Are internet sales taking business or not?

I got into a heated discussion with my friend the other day about internet high-end audio sales. He felt that the internet was stealing business from retailers. I argued that retailers are losing business because they offer such poor customer service. By driving hungry customers away, retailers create a market opportunity that internet companies seize. In a 12 year period, my visits to 9 high-end salons in 5 states yielded only 50% satisfaction. 25% of the time the sales was sub-standard (meaning I might buy, but with much reluctance), and the other 25% was incredibly poor (I wouldn't buy, period!) Any comments?
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i think many people who work in the service industry and retail simply do not get it. they appear to me like they hate their jobs so much to the point that they are doing ME a favor by assiting me, or allowing me to purchase from them. perhaps its the management or ownership of these busineses, but given the choice, I prefer to buy using my computer. there are less errors in my orders and I dont get any attitude. just last week, I needed to pick up a Police report from a Local PD, I went out of my way to greet and thank the clerk for her for her assistance, she could not have been less enthusiastic, not a word in return made me want to remind her that she has a job becuase of people like me. the same day i went to buy a sandwich at a grocery store, the deli person was chatting away with her co workers while a line of myself and 2 others waited. once she got to helping us, her attitude was so poor, I decided it wasnt worth the wait as she would likely get Pissed at how I wanted my sandwich. same goes with high end audio, i went to a local shop and had tried to demo a pair of speakers which were on consignment, they were broken. i happened to pick up a used DAC that same day and brought it home and it too was broken, i took it back and asked the sales guy, "do you check your gear that you take in used?"....he replied with some smart ass remark, "no we try to rip off our customers"

buying off Audiogon, is done by email and 99% of the time, professionally, even fun at times, not what ive been getting at local retail establishments.
I think if a retailer wants to compete, they need to be online as well.

Nothing beats the concept of the old brick and mortars where one can go and actually listen to the different gear, but i agree with the customer service, it is pretty crappy.
Ive had about a 50% 50% hit and miss with the brick and mortars. Ive had one place take one look at me and they told me to go to best buy where i could afford the equipment. Had the cash in pocket to buy something during that visit. They certainly diddnt get my money after that.

Ive also been to a couple places where the salesmen were real great, they took the time to show you thier wares, they pointed out not only the positive but negative aspects of the products, and diddnt pressure or hassle you.
But that was the minority.

I guess the thing is they are trying to make a living, and they get paid off commission. I have a hard time trusting any salesman that runs off commission so i take everything they say with a grain of salt.

What gets me are the salesmen who are just pricks, who think that if you walk in thier store and they show you a product, you better be buying thier stuff.

I guess with some very rich people that is how it works, but im not rich, so anytime i plan on buying a set of speakers i find out what is in my price range and try to audition everything. I will probably go to 5-6 stores checking out different speakers, and im only gonna buy one set.

Im certainly not going to give the salesman my hard earned money for speakers that dont suit my purposes in order to prevent hurting his feelings.

There was a forum debate about this kinda stuff a while back, and i was somewhat suprised how many audiophiles who are die-hard brick and mortar supporters get pretty upset if you visit a high end retailer to audition speakers without the intent to buy at that exact time.

I gotta be honest though, if i DO go to a place to check out some speakers and im intending to buy, and say hypothetically, the salesperson starts blowing smoke up my ass, lies, or starts getting rude, im not buying from them. i'd rather order it from the net.

You can no longer tell by looking at a person what they can and cannot afford. If you are in sales you need to be polite to the customer.

My hats off to the Gentlemen at "Soundings" in the Denver Tech Center. I have been there twice, once on a lunch hour to check things out, and once with my fiancee to show her some of the stuff. I had no intention of buying, so i diddnt demand thier attention and tried to stay out of the way, but they were more than polite and very accommodating, very helpful and they had a genuine excitement about high end audio and any discusssion of the matter. Real gentlemen.
Thats a place i will definatly be buying from next time i go there.
There is no question that the internet is crushing high end audio retailers. Think about it, why are you here? we can all say that it is because of poor sales help--they don't care, whatever. But the real issue is that the retailer can not compete with sites like Audiogon when it comes to price and that is the bottom line. We are buying equipment and other assorted goodies at almost half the retail price and most of it is in like new or mint condition( most people on this site take pride in the condition of there equipment). It gives most of us the chance to experiment with lots of different options. You can buy something and try it for a while-decide if you like it and if you don't you can re-list the item and sell it for what you paid of very close to that. There is no retailer I know of that can provide that kind of service. When it comes to cables of any type--they are always better after they have been used for a hundred hours or so. Why would you buy new ones-buy used ones and get immediate gradification--they sound great right out of the box! Yes, you may have to do a little research on your own, but with all info available to us even on one site it's not that tough.I would love to support my local retailer, but the price I have to pay is to high. I purchased a pair of Thiel speakers at my local retailer a few years back , just before I found this site, and was I in for a shock. I found that there were a number of speakers just like the ones I had purchased listed on this site in like new condition with original boxes etc for less then half the price. When I mentioned this to my local dealer he informed me that because I has purchased the speakers from them I had the opporunity to trade the speakers back in and I would recieve a credit in full towards the purchase of another pair of speakers at full retail. What a great deal--for them! I am not sure what they can do to get back in the game. I am sure it is a problem for the manufactures as well--no retailers to sell the stuff, how do you get it out there in the market place. I'm just glad I found this site. I have put together a wonderful system over the last couple of years and really enjoy it. I did not come even close on the first attempt or even the second or third, but this site allowed me the flexibility to explore which is a big part of the fun.

very good points.

The only problem i see is that constantly buying used gear instead of new gear might hurt the manufacturers.
On the other hand, sites like this also provide an opportunity for smaller companys to get themselves heared.

I must admit though, i would really hate for the brick and mortars to go. You cannot audition a speaker online.

who knows. The internet might be the demise of several high production companys. They built thier products so good, that even if you are the 2nd owner they still perform as well as ever.

who knows eh?

I know if it was not for Audiogon, i wouldnt have had the chance to learn so much about HighEnd audio.

One of the real values is the opinions of fellow audiogon'ers on audio gear. This is the ONLY source i feel i can trust for un-biased information on various products.

This weekend im buying my first used gear off of audiogon. Its a tuner, because i dont already have one. It looks like a real good deal too. Cannot say i feel bad about it.

I guess Ebay and places like Audiogon really do provide the ability for many people to get into High End audio that normally wouldnt be able to afford it.

I would have a real hard time coming up with 3,000+ for a Krell-300il, however, i could probably come up with 1,500.
I think there is a demarcation between what naturally fits the internet and what fits brick and mortar. Researching speakers and heavy monoblocks is best done through dealers where it 's possible to listen and a/b. Cables on the other hand are far better handled over the internet, since no dealer can afford to carry a big enough stock of them anyway, and there are too many small designers to have good dealer representation. Cable prices could then be more rational without the middlemen.

In the future, I believe there has to be such a natural split between the two marketplaces. The important thing is that there is some ethics on the part of buyers, since local dealerships will certainly disappear if you research speakers at the dealership and then buy used. It's tempting to do but the result is obvious.
It is really not possible to take business away from high-end retailers by buying online, because the online seller is also a high-end retailer somewhere. I agree with Elizabeth on they should all be online in some respect.

There are also quite a few manufacturers that still prohibit online sales of their new gear. B&W Loudspeakers is one. Note the one dealer advertising new B&W on Audiogon states he will not risk losing his franchise, so you must visit the store to buy it. He also only quotes MSRP $$. He is probably also prohibited from offering a discount online even if you come pick it up at the store. B&W's especially the lower models sell like hotcakes and provide dealers with the cashflow needed to be able to sell the more exotic slow moving gear.

Even if you are buying used equipment, someone had to buy it new first; and you buying it used gives that person cash for more new equipment.

We are seeing the evolution of the retail business from store front to the internet across the entire market place.Market forces will resolve these with time.For example a manufacturer could stop distributing its goods through retailers who mark up their price by ca.100%.Some european high end manufacturers are priced out of the US market because of the retailer markup.There are high end furniture manufacturers who have their own showrooms and avoid the extra mark up.
When I started the hobby 40 years ago the high end retailer was a hobbiest.The service was great you could borough equipment to listen in your own home,he was set the system up for you at no charge etc.In contrast the retailers in my area provide very little if any of these services.When they provide sevice at an exorbitant cost you are lucky if you get a serviceman who does not need a manual to figure out the equipment you just bought.I would be be willing to pay a premium for good service.I believe within 10 years from now only highend stores left will be the ones owned by honest dedicated hobbiest providing superb service including home installation.
You all make very food points. Ccertain manufactureres do not let dealers advertise online like Krell, Levinson, etc. In general the dealers lost trade in sales remember when you paid full retial and got $.25 on the dollar with your trade in? When you buy on line, you really do not know what you are getting. I have issues with sending large sums of money to someone I do not know and where I cannot see the component I am buying.

I am still told told by manufacturers that the local dealer provides service. I still do not know what that means, higher prices and an attitude?

The other issue is pricing. I have not paid list price for most of the itmes that I have purchased in my life. Home, car, etc. So why would I pay list price for a stereo system. I remember 15 years ago walikng into a dealer who put together a $5000 system for me with a Kinergetics power amp, CDP and Vanndy 2CE speakers with cables, etc. I asked for a discount and they told me that they do not offer a discount. I was in NYC the next day and the local stereo shop had the Kinergetics amp on a close out for 50% off. Sold!

So they need to define what service they provide and offer better pricing. I don't think they need to offer 30-50% off but on a system purchase maybe 15-25% would be in the ball park.

Last, my friend who is a dealer has told me time and time again that the people who take up the most of his time to come into the store and listen to different components usually do not buy. Well, that is the same for my business too. In order for me to win a deal, I have to take the time to prepare a proposal and sometimes follow up with a product demonstration and that does not always result in a sale.

This past week I was looking for a preamp that retials for $8K. The dealer would take my one year old Pass X-1 preamp trade in plus $4K. The dealer probbaly gets 40% off retail so that is $4800. They could sell my pass for maybe $3K and make $3800 profit on this transaction. I would rather have sold my X-1 for $3K myself and paid 20% off the retail ($6200) for $800 savings.

That is all from me, and Happy Listening.
High end audio sales was a closed society at one time. This dates back to the day when the enthusiast started his own business. They did everything for the buyer, even holding you hand as you wrote the check if that's what you wanted. In return, they kept all their knowledge secret as if they were performing some kind of voodoo for your benefit. They didn't explain much which kept you coming back. The buyer relied on his ears and budget in making a purchasing decision. In many ways that was a very good thing.

As the high end business grew technicians and knowledgeable sales staff left the business for other careers with most remaining enthusiasts of the hobby. These folks have shared their knowledge through the internet which gives us all the ability to make a fairly informed choice even without the opportunity of prior audition. In many ways the high end salons provided a revolving door (a training ground if you will) through growth for all the people we take advice from.

At one time auto sales were the same way. Ever try to buy a NADA price guide 30 years ago? People didn't know how much money the car business generated until some that left wrote books or started some other type of venture to reward themselves from part of that businesses earnings thereby educating the consumer. It's inevitable that the audio industry will become hyper competitive just like the car business. Service may be poor nowadays but it will get even worse until audio franchises are traded on the NYSE. Maybe that's an exaggeration but the point is valid. Knowledge and valuable advice are now a couple of clicks away and free of charge. IMHO, that is what has changed this industry so very much.
Maybe if there wasn't so much mark up locally; one wouldn't look to the 'net if they could get it locally for a simliar price. Then again, there will be those that want many services from the local dealer that add to the cost...

Maybe it is a fault of manufacturers for setting high list prices.
I wouldn't mind paying more if I got some service. You don't give me any service; you don't get my money. It's that simple. I walked into a local dealer about three months ago to purhase a pair of B&W N805sigs. He didn't have them hooked up and said he was too busy to do it now. I was the only person in the store. He was really too busy eating lunch. He said that he would call me when he made some time to hook them up. Needless to say, he never called. I took my business down the road and had a pair in my hands the next day.
Yes, without question. I should also note that few high-end
retailers have been able to stay solvent (even before the
crush of the Internet). It's a tough business!!