Projector Demos in Retail Stores

Evan Powell, March 20, 2006

If you have done any local shopping for video projectors in the hope of finding the model you want being demonstrated, you've probably discovered that (except for a small handful of models) demos don't exist. You might have run across two or three projectors being displayed in consumer electronics stores or specialty home theater retailers. But you soon realized that these were not the models that everyone was buzzing about on the Internet. Not only that, they were being sold at very close to full retail prices--and amazingly high retail prices at that. And after looking at the demos, you had no idea how the performance of these models would compare to the hot products you've been reading all the reviews on. You get frustrated and throw your hands up in despair, wondering, "Why can't I get a demo of the projector I want to buy?"

You've just experienced one of the effects of Powell's First Law of Projector Economics, which is this: Money Talks.

We may expand upon this Incontrovertible Law of the Projector Universe as follows:

Any dealer/retailer who gives you a demo
cannot afford to give you a good price,
and any dealer/retailer who gives you a good price
cannot afford to give you a demo.

The reason for this is simple: Demos cost a lot of money. If I am a dealer or retailer, it costs me money out of pocket to buy the demonstration unit and screen and signal source equipment, to allocate my valuable retail space to the demo, to set up a light controlled environment, to plan the demo, and to pay a salesman to show it to you. Not only that, but once I have set up this demo facility I must demonstrate this projector to dozens of curious tire-kickers for every serious buyer that I may encounter. And I must do this all on the come, without any guarantee that the serious buyer will ever buy anything from my company.

So the very last thing I as a retailer want to do is to offer demonstrations of models that my customers can turn around and buy a lot cheaper on the Internet from dealers who don't invest the time and money to provide the demo. This means one of two things. Either I don't demo projectors at all, or I promote brands and models that are in restricted distribution and not readily available on the Internet. That way, I can charge a higher price for the projector, recoup my costs, and not worry about my customer being able to find it for less online.

This leaves the online buyer in a bit of a conundrum—in order to partake of the hot projector deals on the Internet, one must usually buy them sight unseen. None of the most popular projectors selling online for discounted prices far below the MSRP are available for demo in retail stores. Though this is understandably frustrating to buyers who like to see what they are buying, it is in reality great news. For in essence what the Internet has done is give consumers the opportunity for a huge discount in exchange for buying online without the luxury of a demo.

Demos cost money, and retail space costs money. If you buy online from a dealer who is unencumbered with these costs, you will pay less. You will be rewarded with projectors of exceptional performance at prices much lower than what you'd pay in a retail store. Conversely, those who are unwilling to buy a projector unless they see it demonstrated will usually pay a high premium for that service.

So if you really want the best possible picture for the money you want to spend, then do a little research, read the reviews, read user opinions, and buy online. Those who do this inevitably come to discover that independent critical reviews and the experience of real world users are more valuable as guides to one's ultimate home theater solution than the viewing of a staged and controlled demo could ever be.