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Higher Prices: Are Specialty A/V Dealers Ripping You Off?
Sometimes you pay more for A/V gear when purchased from a specialty shop, and often there's a very good reason for it.
October 04, 2010 by Julie Jacobson

As a customer I think the selling of regular equipment (TVs, Blu-rays, receivers) is where CIs [custom integrators] hurt themselves the most. I remember when I was buying a Pioneer Kuro. MSRP was I believe $6,500 and the CI wanted to sell it to me for $6,200. Best Buy quoted me $5,000 for it.  You can’t expect me to say, “No problem, I’ll pay you an extra $1,200 for getting the same exact thing from Best Buy.”

That message came from JackB via CEPro.com, our sister web site for custom electronics (CE) professionals.

CE pros and specialty A/V retailers will give you all sorts of reasons for charging more for their wares. Some of those reasons are valid. Others not so much. Here are some reasons you might be better off paying a little more for an A/V product that may be sold elsewhere for much less.

Same Product, Higher Price

It usually goes like this: Why should I buy that TV from you when I can get the same thing from Best Buy for $500 less?

That’s a very good question. These days, many CE pros let you bring-your-own-TV to the party. It saves them from the headaches of shipping, repair and inventory management (not to mention client haggling).

So if they’re all too happy to relinquish those burdens, are you OK with taking them on?

Test-Drive Before You Trade Up

TVs, receivers and other critical A/V components are one thing. But what do you say to a dealer who wants to sell you “better” speakers, cables or power management products?

You can say, “Show me.”

Many specialty A/V retailers will let you try before you buy a pricey HDMI cable or magical black box. They’ll let you experience the splendor of premium speakers in your own listening environment.

Here’s a trick: Live with your original choice of gear for a few weeks. Then live with the dealer’s choice for a few weeks. If you experience more joy with the better set-up, then step up.

You’ll have to source the product, possibly pay for delivery, schlep the display upstairs, store the unit until your installer is ready, keep the bulky box until the warranty period expires, handle returns and repairs—a nightmare if the TV is already mounted – and do all of those other little things you’ve come to hate about buying and maintaining a TV.

How much would you pay to rid yourself of those nuisances? Some may pay quite a bit, others nothing at all. If you’re in the second group, hunt for a CE pro that wilI let you BYOT.

Different Product, Higher Price

Often, CE pros will try to convince you to buy the brands they happen to carry simply because they make more money doing so. These TVs may be specialty brands that you can’t price-shop on the Internet. Or they might be higher-margin products for the dealer.

Very possibly, however, the professional installer might just recommend a more expensive TV because – here’s a shocker – it could be better suited for your space. Perhaps it produces brighter pictures in a multipurpose room, for example, or it allows wider viewing angles for your buddies to enjoy.

On questions of picture quality, it usually comes down to trust. Do you believe what the salesperson is saying?

However, there are other reasons for buying the dealer’s preferred brands – reasons that are very real, but often invisible to the customer. For example, your dealer may have an excellent relationship with a particular vendor that has a proven record for on-time delivery and aftermarket service. Don’t underestimate the value to you of a manufacturer that serves your installer well.

Another biggie: It can be a tricky thing to integrate a TV or other A/V component into a control system, what with the nuances of HDMI, complicated power-saving features, and most importantly the control protocols that are unique to every brand. If you insist on a brand that your dealer does not carry, you will almost definitely pay more for installation, integration and service.

When possible, go with the brand that the dealer knows best. If you’re set on a specific brand, find a CE pro that already carries that line.

 

 

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Julie Jacobson - Editor-at-large, CE Pro
Julie Jacobson is co-founder of EH Publishing and currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro, mostly in the areas of home automation, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. She majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. Julie is a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player with the scars to prove it. Follow her on Twitter @juliejacobson.

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