Why Buy From an Authorized Dealer?

Reviewer: Phil Conner

Why buy from an authorized dealer? The bottom line is money: it will usually cost you less in the end.

Ask anyone who has had a bad experience buying high-end consumer electronics online, and chances are they didn't buy from a Direct Authorized Dealer. This is perhaps one of the most overlooked -- yet most crucial -- qualifications that a buyer should look for in any potential reseller.

Why? Because only Direct Authorized Dealers meet manufacturer standards in terms of sales and service. Authorized Dealers receive training directly from the manufacturer, which enables the Dealers' representatives to share that valuable information with you. For example, an authorized dealer will know when there will be a model change and alert you that the plasma TV model you are contemplating is being discontinued and replaced with a newer, less expensive, better model. What's more, you will receive any manufacturer's rebates and a guarantee that the manufacturer's warranty is intact.

"With many manufacturers such as Pioneer and Sony, your LCD or plasma TV will absolutely not be repaired under the manufacturers warranty unless you purchased the item from an authorized dealer and can provide your receipt."

An authorized dealer is also held to a high standard by the manufacturer on the quality of the goods they are selling. For example a returned, used plasma or LCD TV would have to be delineated as such from an authorized dealer and sold at a heavy discount, whereas non-authorized sellers do not have such restrictions and may sell b-stock or used merchandise as A stock product.

What is a Direct Authorized Dealer?

There are relatively few Direct Authorized Dealers online, because few Internet e-tailers can meet the high standards set by the manufacturers.

To receive authorization from a manufacturer, consumer electronics dealers must:

  • Stock the merchandise they sell
  • Guarantee and arrange for in-home warranty service for product defects
  • Maintain a solid, customer friendly return policy
  • Have specialized knowledge of model features to provide technical assistance after the sale
  • Prove the security of all online transactions
  • Display all policies pertaining to customer privacy and information use
  • Make explicit all Terms of Sale
  • Ship all orders in a timely manner (usually within 48 hours of the order)
  • Provide customers the option of picking up their orders in person
  • Offer expedited shipping options
  • Offer specialized installation services, or refer customers to credible independent installers

What do I get From an Authorized Dealer?

In short, you can be sure that Direct Authorized Dealers (a) work from a physical location (b) have the financial wherewithal to stock merchandise and buy direct, (c) are able to warehouse their goods and thus control the shipping and freight procedures (e.g., packaging, etc.) of those goods, and (d) are highly regarded by manufactures and merchants alike.

Authorized Dealers are able to purchase directly from the manufacturers, giving them the flexibility to replace defective products promptly and efficiently. Purchasing from non-direct dealers can lead to months of frustration, should some problem arise. Purchasing from Direct Authorized Dealers helps you avoid the "Middle Man" routine, where your case gets passed off from company to company while you sit around waiting for someone -- Manufacturer? Wholesaler? Dealer? -- to resolve your problem. This can -- and often does -- take months.

How do I find out if a dealer is authorized?

One of the best and easiest ways to find out if a dealer is authorized is through the manufacturers web site. It's usually easy to check for the zip code of the dealer you are visiting -- either in person or online.

When speaking with a dealer, a good question to ask up front is, "Where are you located? Do you ship directly from your location or drop ship the product?"

What's the difference between an "authorized dealer" and a Direct Authorized Dealer?

Some dealers claim to be authorized due to the fact that they drop ship from a distributor who is authorized. This does not mean that the dealer is authorized. Often, even the authorized distributors are not authorized to ship the product to your are. And ultimately, your receipt for warranty purposes comes from the dealer you purchase from, and not the authorized distributor. Therefore, you will not receive service directly from the dealer, so you're at the mercy of the dealer's relationship with the distributor, and the distributor's relationship with the manufacturer, to get an issue taken care of. This can be a long, arduous process, and may not be resolved in your favor if the manufacturer chooses not to cover it.

A direct authorized dealer purchases and stocks the product directly from the manufacturer. Therefore, they have control over the process and the flexibility to take returns, have your product serviced by the manufacturers service center, and replace defective merchandise.

"These days with only one authorized repair service center per area, I have not seen a repair bill under $700 for a plasma or LCD TV - and that is for the most minor issue."

What else could happen if I don't buy from an Authorized Dealer?

  • You might unwittingly buy so called "B-Stock" or refurbished merchandise which is not fully warranted by the manufacturer.
  • Authorized service centers may not want to deal with your product since it was not purchased from an Authorized Dealer. This leaves you to pay out-of-pocket for repairs done during the warranty period. And for plasma TVs these repairs typically run $700 or more for even the most minor repairs since there is usually only one authorized service center per area.
  • You could buy a brand-new product that is, in fact, unwarranted because it is a "gray market" product -- merchandise that is not designated for sale in the U.S. by the manufacturer and thus has no applicable warranty associated with its serial number.
  • The dealer may become insolvent and thus not be available if you have a problem after the sale.
  • You might be liable for (oftentimes exorbitant) "hidden" charges such as COD charges for shipping.
  • You might be duped into buying an exorbitant extended warranty.

The Bottom Line: The Internet is a bargain-hunter's Paradise, but most online dealers are not manufacturer authorized. We recommend doing a little research to determine if a dealer is authorized before purchasing. This is a simple strategy that will protect you from unnecessary complications going forward from your purchase.

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