Buying Car Audio on the Internet

Buying on the internet may be an easy way to compare products and prices and also very easy to shop. But the online world of car audio is kind of strange.  Beware.

First off, there are many Internet car audio shops that are nothing but a web page. Some college kid got him some free web space and now wants to make some beer money, so he has scanned in a buncha car stereo catalogs and made a nice looking web page.

Some of these have never intended to actually send out products, they just want your money and they will disappear in a short time only to emerge again with a different name. BEWARE!!!

I always search their web page looking for a legitimate street address. If they take credit cards, that is a plus, since you'll have the credit card company on your side. Most legit businesses will also happily give you references.

Another popular one (and I don't know why) is the so called wholesale club. There is a very popular one (but I wont mention names) and if you send $40 they supposedly send you a wholesale catalog and you can buy at cost. Many even lure you with offers of free equipment for signing up.  Do some research first, use and lookup what folks are saying about a place before you buy.  The popular wholesale clubs have had many complaints that I have seen online. They never have the good stuff, even though they show it in their ads, they sell only refurbished units, and take forever to ship to you (if at all).

As far as brands available on the internet, many manufacturers DO NOT PERMIT internet sales. They prohibit internet sales because it is difficult to enforce their territorial restrictions. These territories exist to give a single merchant exclusive control over that product, eliminating competition which could force prices down, ultimately reducing profits for everyone. Some manufacturers don't like internet or mail order sales because the products may not receive professional installation from trained installers. Badly installed products sometimes cause a bad reputation for the manufacturer because of failures.

To be a legitimate dealer for these products, the dealer must sign dealer agreements. Basically legal contracts that agree to the terms the manufacturers specify, many times NO MAIL ORDER SALES! And no sales to other dealers because they might sell MAIL ORDER... Customers ONLY, in the store ONLY!

However, there are lots of dealers that are not signed up that would love to have these good selling products.  These dealers may not be eligible to be a REAL DEALER for these products because they may be too close (in miles) to an existing dealer, or they may not have a storefront that meets the criteria set by the manufacturer, or any number of other reasons. There are also lots of folks on the internet wanting these products. The legit dealers get BIG discounts if they buy alot of stuff!

So, its quite common for some legit dealers try to make an extra buck by trying to cheat the manufacturers. Ignoring their contracts they order extra products that they know they can't sell in their stores just to get a price break for ordering a bunch of big numbers, and then so they wont be stuck with stuff they cant sell, they sell some of the stuff sideways to distributors or dealers that can't get those products direct from the manufacturer. This is known as "trans-shipping", the product becomes a "gray market good", and the dealer becomes known (quite flippantly) as an "audio whore". Often, the legit dealers MODIFY or remove the serial numbers so that the manufacturer cannot TRACE the product back to the LEGIT DEALER and sue them for breach of contract. This makes it difficult, sometimes impossible, for the buyer to get warranty service. Trans-shipping makes it possible for distributors worldwide to have ANY BRAND a store could ask for. This being the case, from a retail standpoint there might not be a reason to sign up direct with any manufacturer! It goes without saying that since most manufacturers of high end audio don't allow internet sales, much of the internet stuff might have illegally modified serial numbers. 

Sometimes the dealer selling you the product doesn't even know the products are gray market. Sometimes the dealer cheating the manufacturer is clever enough to make the altered serial numbers look unaltered, their main concern for him is to have a sellable product that cannot be traced back to them by the manufacturer. 

It is quite common to find illegal, modified serial numbers on electronic equipment on the internet. It is usually the LEGIT dealer of the products and not the END RETAILER that modifies the serial numbers.

Sometimes when you send gear in for warranty repairs some manufacturers will tell you about the altered serial numbers, some go so far as to tell you the gear must be stolen!  I think they are only trying to enrage you and give themselves a legitimate way out of doing warranty repairs for you. Maybe the higher ups are telling the service people to tell you these lies, but in reality it really doesn't have anything to do with stolen gear. In the USA there is a law against altering serial numbers on electronic equipment. It has nothing to do with theft or stolen property at all. 

ANY DEALER that sells these high end brands on the internet will probably be the same. If the manufacturer has a NO MAIL ORDER RULE. Then you will not find ANY DEALER with these products legitimately.

If you really want legit products with full factory warranties GO to a store in your town or call the manufacturer directly and ask them to recommend a dealer in your area. You can also visit the manufacturers web site for locations near you.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't plug the teamROCS Certified Internet Retailers. Early on in the history of teamROCS, we decided that it was important to recognize good quality service, excellent product selection, and authorized internet sales ability for their products. While some of our TRCIR's may indeed carry grey market goods and used merchandise, they will clearly advertise this on their site with respect to that item. In well over a year and a half now, the TRCIR's have fielded the lowest complaint to customer ratio of all the internet merchants we have researched. We are proud to endorse these retailers, and honored that these schlubs sport our seal of approval on their site.

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by: Eddie Runner