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Why big box music stores suck: a dissertation
Old 7th December 2007
Lives for gear
drumzealot's Avatar

Why big box music stores suck: a dissertation

Base wage is an advance on commission

Their incentive is to maximize your expenditures and to minimize their time spent per sale. In fact they have disincentive to find out what you actually need and disincentive to spend time learning about the products they sell, especially lower volume products (like high end pro audio gear). Unless these reps are willing to do whatever it takes to maximize your expenditures then they have no incentive to stay employed by BigB Music because they will not earn any money. Reps feel the need to present a well-informed image to help the customer feel that they can trust their advice. The problem is most of these reps are not well-informed so they must pretend; substituting substantive knowledge with empty arrogance. Any seasoned commission-based sales rep knows how to manipulate people into thinking that they need something they don’t. This will alienate well informed customers right away. In the short run, not-so-well-informed customers may feel satisfied with their purchase. However, in the long run they are likely to acquire more information which will change their assessment of their experience. Thus, big box music stores appeal to uninformed customers who plan to stay uninformed. What we are left with are uninformed sales reps selling uninformed customers.

I buy most of my drum gear at Columbus Percussion in Ohio. I did this for the 20 years of my residence there and still do even though I live on the east cost. The employees earn a decent wage (no commission at all), are eligible for benefits, and flexible scheduling so they can gig. Raises are based on knowledge of the product and quality of customer service. This eliminates the need to be manipulative and arrogant.

Shopping there is a dream compared to the crap I encounter at the big box stores. Turnover tends to be low so reps tend to be very well informed about the product. They also have incentive to spend time with their customers, and sell them what they need. Because of this, Columbus Percussion customers tend to be satisfied in the short-run and loyal in the long run. Sales reps go home with the satisfaction of knowing that they worked to help someone find what they needed.

This model has afforded Columbus Percussion great success allowing them to expand their inventory (far beyond any big box store), open a repair/build/modify shop where you can order a boutique instrument, and a huge educational division. The store is usually buzzing with students of all ages which provides a lively atmosphere. The teachers are all pros, so the best players in town are there hanging out, drinking coffee, talking about the craft, and gossiping about chick singers in their spare moments.

Big box stores are the devil.
Old 7th December 2007
Lives for gear
TheRealRoach's Avatar

Reminds me of a time that I struck of a conversation about the Chandler Germanium with a store employee when it first came out:

"So have you had a chance to try it out yet?"
Employee: "Oh yeah, I'd say that it sounds really great with instruments."
Old 7th December 2007
Gear Addict
andygomez's Avatar


For almost ten years I worked for a non music company as a salesman, I worked an hourly wage with benefits and decent raises based on my performance. It was all customer service based and knowledge of product this led to me learning new things as well as meeting and building relationships with some pretty interesting people.

I then being a slut tried to work for a big named commisioned based music company
trying to sell the gear that I knew was good but made less money than the gear i knew sucked. I was being pushed into living a lie and selling crap to people who knew no better. All of what I learned about customer service and really dealing with people was thrown out the window, this lead to a really tense work enviroment for everyone.
It even made me not want anything to do with the gear we all here love so much, I was on the verge of depression and almost left the music industry.

I am happy to say I left that god forsaken place
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