Every once in awhile, I get a clear thought about the importance of buying equipment from a dealer that you know and trust.
We're bombarded by price-related requests like "can you match" and "will you beat" and "I'll only buy from you if." Interestingly, it's not the "superstores" whose prices are tough to beat, but it's the grey- and black-market companies that spell trouble - for us and for you. And with the Internet, there are thousands of places from which to buy.
We're a factory-authorized Sanyo dealer, for example. Not every company that sells Sanyo products is an authorized Sanyo dealer. Even some of the really big Internet companies are not authorized dealers. You might be tempted to say, "Who cares?" whether a dealer is authorized, or not. It's all about getting the lowest price, right?! Not so fast.
If you buy any Sanyo product – projector, display, projector lamp (bulb) -- from a non-authorized Sanyo dealer, how long is your warranty? The standard warranty on the projector is three years, if you buy from an authorized dealer. The warranty is null-and-void otherwise. Zero, zip, nada, nothing. You get the idea.
Sanyo is one of a growing number of companies that chooses to tell you that you're on your own, if you choose to buy from an unauthorized source. If you need warranty service from Sanyo, the warranty claim has to be accompanied by a dated copy of your invoice from us and by the invoice number from Sanyo on which the projector was sold to us. We can supply that information for most of sales we've made since 1992. We retain actual paper records for at least seven years back.
That's a big deal if you need service under warranty, or if someone steals your equipment, and you forgot to write down the serial number. You do write those things down, don't you?!
Let's face it; there are lots of ways to get unauthorized products. Some are bought from other countries. Even units made for the Canadian market don't automatically have a US warranty. Some are used and passed off as new. Some are stolen - plain and simple.
We received a call last year to be on the lookout since a truck full of flatscreen televisions had been stolen and to be aware of special "deals." The police never found the truck, but I'll bet that all of those televisions are being used in homes around the country.
A few years before that, a local pawn shop was raided for selling a truckload of tool sets stolen from Home Depot. The owner had bought hundreds of factory-sealed sets and had sold them on a well-known Internet auction site to unsuspecting buyers. The pawnshop had a 100% positive feedback rating from its auction customers, but it was selling stolen goods.
We once had a client who called to ask one of our installers how to change his new Sony camera menus from Chinese to English. We had to tell him "Sorry pal, that camera wasn't made for the US market. You own an expensive paperweight from one of those New York camera shops."
I could go on, but my point is that reputable dealers pay similar prices for the goods that they sell. All have significant investments in training, inventory, people, systems, etc. Those things cost money. If the price seems too good to be true, watch it.
Remember the camera with Chinese menus? We had offered a factory-sealed US version to the client for $2599. He told one of our guys that we were crazy and that he could get it for $1499.
Like we did with that guy, sometimes we have to suggest to someone that they buy elsewhere because we can't match the price. Pro audio and video dealers wish that we made $1100 on every $2599 sale, but we don't. It's not even close.
Be aware that there's sometimes a high cost to low prices - whether it's quality or the fact that you're on your own if you have a problem.