The Final Word: Ethics Letters page 1
Mail-order & added value
As a longtime subscriber to Stereophile and eight other audio magazines, I had to write—first time, by the way—in response to John Atkinson's September "As We See It." JA wrote how high-end retailers need to add value to what they sell.
In all honesty, I consider myself a knowledgeable—very knowledgeable—smart, high-performance buyer. I had to laugh at the article: Why should I support my local retailer? He doesn't support me. I pride myself on being the king of mail-order—no one I know of does it better. You see, it's simply only fools who pay sticker price for ultra-high-end pieces. Yes, I audition speakers, amplifiers from A to Z here, but then I go home and start making free 800 calls to save thousands—yes, thousands—of dollars.
All the really good stuff is and has been available via mail-order. I owe my dealer nothing. He chose that line of work; let him burn the next guy coming in. (He will.)
I have convinced my friends to follow my lead. They have seen the light—it's called "money." You see, if you're smart and know what to buy, who needs a local dealer when you can save thousands off purchases?
—Rockin' Ron, The Mail-Order King [Address withheld]
I subscribe to many magazines, but I read the letters to the editor only in Stereophile. I enjoy the debates and points of view aired there, even if they are sometimes only peripherally related to audio components and recordings.
In the spirit of peripheral debate and points of view, I would like to comment on Carlos Bauza's letter in the December 1998 issue (p.11). Mr. Bauza's point of departure for his letter was John Atkinson's September 1998 "As We See It." Mr. Bauza seems to think that the main point of the column is "that the social aspects are the real value of human transactions." He goes on to imply both that the normal activities of businessmen running their businesses have no "value," and that business activities are "taking from someone."
I think that Mr. Bauza completely misunderstood that September "As We See It." After rereading the column, I would say that John's point was that retailers cannot survive unless they create enough added value to the consumer that the consumer will pay the higher prices necessary to support that value. More important, it seems that Mr. Bauza is confused about the nature of "value" and about the nature of business transactions.
"Value," I would assert, has no meaning apart from an individual. "Value" is what is important to you. "Social value," if it exists at all, is merely the aggregate of the individual values of a particular group of people. What you value and what I value will frequently be different. Even if we value the same things, we may not value them to the same extent.
The wonderful thing about a free society is that each us is able to pursue our own values as long as we don't physically hurt or defraud others (the nonaggression principle). Restrictions on individual activities for any reason other than aggression are merely the imposition of the values of one individual or group of individuals on those who do not share those values. Such imposition is reprehensible no matter what the justification.