Thursday, 15 October 2009

Did it become a dinosaur?

Many of you that are visiting this blog will be doing so because you know me and have probably been invited to look or have been told about the site. Some of you will have happened upon this by pure accident whilst “surfing the net”. If you don’t know me, welcome. Hopefully you soon will. Most of you that do know me will also know by now that True Sound And Visual Presentation Limited, better known to yourselves as RJF Audio Visual has ceased to be.

Towards the end we had many problems trying to keep RJF A.V. going:-
Unhealthy competition from the internet and supermarkets had been causing us a few problems for a long period
of time, which were gradually getting worse. Much of the product available from these people is just cheap and nasty (no wonder we have a landfill problem), but even when they do get hold of something worthwhile, all they seem to want to do is trash the price thus undermining the quality of the product. You will notice that a good many internet companies come and go. This is because their operators seem to have no real business acumen and have no visible profit margin to be able to sustain their operation. We saw this sort of behaviour 10 or so years ago with, for example, mobile TV repair men – “No call out charge”; “No estimate fee”; “No repair, no charge”. All that happened at the end of the day was that as soon as the van needed a new MOT they went out of business, having made insufficient profit to pay for their own repairs!

The supermarkets and “sheds” are using electrical goods as “loss leaders”. All the supermarkets want to do is attract you through the door, they know once you’re inside, you’re going to fill a trolley with groceries. After all, why would you go somewhere else once you’re inside? The sheds, on the other hand, like to sell insurance – fear of high breakdown costs. Don’t forget that you are protected through the lifetime of the product by the Sale of Goods Act. You should not have to buy a breakdown policy in order to resolve a potential high cost repair situation.

All of the above gave us problems with customers who had bought from these sources. Repair of low cost items is often futile in the rare instances that it is actually possible. Often products are designed in such a way and with such cheap components that they will not last very long. These items will not stay repaired! Another major frustration in trying to repair these things is that most frequently they are sourced from a third world location at very low cost by the seller themselves. These sellers are not geared up for service: they don’t have repair workshops, so why on earth should they purchase un-necessary items such as repair manuals and spare parts? The truth of the matter is that well designed, good quality, higher priced items, very rarely go wrong (and the manufacturers are very often willing to issue much longer warranties than their cheaper counterparts). Within a very short time span the number of worthwhile repairs coming into our workshops had been reduced by a crippling 90%! Ultimately we had to all but close this service as it was simply not paying its way.

Here's a typical problem caused by cheap components. The electrolytic capacitors (larger dark blue/grey items) on this PCB have become swollen and leaked corrosive electrolyte onto the board. Secondary failures will have occurred and there is much damage to the PCB itself, as well as other components. This unit is now a write-off. It cannot be repaired successfully. The worst-case scenario of this type of failure that I have encountered was a £1,000 Techwood Plasma TV. The control unit for this product was actually a separate item from the screen and yet it could not be purchased separately despite the fact that the screen was useless without it. The product was less than six months old and technically under warranty. In this instance the seller had a service department but the owner was fobbed off with the suggestion that his cat must have peed into the control box! My inspection revealed the true cause. The control unit was a large, complex piece of electronics with scores of capacitors, most of which were exhibiting this problem.

However, in addition their non-provision of service, the main issue with these sellers is their lack of product knowledge, resulting in great numbers of the general public coming into my business wanting free information about the products they had bought elsewhere, cables and accessories that simply don’t exist (e.g. USB to HDMI adapters!) or that we couldn’t supply. I draw a veil over the mind boggling quantity of people blatantly coming in for free demos and information about products (and sometimes taking several hours of our time about it) that they fully intended to purchase elsewhere!

The recession we have all been experiencing has certainly not helped in preventing the failure of RJF A.V. This has been beyond all of our control. Although we were able to continue with a number of commercial installations, we were frustrated by the reduction in takings over the retail counter – some 75% down, almost the instant recession was announced.

The last straw was a major robbery which took place in broad daylight on a busy Saturday afternoon. Strange as it seems, I can’t remember when we had so many people in the shop at the same time! The perpetrators got away with about £6,000 worth of hi-fi and left us with a further £6,000 worth which was useless without the related components that had been taken. Some quick thinking and fast action rendered the offenders behind bars within a couple of hours, hopefully soon to be away on holiday and under Her Majesty’s direction! Unfortunately, this did not recover the gear for us.

The net result of all this, after taking some (more) advice, was the conclusion that we should “throw in the towel”. The decision was not taken lightly, but we felt that the retail shop was a liability and was causing the demise of the total business. I think, maybe, we should have closed the retail side 12 months ago instead of waiting and hoping for things to improve. However, this was always the core business. Ultimately the company was put into Voluntary Administration.

The task of shutting down a business of some 20 years standing and all the necessary meetings with DSS, CAB, etc. has been all-consuming. I’ve been using it as an excuse for keeping my head down, facing people these last few weeks (even friends, who I know want to help) has been somewhat nerve wracking! I am now being able to “come–out” a bit more. Though, I think there will be much more to come with the Administrator once we have to arrange creditor, bank and who knows what meetings. Watch this space!


  1. Hi Russ, very pleased to see that your coming back fighting... all the best from us here in Brazil. Phil, Tábata and Isadora Valentina

  2. Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging. It was a struggle but we got there!

  3. Hi Russ, I am liking what I am seeing - good for you. Your Blog spot is great! Good luck in your future ventures, you have worked long and hard and you deserve to succeed! Pam

  4. Hi Russ, thanks for the details - sorry to hear about all the pain. Thanks for the great service. It's sad to see the loss of a truly great Cornish company - and the friendly, valuable knowledge that's worth so much more than a few pounds discount at a faceless online store. Steve

  5. Hi Steve, thanks for your business in the past, at least you know of the standards and quality to which I am accsutomed to working. As I have said many times, there is only one way to do a job - the right way. This is one thing that I shall be promoting in my new venture. I hope that we will work together again.
    Regards, Russ.