and there. He didn’t listen to a word that I was saying before he came up, thus wasting both of our time. He didn’t care about qualifying me or learning about the needs of his client, who was kind enough to at one point give him a 5-Star Google review. He wanted his max-level sale or was willing to walk. I walked first and enthusiastically.

2-Drain

Just a few weeks ago, I had a month where so many appliances went bad that I had to check to see if Mercury was in retrograde. My 29-year-old double ovens crapped out, which it turns out, were very hard to replace, although I was able to finally find some inventory in New Jersey and pay to have it shipped to California. My microwave then crapped out, which wasn’t as hard to replace, but the stainless steel facia needed to make the installation look half way normal cost almost $100 more than the LG microwave. Next up was my less-than-three-year-old Maytag Commercial washer and dryer that needed $1,700 in non-warranty repairs over 5-plus trips to my house that month. Brutal. In the end, it was my garbage disposal that really got me. To say the disposal that I inherited with the house owed me anything would be an exercise in silliness. This thing had “paid at the plant” but needed a very quick replacement. This contractor plumbing was yet another local sub-contractor that I had also given a 5-star review on Google. They were always quick to run up the hill to deal with whatever problem I had, which is worth paying a premium for. More often than not, service was performed by Mario, who might not be the world’s best plumber, but he cares a lot and he does a solid job. Mario was busy on this fine day, but I know the owner of the firm and I asked him if he could send someone up to with a new InSinkErator to replace the one that I had. He said “No problem” which is all I needed to hear. “He will be up between 1 and 3 PM” he quipped, and I went back to my workday. At 4:00 PM, I got a call at home from the new guy who was trying to come up to my house from their local location. He had the unit in hand and was about five to seven minutes away. When he arrived, he quickly went under the kitchen sink and removed the crazy volume of cleaning supplies under there and looked up to say “I can do this (project) but it is going to be expensive!” I asked how expensive and he retorted “$925” without blinking an eye. Saying nothing, I walked into the next room and did a quick Google search for a ¾ horsepower InSinkErator garbage disposal. They are for sale at several places at RETAIL for under $300 in nearby Santa Monica. That means he was trying to bill me $625 (per hour, it would seem) for labor. I know that I need to pay a “vig” for fast-local service, but that’s too many times too expensive. I sent him home and emailed the owner. As the technician was leaving my house empty-handed, he kept lowering the price as he knew that he got caught trying to screw me. The owner tried to justify his pure graft and like the local electrician, I am done with him. I am 99 percent sure that I pulled my 5-star Google review for his firm too.

3-OpenSign

American Express has a “Shop Local” campaign around the holidays, which I always find inspirational. I couldn’t agree more with trying to keep it local on a philosophical level. What is becoming a problem is the logistics of shopping local… and that transcends well into specialty audio-video. One of my favorite people in AV just took over as CEO of one of the more high end, European audiophile companies and he says “If you (your product) aren’t in Best Buy (or Magnolia) then you are missing dozens of key markets that are just under-served otherwise”. And he is right.

In your world, how valuable is your local AV dealer? Many don’t stock or floor much equipment, thus use your money to order the parts needed while you wait. Others offer uniquely excellent value and understand their clients’ needs specifically. In the comments below, tell us about your local AV dealer with these questions as a starter…

Here Are A Few Key Questions For You To Consider Regarding Your Local AV Dealer?

  •  Do they “floor” products, brands, components and systems that you care to hear/experience?
  •  Do they stock the key items that you need on more of a day-of basis versus waiting for Amazon.com (or the many others) to ship to you?
  •  Do they offer quality or affordable installation/programming?
  •  Do they recycle your old gear when you upgrade?
  •  Do they do audio and/or video calibrations for a new projector, monitor or AV preamp?
  •  Are you willing to pay a little more for the gear that you get from them to support the speed of a local dealer?
  •  Is your local dealer fast or do they just use your money to order gear and then charge you full retail for it?
  •  Have you ever talked to your local AV dealer about what you want from them and how they could be of more service to you versus, online sources?

Supporting Local AV Dealer - Worth the Price?

4-SteroStoreThe role of a local AV dealer is key in your audio-video journey, but they are not a healthy breed at this point. I spoke to my good friend, Dr. Taraszka, who lives near to our fearless leader, Gene Della Sala here at Audioholics.com. He was going over just how many local dealers have gone out of business around the Tampa area in the COVID-era despite a BOOMING real estate market in the area. Some specific custom installers are doing fine but the enthusiast AV stores and audiophile salons are closing up pretty quickly. And Tampa isn’t the only market where this phenomenon is in effect in the United States. As enthusiasts and consumers, we need to consider if we are willing to try to save them, which might include spending a little more, which seems to be a theme that repeats every time I pull out my wallet these days. I bet you feel the same.

For some AV enthusiasts, it is a goodbye and good riddance outlook for dealers that have closed their doors. Others say “I will just buy everything online or at big-box/warehouse stores” when there are more and more well-stocked retailers offering more and often more juicy prices, shipping options etc.... Before we sanitize the entire hobby down to a simple online transaction, let’s admit that there is something to be said about having a local AV dealer that you can go to for a true experience. There is something about knowing your local dealer, who might give you a slightly better trade-in value on your ongoing AV upgrade path. The key concept here is that you need to embrace the dealer’s business model just as much as they need to understand your needs as a consumer. That makes for a long-term, win-win relationship and that is the key to a great relationship.

We look forward to hearing from you below regarding your relationship with your local dealer. Comment away.

 

 

About the author:
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Jerry is the Creator and former Publisher of AVRev.com, HomeTheaterReview.com and AudiophileReview.com. Currently, he publishes FutureAudiophile.com, an enthusiast site trying to bring the audio hobby to a new, younger audience.

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VonMagnum posts on October 23, 2022 17:24
lovinthehd, post: 1575739, member: 61636
Likewise you're a reflection of the idiotic right I suppose….not that that's much to aspire to.

Idiotic Right? Yes, some of them are idiots. But then there's also the ‘I don’t know WTF gender I am (because I apparently can't see what's between my legs) so I'll just make up 100 more and try to cram them down society's throat' (denying biological science while claiming it's the other side that denies “science”), socialism/communism mandate loving, reverse racism hatred pushing, ability to defend or express my true opinions without someone trying to get me fired denying/canceling, baby-murdering moronic Left.

Anyone with any brains can see moderation is the key, not extremism, but then whoever said most of society has any real brains? :P
fmw posts on October 11, 2022 16:45
highfigh, post: 1575883, member: 36433
Customers always wanted low prices- imports became popular because members of the US military had brought various items and equipment back during/after Korea, having bought these at the PX and during leave in Japan. In the ‘50s, people wanted and bought imported transistor radios, but they couldn’t be called ‘pocket radio’ until the clothing industry made shirt pockets larger. Then, when Japanese cars became available, the American Big Three ignored advice to become more efficient and to make better products, so Toyota, Honda, etc kicked our car making ass because of the arrogance. Easy, cheap/free shipping only adds to the draw.

The part I don't understand- many items need to be touched, felt, used in demonstration for the potential user to really find out if it's suitable but living in a remote location makes this an attractive way to buy, just like Sears and Montgomery Wards catalog sales. I get it, but I don't like a giant corporation to kill off small dealers. The personal service from local stores definitely can make life easier, if they would only understand why they exist and that if they continue to hire people who don't have a clue, they'll become one of the “I wonder what happened to the ‘___________’ store?” statistics.
I haven't changed my mind. It is competition with the world wide web that is killing audio and AV stores. Not all of the internet merchants are huge conglomerates but they do just fine. Crutchfield and B&H are a couple of examples. Many AV stores and manufacturers have an internet presence. Amazon and Walmart aren't thinking about putting anybody out of business. They are just implementing their business model. One must either compete or fail.

My industry isn't nearly as large as the AV industry but I compete just fine with Amazon and Walmart. The reason is that I am an expert at my industry and my industry is just some of millions of products with which they deal.
highfigh posts on October 11, 2022 09:34
fmw, post: 1575823, member: 26848
The cause was really the wold wide web. Consumers gravitated to lower prices and convenient delivery. I make my living in e-commerce. I've seen the transition happening over the past 26 years. Competition is what drives our capitalist system.

I bought a new TV yesterday from Amazon to replace my current unit which is acting up. I saved a couple hundred dollars and got free delivery. It will arrive some time later this week. For me it beats driving 60 miles round trip to Best Buy and spending more time and money only to get it delivered later this week. It is what it is.

Customers always wanted low prices- imports became popular because members of the US military had brought various items and equipment back during/after Korea, having bought these at the PX and during leave in Japan. In the ‘50s, people wanted and bought imported transistor radios, but they couldn’t be called ‘pocket radio’ until the clothing industry made shirt pockets larger. Then, when Japanese cars became available, the American Big Three ignored advice to become more efficient and to make better products, so Toyota, Honda, etc kicked our car making ass because of the arrogance. Easy, cheap/free shipping only adds to the draw.

The part I don't understand- many items need to be touched, felt, used in demonstration for the potential user to really find out if it's suitable but living in a remote location makes this an attractive way to buy, just like Sears and Montgomery Wards catalog sales. I get it, but I don't like a giant corporation to kill off small dealers. The personal service from local stores definitely can make life easier, if they would only understand why they exist and that if they continue to hire people who don't have a clue, they'll become one of the “I wonder what happened to the ‘___________’ store?” statistics.
fmw posts on October 10, 2022 15:53
highfigh, post: 1575780, member: 36433
If the market decides what will be available, the consumers don't get to complain that B&M stores don't exist- they caused the death of retail.
The cause was really the wold wide web. Consumers gravitated to lower prices and convenient delivery. I make my living in e-commerce. I've seen the transition happening over the past 26 years. Competition is what drives our capitalist system.

I bought a new TV yesterday from Amazon to replace my current unit which is acting up. I saved a couple hundred dollars and got free delivery. It will arrive some time later this week. For me it beats driving 60 miles round trip to Best Buy and spending more time and money only to get it delivered later this week. It is what it is.
highfigh posts on October 10, 2022 10:52
fmw, post: 1575673, member: 26848
I agree that it is a problem but there is no solution. We have to rely on reviews. I bought my AV speaker system based on reviews and they are quite satisfactory. I didn't get a chance to hear competing brands or models but I don't know what I am missing either. The sound of my system is good. I don't spend any time worrying about it. The marketplace decides what will be available to consumers and one can only consider that the consumers weren't great enough in numbers to prevent the loss of audio and AV stores.

If the market decides what will be available, the consumers don't get to complain that B&M stores don't exist- they caused the death of retail.
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