I once asked a salesman at an audio dealership the purchase cost of a particular turntable they had on the floor. “$4000.00” was the rather curt reply. I already knew that was the suggested retail price. “Okay,” I responded, “what kind of a discount should I expect?” “None,” again spoken in the same, rather matter of fact tone of voice. When I asked why not, he replied, “Because we don’t have to.” With that, he turned and walked away. As did I, straight out of the store and I’ve never been back. An absence of a discount I can tolerate, but not indifference and certainly not arrogance.
If there is anything in high-end audio standing in the way of obtaining better quality components it is almost exclusively price. Regardless of one’s budget, or one’s ability to afford more and more expensive product, at some point in the process cost becomes a factor. If the ability to afford a $1000.00 amp is just a shade out of reach, it really isn’t any different from not being able to afford a $10,000.00 amp. Lacking fiscal resources is the same regardless of the amount. Affordable to some is far out of financial reach for others whether it is part of an audio system or anything we may hazard to buy. Looking in vain for a better deal on something knows no bounds.
So here’s a question, should audio gear be discounted and if so, by how much? If not, why?
There are multiple factions at work on this dilemma. One, there is the consumer whose pricing desire is plainly obvious. Secondly there is the manufacturer. Talk with any of them and if they mention cost at all, it is always the suggested retail price. I certainly understand the motivation behind this position – it keeps things clean. Besides, in all but a very limited number of cases, the manufacturer is selling not to the consumer but to a dealer. So it greatly behooves manufacturers to only discuss retail pricing with consumers. If there is a discount to be found, it will be with the dealer.
Anyone looking to buy a brand new car would rarely visit an auto showroom, pick out a car, and tell the salesperson the sticker price is more than fair. Consumers buying a car expect a discount off list. Conversely, go to the grocery store for your week’s shopping and tell the checkout person you want a 20% discount after everything is rung up. Chances are they’ll look at you like you’re nuts. So is the high-end audio industry any different? Depends on where you’re shopping.
Most dealers are either home based or operate from a commercial, retail building. One might think that because the overhead for home base dealers is less, then discounts should be not only always available, but also greater in percentage than their commercial counterparts. In my travels about, I’ve found it to be actually both ways. Discounts were not always the sole province of a type of physical location. It seems to suggest that discounts, or the absence thereof, is more an individual decision on the part of the business owner and not where the business is located.
We still haven’t answered our question – should a discount be given and if so, how much?
I think it depends on the product as well as the dealer. What services beyond the sale do they provide? When you order something do they deliver and install it or do you drive to their place of business and pick it up? Do they also assist you with your system even if it means not making a sale? If the dealer is going above and beyond what is expected for the basic concept of fulfilling an order, does that justify a lesser discount? Or none at all?
Most dealers are given a discount off list. Obviously, that discount varies by not only product but also manufacturer. It should seem fairly obvious that more expensive products will have a higher threshold of profit dollars. Less expensive products, on the other hand, can’t generate the amount of profit dollars given the same profit percentage because of lower sale price. So it makes sense that less expensive components will be discounted by a smaller percentage than more expensive ones.
It’s also important to remember that the dealer has to make a living and that is singularly accomplished by making a profit. As in any business, sale price is determined by the total cost, not just the cost of the component. So again, what is the dealer doing beyond simply selling a component? Additional services and benefits carry with them an associated cost which have to somehow be recouped.
Finding a dealer that can be trusted, and probably most importantly, also becomes a friend is certainly a wise thing to do. You’ll be most assured of receiving a discount and one that will probably be better than from an unknown seller. Expecting a discount on things we purchase has become almost ubiquitous in general and luxury audio is no exception. As to the question of how much discount should one expect? Well, that depends on the negotiating skills of the buyer.