Well, Trevor, experiences obviously vary -- I have the good fortune of having the Forum's own Dennis Wright as my local dealer
here in San Diego (he's next-door in La Mesa, about a 20 minute drive).
(And I used to get to tell him the latest bits of news from the Internet, when I'd visit; now he's online, and on the Forum more than I am. So he's definitely not clueless
His prices are higher than the lowest online dealers, which is understandable, since he has to pay for the storefront, but in exchange for paying a bit more:
- I get to look at anything that interests me in his well-stocked display cases (if a picture is worth 1000 words, actually holding the knife in your hand and opening and closing it a few times must be worth 1000 pictures),
- When I decide to buy something, I get to inspect the actual knife I'm buying; if there's any question at all about the knife, he can pull another one out to compare against (I've had occasion to buy knives online that were not quite perfect, but not imperfect enough to make it worth going through the hassle of sending them back for replacement, especially when the replacement may have a slightly different set of imperfections -- ever had that happen?),
- I walk out of the store with the knife I wanted in my hand (okay, in my pocket) right now -- immediate gratification is good
I think too many people, when considering price, look only at the price tag printed next to the knife, and assume (and count on) a perfect transaction. They don't consider shipping charges, shipping time, UPS's crash testing and scenic tour services, etc. They assume that the knife that arrives on their porch will be completely flawless and won't need to be returned -- yes, in many cases it will be, but what if it isn't? Then there's the extra hassle and expense of returning it, and hoping the replacement will fulfill your expectations.
One other aspect to consider is that once you have the knife in-hand, you may find that the design, handle finish, opening mechanism, etc., doesn't "fit" you as well as you thought it would. Better to find all this out standing at the counter, rather than after ripping open the UPS'ed boxes. I've also, on occasion, found that another knife in the case, which didn't thrill me in online pictures, turns out to be wonderful when seen/held up close.
One last thing: I consider the idea of visiting the local dealer to get all the hands-on close-up inspection time, and then ordering off the Internet to get the lowest price, to be reprehensible. The local dealers are selling a knife and a service. If you purposefully visit local but buy online, you are in effect stealing the service. Sort of like people who justify pirating software "because the price is too high". I hope that doesn't come off too strong -- my apologies if so. I'm not
pointing any fingers here, just venting frustration at a "technique" that I've heard advanced as a neat idea somewhere along the way in the past.
My $0.02 (more like $0.25 -- I've been rambling again),