How and why a £9 CD cost me £125

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Bear with me on this please; first - a little background. I bought my wife a watch online. She took it to a jeweler to pay to have the strap adjusted and she got mildly scolded for buying online. How could they tell just by looking at it wasn’t clear, but they knew – and said so.

I suppose one could say, or at least mutter under one’s breath “Shame on you”. This being despite the fact the jeweler didn’t carry the brand and had no access to it. The shop owner just hated the idea of online shopping.

Here at AN&MR editorial office I see this sentiment a lot in our industry and while I understand the feelings I don’t always get the logic.

There was a time when buying online meant getting a deal and undercutting the brick and mortar dealer. Anyone with a computer could setup a website and sell gear without any overhead or responsibility for after sales service. Worse, he/she might suggest to potential customers they go to the retailer, try out the gear and then buy it from him. Those days are mostly in the past – primarily because manufacturers wised up and don’t support them – but for some, the bitter taste remains.

Purchasing online is here to stay and can be a real benefit to consumers. I routinely purchase products, mainly CDs on Amazon – not because they’re cheaper but because I don’t have to leave our office to shop. Moreover there are hardly any high street or indeed back street music retailers anywhere near where I live.

It takes less than a minute to search, select and one-click purchase the item. In two days it’s here for me to listen to. Compare that with having to break into my busy day, drive to a store, shop, deal with waiting in line, parking, credit cards, traffic and so on. Really? There’s simply no contest. Here’s the arithmetic to – in my case at least – prove it.

On a trip to Brighton just before Christmas 2015 to track down a rare CD, I incurred the following costs:

  • £85 speed awareness course as a consequence of exceeding the local limit by 10% Yes, mea culpa; I broke the law and I accept the punishment
  • £30 fixed penalty for momentarily <5 seconds apparently entering a bus lane. Yes, mea culpa; I broke the law and I accept the punishment
  • Fuel to and from Brighton, say £5
  • Fuel in Brighton trying to get a parking space either on the street or in a mufti-storie
  • Wear and tear on the nerves – incalculable

Total £125

When eventually I reached the store, they were shut.

That said, I don’t think I’d buy a car online without driving it nor would I buy a pair of speakers without listening to them.We live in a worldwide marketplace where goods from anywhere on the globe can be ours with the click of a mouse – but not all products lend themselves to online sales. So, that’s our view but we wondered if audiophile makers thought the same way.

We invited a few to comment. Some didn’t respond and the most coherent of those that did told us:

“The challenge for those of us in the industry is to support retailers that make our products and services available and accessible to consumers in the way they really want, without stepping on each other’s toes – online or through a physical store.

We support a worldwide network of authorized dealers and distributors because they go the extra mile to make our customers happy – some online, some through retail outlets, some actually drive products to the customer’s homes.

There’s no shame in the way you purchase – only in those that seek to succeed on the backs of others.”

Quite so.

Thank you for reading

Neil McCauley / editor in chief

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