See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
16.0 Retail 16.1 Should I use an up-scale retail store? This is probably the best place to listen to gear in a controlled environment, next to your home. This is the best place to find expensive, high quality gear. This is the place which is most likely to have a good policy on home trials and a liberal return/upgrade policy. This is also likely to be the most expensive place to shop. One exception to this is that these stores have the ability to sell demos, returns, and discontinued gear at very advantageous prices. Some up-scale dealers will negotiate price on large systems or expensive purchases. It never hurts to ask. There are definitely better and worse local hi-fi stores. If you find a really good one, it is probably worth the extra money to buy from them, rather than from discounters. A really good store will not push you to buy what they want to sell. A really good store will allow you to take your time with your decision. A really good store will not distort the truth in describing equipment. A really good store will help you get the most out of your purchase by showing you how to set it up. They will tell you what placement works best for the speakers. (Don't believe them if they tell you to put them anywhere.) A really good store also selects their lines carefully. They don't want dissatisfied customers or warranty returns any more than you do. A really good store will also have technical equipment and/or skilled technical people that can perform tricky adjustments correctly, such as cartridge and tonearm alignment. Due to the nature of the customer, a hi-fi store in a shopping mall is likely to use high-pressure sales techniques. They know that the majority of their customers are distracted easily by 299 other stores. Most of their sales go to customers that come in for 3 minutes, select something, and leave. There are exceptions to this, of course, but if there was a good generalization, it would be to look elsewhere. There are stores in large buildings, small buildings, private homes, shopping plazas, and every other conceivable venue. Search from among these to find one that meets your needs and fits your style. 16.2 Should I use a discount store? If you need to listen carefully before making up your mind, discount stores can be very frustrating. If you know exactly what you want, then this can be a great place to save money. Don't expect knowledgeable sales help or after-sale support. Be sure to ask about the warranty (see 19.1 below on warranties). 16.3 Is it right to negotiate price? Most people feel that it is fair to negotiate. Some feel that it is fair to lie in negotiating, as the sales people frequently lie to you also. Others think that lying to get a lower price is an immoral practice. It may even be illegal, an act of fraud. Some people feel that if you negotiate over price, you encourage stores to mark prices artificially high, so that the stores have room to negotiate. Others feel that in negotiating, you are asking the store to accept a lower profit, or asking the sales person to take a lower commission and are directly hurting them. 16.4 How can I negotiate price effectively? A great source of information on this topic is available from books on buying a new or used car. However, some very helpful general tips include: Know the competition and the dealer. Know the gear. Know the prices available elsewhere. Believe in your research, not their words. Stand your ground. Be nice to the people but hard on the deal. Be prepared to walk away if they won't agree. Expect their lines and prepare responses in advance. For example, expect the dealer to claim that the Nakamichi deck is the best cassette deck on the market. Be ready with a reply such as at that price, you can buy a DAT machine which has better frequency response, lower signal to noise ratio, etc. 16.5 It sounded great in the store. Is it great? Never let anyone else pick stereo for you. Especially not speakers. They all sound different, and you don't need a golden ear to hear the differences. Listen for yourself and ignore what the sales people say. If you are still unsure, ask the sales people to let you take the gear home for a home trial in exchange for a large deposit. Home auditioning takes 99% of the risk out of store auditions. 16.6 Do sales people try to trick the customer? Some do and some don't. Some will treat unpleasant customers badly and treat friendly people well. Most sales people aren't wealthy. They sell stereo to make a living. If they can sell you a more expensive piece of equipment or a piece of equipment with a higher profit, they will make more money. Usually, this figures into everything they say. Some sales people claim to be altruistic. Some sales people really are open and honest. They may starve with this approach, or they may have a nice enough personality, a good enough product line, a good enough store behind them, or enough technical background to overcome this "limitation". 16.7 How can sales people trick the customer? Often, a customer will trick him or herself without help. We are often swayed by appearance, sales literature, position of the equipment in the show room, and our own desire to buy what others will like. Some times, the sales person will actively try to push a particular piece of equipment by demonstrating it against another piece of equipment which is inferior or defective. Some sales people will demonstrate a set of speakers while simultaneously driving a subwoofer, even though they are not telling you this. With the subwoofer, it probably will sound better. Some sales people will demonstrate one set of speakers louder than others. Louder almost always sounds better. Most stereo buyers go into the store, spend a few minutes selecting what they want, lay down big bucks, and leave. They don't need to be tricked. They don't listen carefully. They trust the sales person's choice as best in their price range. For non-technical reasons, these people are the most likely to be satisfied with their purchase. 16.8 What should I ask the sales person? What do you want to know? Seriously, the best questions are those which the sales person can answer without distorting the truth. Don't ask a sales person to compare their brand to a brand they don't sell. Don't ask "how good is the ...". Ask questions of fact. Here are some questions you may want to ask: If I don't like it can I return it for a full refund? Can I try this out at my home in exchange for a deposit? What does the warranty cover? For how long? What do I need to know to set this up for best sound? Do I get a manufacturer's warranty with this? Where do I take this to get it repaired under warranty? Where do I take this to get it repaired out of warranty? 16.9 How do I impress the sales person? Why would you want to? You have money and he doesn't. 16.10 How do I get the best service from a sales person? Be honest with the sales person. Set some reasonable request and ask them to meet it. For example, say that you will buy this if you can try it at home first and listen to it side-by-side with a piece from another store. Alternately, say that you saw the same thing at store Z for $xx less, but you will buy it from the guy if he will match the price. 16.11 What is "street price" or "list price"? Street price represents the price which you would pay if you went to a store and bought the product. It isn't a sale price or the published price, just the actual, common selling price. Some manufacturers tell their dealers to sell right at list price. Others provide a low enough wholesale price that the selling price can be significantly below "list price". List price is generally meaningless, so street price is a more realistic comparison price. COPYRIGHT NOTICE The information contained here is collectively copyrighted by the authors. The right to reproduce this is hereby given, provided it is copied intact, with the text of sections 1 through 8, inclusive. However, the authors explicitly prohibit selling this document, any of its parts, or any document which contains parts of this document. -- Bob Neidorff; Texas Instruments | Internet: email@example.com 50 Phillippe Cote St. | Voice : (US) 603-222-8541 Manchester, NH 03101 USA Note: Texas Instruments has openings for Analog and Mixed Signal Design Engineers in Manchester, New Hampshire. If interested, please send resume in confidence to address above.