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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Being in the AV industry I often wonder why one would buy online rather than a B&M. Most B&M offer better customer service. I have always felt that doing business in person is much more effective than over the phone or email.


Is it the Price? Sometimes. Convenience ?(often). Dealer products too far away to demo and buy ( sometimes ).


While talking to a friend in the shoe business I asked about mark up.

I sold him a $3000 TV just over cost and he saved a total of $175 over another dealer. Wow! Huge saving.


Anyway, the markup on shoes is huge. 300% to 1000%. Now when I shop for shoes I never hear anyone trying to price shop and bargain on shoes.



WHY??
 

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Reason's for not buying at a brick-and-mortor store:


The small high end shops close early and often aren't open on Sunday. I work, they must suit my hours. Also, their locations in my area are not convenient.


You can't count on being able to audition the product you are interested in since most in-store demo setups are mis-configured.


Even if configured properly, I must then suffer through dealing with a salesperson in order to demo the product I came to see. Heck, if I'm standing there long enough to figure out their system you know there will be a sales person there soon.


I don't want to talk to anyone. I know what I am looking for. I have researched the technical merits of the current product lines. I don't need the advise or prejudices of the sales person.


Okay, I'm ready to buy. What, you don't have one in stock? No, I'm NOT interested in another model. I have to wait how long? It is how much? The nearest xxx dealer is how far away? Where's the competition?


Too much hassle.
 

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I personally like the idea of dealing direct with the designers and builders of the products. Companies like ACI, HSU and SVS are reported to offer superb customer service and know their products far better than most B&M salespeople. I like the idea of being able to demo the products in my home for a month or so with no one breathing down my throat and knowing I can send it back if it doesn't work out. How many B&M stores will give you even a couple of weeks? A lot of B&M make in-home demos a real hassle. I don't care what it sounds like in their showroom, I want to know what it will sound like in my house!
 

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Price is a HUGE consideration when it comes to buying online. I have seen items in B&M stores that are 30% more than I can find them for online.


I would 100% of the time buy from B&M if I could get the same prices or even competitive prices. But the only time I have seen competitive pricing is for demo or b-stock items. The only time I buy from B&M's is when it is a firm priced object that I can't get substantially cheaper online and then I buy from the store that I respect the most, even if I can find it slightly cheaper at a second class store.


When it comes to shoes, I think you're insane if you don't think people price shop or bargain. I've NEVER paid full retail on shoes in my life (ok, one time I bought this pair of Kenneth Cole boots but they were so perfect for me, but thats not the point). I've gotten Kenneth Cole shoes for $25 a pair on sale in outlet stores and elsewhere. One reason you might not be able to haggle compared to an electronics store is that the salespeople in shoe stores are not on commission and so can't cut into their commission to cut you a break and almost never have the authority to lower prices like salespeople in an AV store.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by David Richardson
Electronics prices and shoes is the topic.


Dave
For me, they are the same in that my goal in aquiring either is the same:


Good quality

Good price

No hassle


I won't buy shoes from a place that only has one shoe out and all the pairs are in the back. When I do, they are a $200 pair of shoes. That doesn't happen very often as I prefer to find a $80 pair of shoes and stick with that style/model/brand.

If they need replacing then I buy online where they can be had from various sources that operate in a competitive environment. I can match price with store reputation and be on my happy way -- all without leaving my couch.


How is that not the topic?


I wonder how long you have had your business. It seems like a long time, because I don't think you quite understand what it means to be a 'gasp' consumer in today's market.
 

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I think shoes vs. electronics is a pretty big stretch. Though I personally have a problem paying more than $50-60 for a pair of shoes, I do wear decent shoes, it is just a matter of knowing where to shop. Of course I do buy from B&M stores too for electronics, with some exceptions.


For me, I shop online for most things, I buy clothes, computer parts, books, CDs, etc all online. I even bought my last car mostly online, just walking in to do the paperwork. It is much more convienient. I dont have to worry about rushing to the store straight from work so I can get there before they close, I dont have to deal with salesmen trying to sell me things I do not need, etc.


I had a good relationship with a salesman at a local B&M, and would buy most things from their store if they carried it, they took their time with me, let me audition what I wanted, and helped me really decide what I wanted to buy. But now they have dropped the brand of amps I have. While I have the 2 channel, when I go to get another 5 channels to finish my HT, I will definately look for a deal online. If I cannot buy from them, there is no reason for me to buy from another B&M. I will still buy things they carry from them, because of their great service.


Lastly, you might spend $100 on a pair of shoes, and maybe if you shop around you can save $20-50, high percentage, yes, but to most, not a large sum of money. Now on electronics, you can save several hundreds, sometimes over $1000. That is a big deal. Even if the percentage is smaller, the amount saved is past that mental lots of money part. $20-50 is dinner out, several hundred to over $1000 is a step up on the equipment range, a car payment, or a month worth of bills. I think that is part of the big difference... Most people stretch when buying this gear anyway, so anything saved helps. I know I spent over 2.5 x my budget when I first got this setup (without amps even), and if I would have bought online, and saved a good chunk, it might have put me into amps at the time.


Iostream
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Teran




How is that not the topic?


I wonder how long you have had your business. It seems like a long time, because I don't think you quite understand what it means to be a 'gasp' consumer in today's market.


That's right on the topic!


Since I'm in the AV business and a consumer at the same time I guess I have more inside info but then again what do I know compared to you and your soapbox.


Dave
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Quote:
Originally posted by Iostream
I think shoes vs. electronics is a pretty big stretch. Though I personally have a problem paying more than $50-60 for a pair of shoes,
A huge stretch!


300% to 1000% markup on shoes and yet I don't hear people trying to bargin on shoes. Even when they are discounted 50% the markup is incrediable.


Dave
 

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I buy online quite a bit. I have even purchased shoes online.


But in general, there are product types that lend themselves to being sold online, and there are product types that lend themselves to being sold in a B&M.


Let's analize shoes for a momment. I think shoes definitely lend themselves to being sold in a B&M for the following reasons:

1) You need to try them on.

2) Sales reps do not need to know a lot about you or the product.

3) They represent a small purchase: typically, shoes just don't cost a lot, and thus people are more willing to pay a higher mark up.




Personally, I disagree with your statement that B&M stores offer better customer service. Let me break "customer service" down into these catagories:


1) Does the store help you before the purchase? Does the store give you the information you need to make the best decision for you?


2) Does the store help you after the purchase?

a) Does the store have fair return policies?

b) Do they help you with problems that arise with your purchase?



Concerning (1), it has been my experience that shopping on the web has ultimately lead me to make better informed decisions on what to purchase. I've found that B&M sales staff fall into one of two catagories:

A) Dumb and generally not helpful.

B) Informed and smart, but not out for your best interests.


What's worse is that you have to pay extra to these sales people in the form of added markup for their either bad, or biased and self-serving "information".


There are of course exceptions to this, but by and large, this is what I have found. If you find a B&M audio dealer that is informed, smart, and interested in learning about you and looking out for your best interests, I'm sure this is valuable. But I would much rather just post a question to avsforum and have a bunch of experts respond than just one.



Often online retailers don't provide a lot of "advice", but you can have one window open to their online store, and other windows open to epinions, audioreview.com, the manufactures website, avsforum.com, etc. One of the things I like about Amazon.com is that you can read all of the opinions, both positive and negative, of other people that have purchased that product. I have purchased about $2000 worth of tools from Amazon.com in the past 2 years. I'm not a tool expert -- far from it -- but after reading all of these unbiased reviews, I've made some really good choices, and saved a good bit of money as well. And there's no way that a home depot sales rep is going to be able to give me the kind of insight that all of these reviews can.



Also concerning (1), a stores selection plays a big part of what you ultimately decide to purchase. Again, using Amazon.com and home depot as an example, Amazon.com has pretty much every tool made. Home depot has a big selection for a B&M store, but only a relatively small subset of the tools availble. For example, Both home depot and Amazon.com had Bosch sanders, but only Amazon.com had the model with variable speed. After reading the reviews from other expert carpenters, I determined that was a feature that I wanted. I would not have even know about this if I had only gone to home depot.



Concerning (2a), the online retailers I purchase from have fair return policies. I wouldn't buy from either a B&M or online retailer without a fair return policy.


Concerning (2b), you often have two choices: return the unit to the online retailer for a new one, or contact the manufacturer for advice or assistance. For the later, it's really the manufacturer that makes a difference.



As far as audio equipment is concerned, I think the biggest advantage that a B&M dealer has is the fact that you can listen to the products in the store. This helps you quickly narrow down what you're interested in, but most B&M audio store can only go so far to create the setup you need. Utimately, you need to hear these products in your home with your system. And companies like Outlaw Audio make it very easy to do just that.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by dblloyd
Let's analize shoes for a momment. I think shoes definitely lend themselves to being sold in a B&M for the following reasons:

1) You need to try them on.

2) Sales reps do not need to know a lot about you or the product.

3) They represent a small purchase: typically, shoes just don't cost a lot, and thus people are more willing to pay a higher mark up.
I fully agree on the first and third points and I disagree with the second statement somewhat. I was looking to buy a pair of shoes that were waterproof when I was in Vancouver as it always rains there at least when I travel there. The sales rep asked me to walk so he could see my posture walking patterns etc. He nailed down exactly how my shoes wear out without actually looking at the soles etc. He was quite knowledgeable in both general orthopedics and footwear (wonder if he was foot doctor going through university). I ended up buying two pairs of shoes as I had never had this level of service from a shoe store. Both pairs of shoes were the best shoes for me that I have owned in terms of fit and fucntion. This was certainly no Al Bundy. I would equate this service to a sales rep asking someone shopping for speakers your room size, the type of music you listen to, seating relative to the speakers, personal preferences etc.


OK back to the topic. IMO most people buy their shoes from chain stores where the ability to negotiate is almost non-existent. The price you see is the price they charge. The mom and pop shoe stores or the "one of" shoe stores - you have the ability to negotiate but ...... the "one of" shoe stores especially in malls are usually more upscale where if you can afford to shop there - it may be a waste of your valuable time to haggle. As for the mom and pop shoe stores you can negotiate but - I just don't see that many of these stores around anymore.


Shoes may be considered a staple item like clothes and food, most people don't negotiate because of points 1 and 3 that dblloyd mentions. Usually the need for use of these staple items is fairly soon which makes a Bricks and Mortar store ideal (assuming they got stock). IMHO The bigger the purchase (car, house) the more likely poeple are willing to negotiate because there is the perception that they can and will save money regardless of the markup. If I'm not mistaken, there isn't a whole lot of markup for new cars. For smaller purchases, people are less likely to negotiate. For example, Home Depot must make a killing on the mark up for nails, screws and other raw building materials but I don't see people trying to negotiate or buy online for those items.


There are about three B&M audio/video stores that I buy from regularly because of the customer service in the form of knowledge, correct demo setups and reasonable negotiable pricing. As for shoes, I'm still looking for a shoe store that provides the level of service I mentioned above so I can continually give it repeat business - its been 5 years and counting.


I remember reading an ad in En Route (Air Canada's magazine) for a guy selling his seminar on negotiation. The ad had a quote something to the effect of "You don't get what you ask for, You get what you negotiate"
 

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> > Let's analize shoes for a momment. I think shoes

> > definitely lend themselves to being sold in a B&M

> > for the following reasons:

> > 1) You need to try them on.

> > 2) Sales reps do not need to know a lot about you

> > or the product.

> > 3) They represent a small purchase: typically, shoes

> > just don't cost a lot, and thus people are more

> > willing to pay a higher mark up.



> I fully agree on the first and third points and I

> disagree with the second statement somewhat.


So the idea behind point (2) is that currently shoes only come in so many sizes. Most shoes only come in size 6 – 13. Some shoes also offer a ‘Wide’ option. I’m typically an 11 Wide. Now, whether a shoe fits my feet well or not really depends on the ‘last’. But there is nothing that the sales rep can really do help me with this. Perhaps ideally, he could look at my foot, perhaps take some measurements, and say, well I think these shoes over here are going to work, but those over there are not, thus saving me a few minutes. Another thing that a sales rep might be able to do is offer different shoe inserts (like “superfeetâ€) to increase the quality of the fit. But I know more about superfeet and other inserts than any sales rep I have ever spoken to.


The problem is that shoes just aren’t that complicated. There’s not enough variables for me to feel like I should pay someone to help me. I don’t think the fundamental problem is that our sales reps need to be smarter. Our “shoe technology†needs to be better first. And for our “shoe technology†to be better, people need to care more about shoes and how they fit. But most people care much more about fashion and the name on the side of the shoe.


I’m actually hoping that a company will start making super comfortable shoes that come in all kinds of sizes, and have sales reps smart enough help you chose the right shoes. I thought Mephisto was such a company, but my recent trip to their store ended in failure. They don’t even offer a ‘Wide’ size. The shoes I looked at cost $300 and more. When I tried on a pair of shoes, I told the guy that the shoes didn't feel comfortable: not wide enough. I'm sure that the last just wasn’t design with my foot in mind. The guy told me that these shoes get much more comfortable with time and they need to break in. I told him that every time I have purchased shoes that start off feeling this uncomfortable, they never get comfortable. He told me that he guaranteed that these shoes would be comfortable. I said, "Fine, then I can have a refund if I find that they are not?" He said, "Well ..., um..., no, that's not our policy". I said, "Well then, how about if I return them I pay your cost?" He said, "Well ..., um..., no, once you wear them you cannot return them". I said, "then what is it exactly that you are 'guaranteeing'? You're only trying to guarantee that I give you $300." He never directly answered that question.




Ideally, I think buying shoes should be like buying glasses: We go to our orthopedic doctor (informed, smart guy out for our best interests) and have him or her determine exactly what kind and size of shoes we should be wearing (think not just sizes 6-12, but many different measurements assuring the most accurate and comfortable fit). Then, we go to our shoe store where a sales rep helps us determine what fashion, etc., we should buy. The sales rep can be dumb cheap labor, or an expensive fashion consultant. Also note, that this would make shoes something to buy online (I buy my glasses online).


But unfortunately, people just don't care enough. Thus, there is no pressure for this to develop.


And the bottom line is that no matter how knowledgeable a sales rep is, there is only so much he or she can do given the products that they sell.
 

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The number one reason why I purchase at a B&M as opposed to the internet...


If you have a problem, you can always go back.


I will not make a purchase at a store if I do not like the service I recieve when I research the product.


Shoes...well, that is one thing that I hate to shop for, not-too mention bargain shop!


I don't like to haggle, but I love getting a deal. I just ask, "what is the best price you can give me" and if i feel that it is resonable, and I like the product I will make the purchase.
 

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> If you have a problem, you can always go back.


You can always go back, but that doesn't mean that they will actually do anything for you. As I pointed out, Mephisto does not take returns, even though their shoes are $300+.


I've also heard some really bad stories about Best Buy.


So I don't think this is a reason to buy B&M. You have to check the return policies and the store's reputation no matter where you buy from.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by dblloyd
> If you have a problem, you can always go back.


You can always go back, but that doesn't mean that they will actually do anything for you. As I pointed out, Mephisto does not take returns, even though their shoes are $300+.


I've also heard some really bad stories about Best Buy.


So I don't think this is a reason to buy B&M. You have to check the return policies and the store's reputation no matter where you buy from.
Quote:
Originally posted by jrace
I will not make a purchase at a store if I do not like the service I recieve when I research the product.
If the store will not take returns, then i will be wary of purchasing from them (if it is audio related).
 

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> The number one reason why I purchase at a B&M as

> opposed to the internet...

>

> If you have a problem, you can always go back.


Yes, but do you agree that this is not a good reason to purchase at a B&M? I believe this issue is fairly orthogonal since a store's return policy and reputation is independent of it's being a B&M or online.




I believe we agree that when you make a purchase, you should know at least two things:

1) what is the return policy?

2) what is the store's reputation (do they honor that policy without any hassles?)


I would actually argue that it's easier to get this information for an online retailer. Typically, their return policies are clearly listed in the appropriate section (if not, run away). Also, there are a bunch of websites that you can turn to to check on an online store's reputation. This being one of them, but there are also websites deticated to rating online resellers.



If you buy B&M, how do you find out about the store's reputation? Word on the street, mostly, yes? And does the store have their return policy clearly listed somewhere? I once bought a pair of rollerblades from a sports store (pelican sports center, route 10, NJ) for a present for my girlfriend. The sales rep said I could return them if they were not used. My girlfriend ended up wanting a different pair (she wanted a different color) so I brought them back unused. But when I went to return them *the next day*, the manager said that he couldn't take them back. He didn't care what his sales rep "may or may not have told me". Sure enough, at the bottom of my sales receipt in fine print, it said "no returns accepted". They wouldn't even accept an exchange. To this day, I still don't understand why he would want to lose my business instead of just giving me a simple exchange.
 

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Quote:
So the idea behind point (2) is that currently shoes only come in so many sizes. Most shoes only come in size 6 – 13. Some shoes also offer a ‘Wide’ option. I’m typically an 11 Wide. Now, whether a shoe fits my feet well or not really depends on the ‘last’. But there is nothing that the sales rep can really do help me with this. Perhaps ideally, he could look at my foot, perhaps take some measurements, and say, well I think these shoes over here are going to work, but those over there are not, thus saving me a few minutes. Another thing that a sales rep might be able to do is offer different shoe inserts (like “superfeetâ€) to increase the quality of the fit. But I know more about superfeet and other inserts than any sales rep I have ever spoken to.
Ah, but if you are a runner, there are a lot of options that go into choosing a shoe. Are you flat-footed or do you have high arches? Do you wear orthodics? How much do you weigh? Do you land on your heels or more toward your toes? What kind of running do you do?


All of these things go into chosing a running shoe. Good specialty shops usually have personel who can help you out with these things and help you chose the shoe that is right for you. They can examine your gait to see how you run.


Course, fit is important. It is the most important thing. Course, once you know what kind of shoe works, you can just order a bunch of them. People have been doing that for years, since running eats shoes like crazy. (Typically, a pair of shoes would last me 4-6 months.)


Yeah, for most people, they don't need much help. Course, in HT, that just means they'd buy something at Circut City or Best Buy...


Jason
 

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One thing that I forgot to mention is that many products are only sold through B&M stores. So you are "forced to buy" through this method. I recently visited the website for Totem speakers and a message came up stating that all units bought through the internet will be void and that a valid warranty from Totem is only available with the original sales receipt from an authorized dealer. I'm sure there are many other companies with similar policies. For the high end items like the Krells, Classes, Wilsons etc I can't envision purchasing these products from anywhere else but a B&M store.
 

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Hi David, Interesting questions.


Shoes first. The thing about shoes is twofold: one, we buy them over and over and two, they are cheap relative to AV gear.


I generally don't try to bargain much on anything unless its over about $1k. Convenience is usually paramount unless a great deal of money is involved. On AV accessories that usually means either mail order or internet as most B&M dealers carry a pretty crappy selection of accessories.


By now I have learned which shoes fit my feet the best. In dress shoes it's Johnson & Murphey, in tennies Nike fits the best, for boating shoes its West Marine "good shoes". Only Nike is available in outlets that discount and usually I just buy them from the closest store that has the model I want anyway. I won't drive a half an hour to save $50.


AV gear is a different story. I think that many of the problems that B&M dealers are feeling is a general distrust of the samesman that many folks feel. Why are online car deals increasing?


For cheap purchases I still prefer to buy from a local retailer like GG, CC or BB as they have the best "no questions asked" return policies. I can buy something and return it if it doesn't work as I like.


I bought my first high end audio system from Peter McGrath in Coral Gables FL over 20years ago. It was about a 4 hour drive to get to the store but was easily the best buying experience I've yet had. I didn't mind paying full list price at all. They demo'd 3 speakers and after selecting the speakers they showed me the differences between preamps and amps at different price points. Their knowledge and skill gave me a very good feeling that my time and money were being spent wisely. If only I had been able to find this type of knowledge and service after I moved.


A few years ago I drove 2 hours to hear a new highly regarded D/A after calling in advance and making arrangements to hear it and borrow it to audition in my home system. When I got there I was not thrilled with the sound and said so, neither the speakers, preamp or amp was of the quality I had at home so I was anxious to hear it in a better system. Their response was "we are not a lending library" even though they had previously promised a home audition. This is not an isolated incedent.


I would guess that over 75% of the demonstrations I have heard were poorly set up and not matched with the optimal supporting equipment. My wife once asked about a system we had heard that sounded lifeless and completely artificial. The owners response was that "I'm a recording engineer and this sounds just like a good mike feed". My wife simply said "well I'm a pianist and that sounds like no piano that I'd ever want to play". About a month later the co-owner admitted that their original demo was done with a passive preamp and an amp that couldn't drive the speakers "difficult load". It had been obvious at the demonstration but the guy doing the demo was more interested in selling us a system than discussing what we didn't like about the sound.


When I walk near a car dealer the salesmen fight to get us to take a test ride in whatever car we are looking at. They realize that trying out their product is the quickest way to our wallet. If only the price haggeling wasen't so excruciating.


When I walk into a typical AV dealer it's almost as if I'm imposing on their time. Can't tell you how often my wife and I have walked in to look over what a particular dealer carried and walked out a half an hour later because several salesmen seemed more interested in chatting between themselves than seeing if they could be helpful. Why don't AV dealers realize that simply hearing a good system is their most effective sales tool they have. Whats with the third degree questioning before we can even think of actually HEARING something thats just sitting their at idle? Why aren't the systems already turned on and playing softly? Little additional cost is involved as the equipment is already there and set up. Very few high end AV salesmen could cut it selling industrial products. They seem more like Radio Shack hobbiests than sales professionals. They MAY be more technically qualified than a typical GG trainee but their sales skills are almost non existent.


I regularly attend CES each year and the Stereophile shows that are held on the west coast so I have a pretty good idea of what is on my short list to actually audition. I don't need a dealer to do anything more than competently demo what they sell and very few have been able to do that. I have no idea why. After hearing WATT/Puppies at a stereophile show many years ago I went to 3 SF Bay area dealers to hear them more thoroughly. Not one demo was even close to what I heard at the show, and folks complain about the horrible sound in the hotel rooms. In this case I ended up buying the speakers along with a Jadis amp by mail order from a dealer that offered them at almost dealer cost through Audiomart. He was very knowledgeable and it was a very satisfying experience.


On the other hand I have found some mail order/internet dealers that are more knowledgeable and experienced than the vast majority of B&M dealers I have met. Dealers like Galen Caroll, Steve Zipzer (formerly with Sound Components) and Bob Williams of AudioNut come to mind.


I realize that I am not a "typical" customer, nor are most of those here at AVS. We are more knowledgeable, more demanding and more opinionated than the average customer. Yet there is nothing in our requirements that I can see that is contrary to what someone right off the street should expect from a dealer.
 
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