Consumers by proxy. That's a pretty apt description for a product reviewer. He or she, on behalf of a prospective owner, is to procure -- that word comes from the same root as proxy -- an item and, with the reviewer's published proximal experience thereof, assist the prospective owner in a decision on whether "to keep the item" written about (to actually buy it) or to "return it for a full refund".

In the course of fulfilling that obligation, the reviewer collects data. Every single aspect of the virtual acquisition by proxy nets data, from the first phone call or e-mail to the final shipper arrangement for returning the product. Some manufacturers don't grasp the basic concept of how the reviewing process begins well before the first listening session and continues well past the last one. A major bit that should be obvious is the quality of packing materials. If you show little concern for getting your product to its intended recipient in mint condition -- and with the packing materials fully resuable for subsequent warranty repairs -- you're disrespecting your paying customer. Superior design doesn't stop at the component, it includes comprehensive packaging that's over-engineered to fulfill its function and which can be reassembled without requiring an advanced degree in puzzle solving or having more hands than Shiva Nataraj.

If you can't be bothered to check whether you included a remote with working batteries; spikes; an owner's manual, a power cord; a BNC-to-RCA converter; or any of the other accessories necessary to operate your component as advertised - then you're disrespecting your paying customer. If your review product shows up five months late, arrives shipping damaged and misses its accessories, ask what that says about you and why anyone should want to do business with you.

If your replies to technical questions are evasive; if your suggestions on how to improve performance merely fault the reviewer's setup rather than include any constructive suggestions; if your communications are poor and always late; if your website hasn't been updated in two years; if you can't address issues promptly, professionally and courteously; why should reviewers assume you'd treat paying customers properly? If you promise a fully broken-in component and what arrives instead needs 1000 hours of hard gulag duty, is your word any good?

Some well-established reviewers eventually focus on a small group of manufacturers who have, time and again, proven to have their shit together. At the end of the day when your mom or daughter's boyfriend asks you for a recommendation, you don't really give a twit about hair width's performance differences. You care about the things they will care about - reliability in all aspects of business conduct. Viewed from that perspective, how many makers in the cottage industry of specialty audio can really be recommended without buying into grief?

Make no mistake, there are quite a few. But many come up short. One way of viewing such shortages is as lack of respect - for what we as reviewers do and, by extension, for what the paying customer should expect. We really are consumers by proxy. So make sure that our experience with you reflects what a paying consumer will encounter. And don't forget that this experience includes far more than just the cold box of electrical parts. Heraclitus was right, you can only make one first impression. The responsibility to make that impression count and representative of your company and all of its employees rests solely with you. Don't disrespect your customers, nor us, their agents by proxy.