All of us in the metal detecting community bear some of the blame for the end of the local shop. Manufacturers have squeezed the little guys, requiring larger minimums and greater sales volumes - offering greater discounts to mass merchandisers. Consumers have been driven to the internet looking for the lowest price, and relying on online forums for information.
Let's take stock of what the local dealer offers us:
Local dealers can advise you on the best machine for you. They can ask the right questions about they type of hunting you want to do and the places you would like to go. All tailored to your specific area of the country.
Local dealers have demo machines you can try out. Some even loan out their demo machines or rent them for a small fee.
Local dealers can teach you how to use your machine. Don't want to read the manual or it's too confusing, using terms or jargon you're not familiar with? Your dealer can show you how your machine works. He can start you out with presets that will produce results in your area. When you have questions and get frustrated out in the field, your dealer is the one who can quickly answer your questions.
Local dealers know about clubs in the area, and also other detectorists that you may want to go detecting with. Introductions to new friends who can help show you the ropes. Many detector dealers will actually take their new customers out detecting with them.
Local dealers show you how to pinpoint and dig a target without making a mess. Pinpointing isn't easy at first, it takes time to learn but they can help. They can also advise you on retrieval tools, choosing the tool that works best for you (and your type of hunting) from a hand tool or relic shovel to a sand scoop.
Local dealers can often fix your machine on the spot when little stuff goes wrong. Soldering a battery cable or replacing a headphone plug. They can order a part and install it themselves faster than shipping a broken machine back to the manufacturer.
Local dealers are on your side when a machine has to be sent to the manufacturer for service. They know the service reps and can sometimes get priority service for you. Your dealer can identify known problems or issues with a particular model and can also help diagnose a problem, helping speed the return of the machine to you.
Local dealers know about metal detecting clubs in the area. Often they are sponsors, offering meeting space or even donating prizes for club meeting and events. They'll display some of your finds in their showcases to show others what can be found with their machines. Dealers can come to your meetings and demonstrate the newest model and let you put your hands on the latest technology.
Local dealers often take trade-ins. That’s right, trade in your old detector towards a newer model when you’re ready to move up. Another advantage of this is that they often have good used machines for sale, tested and in good working order, perfect if you are just getting started or are on a budget.
Local dealers lobby for metal detecting in the area. If a prohibition or ban is in the works, the dealer is the person who knows the community and the detector users. He can help them organize or even lead the opposition to the new rule or law.
So after we have lost this valuable resource, what have we gained?
We save a few dollars on a machine or accessories, with much of that savings being lost in shipping and insurance charges.
Hopeful, excited new detector purchasers who quickly give up on the hobby, frustrated because they don't understand the detector they bought online or from the big box store.
Detector users who don't know how to pinpoint or dig targets and make a mess of local parks and schools, or worse, trespass and leave the same unfilled holes on private property.
Two old agages come to mind, "you get what you pay for" and "penny wise, pound foolish." For me, and for you too, it should be worth paying a little more for all the value you receive (and take for granted) from your local dealer.