A while back, we ended our frustrating relationship with Amazon.com. This is a good thing for us, and for you, too.
We used to sell our products through Amazon, and have had firsthand experience with their abusive, strong-arm tactics. Their disdain for small business, virtually nonexistent communication, shady business practices, and blatant dishonesty forced us to break off our relationship with them. To our utter lack of surprise at this point in our dealings with them, Amazon’s “support” team turned this process into a huge, complex nightmare.
Unfortunately, our story is not unique. Since first announcing our breakup with Amazon and the reasons for the separation, we have been bombarded with messages from other small companies across the nation sympathizing with us, congratulating us on our decision, and sharing their own stories of Amazon’s abuse.
The practices of Amazon.com do not align with our values, and it became abundantly clear that we would have to abandon those values--the very heart and soul of our company--in order to continue to do business with them. Kicking them to the curb was an easy decision to make.
Princeton Audio was created out of a passionate love of music, and a fervent desire to be true to that music. But it was also born as a reaction against the cheap, mass-produced audio products that litter the marketplace today. We knew who we wanted to be, and we sure as hell knew who we didn't want to be.
We aspire to be Craft Audio pioneers leading a reclamation of local manufacturing in small town Wisconsin; technical innovators who dare to question stagnant orthodoxies that compromise sound quality; and champions of a return to cherished traditions of American handcrafting. We've achieved that--and more.
We steadfastly refuse to be purveyors of cheap, plastic, mass-produced, craptastic speakers made on an assembly line in China that contribute nothing of value to the lives of our customers or the town we call home. Here, too, we have succeeded.
From the founding of this company, in order to stay true to our mission, we've actively questioned so-called conventional wisdom at every turn, and in every aspect of our business. While I have a strong vision for Princeton Audio, I'm also a realist, and I understand that there are practical realities that must be acknowledged and, when they cannot be circumvented, must be accepted. That's how we saw Amazon.com in the beginning, as an unfortunate fact of life that we had to accept in order to realize our dream. I am happy to report, however, that this was never true. We cut ties with Amazon because staying with them would quite literally force us to abandon the core ideals of our company. If you think that's hyperbole, read on.
Our Site:1 speakers are lovingly handcrafted. We make them one at a time, to our customer's desired spec, using their preferred tonewoods, choice of hardware, as well as other unique customizations. This requires that we hand-select those tonewoods , cut, sand, finish, and assemble them by hand, carefully marry the bodies to our state-of-the-art electronics, tune them so that they perform optimally, and exhaustively test each and every one to ensure that it performs beautifully.
If all goes smoothly, this process takes about six weeks.
Amazon relentlessly pushed us to accept lead-times that were typically only four days, and sometimes demanded fulfillment of orders in as little as 24 hours--including delivery.
The only way to meet their demands would have been to mass-produce huge volumes of speakers featuring no customizations. And the only way to make that economically feasible would have been to sacrifice our high standards of quality across the board. Needless to say, we're not going to do that.
And That's Not All
Amazon has a reputation for being a bully, and they strong-armed us into prioritizing their orders over customer orders that came in to us through our own website--something that really set our collective teeth on edge--and threatened us with steep fines if we could not accommodate their ridiculous turnaround times. Those fines not only wiped out our slim profit margins, but caused us to actually lose money on each speaker sold through them. When we attempted to slightly raise our prices in order to cope with our own rising costs of production, they said no.
I'll repeat that: Amazon.com, a reseller, told us that we were not allowed to raise the price of our own product for any reason. It was not open for discussion. In fact, the one and only time that anyone at Princeton Audio ever spoke in person to anyone from Amazon.com was the day we ended our relationship with them over the phone. Prior to that, our Amazon buyer had refused to ever reply to any of our questions or requests for support. Like I said, nice folks, huh?
Backlash against Amazon.com for their bullying ways is nothing new. Unfortunately, the company’s dominance is so established that many small manufacturers have no choice but to bow their heads and acquiesce to Amazon’s inflexible demands if they want access to their international audience. Amazon has taken great pains to tamp down dissent, including attempting to preempt their critics through dreaming up all the derogatory domain names they could think of including amazonsucks.com, screwamazon.com, amazonstinks.com, and (ahem) f**kamazon.com, among many others, and then buying them before others could use them to express their loathing for Amazon. So rest assured, if you view the company with distaste, you're not alone. Many sellers do, too. Even Amazon employees agree. And support for the idea that Amazon sucks, for all sorts of reasons, seems to be growing every day.
A Thousand Cuts
I'm an optimist. I genuinely feel that most people start a company because they look around them at the current offerings and say to themselves, "I can do better." I can't bring myself to believe that any sincere person would launch a company with the intent of foisting bad products on the world. I think that most of the companies that do produce bad products slowly devolve to that point over time by reluctantly accepting an endless string of so-called "realities" that gradually erode their dreams. It probably starts with little concessions at first. Shaving pennies to make bank here and there. Settling for a lower standard of quality on this, switching to a cheaper supplier who cuts his own corners on that. Outsourcing what should never be outsourced. And then one day, you turn around, and you've become what you beheld. Somewhere along the way, your original vision succumbed to death by a thousand cuts, and yours was the hand that held the knife.
Dedication to Craft Audio
Princeton Audio is not taking the path described above. We never have, and we never will. We're leading a welcome transformation of our industry by reclaiming its best traditions, upholding its highest standards, and helping to rejuvenate our community in the process. We remember how we got this far, and we aren't about to change our ways just to curry favor with any company, no matter how big and powerful they are. You can't throw away who you are, and what you stand for, to try to claw your way up in the world, because in doing that you leave the best part of yourself behind.
Big things are ahead for us. We will soon make some major announcements concerning the huge strides that our company is making now. It's a good time.
Because we're so dedicated to real quality and service, we love talking to people about our products. We’ve even set up a special phone number so anyone, anywhere in the country can call us directly to speak to a real live human being to explore all their customization options, and enjoy placing their personalized order for their very own Site:1 speaker. So give us a call at (920) 354-6029. I answer the phone just like everyone else here, so you might end up talking to me.
We Are Princeton pledge that our products will be true, that they will be beautiful, and that they will last.
Founder & CEO