Buying local audio gear is getting harder and harder

I’m not normally sensitive to marketing via “info-mericas”, but a few months ago, browsing through my normal swath of channels (287 to about 232 on DirecTV), I came across a promo for GENERAC. This company makes what appears to be an industry-leading AC power backup system for your whole home. It’s not solar powered (which is cool in its own way) as much as it used to be powered by natural gas and/or other fuels in most configurations. The idea is that in the event of a power outage, you have a reliable local backup solution. Like Tesla (and others in the solar space), you could add battery backup, which was appealing. The show was talking about $3,000-like costs with “act now” level pricing that you would expect from a direct-to-consumer marketer. This is where I kinda bailed out the process to go back to ‘The Cooking Channel’ or something else more in my lane for TV watching.

The next day I was walking past the local electrician’s storefront and noticed they had a big sign for GENERAC in their window, so when I got home I called them. The owner, who I have dealt with before for other household electrical issues, came forward himself to make the offer. Now I know this local sub is relatively expensive as they only come with TWO electricians and they charge close to $200 an hour for their services even if you just need to change a light bulb. The good thing about the company is that they get to you quickly and seem to solve problems quite efficiently, so it’s worth a bit of extra money to make local contractors thrive, right?

I didn’t get to spend much time with the owner that day during his process, but he sent me his offer later that day. Before he came to my house, I told him that I was looking for a “starter system” with hopes of growing. To be clear with you…I wasn’t expecting to get a fix for $3000, but more likely double that, again with room for growth in the future. What I got was a bid of $17,900! I called the guy and said, “What the hell is that, man”!?! And his answer made him the first person to verbalize the quid pro quo so honestly when it comes to shopping locally here in Los Angeles. He said, “Listen man, you live in one of the most expensive neighborhoods in LA, so you can afford it!” I don’t know how often this “presumptive close” (to use a technical sales term) works, but he lost me instantly. He didn’t listen to a word I said until he arrived, wasting both of our time. He didn’t care to qualify me or know the needs of his client, who was kind enough to give him a 5 star Google review at one point. He wanted his sale at the maximum level or was ready to walk. I walked first and with enthusiasm.

2-Drain

Just a few weeks ago I had a month where so many devices broke down that I had to check if Mercury was retrograde. My 29 year old double ovens broke down which proved very difficult to replace, although I was eventually able to find inventory in New Jersey and pay to have it shipped to California. My microwave then fell apart, which wasn’t as hard to replace, but the stainless steel front needed to make the install look half normal cost almost $100 more than the micro -LG waves. Then there was my less than three year old Maytag Commercial washer and dryer that needed $1,700 in out-of-warranty repairs over 5 trips to my house that month. Brutal. In the end, it was my trash disposal that really got me. To say that the layout I inherited with the house owed me something would be an exercise in stupidity. This thing had “paid off at the factory” but needed a replacement very soon. This plumbing contractor was another local contractor that I had also given a 5 star review on Google. They were always quick to come up the hill to deal with any issues I had which was worth paying a premium. More often than not the service was done by Mario, who may not be the best plumber in the world, but he cares a lot and he does a solid job. Mario was busy on this beautiful day, but I know the owner of the company and asked him if he could send someone with a new InSinkErator to replace the one I had. He said “No problem”, that’s all I needed to hear. “He’ll be up between 1 and 3 p.m.,” he joked, and I went back to my day job. At 4:00 p.m. I got a call at home from the new guy trying to come to my house from their local location. He had the unit in hand and was about five to seven minutes away. When he arrived he quickly went under the kitchen sink and scooped out the crazy volume of cleaning supplies underneath and looked up to say “I can do this (project) but it’s going to be expensive!” I asked how expensive and he retorted “$925” without blinking. Without saying a word, I walked into the next room and did a quick Google search for a ¾ horsepower InSinkErator trash can. They’re on sale at several locations at RETAIL for under $300 in nearby Santa Monica. This means he was trying to charge me $625 (an hour it seems) for labor. I know I have to pay a “vig” for fast local service, but that’s too expensive. I sent it home and emailed the owner. As the technician left my house empty-handed, he kept lowering the price because he knew he was getting caught fucking me. The owner tried to justify his sheer graft and like the local electrician, I was done with him. I’m 99% sure that I also withdrew my 5 star Google review for his business.

3-OpenSign

American Express has a “Shop Local” campaign around the holidays, which I always find inspiring. I couldn’t agree more with trying to keep it philosophically local. What becomes a problem is the logistics of local purchases… and this transcends the audio-video specialty. One of my favorite people in AV just took over as CEO of one of Europe’s most high-end audiophile companies and he said, “If you (your product) aren’t in Best Buy (or Magnolia), you are missing dozens of keys. markets that are simply underserved otherwise”. And he’s right.

In your world, what is the value of your local AV dealer? Many don’t stock or use a lot of equipment, so use your money to order needed parts while you wait. Others offer great unique value and understand their customers’ needs precisely. In the comments below, tell us about your local AV dealer with these questions as a starting point…

Here are some key questions to consider regarding your local AV dealer?

  • Do they “sell” products, brands, components and systems that you want to hear/experience?
  • Do they stock key items you need more than a day’s work rather than waiting for Amazon.com (or the many others) to ship to you?
  • Do they offer quality or affordable installation/programming?
  • Do they recycle your old gear when upgrading?
  • Do they perform audio and/or video calibrations for a new projector, monitor or AV preamp?
  • Are you willing to pay a little more for the gear you get from them to support the speed of a local reseller?
  • Is your local reseller fast or just use your money to order hardware and then charge you the entire retail?
  • Have you ever talked to your local AV dealer about what you expect from them and how they might be of more use to you than online sources?

Support local AV dealer – Is the price worth it?

4-SteroStoreThe role of a local AV dealer is essential in your audio-video journey, but they’re not a healthy breed at this point. I spoke to my good friend, Dr. Taraszka, who lives near our fearless leader, Gene Della Sala here at Audioholics.com. He was talking about the number of local dealerships that have gone out of business in the Tampa area in the COVID era despite a booming real estate market in the area. Some specific custom installers are doing well, but enthusiast AV stores and audiophile lounges are closing pretty quickly. And Tampa is not the only market where this phenomenon is in force in the United States. As enthusiasts and consumers, we have to ask ourselves if we’re willing to try to save them, which could include spending a little more, which seems to be a theme that repeats itself every time I pull out my wallet these days- this. I bet you feel the same.

For some audiovisual enthusiasts, it’s a goodbye and good riddance to dealers who have closed their doors. Others say “I’m going to buy everything online or from big box/warehouse stores” as there are more and more well-stocked retailers offering juicier prices, shipping options, etc than a simple online transaction, let’s say there’s something to be said for having a local AV dealer you can go to for a real experience. There’s something about knowing your local dealer, which might give you slightly better trade-in value on your current AV upgrade path. The key concept here is that you should embrace the dealership’s business model as much as they should understand your needs as a consumer. This creates a long-term win-win relationship and is the key to a great relationship.

We look forward to hearing from you below regarding your relationship with your local dealer. Comment away.

embarrassed posts on October 03, 2022 04:41

Are you a local business supporter? As more and more businesses fail due to labor shortages, supply chain issues and competition from online sources, the focus on buying local becomes increasingly hard. Read our editorial on how local shopping is getting harder and how it can impact local audio stores.

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Lily: Supporting local audio dealers is getting harder

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