Common Car Audio Scams

I don't want to mislead you into thinking that all shops are trying to scam you. There are good shops and their are bad shops. I'm going to give you some information about the tactics some of the bad shops will use. With this knowledge you will be way ahead of the curve in understanding what kind of shop you are dealing with.

Bait and Switch

I've covered this in greater detail in the next chapter but basically bait and switch is the practice of luring customers in with a low price, name brand product with the sole intention of switching them to another product. Please read the chapter on bait and switch to find out more.

Add-ons After You've Left

This scam happens after the sale has been made and it's time for the installation. Especially true when leaving your vehicle at a shop for the installation. What happens is after you've left the store, the extras start getting tacked on. Things like noise suppressors, special adapters, different cables and wires and just about anything else they can think of. If they think you don't know what adapters you do or do not need they will be more likely to start adding them on for you. Whether or not you need or even get these extra items is hard to prove because the items are out of sight, hidden behind various panels.

This is why it is EXTREMELY important to get everything in writing before handing over your vehicle to the shop for the installation. A competent shop should do this as a matter of course but you need to make sure it is done to avoid any confusion or "extra" charges. Sometimes you will need adapters but they should know this ahead of time and inform you of it and the cost involved before you hand over the keys. Leave your phone/pager numbers with them so they can contact you if they run into something that will incur extra charges. Have them explain exactly why it is necessary and why they didn't know about it ahead of time. When you listen to their answer see what your gut tells you. If you have any suspicion that the charge is fraudulent tell them to hold off and call someone knowledgeable about car audio that you trust and see what they say. There are several kits/adapters that you may need but they should tell you about those before you leave. Items such as dash kits and wiring harness adapters top the list.

Gray Market Equipment

Gray market equipment is gear that a company is not authorized to sell. This is also called "trans-shipping"). What happens is shop A wants to sell brand X but is not authorized to sell brand X. Either they have a poor history that makes brand X not want to sell to them or brand X already has an authorized shop in that area or "territory". So shop A finds another shop that is not in their area, shop B, that is an authorized seller of brand X. Now shop A is able to carry brand X with shop B as their supplier. The problem for you as the consumer is that brand X will only warranty merchandise that is purchased through an authorized dealer. So if you have a piece of brand X equipment that you bought at shop A then you are not covered under the brand X warranty. Instead shop A may choose to provide their own warranty on the brand X equipment. However shop A will probably make excuses as to why the damage is not covered under warranty since the repair will be coming out of their pocket. Now the image of brand X suffers because you think that brand X doesn't care about their customers when in fact brand X doesn't even know about the problem. This is one of the major reasons that manufacturers try to stop the flow of gray market merchandise. That and the fact that their authorized dealers are being hurt financially by the sales from these unauthorized sources. This is why it is very important to make sure you are buying equipment from authorized sources. Contact the manufacturer if you have any doubts.

Used Equipment

Used equipment is not as common but still happens on occasion. These might be from trade-ins or B-stock (refurbished equipment). Rather than sell you new equipment they will sell you used equipment knowing that you will not know the difference if they do the installation. The only real way to avoid this is to deal with reputable shops and make sure you get the original boxes with all owners manuals and warranty cards. Used equipment is much less likely to have these materials.

Miscellaneous Fees

Similar to add-ons after you've left, miscellaneous fees are items that are tacked on to your bill. It can be an extra installation fee, additional equipment or any other charge that was not agreed upon. They best way to protect yourself is to get the quote in writing and that both you and the salesperson sign it. Make sure you keep the original. Again, leave your contact numbers and tell them to call you if anything unexpected comes up.

Car Audio Bait and Switch

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