Why It Matters

Where You Buy, As Well As What You Buy!

It seems more and more, manufacturers won’t step up to the plate to take care of customers anymore. Their goal is to sell truckloads (they call them "containers" in the trade) of stuff to the superstores.

If you have a problem and it’s out of warranty, they don’t care. Buy a new one. Go away.

If it’s a problem within warranty, they’re pained to have to look at it. How could you possibly ask for quick service, much less service at all? If they get to it in a month, they think they’re doing well.

Welcome to the world of the $159 home theater in a box and sub $99 DVD player/VCR combination. For the most part, manufacturers have forgotten how to take care of their customers.

Even in the high end, some of the biggest offenders are the guys that sell the most expensive, esoteric products. In such cases, they generally have no repair staff. They have to pull the one guy in the house off production to get him to repair something. Since he doesn’t get paid on the repair, it’ll sit while they build new stuff.

The video companies are the biggest culprits. Marantz is practically on an island alone in its willingness to take care of dealers, and customers, in the video world. There’s nobody better. Marantz remembers its roots. It started as a specialty audio company. Business was done differently then (in the 60s). There was a pride of workmanship. The manufacturer was concerned about its name and reputation. There was no automated phone answering system! Today Marantz continues to be very responsive. If we have a problem with delivery of a Marantz product, or service, we can get to a live human being within a couple hours that will have an answer, and probably a resolution for us.

We sold a Marantz plasma and associated system to a local doctor when they first came out in the late 90s. He loved it! He’s got a vacation home for fishing in Montreal. He wanted another system for up there. He threw it in the Suburban and off he went. He called from Montreal with a problem. He said the TV wouldn’t turn on. He hooked everything up right (or so he thought) with the help of his college aged sons. When they went to fire it up, there was no picture, no power, nada. Now here he is in Montreal and needs help, what does he do?

The problem was trickier because the doctor is busy. He’s not in his Montreal home very often. We would have to arrange getting a replacement to the home, through his neighbor Jacques (no, I’m not making this up!), who is a heck of a guy and has the key. I called my guy at Marantz and relayed this whole story. They care. They don’t want a Marantz customer unhappy. They were embarrassed the TV was DOA. They arranged to have a brand new 50" delivered to the home, through the neighbor, and at an exact time (none of this noon-5 baloney!). They were extra smart. They didn’t just send it on a truck. They had the local Marantz rep go with a delivery team. They arrived at the appointed time. Jacques let them in, fired the system up and showed them the TV wouldn’t turn on, but the Marantz audio gear was fine. He pushed the remote power button and nothing happened. The rep asked him if they tried the manual "hard" button. Jacques asked- "what button?" The on/off button was UNDER the plasma face. You couldn’t see the button from the front. We had set up the customer’s system in Milwaukee and of course, activated the power via this button so the unit was effectively in the standby mode. The doctor hadn’t realized this and frankly, I didn’t catch it via phone from Montreal. I just ASSUMED he had tried it. The punch line is, his plasma was fine. The Marantz rep was actually quite happy that’s all it was, and left with a smile, and a brand new 50" plasma in his back pocket. The charge to the customer? Zero. Thanks for the biz! Try Sony or Samsung on something like that!

OK, that’s a strange one you say. How about something more "normal." We sold a "cut above" line within a mainstream line several years ago. The products were supposedly made to a better standard. The cut above line promised to be a totally different division from the parent, both in build and support. We sold a handful of DVD-CD changers. They looked well built and were fairly heavy. But we found after they were out in the field a year or so, they failed- virtually all of them. The warranty is 3 yrs, no biggie, right? We sent them to the repair department for replacement of the drive mechanisms. They would come back not fixed- same problem. Some were dented, had ashes from cigarettes on them, were packed poorly and dented- wow. This was a cut above?!

After continued inability to repair these units I asked our rep to get involved. He’s a very nice local gentleman but said, "Sorry, I can’t help. They use an independent service center for all their repairs. Call them." I did. They don’t care. So company A makes the stuff, sells it under the guise of line B, and makes repair center C responsible for repairs. Goodness. They have hundreds of units from a variety of manufacturers all over their facility. They charge each manufacturer a set rate for each unit "repaired." Hence it’s all about time- the less they put into anything, the more profitable they are. Any returns for a second shot… they don’t get paid for. They did no better. They just didn’t care. We ended up replacing these units for our customers with Marantz units. AE took a big hit to do this. But our customers are more valuable to us than company A, line B, or repair center C.

Another video example? A gentleman who has bought a ton of gear from us in the last 25 years wanted a plasma TV for his bedroom. He selected a Panasonic 37- a really nice TV. He came to me and said, I see it cheaper on the web. I’m really tempted to save the $200. I appreciated his concern and replied that AE is worth the $200 more. We would deliver it, set it up, connect his other stuff properly and be here for service if need be. He agreed and bought it from us. A couple of days before Thanksgiving his 37 quit. It wouldn’t power up. He sent his wife in with it in the SUV. We checked it out. He was right. Dead in the water. We needed some parts. I asked to have a day to check it out. Panasonic had said the parts would always be available in a day or two. After a conversation with them that sounded like talking to a lifelong politician, we gave a replacement to our customer. We could tell the parts would not be forthcoming in a day or two. We are hoping they will be coming within a month!

We have more good Bryston stories than any other brand. It is the rule, not the exception, that any Bryston piece that goes in for service is turned around in 24 hours. Who else gives you a 20 yr warranty?!

I’m not saying we’re perfect and the only place in the world to buy AV gear. But before you buy on line or buy from a super store, test them. Call the place in question under the premise that you have already purchased something from them and need service. Are they coming out to test, to make sure you’ve trouble shot properly? Are they boxing up a large unit that needs to go into service? {That’s the big scam in plasma repairs you know- oh, it wasn’t boxed up right and it got destroyed on the way back to us. It’s your fault and out of warranty!} Are they giving you a loaner or exchange? Can you get a human on the phone who can help you? Will they show up at an exact time to help you out? We will.