How to avoid buyer anxiety – by Howard Popeck. 002

So, following on from the previous part of this series, why 1976? Quite simply, it was my first foray into buying an audio system. I discovered first hand the need for proper research prior to visiting a retailer or more accurately, a certain type of retailer – and the realisation that in so doing I probably (not always, but probably) knew more than the salesperson. And so a decision; do I trust myself or the salesperson?

The twin London ‘valleys’ of ‘consumer death’

In the late 1960s and up to the mid 1980s London had two primary audio streets. Tottenham Court Road (with an extension into Charing Cross Road) and the Edgware Road. If TCR was tacky (which it was) then Edgware Road was tackier still. And that’s where I went. First poor decision.

Poor because I went to Edgware Road simply because it was closer to where I was working. A fairly dumb approach to decision-making. Anyway, I ended up at HL Smith’s shop and ended up with a Connoisseur BD1 turntable to go with my PrinzSound (Dixons own brand) amplifier and a pair of Wharfdale Denton’s or Lintons. I can’t remember which. And I was for a while quite happy. Happy through good fortune rather than good decision-making. And so it went on.

Before staring Subjective Audio I ended up with a pair of brand new JBL L100 Century speakers for £299 from Audio-T (West Hampstead) plus a used Pioneer SA 9100 and a new Fons CQ30 with SME 3009 and a Stanton cartridge. And that’s that – for now. And so back to the thrust of this series.

Back a step please.

But first – a reiteration if I may of what this series is attempting to achieve. This reiteration is primarily for my benefit as unfortunately I’m enjoying doing this so much that I’m likely to drift off track. What I want for you dear readers is to help you buy without anxiety. Not buy from me – although that would indeed be nice but no – how to make intelligent choices about any purchase.

Now then, it’s clear to most of us that if you have no choice then the buying situation is uncomfortable. By this I mean a choice of just one amplifier, one power cord and so on. Of course there is a sub-decision where you can choose to buy or not to buy – but we’ll ‘unwrap’ that thinking later in the series.

So then ‘logically choice is a desirable component for satisfactory (or indeed enjoyable) decision making. You’d think so wouldn’t you? And within reason it is. Having choice empowers you. It certainly does me. But that’s not the only emotion I feel and even if you are only vaguely like me you’ll feel it to but quite possibly not be aware of it – until now.

Have you felt what I've felt – or at least something like it?

As the number of choice options increases a certain negativity gets introduced. As the range of choices escalates then so does those negativity emotions.

Now there are some buyers who thrive on this. It’s a sort of adrenalin rush. As a retailer I've seen this. Experienced retailers can spot this a mile away. In my situation, when I used to do demonstrations and saw this trait I would gently, calmly and without regret persuade them that I really wasn’t the type of expert they needed. I would calmly and sincerely direct them, depending on their type of anxiety to either Grahams, or KJ LeisureSound as it then was.

Here’s an insight into my decision choices and the ones I selected.

Decision #1

Am I prepared in this instance with the anxiety-ridden visitor going to – for the sake of money and ego going to temporarily ignore or marginalise my primary commercial ethos; ‘I will get more of what I want by helping the potential buyer get more of what they want

Well, that’s easy. No I won’t succumb to the twin seducers of ego and money. Which leads to the question as to why – bearing in mind I’m not saint? Simple. First I knew / know that I was ill-equipped to cope with that type of dealer-groupie anxiety or brand-groupie anxiety.

  1. I didn’t have what they wanted or needed.
  2. Secondly and without exception it always, always goes wrong for the buyer in these situations.

Now I’m not talking metaphysics here, or at least I don’t think I am but for example, with these type of buyers a hitherto 100% reliable piece of equipment will go wrong. Not because the user did anything dumb. Not at all – but it … just … happens. And that’s just the tip of an iceberg that for now I'll steer us away from.

Decision #2

So who in London would I send these anxiety-ridden unfortunates too? Again a simple decision. Back then if the visitor were clearly in thrall of the magazines and their then ‘Flat Earth’ Linn / NAIM axis bias I’d send them to Grahams. There was little point in doing otherwise. Such people were not then and indeed not now known as Flat Earthers for nothing!

As for the rest, I gave them directions to KJ. My dear friend there, Jim Dovey being a very kindly and patient soul who knew a good sound when he heard one, and a near psychotic when it walked in was ideal. And from time to time Jim sent me a few that I could better deal with. No commission in any form changed hands. Our motivation was different. It was …

Decision #3

Can a competitor do better for this customer than I can? And when in all honesty the answer was yes, or even marginally yes then that’s what we did. But that was in the 1980s when times were better.

Meanwhile, thank you for reading thus far. I appreciate it.

Will I be having the pleasure of your attention tomorrow perhaps?

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