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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Waiting Game

I've touched on this subject before but occasionally a first hand example presents itself and reminds me just how prevalent it is among some consumers. I'm talking about the waiting game, i.e. waiting for a specific feature and or waiting for equipment with said feature to hit a certain, often arbitrary price point and using the lack of said feature or price point to validate further waiting. Here's the rub about this tactic, it rarely pays off and in some cases it's actually counter productive.

Before I get too deep into this, understand that I'm working on a few basic assumptions here. First we're talking about A/V, film, and or home theater enthusiasts in general, not a first time buyer or someone who rarely (read decades not every other year) upgrades their A/V gear, short of item for item failure replacements.

The problem is that no matter how long you wait there's always something new in the pipeline. Want to wait for an inexpensive HDMI 1.3 receiver you say? Wait long enough and you'll likely find another feature worth waiting for, hey I wonder how far along in development HDMI 1.4 is? Please forgive the semi-snide rhetorical question, it was merely an illustration.

The purchase or lack thereof is of course entirely up to the end user and as a friend of mine humorously noted: If you can't live in it, wear it, or eat it, it's not a necessity. At the same time however it's a shame to imagine someone waiting for x-y-z feature at 1-2-3 arbitrary price point when they could have otherwise been enjoying that piece of gear for years to come. I'm not trying to lecture on any one individual purchase or otherwise valid reason to hold off, but I do occasionally see consumers locked into the "must wait" mindset for no other apparent reason than worrying about what the future may bring.

Take for example a client, who recently visited our showroom, we'll call him Bob. Bob has decade old Mitsubishi 40" direct view television, I remember these sets well. I used to plan my sick days around their installation. (Just kidding but they were back breakers) In a nutshell Bob was looking for a display upgrade for his living room, but had a shopping list of features in mind for his new display, unfortunately that shopping list was chock full of features that aren't readily available at his desired price-point and or were just plain nonexistent. Needless to say, Bob was ready to hang it up and hold off on that new display.

It was at this point I explained to Bob some of the differences between our business model and that of some of the big-box, mass retailers. Stores like Best Buy and Circuit City move large amounts of CE gear on a daily basis, have huge advertising budgets, and benefit from leveraged wholesale costs to be able to offer their goods at their advertised prices. Contrast that with custom installation/dedicated home theater stores who literally live or die based on their word of mouth referrals and you begin to see some of the important differences.

Every one of our installations is an advertisement, or put another way, your theater is our referral system. We can't afford (again literally) for you to be unhappy when it comes to telling your friends and family who did your theater. To this end (ensuring that we offer the best values for our clients) we've become quite familiar with the roadmaps of our vendors (not unlike the computer processor roadmaps new window from Intel) to get a feel for what's in the pipeline for the coming months.

We're not afraid to tell someone what's on the horizon, (120hz refresh rates come to mind) this full disclosure is what keeps small operations like ourselves in business. Does it cost us the occasional sale? You bet but not nearly as many as a customer who felt he or she was duped into a product that was immediately outdated. Here's a tip, if your salesmen isn't (a) aware of what's a few months out on the CE horizon or (b) doesn't seem all that interested in discussing it, you may be better served taking your business elsewhere.

At the end of the day it's all about knowing what's available, what it's worth, and what's on the horizon. Contrast that with what, if any, real-world benefit you'll gain by waiting for a new model and ascertain if that difference is really worth the cost of admission. Too complicated? Just know this, technology and in particular digital displays are always improving, the trick is striking the right balance between today's price and performance and not getting locked into the never-ending loop of what tomorrow may bring.

From Home Theater Blog

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