What's your experience with snooty HiFi salesmen?

I began my Hifi journey in 1976 at a shop in Birmingham MI called Audio Dimensions. He was a Magnapan and ARC dealer who was kind to a 15 year old kid who bought a set of MG 1s with paper route money. The ARC amps he carried were about $4K back then- a LOT of money in 1976. In the beginning I drove my MG 1s with an old Fisher Studio Standard integrated amp. Since those lovely innocent days I have encountered some real buttholes. They act like they are doing me a favor as they quiz me about what gear I have and if I'm listening to "approved" recordings. Needless to say I don't buy from those guys. Several wives and businesses later I'm back into the hobby with a much vengeance as a 61 year old  can muster given only so many free hours in a day and only so much cash to apply due to my other vices: Classic cars and salt water fishing. 

Have you ever encountered a really good or really bad dealer (or employee) that changed your buying actions?

Darko posted a video on this topic which I found really enjoyable. Many of you have already seen it but for those (like me) who discovered it much later here's the link: 


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YIKES!  So sorry this happens to ANYONE.  When I opened my shop in the early 1970's, I was convinced I could help every customer who walked in.  I spent HOURS with each one, first getting to know them--it was a VERY small town back then--and then learning as much about their musical likes and dislikes, what they currently owned, and what they were looking to achieve.  This was sometimes difficult as it was kind of a one-person shop, so should more than 2 customers arrive at the same time, I had to learn how to manage that situation, which I think I did fairly well.

Now, some customers were "just looking" as we had the only high-end shop for 30 miles either way.  Back then, you could only carry what the other guys were NOT carrying.  Fair trade and territorial branding were in force, which made it difficult sometimes to help customers.  A good example: we were and ARC/Magnepan shop.  Hi-Fi Associates in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale was a Mc shop.  Luskin in Ft. Lauderdale was a middle shop that sold under cost since he bought closeouts by the train-car load for less than they cost me.  While business was good, the items we sold were EXPENSIVE compared to middle stuff, so I had a lot of, "I can get a receiver at Luskin's for 1/2 of that" comments when I was selling Marantz and he was selling Scott or another decent but middle-priced item. 

Many customers wanted discounts like they found at other shops, but Fair Trade laws prevented me from doing that.  At the end of the day, I had many loyal, repeat customers for high-end products and we added a 5000 sq ft custom wood shop to our business and were making custom hardwood cabinets for customers who wanted to house their gear out of sight (wives ruled back then as I suppose they do now) in expensive homes and condos.  We were unique in that space, and with our top-of-the-heap products we had a nice following.

Some lessons:  NEVER ask what a customer does for a living.  I had barefoot, shirtless, long-haired guys walk in with suitcases of cash.  I had well-dressed doctors try to shoplift $15.00-$50.00 items.  I had "frantic" late night calls to "come get my stuff and store it until you hear from me again."  It was an interesting time in my area back then for many reasons... .  I treated EACH AND EVERY customer with respect and spent as much time with the tire-kickers as with the good repeat customers.  At the end of the day, I felt good about my ability to educate customers even if they did not buy that day.  Many showed up years later and bought when they had more income.

I enjoyed THAT part of the business.  The worst part was the state, city, county,  and federal and other rules, laws, requirements; manufactures were also very in control and that was a point of friction as well.  Customers don't see that part of the business--it is debilitating when your only goal was to help people improve their systems.

At the end of the day, while I was jealous of stores like Lyric in NYC ("they sell 6 ARC pre-amps a week" my sales person told me.  I sold one or two a month), I was pleased that I had helped people and (almost) made a living at the same time.  If your dealer is not receptive to spending time with you, demoing whatever you want, and bringing gear to your house to demo since store demos are pretty much useless, I would find a new dealer.  These days, with brick-and-mortar dealers few and far between, you might have to travel.  BUT, if you are spending big money, you should be in control of the sale.  Best of luck to all of you.  In a way, I wish I still had my shop.  In another, with today's retail environment, I am happy I don't!


I may ;have just been lucky, but, I have not had many bad experiences at audio shops.  I have seen many customer/shop interactions, including adverse interactions, and in the most cases, I would put "blame" (if that is a fair word) on the customer--many come with strong opinions and are offended by the salesperson who has a different opinion; many seem to come in spoiling for a fight or they come in expecting to be confronted so they are in a defensive frame of mind.

Why wouldn't the salesperson ask questions about a customer's system so that he has a frame of reference and can suggest what should be addressed first; why are some customers so defensive about this type of question?  There appears to be so much insecurity among those going into shops.  If the salesperson has a strong opinion about what is good sound and what is not, I don't mind this at all, even when that person's opinion differs from mine.  I prefer that a shop have a "vision" and perspective rather than one just stocking what is the reviewers' flavor of the month.  

At the two shops in my area (Northern Virginia) that I really like--Deja Vu Audio (tube-based electronics and old school speakers and turntables, including their own custom builds) and Command Performance AV (tube and solid state, popular high end brands) visits are fun experiences and not painful high pressure sales experiences.  At Deja Vu, the owner has a very strong opinion on what is good and not good sound and is not afraid to tell someone that he thinks a certain piece owned by the customer is crap, but, if you show enough respect by listening to what the store offers for sound, you will be treated with respect in return and you will learn something even if you are not "converted."  The people at Command are also generous with their opinions, but are perhaps more diplomatic, and will treat customers fairly. 

Go into a shop with a friendly, positive attitude (expect to enjoy the experience, don't go in fearful of being intimidated), treat the salesperson with respect (allow them to speak without confronting every utterance), be honest about what you are looking for (even browsers are welcome in most stores), and shopping in a brick and mortar shop will be fun.  

I have nothing but praise for my two local dealers in South Florida: Let There Be Sound! in Broward, and Soundlux Audio in Miami Dade. Excellent people, excellent service, fantastic products, broad knowledge. As for for negative experiences, suffice to say that the store that almost swindled me out of money for a PrimaLuna integrated amp in 2017 went out of business. I was able to get my credit back for my product. They took my money for an an amp they had never ordered. A nine week nightmare. The most mendacious, dishonest, and despicable salesmen I’ve dealt with in my almost 50 years of buying gear.


I enjoyed the time period in South Florida you mentioned.  I moved down here in '82 and there were a number of good local shops.  

Audio Dimensions was a great place...I've never really had problems with sales people at audio stores, though certainly some much better than others...and it has to be rough on them, having so many walk-ins, knowing they want to audition, but will buy used...