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
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 http://www.dejanews.com/ 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
dealers try to make an extra buck by trying to cheat the manufacturers.
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
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
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.