Today, I shared part of my afternoon with the regional Line 6 sales rep. He was in Columbus and stopped by to check in. Since we both have a background in the music business, we had a fun conversation about instruments, bands, people we know in common, and life -- and then we talked about Line 6. That's part of what makes this business fun.
Somehow, our conversation came around to counterfeit equipment. With today's technology and with many manufacturers operating overseas, it has become more and more difficult to be sure that you're getting what you're paying for. Companies like Shure, Gibson, Fender, Sennheiser, Audio-Technica, Martin, Schecter, Monster Cable, D'Addario, Crown, JBL, DBX and many more wage a constant battle to protect their brand, and in turn to protect you. For years, you've heard of fake Gucci watches, Dooney and Bourke bags and luggage, and counterfeit Calvin Klein clothing. It's almost a joke that you go to New York City only to buy fake goods. Some of the fakes are "good enough" but they're nothing like the real thing.
Well, now you need to worry about fake pro audio, video and music gear.
A word to the wise, if the price seems too good to be true, there's very likely a problem. Online auction and classified ad sites are loaded with opportunities to buy. And it's getting harder to tell the good guys from the bad guys.
Not long ago, the owner of a Columbus pawn shop was arrested for selling stolen tools at a large auction site. The shop had a perfect online selling reputation, but was selling semi trailers full of goods destined for Home Depot. Did the auction customers like those $349 power tool sets for $99? Sure they did, and the owner was all too happy to ship them quickly.
In the technology business, as much or more of a problem are fake goods -- goods that might say Shure or Audio-Technica or Sennheiser, and are packaged as such, but that are not actual name brand products, and that don't carry any warranty. What's to stop the company that prints boxes for Audio Technica in Asia from selling a batch of the same boxes to another company who has stolen the A-T designs for itself? Sadly, not much.
The Line 6 sales rep shared a story that he had bought some ultra cheap batteries on eBay and it turned out that they weren't really Duracells after all. We got a laugh out of that, but can you imagine? Someone took the time to copy a 50 cent battery to sell it for 15 cents. That's madness.
So what's my point? You work hard for what you make, so spend it carefully. We've been in business for about 20 years. We know where everything we sell comes from. We don't import gear directly, we don't buy from companies we don't know, and every new piece we sell has a full manufacturer's warranty. Our prices are competitive with other dealers. There's generally not a price that we can't match, but occasionally (when we know the deal is too good to be true), we turn someone away and suggest that they buy all that they can from someone else.
Without truly losing money, we can't sell Duracell Procell AA batteries for 15 cents, we can't sell Shure SM58 microphones for $49, we can't sell Sony HD broadcast cameras for $999, or Paul Reed Smith Guitars for $299. We don't buy them anywhere close to those prices and neither does anyone else - unless they're fake or stolen.
I'd like to buy a Selmer Mark VI alto saxophone. It's one of the most copied instruments in history. Several years ago, you could buy one for $2500, and I didn't want to pay that much. Today, they're $4500-6000, and I really don't want to pay that much. Good ones are actually considered an investment, kind of like old Martin guitars. Or to satisfy my whim to play saxophone again, I can buy a Chinese knockoff of a Selmer Mark VI for $500-1000. It looks like a Selmer, it plays something like an intermediate quality horn, and it might even say Selmer. But is that right and is it wise to do?
I have to admit that I like the crazy good deal, too, but the last thing you want to do is to waste the money you've worked hard to make. Shop carefully.