Ethics again...tryout in stores, buy on the Net
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Calanctus

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Folks,

I'd like your feedback on an ethical issue (more than one of these threads here today). I'm looking into buying some speakers. Naturally, I've done considerable research on the Net, trying to pick a set I will like. But reading other people's impressions is not the same as listening myself, so I've also visited a few stores in the area to audition speakers myself. I've learned a few things I never could have learned merely by reading posts on various forums (even forums populated by folks as fine as yourselves).

Soon, it will be time to buy. Armed with the experience of the in-store auditions, I could simply hunt for the lowest possible price on the Net and have my speakers delivered (assuming I can find the brand I want from an online store). But is this ethically right?

Here is what Stereophile's John Marks says on the subject:
"...people using a local audio dealer's demonstration-facility investment and workday time to decide what it is they want to buy, and then shopping for it online and used...is using people's business resources--and emotional resources and personal resilience--in bad faith." (From the July issue.)

After auditioning speakers in-store, am I obligated to buy only from there--even if I find a far better price online? Could I perhaps buy online and trot back to the store to give the sales guy $50 to ease my conscience? Should I not even shop online (and close my eyes if I stumble across some great deal posted in a forum somewhere)? What do you folks do?

Calanctus
 
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andrzejpw

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Well, I just read that article as well today.

Hmmm. Its a very interesting question, isn't it? Personally, I know that some sales people are VERY helpful. I mean, they go out of their way to show stuff to you, answer your MANY questions, etc. Do these people deserve to be rewarded? In my opinion, yes.

But I know anyone can say that. Doing it, otoh, is a different matter. I'm 16. Every penny I spend on ANYTHING is researched, researched, and researched. Then I find the lowest price possible.
 
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shivohum

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I think it depends on just how helpful the store's demo room and its demo staff was, and just how much the price difference is. If the store was a lot of help, and the price difference reasonably, buy from the store. But for instance, I don't think a store can reasonable expect you to pay twice as much for the product from the store just because you spent a few hours there.

I don't think buying a product used is unethical, even if you did decide you liked it from a store. An exception might be if you home demoed a product for a month or so or the store was otherwise exceptionally helpful... I think the ethics here are situational.
 
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bifcake

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I don't think it's a question of ethics. The stores are there to take care of themselves and do what's best for them and you're here to do what's best for you. The stores aren't being helpful out of their good heart, they're serving their own self-interest.

As the sellers, the stores want to get as much as they can for what they sell. As a buyer, it is your perrogative to find the best deal you can. Sometimes that means paying more because of the local support, being able to bring stuff back, etc. However, you must act out of your own self-interest. Do whatever is best for you. This isn't an ethical question. It's about being a consumer. As they say in the mafia, there's nothing personal here. It's just business.

I read that article in stereophile and it really pissed me off that the author had the gall to write that nonsense. After all, the store owners and the manufacturers go out of their way to screw the consumers. For example, why is it impossible to do an A/B comparison between Krell and Levinson equipment? Because the respective companies make deals with the store owners to ensure that they don't have to directly compete against each other. Dealers don't discount either. Needless to say, they don't have any ethical qualms with all of this. Neither should you.

To quote Dennis Miller, "of course that's my opinion and I could be wrong".
 
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andrzejpw

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Quote:

I read that article in stereophile and it really pissed me off that the author had the gall to write that nonsense. After all, the store owners and the manufacturers go out of their way to screw the consumers. For example, why is it impossible to do an A/B comparison between Krell and Levinson equipment? Because the respective companies make deals with the store owners to ensure that they don't have to directly compete against each other. Dealers don't discount either. Needless to say, they don't have any ethical qualms with all of this. Neither should you.


but without stores, where will you listen to krell or levinson equipment?


Would you prefer buying EVERYTHING on the net?
 
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TimSchirmer

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Depends...sometimes it is cheaper in a store, because you don't have to pay for shipping. You also get instant gratification, which is very nice. Yes, I would feel bad if i did that to some independent hifi shop that barely made ends meet. But...If it were a large store like best buy or circuit city or something...I wouldn't feel bad at all, because their stuff usually sucks, and their advice is totally bogus. (don't ask how many times I was refered to bose or monster cable before I saw the light) I prefer to buy stuff from my local hifi shop (audioconcepts). They totally understand when I would prefer to buy something used because of price. They just tell me "well...if you don't want any type of warranty, then go for it." That store likes me a lot too, since I refer quite a few people there.
 
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aeberbach

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If you do it then soon you won't have a store to audition your speakers in.

It will only take one little problem for you to realize what a valuable resource your local store can be. Want to ship those speakers back to the place you ordered them from? I hope they're perfect, first time.
 
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acs236

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One thing to consider is that you can sometimes (at least it has been my experience) work out a deal that's mutually beneficial. If you tell them, "I really want to buy from you, but I'm finding it so much cheaper elsewhere/online/whatever..." you can sometimes get them to lower the price. I'm reluctant to by certain types of equipment online, particularly speakers, since I want to be able to try them in my home, with my other equipment, to judge whether I'll be happy with them. Maybe you can do that with some online stores, but I would have hated to ship my main speakers back -- what at hassle!

I do like the idea of supporting good, local audio shops, because as others have said, they provide a great service. However, I wouldn't feel guilty buying somewhere else if the salesman tried to pressure me or rip me off in some way.

I think if you compare the whole package of what you get from a good audio store, the differene in price might not seem so much.
 
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I agree that with the big stores I don't care if looked/listened then bought on line. For me it really is how much less the on line store is, and how quickly I want it. I bought an amp last winter, I got it at the store because their price was with in 20 bucks of on line when I added in shipping and I didn't have to worry about the UPS guys dropping it somewhere enroute. Shipping stuff back to the retailer is a major pain. Driving it to the local store is very easy. Especially if you are considering large speakers.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by andrzejpw


but without stores, where will you listen to krell or levinson equipment?


Would you prefer buying EVERYTHING on the net?



Stores serve their purpose. However, if there is a big price delta between online stores and brick and mortar shops, then perehaps Krell and Levinson will change their business models and either open up their contracts to competition, lower the price on their equipment or a combination of both. Either way, I don't see a moral dilemma in this. It's a changing marketplace that will force consumers and retailers to adjust accordingly. Perhaps the manufacturers will set up retail outlets to allow preview of their equipment. Perhaps the store owners will lower their prices to compete with the online shops. Who knows? The bottom line is that as a consumer, I do what's best for me - finding the best VALUE I can find. Let the retailers compete for my business however they can.
 
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andrzejpw

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There's no way that a BM store can match an online store in price. Think of the costs! The BM store needs to pay rent. It needs to pay its employees. They need to maintain their store, etc.

The online store, otoh, can, can basically just use a wearhouse. No pretty anything.

The BM store needs to maintain itself. That's why its prices are higher.
 
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I think if they give you the kind of service that best buy and circuit city gives you, then you have the right to walk away. Why would i buy from a place that is a little more expensive and has bad service?

However, as someone said, if its a small hifi place, with those friendly, "help you in any way" sales people, then it might be different.

I bought my grado sr60's locally. There were two reasons. It was cheaper than getting it shipped from a US online store, and the sales people were friendly, and tolerated me sitting there for 2 hours auditioning them
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yage

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The hifi business is kinda funny...

The companies don't necessarily want to dissuade competition between each other. Really, do the Krell people and the Mark Levinson people compete solely on price? Of course not! There's the added value in reputation, (perceived) ownership status, and, naturally, sonic performance.

But some companies do dole out sales 'territories' to certain shops so that the shops don't end up competing with each other. That's where things get kinda murky for me...

So how can hifi specialty shops recoup losses from online sales? Should they end up charging money for the time spent auditioning these high-priced and relatively rare goods? If we subscribe to the logic of economic self-interest then that's what they *should* do.

The ethical dilemma arises not from pure economics, but from our intentions. If I enter a hifi shop to audition equipment with absolutely no intention of purchasing that equipment from their store, then I have willfully deceived the store owner. I have essentially robbed them of their time and effort. In the end, if the negotiated price comes out to a fair price of the equipment plus my estimated cost of their salesmanship, then I'll buy from the store. That would seem to be fair for everyone involved wouldn't it?

Then again, whoever said capitalism was fair?
 
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