Demos - To Charge a Fee or to Not Charge a Fee?

One common dealer complaint is that customers sometimes use them to audition equipment only to later purchase it elsewhere.

How much of that is true is not known but it must happen. Such is the nature of some folk.

Therefore, how about abandoning the time honoured practice of free demonstrations (also shared by the car industry) and start charging a fee?

Would $10 an hour be sufficient? 

Surely, even in quiet part of a quiet day it must cost the dealer considerably more than that to provide the facilities and staff to facilitate a satisfactory demonstration.

I don't know how others may feel, but I'd be more than happy to pay for the service.
Selling is a cost of doing business. I am in construction and spend a large part of my time bidding on jobs that I don't get. If I charged for estimates, my prospective clients would call someone else to quote . The cost is made up on the sales that are made.


Fair enough, but bear in mind that Hi-Fi dealers are rather thin on the ground these days whereas builders and plumbers are not.

Unless it's Christmas, or a Sunday.

Maybe the real problem is that audiophiles are also rather thin on the ground in these difficult days?

Anyway it's pretty important that we either retain brick and mortar dealers, or we still have plenty of shows we can easily attend.
Speaking of which, after 2 years I finally got to go to another audio show.

This time the UK Audio Show was held at the De Vere Staverton Estate near Daventry, some 60 miles north of London.

Highlights for me included the EJ Jordan Marlows. These metal coned bookshelves were driven by a pair of Nagra tape decks. An astonishingly capable and vivid sound for something this unprepossessing.

I'd never heard any Kudos loudspeakers before but the sizeable Titan 707s certainly made up for the wait. A muscular yet tonally expressive sound made for a rare combination. Many large speakers I've heard tend to get somewhat bleached out amidst the dramatics, not the Titans.

The Kerr K320s, now in their 3rd iteration, sounded as masterful as ever. Perched on what looked like some Townsend speaker bars they sounded progressively more like a reference loudspeaker than ever.

The active Monopulse S were also as good as I recalled. If anybody wanted a speaker that could sound great from just their smartphone/tablet/laptop etc (no other amps /sources required) this would be it.

Finally a mention for the unusual looking Vitavox speakers. Not anything that would catch your ear immediately, but after a short time it became increasingly apparent that here was something different.

The sheer absence of any perceived harshness (or grain if you prefer), was very enticing. You really could listen to these for a very, very long time indeed.

They seemed to make other designs sound harsh by comparison. If you ever wanted a speaker to totally eradicate listener fatigue, this might be it.

As a show bonus we got to hear Russell Kaufman of Russell K loudspeakers give a lecture on how he builds loudspeakers from assembling the drive units by ear, then the cabinets, then the crossovers up.

The demonstration included direct comparisons between different drivers, and contrary to what I'd been led to believe, there were quite significant differences between them. The ribbon tweeter in particular, sounded quite different to the dome in this instance.
Many thanks to all concerned, especially the organiser Roy Bird for all of his stirling efforts in overcoming what must be unprecedented levels of difficulty.

The standard seemed unusually high this year, there just didn't seem to be many headache inducing rooms as I've sometimes found in the past. Credit to all those concerned.

There's some good photos up on the HiFi Pig website courtesy of James Starbuck.
Selling is a cost of doing your business but auditioning is a service provided by a dealer.  It's a service that can be separated from the transaction.  When a person auditions a product at a dealer and then buys it off of the internet, they're separating those two things.  It's different from construction because all construction companies have to accept the cost of selling.  Not all audio dealers do.  Imagine if you could somehow transfer the cost of selling to your competition and use that advantage to undercut them for the actual sale.  That's a broken system.

A timely clarification.

That’s the problem here.

Just how does a dealer compete with the internet?

Or is all retail as we know it, ultimately doomed?

Not that long ago I wanted to buy some Adidas training shoes. They had to be all black, have non memory foam inner soles, be breathable /cool to wear, and look reasonably smart.

I found some online and then looked to see where I could buy some in-store as I couldn’t imagine buying shoes without trying them on first.

In the end I had to, as the nearest store was some 19 miles away.

I wasn’t too pleased about this but thankfully they fitted really well.

I’m definitely not one of those people who doesn’t mind the extra hassle of returning things, but who knows, maybe even that will have to change as in-store options continue to diminish at their current rate?
Some of these audio stores are boutiques.  I think if you are considering a charge to listen, you probably should go to an appointment only business.  That way, you can filter out people that are tire kickers and deal mostly with buyers by asking the right questions when setting the appointment.

if that’s not the type of dealer you are, then you are best to take the good with the bad.  Unfortunately, we have a bunch selfish people in the world who will take advantage of someone, if they can.  That is part of your business model.

My philosophy is to plan on buying from the dealer if I plan on using their resources for evaluation/listening.  I also do not expect a discount when I do.  If I expect a discount, then, I’m not going to use someone resources unless I talk about it upfront.

Now, if you do an in-home setup, I think it’s reasonable to state your charges upfront.