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Scott Wilkinson 06-08-2015 12:58 PM

Do You Buy AV Gear Online or In-Store?

Buying AV equipment used to mean going to a store, but no longer. Do you buy your gear online, or do you still visit a physical store?

As most audio/video enthusiasts know, brick-and-mortar AV stores are on the decline, while online retailers are becoming the outlet of choice for everything from TVs, source devices, and AV receivers to speakers and cables. Of course, online buying is the ultimate in convenience, but it offers nowhere local to go for service. Also, a store provides at least the possibility of seeing and hearing a demo before you buy, though TV demos in big-box stores are typically useless because the TVs are not set up properly and the environment is nothing like any room in a home. Also, unless the store has a acoustically reasonable audition room, there's no hope of getting a good audio demo, either.

This leads me to wonder about where you buy your AV gear—online or at physical stores? Are there certain items you buy online but others you prefer to purchase in a store? What leads you to your decisions in this regard?

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Dr.Evazan 06-08-2015 01:17 PM

95% online, except I have sure as hell never do it with my girlfriend hahahaha

Chris Isble 06-08-2015 01:17 PM

If you are going to shop at a big-box store, you may as well shop online first. The stores will often price-match.

As I upgrade my system over the years, I find that the big-box stores no longer carry the brands I am shopping for. I try to give my business to the local specialty stores, but will order online if there are no local dealers.

pitviper33 06-08-2015 01:18 PM

I almost always buy online. But I always start in store. I go into the store before doing any research. I want the salesman to teach me about the products. If he can give me confidence that he has a real understanding of the product options and tradeoffs and that he's really leading me toward the product that's best for me, I'll buy it. I won't even check prices online first; I'll buy it then and there. 98% of the time, he can't answer my questions or give me confidence that he has real understanding. So I go do my own research and buy online.

I can only think of once that the salesman really impressed me. I bought the product right then. I checked online afterwards, and I could have gotten it 30% cheaper. I didn't take it back. He had saved me the effort of doing my own research, and I was happy to compensate him and his store for it. I'd spend a lot more money and a lot less time on my purchases if there were more salesmen like that.

Class A 06-08-2015 01:33 PM

I'm lucky I have 2 audio stores 25 minutes away from me plus 2 others about an hour and a half away. All four dealers have been around for 25-30 years. Excellent service from all of them and I've had no trouble taking gear home and demoing them. Gives me lots of choices and I can physically look and hear the equipment I'm interested in. Plus I can go to the dealer if there is a problem and they can deal w/the company. And they'll also give me a loaner while my gear is being fixed. :)

pittsoccer33 06-08-2015 01:36 PM

I had a nice little side job selling electronics at a big box for a couple of years. That was before Amazon was charging sales tax in my state. Before that point, unless you HAD to have the product that day I would have never recommended my friends buy from me when they could likely buy for less with FREE DELIVERY and no tax. There was also no hassles over store charge cards, rewards cards, and extended warranties.

We didn't even carry the nice models in store. I'm talking Samsung 8000 series, Panasonic VT series, Sony XBR series, etc. So you had to order them anyway. Why not order from an e-tailer for less and get it brought to your house for free.

Of course, I'd make more money selling an HDMI cable and a wall mount than I would the 55" tv they were being connected to.

I don't shop at the store I worked at much, because they are starting to get out of the electronics game (they were when I was there, new salespeople were not paid on commission), but I can say for sure that Best Buy has gotten very aggressive at matching Amazon's prices. I've had luck with a number of things.

The greatest strength you have with in store is a knowledgeable salesperson (assuming you deal with one). But I think most AVS'ers already have a pretty good idea of what they need, don't need, and what won't work out for them.

On my first night on the floor I thought I knew enough about tvs (120hz! 1080p! plasma vs LCD!) but a gentleman had the most in depth questions about the then brand new Panasonic 3D plasmas. He was asking about cross talk, ghosting, MLL, etc. I knew after he walked away that if I wanted to be credible I needed to become better informed. ALOT better.

kaiforce 06-08-2015 01:47 PM

Its nice not having to pay tax when spending thousands :D

justsellem 06-08-2015 01:47 PM


Originally Posted by pitviper33 (Post 34859873)
I almost always buy online. But I always start in store. I go into the store before doing any research. I want the salesman to teach me about the products. If he can give me confidence that he has a real understanding of the product options and tradeoffs and that he's really leading me toward the product that's best for me, I'll buy it. I won't even check prices online first; I'll buy it then and there. 98% of the time, he can't answer my questions or give me confidence that he has real understanding. So I go do my own research and buy online.

I can only think of once that the salesman really impressed me. I bought the product right then. I checked online afterwards, and I could have gotten it 30% cheaper. I didn't take it back. He had saved me the effort of doing my own research, and I was happy to compensate him and his store for it. I'd spend a lot more money and a lot less time on my purchases if there were more salesmen like that.

I make my living selling AV gear and the biggest threat we face these days is the mass movement to buying on-line. I actually am at a local independent AV store that's been going for 30yrs.

It's sad that the day of our type of retail is going away fast. It has been a wonderful career for a audio and video nut. Fun stuff to study, learn about and sell and was a great 6-figure job up until a couple years ago.

I appreciate the above post as there is nothing more frustrating to spend a couple of hours with a client only to have him leave and buy online. I, and our store, will ALWAYS give the expertise and help and STILL match legitimate online offers. So it is great if the above poster is willing to buy from the guy who spent the time and knew what he was talking about. Kudo's to you!!!

They_call_me_Roto 06-08-2015 02:01 PM

A few years ago I purchased a bunch of home audio equipment online. When it came time to do my taxes I paid a huge bill to my state for the online purchases. Since then I make all my big ticket purchases at local stores to avoid the hassle. Aside from the tax issue I prefer buying at a store because I get to take the product home and see the boxes before I accept them. Order online and you can get a demolished box left on your porch, then you have to deal with returning the product and hoping the next shipment arrives without damage. A few dollars of savings just isn't worth that headache to me. I have the good fortune of living in a suburban area where I can get most any brand (certainly not the ID brands) from one of several local shops.

RLBURNSIDE 06-08-2015 02:02 PM

I appreciate the hardships the move to an Amazon based economy, given that it's just as bad if not worse than Walmart at impoverishing and ultimately destroying the middle class in North America. But on the other hand, here in Canada at least, we get gouged something fierce by local retailers, and even places like Best Buy often charge 20-50% more so I have no sympathy if they go out of business.

Humanity will have to decide if getting the cheapest prices is worth it. I was going to buy a Samsung 6500 4k TV but they wouldn't even bring the price down to what I could get it online from an authorized Amazon / Samsung dealer (200 bucks cheaper). And with Amazon's easy return policy being the same as BestBuy's, there is virtually no risk even buying a big screen TV online these days.

Online sales are turning shopping malls into ghost towns these days. It's pretty scary. But that's change for you. Full steam ahead! Screw the consequences. Pretty soon we'll have amazon drones delivering hot apple pie directly to your kitchen window sill and taking a few snaps while it's there. Hey, might as well police / watch us at the same time. Efficiency, right? I can see it now "Inefficiency is tyranny, one swiss army drone can cover all your needs. You don't even need to work, because robots and AI have turned everyone into coffee salesmen, whoops, robots do that too now. Flip your burgers, program your games, act in hollywood movies better than most crappy hollywood actors can".

It's a ...Brave new world!

HockeyoAJB 06-08-2015 02:07 PM

I do most of my research online. But, for any single item over $50, I usually make my purchase in a box store (requesting a price match if a major online retailer has a lower advertised price). I like to see it in person before I pay for it, when spending that much. Part of it is that I don't trust delivery people when it comes to heavy, fragile items. Part of it is that I would rather be able to return/exchange the item by simply taking it back to the store if there is a problem. The only time I purchase individual items costing more than $50 online is when I can't get the same item in a local box store. For example, I bought my Dell laptop online because no major box store offers the level of customization that you can get straight from the online store. I also purchased my media console online because no box store carried the exact model I wanted.

For anything under $50, I could go either way. For Blu-Ray purchases, I'm probably 50/50 Amazon vs. box store (typically Best Buy or Target). I buy almost all of my cables, connectors, adapters, etc. online now.

blastermaster 06-08-2015 02:18 PM

Apart from Blu Rays, I pretty much buy my stuff online. Although I do try to avoid Amazon where possible and buy from smaller Internet companies. From what I've read, they're worse than Wal-Mart in how they treat their employees.

turnne1 06-08-2015 02:24 PM

Many brands cannot be sold online....almost all high end audio for example
In fact even Pioneer will not a warranty on their Elite branded merchandise from anything but a B&M mortar retailer


wallfly 06-08-2015 02:34 PM

I do most of my research online, and I have made several purchases online. I still go into stores and buy. I have purchased a few TVs online, and a few in store over the last several years. Depends on the pricing, or if I can get a very favorable 36 month no interest. If I can get both, then I usually walk in and buy, if not, I buy online. It was different though, when I purchased my first real surround sound set up 13 years ago, I went in and bought at a local AV store. I may still go back in store when I am ready to upgrade my speakers. I appreciate their knowledge, and the ability to hear the speakers. I don't like trying to be sold on a particular set though, I want to be able to hear them and decide. I know they are not exactly what my room will sound like, but it is a preferable experience and gives me good idea of what to expect. I have replaced my receiver 2 times, both of which were purchased online. I was upgrading mostly for the improved capabilities, (move to HDMI, support for Dolby True-HD, need for more inputs). I researched and bought both of these online, same with all the Blu-ray players over the last several years. I can't remember the last game console or game I bought in store, its been more than five years, and probably closer to 10. I do occasionally have to go in store and buy a Blu-ray disc, but for the most part, I get all of them online as well.

nikolouzosr 06-08-2015 02:43 PM

Having lived in Greece and now Australia, in-store purchases are out of the question. WAY TOO EXPENSIVE!!! 100% online only... and mostly 2nd hand. Great value for money.

torii 06-08-2015 03:27 PM

in store for stuff over 2 grand, online the rest.might change in the future as I am finding in store staffs to be snobby and not very helpful....probably due to all the online purchases.

hotrodguy 06-08-2015 03:29 PM

I prefer in store, I like to see, hear, touch whatever I'm interested in buying, so if a store carries what I want, I'll get it there. I'm still a bargain hunter though, I research everything online, see if I can find it at a local store and what the best price is. If all that fails, (they don't carry it or it's way too expensive) I buy online. This goes for everything from HT electronics to discs to car parts etc.

Granted, living in L.A. makes buying at stores a lot easier, we have so many to choose from. From big box to mom & pop record stores, we have it all! Heaven for all you store lovers out there, plus the option for buying online...:p

vondoom88 06-08-2015 03:36 PM

Living in a rural area of northern IL, where most specialty A/V shops have gone under due to not being able to compete with best buy & circuit city. I do tons of online research & buy quite a bit online. I wouldn't say 100% but with brands like Oppo & Emotiva who are delivering great bang for the buck it's definitely getting closer & closer to 100%. Probably won't be much longer & I'll be in the 100% category too. It's too bad there used to be a couple of shops that were about 45 miles away from me that I really liked, they're gone now.
I once bought a 1,800.00 sub the salesman had never heard of the model so he had to ask the owner. The owner took notice & I dealt directly with the owner after that. It was so nice because he knew I know what I want & he was an enthusiast like myself. He would show me cool new stuff just to show me not trying to sell me on it. It made the shopping experience way better. Sadly they have both gone under. The one guy is Cedia certified installer & works out of his home now, well last that I knew.

Orbitron 06-08-2015 03:46 PM

My local hi-fi specialty closes his store 1 day a week to make housecalls. When possible I give him the sale but in recent years as I explore other brands he doesn't carry, I've had to look online as well.

This may just be my experience but in recent years as I've become involved with other dealers, I'm finding those who "sell it" are not the ones who "know it"

comike 06-08-2015 04:02 PM

I personally just went through several thousands of dollar spend. I did a lot of research (including very helpful and insightful information on these forums). And I have a pretty simple approach when making purchase decisions.

If the item(s) I'm purchasing are high dollar amounts (like a projector), and I spend a lot of time with a salesperson getting sound education (pun intended), I'm less sensitive to the cost I pay for the product as I feel I'm getting value add commensurate with my sales engagement. I don't really have an affinity to whether the salesperson works for a local boutique store or large chain. On the other hand, if I find the salesperson's time and information is lacking, I'm more likely going to shop for best price (as I'll end up doing all the research myself - why should I pay them?)

If it's commodity purchase (cables for instance), I'm shopping online.

FWIW, most of my spend this time was with Best Buy Magnolia folks. And yes, they aggressively priced their components without me even asking (albeit it took a couple of quotes for them to figure out I wasn't going to spend $300 to program a remote control). Overall I was luck enough to have a good salesman that made the shopping experience worth it.

Having said that, I'm concerned that there won't be to many places left where I can actually go demo the expensive gear we savor (I can't imagine spending several thousands of dollars on speakers without first hearing them!). That's the downside of online shopping.

Mike O

tubetwister 06-08-2015 04:07 PM

"Do You Buy AV Gear Online or In-Store?"

depends if I stole it or not !:D

geekiegeek 06-08-2015 04:16 PM

I live in New Zealand so there is limited choice but in many cases getting things shipped from overseas including the shipping costs and local taxes can still work out cheaper.

Case in point - Sennheiser HD700 headphones NZ$1300 locally, got mine from Amazon (Open box return) for NZ$750 shipped and with tax.

The ability to buy cheaper online is killing local retailers of many items with almost no book or music stores left in New Zealand and not a lot of speciality audio/video stores either, just big box chains with large buying power.

work permit 06-08-2015 04:24 PM

Expensive speakers i buy local. Most everything else i buy online. Mostly because its convienient, but also because of the wider selection and better return policies. Price is not a factor. Neither are taxes since many online sellers charge tax, and when they don't I have to pay "use fees" on anything over $1000.

Carlos_E 06-08-2015 04:24 PM

I used to buy online then stopped. I had a TV arrive damaged this year and last year. After that my higher priced items I will buy local and smaller items online.

mo949 06-08-2015 04:40 PM

I bought some speakers over the telephone recently from AVSales.

jpillar 06-08-2015 04:46 PM

I buy at a local non chain AV store.

tleavit 06-08-2015 04:47 PM

I do all my research here and mostly buy online. Stores don't really sell the stuff I need around here.

mlknez 06-08-2015 05:00 PM

There are so few mid to high end audio stores in my area that I have to do all of my shopping online. I live in a metro area of 3 Million people! I go to shows like RMAF, AXPONA and CES for research first.

18Hurts 06-08-2015 05:12 PM

I live out in the boonies--200 mile round trip to a Best Buy

I have made the trip to AV places in the past but the sales people know more about phones than the electronics. Go to a AV store and they sell products that are more about looks and not performance. The things I see are either junk or ultra-high end stuff so I started to DIY my speakers and purchased pro sound CD players and amplifiers. I custom build the cabinets to fit the furniture and the space which scores very high on the WAF. Discovering DIY Sound Group was great since I can get the components, assemble them--cut some of the baffle (if required) and build the cabinet to spec and fit my furniture.

Not as easy as going to Joe's Audio Emporium but we will survive! :cool:

Lazarus Dark 06-08-2015 05:26 PM

buy in store... where? Best Buy is the only B&M electronics store left right? And they don't carry anything that I am interested in purchasing, A/V-wise.
Okay, I do like to peruse Fry's when I visit Texas, but I've never really bought much there. Perhaps if it wasn't 6 hours away, I might actually buy gear from there.
Online is basically my only choice, period.

Pretty much once Circuit City and CompUSA closed and Best Buy stopped carrying anything but junk, I haven't bought any electronics in a store at all, save maybe an emergency HDMI cable at Walmart or Lowes.

Don't get me started on the hundreds of rip-off car stereo places around.

Side note: someone in another post mentioned warranties not being honored if you don't buy from "approved" stores. I've read of this before, and even seen it on some a/v manufacturers websites, but I've never understood, how is that legal? If I buy from Amazon, and there is no indication anywhere that Amazon is not "approved" and the warranty won't be honored, how is it legal to deny my warranty if I didn't know they wanted me to buy from a specific place? How is it legal period to require such a stipulation? How did Amazon or whoever get ahold of the product if the manufacturer didn't sell it to them? Seems to me if Amazon has the product, by default they are an approved seller, otherwise they'd have never had the product in the first place.
Isn't this all like a EULA, where in most instances its not really legally binding since the user didn't really agree to anything prior to purchase? Maybe its just a matter of, if they deny the warranty because you bought it somewhere they didn't like, you'd have to take them to court and most people wouldn't bother?

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