I've had a lot of success with the Riv approach to fitting. I purchased an Atlantis from Dale a few months back. The frame is 53cm ct. I can get the bars almost level with the seat using a Cinelli XA stem. I've got plenty of standover and the top tube length allows me to run a stem of size of 10-11cm.
Using conventional frames I can also get the bars level with the top tube, but in order to do so I need to make compromises and/or adjustments. Generally, I need a frame with a standover of circa 82cm, which translates into a frame size of around 55cm c-c. My inner leg length with tennis shoes is almost 84cm -- with cleats, around 83cm. Hence, on all of the road frames I currently own, I "touch" the top tube when I'm standing over the bike. I can deal with this, but it's not my favorite feeling. With the larger frame sizes I also run into a problem with the top tube length. My lumbar spine is not particuraly flexible, and so I to shoot for a top tube length of around 54cm. But 55*54 is not an easy combo to find. I normally end up with a 55*55 or a 55*56, and thus have to run a stem of 8-9cm. Again, this is doable and I do it, but I don't feel like I've got the right amount of weight on the front of the bike with an 8 or a 9.
I do think that there is a tendency in American shops at least to fit individuals to a smaller frame -- a tendency reinforced by fitting methods like "Fit Kit". When I get sized up in a regular bike shop, I'm told that I should be on a 53cm ct w/ a circa 54cm top tube. I've been fit using "Fit Kit", and the results suggest approximately the same dimensions. This size works fine around the block, but on a 40-50 mile ride on such a bike I would need to get off several times to stretch my bike; afterwards I would require plenty of aspirin and at least one visit to my local massage therapist.
An argument has been made that people are going to buy the bike that works for them, and that, therefore, no "conspiracy" about sizing could persist. I don't agree. I've worked at a shop and sold lots of individuals bikes which I would look back on now and say were way too small. My co-workers did the same; and when I go into shops now, I see it, too. How does it work? Simple. First, you yourself believe that sizing small is good. You've been told that by your friends at the club, by the sizing methods, by the mags, etc. You are a partisan, and you want what's best for your customers -- small. Second, it is easy to sell people stuff which they have seen written up in magazines, and what they see written up in magazines is generally the stuff that racers use. Third, test rides are very short. There is no way that you're going to get a sense of what works in 1-2 miles; unless the fit of the bike is absolutely atrocious, there is little chance that you'll experience anything more that a buttocks alert from the saddle (what most people complain about on short rides, color of the bike excepted). Third, most people don't ride a lot before they come into the shop and therefore have little sense of what works for them and what doesn't. Finally, most people don't actually ride their bike much once they buy it. Heck, where I worked a lot of people didn't even bring their bikes back for the free tune-ups we offered.