For years we’ve been publically avoiding a discussion regarding the elephant in the corner of the room although we seem more than happy to grumble about it in private - the issue of why you (the consumer) should be buying local rather than taking your business overseas, especially when asking stores for unrealistic install pricing. I’ll break this post into four separate parts. The first part will concentrate on what local stores require from you. The second part will concentrate on what stores are actually offering you, the third part concentrates on the possible negative consequences for yourself while the fourth part concentrates on the negative consequences for us (the industry) when you take your business overseas.
Part one - What your local stores require from you.
Whilst this should be palpable, it only takes mere minutes of discussion with some people to become painfully obvious that it’s not. That is the issue of how stores work – not just audio but all stores. By their very nature, retailers and wholesalers make a living by selling products for a slightly higher price than they buy it. Most people seem to understand this basic commercial phenomenon but we still get person after person asking for everything to be done for next to nothing. Bear in mind the money you pay us for work undertaken is actually how we pay our mortgages, rego, insurance, grocery, gas, water and electricity bills and what have you. This is not to say you should always pay top dollar; all shops will discount prices, do package deals, offer group buys and so on, but you shouldn’t be asking your installer to do your planned $1000 install for $75. After all; try going to work tomorrow and telling the boss you won’t be requiring payment. Sure he’ll love you but how long will you last?
Part two - What your local stores are offering you.
When you employ a store to install a system in your car you’re actually buying a service, not just a product. I know it’s easy to have the mindset to buy everything online but this action is actually makes life difficult for stores, especially when they’re offering a premium service. In the fair dinkum department; if you’re just buying a simple product (like a microwave) then by all means, visit three hundred websites and make twenty thousand phone calls. But when it comes to installation you’re moving beyond simple product shopping, despite initially starting your audio venture at this stage. There is an old saying in the industry; you can price match but you cannot service or experience match. With this in mind consider what services your store is offering. I cannot vouch for all stores but some of the services we offer include:
* Constant re-tuning. Every weekend we have people everywhere down here using the oscilloscope and real time analyzer for tailoring their system tuning. We often help them do it, listening and explaining how ears work and what to listen for in the car. This is done free of charge.
* We constantly give people off cuts of sound deadening and cable for free when they need it.
* We help people find and solve system problems for free.
* We chase noise (hiss, whine) issues in peoples installs for free.
* We help people find and solve rattles for free.
* We let people trial new equipment if they want to see how it goes in their car.
* We write a lot for magazines meaning we get to audition many products we don’t hold accounts for. This means we can advise people of what products to use and what to avoid for any given budget.
* We offer free postage on just about everything. This includes when we send your components away for repair.
* We fit and remove products often for free after the initial install price is charged (if you upgrade your amplifier for example).
* We often buy products back off people if they wish to move sideways with a product (changing amplifiers for example).
* We often re-install dodgy system installations for a significantly reduced or free price because we’re of the opinion that you shouldn’t be charged twice for the one install.
* We work all hours of the night to fit into people busy schedules. Spare a thought for our girlfriends, wives and families who don't see us until well into the night each day.
* We answer email enquiries within minutes, not days.
* We offer free yearly battery servicing (discharge, test and trickle charging)
* We offer free bench testing of existing components.
* We offer free system and enclosure design if you’re not sure how to design the best enclosure.
* We run and fund sound offs.
* We pick people up, drop them off and not just to the local station either - last year I dropped a customer off at Jindabyne which is a thousand kilometre round trip.
*We often spend hours installing and tuning processors such as the BitOne into people’s cars just to show them what they do because you can only tell them so much verbally. Again; all for free.
Now they're just the labour side of things. Then there is the material side of store service. These are the products and miscellaneous items we often provide without charge (often to members here):
* We’ve given people replacement speakers free of charge in the past. The most recent example was when we gave Wayne a replacement Boston Z6 midrange when his amplifier died and damaged an existing one – that’s a $300 driver.
* We gave Doug a free Audison sub controller.
* We gave Zenafore a free dash kit because I had it sitting here taking up space.
* There are countless numbers of people on here that we’ve given earth upgrades too, just to show them how their amplifier works better once it can get serious current.
* We offer people free drinks when they’re here.
* We’ve given many people many small things like fuses and terminals.
* We’ve given people alarm items such as glass break and tilt sensors for free.
* We’ve done free amplifier repairs for people whose product damage wasn’t their fault.
Finally there are the various aspects of the install itself. Despite stores charging you a certain amount for the labour, we quite often spend up to four times the actual man-hours to get your install just right (without charging you a dollar more). I won’t go into all the various install techniques themselves as people can read all about them here. Alternatively, you can check out the various images contained in our section of this website.
So after reading through those lists you’ll hopefully appreciate that it can get a little despairing when people bring us boot full’s of equipment they’ve bought off online eBay stores and then ask us to put it in cheap or for free, all whilst expecting us to maintain a high standard.
Part three - What are the negative consequences for you if you’re not supporting the local industry?
When purchasing products off some online stores hosted within websites like eBay, you’re can run various risks. The most obvious is that the product you ordered in fact doesn’t turn up. However some of the less obvious ones are:
* Some of the products sold are fakes. We constantly see people buying equipment online, only to seem upset to find their brand new $1000 speakers they only paid $100 for aren’t the real McCoy.
* You might get evaluation, test or malfunctioning stock. If you have a look around various websites such as ARC Audio and Zapco you’ll see numerous warnings against buying online for these exact reasons. I cannot tell you how many times people have brought stuff online only to find it malfunctions when they install it.
* Lack of warranty. Many manufactures track their products via serial number and won’t provide any warranty if they’re not in the continent they were initially distributed too. To get around this many online stores simply remove the serial number. This will net you the same result – no support at all.
* You have no avenue for returns much of the time. If you get a new set of speakers and they don’t fit into your car, many local stores will gladly take them back. This is very rare if you’ve bought them online.
Part four - What are the negative consequences for the industry itself if you’re not supporting it?
Taking your business overseas doesn’t just impact on the local stores, but on many facets of the industry. Some of these include:
* Stores close down due to being forced to compete with prices under their cost price. Importers close down due to shops not asking for any stock. The only winners initially appear to be you. But who will you turn to for assistance once all the decent shops are no longer around?
* Information websites and forums like this one suffer because the funds they depend on (that come from shops and importers) cease to come in. This means less free information, advice and assistance for you.
* The product itself suffers. As more and more people simply chuck equipment in their cars on the cheap, sadly many have very limited knowledge about how to get the best possible sound from it. This means that the entire quality level of the car audio industry goes down as a whole. There is a good reason why specialist shops are called 'specialists'.
* Competitions suffer. Stores sponsor and run many of the sound offs we all compete at. Without stores it’s quite likely there will be limited (if any) sound offs.
* Publications suffer. When stores and sound offs start disappearing, advertising is no longer required and feature cars are in less abundance for publications. Therefore; what direction are the rags like INCAR going to go?
Now I’m not a fool - I appreciate completely that you can save a lot of money online and whilst I don’t like to admit it sometimes, I tend to agree that if you can legitimately save thousands off your product(s) then you probably ought. But don’t buy everything online to save yourself fifty dollars and then expect stores to bend over backwards for you. We’re all more than happy to help you regardless of where your equipment came from (i.e. we’re not ‘that’ up ourselves) but keep two things in mind. The first is; just remember you might just be shooting yourself in the foot by purchasing overseas and killing off the local stores. Secondly; keep in mind we need to make a living by charging a fair price for your install (read; fair price, not exorbitant price). Why not at least give your local store a chance to price match the prices you’ve found overseas before you send all your cash offshore?
Edited by Fhrx, 04 July 2011 - 08:14 PM.