(You might wanna go grab a sandwich... this is REALLY long.)
Let me start off by saying that after very little research, I have only read like two things online that had anything negative to say about Alleva-Coppolo basses, and neither of them had anything bad to say about Jimmy Coppolo. With that said, I'm just as surprised by what I'm about to type as I'm sure some of you will be when you read it.
This all started in February of this year when I saw a lefty Spalted Alder LG 5-String posted on the A-C Facebook page. I was quoted a price of $5695 and encouraged to stop by the booth at the Feb 23rd Bassacre show to try it out.
I wish I could have, because then I wouldn't be typing this right now. Hindsight and all that...
Flash forward to July 9th... the same bass pops up in the background of another picture on Facebook. I contact Jimmy again to ask about it. He tells me this:
"Well it is in lay-a-way but has been a little longer than I'd like it to be. The guy who bought it is having some financial issues. I can ask him if he'd be willing to let you have it and maybe I can make him something else at a later date. If you recall the bass is not cheap, the spalted alder basses are my most expensive. I discounted the bass for the guy who put it in lay-a-way as it has some show play wear
. If he's willing to let it go and you're ready to take it right away, I'll do the same for you and discount it for $5,000.00. So basically I am discounting about $700.00 for some scratches or dings that more than likely will happen on the first few gigs :-)
. Think about it and let me know."
I told Jimmy that I was certainly interested, but I didn't want to ruffle anyone's feathers or steal anyone's bass away from them and I could live either way.
He actually said that I shouldn't worry and that it would probably help the guy out since he was broke. Jimmy went ahead and talked to him anyway. A day or two later, the bass was taken off layaway and I sold BOTH of my 5-strings (a Zon 519 and Mike Lull M5V) and bought it for $5,000 plus shipping. The bass came with a garbage gig bag. This was the most money I have ever spent on anything I could hold in my own two hands. Full disclosure:
I was told "all sales are final" and that should have been a red flag, but I chose to ignore it because both Jimmy and his basses have a solid reputation and I have only read a couple of things that said otherwise. A member or two on this board told me I was nuts... so did my wife... I convinced myself everything would be OK.
I was WRONG.
Before I get into the nightmare that's about to unfold, let me say what's good about the bass...
• It is incredibly light and balances well
• The woods are beautiful
• The overall resonance and natural tone is amazing
• The electronics are insanely good
Remember, this bass was supposed to be NEW... Jimmy's description of the bass was that "it has some show play wear" and "I am discounting about $700.00 for some scratches or dings that more than likely will happen on the first few gigs."
This is what I received (captions under each picture):
Gobs of super glue on the fingerboard and visible chips and file marks in the rosewood... cracks in the screw hole on the pickguard.
Gobs of super glue on the fingerboard and visible chips and file marks in the rosewood.
Same as above.
Chip on side of fingerboard... I thought it might have been bumped, but there's no dent. A finish expert who looked at these pics said it's clearly from improper wood prep before finishing.
Same as above.
The headstock face was overbuffed through to the wood.
Different angle that shows the type of swirling in the finish all over the bass... some areas were underbuffed, some overbuffed, and there are very few places that actually look ok.
More examples of superglue and buffing compound can clearly be seen in the wood grain.
The finish area around the nut is REALLY bad... there's lots of rippling and what appears to be areas where it's going to start flaking off. The white residue you see is more buffing compound.
Those look like dents, but, again, there is no crack in the finish. These are areas where the spalted alder has sunken in underneath the finish because it was not treated properly first. (See below)
Wacky sanding areas around the upper and lower horns on the back of the bass.
More areas where the wood has sunken in... it's also very rough because it was not buffed properly.
Here's a good shot of one of the rough patches. They're all over the body and they cannot be wiped off... they need to be buffed.
The tummy cut is just embarrassing... the poly is all rippled and there are serious buffing issues.
Glue with file marks.
This pic captures the glue and file marks very well.
The last fret looks like it has a half tube of superglue on it.
Another tummy cut pic.
And another one.
The reflection from the light in this pic captures the swirling and bad buff job.
Now... understanding how incredibly difficult it is to capture finish flaws in a clear polyester finish, does that look like anyone's idea of "show play wear"?
(NOTE: I sent these photos to another popular builder who has 30 years doing his own finishes in-house, and he was shocked by what he saw. It turns out that the chips on the neck AND the dents in the body are probably not even from getting bumped at all... it's more than likely from a bad finish job. Spalted alder can be very porous and punky and needs to be sealed properly BEFORE it's finished... those "dents" are more than likely where the wood has actually sunken in underneath the finish!)
Remember, this was supposed to be a NEW a FIVE-THOUSAND DOLLAR BASS
and it literally looks like it was constructed by a junior high shop class. I've seen guitars sit on the floor at Guitar Center for 3 years and not look this bad.
As much as that pissed me off, I was actually willing to live with the fact I was outright lied to and deceived about the condition of the bass as long as it would set up AT LEAST as well as my other basses.
Please understand that I've been doing my own setups for over 20 years. I'm not claiming to be a luthier, but I can set up basses very well. People on this board can vouch for me on that. It normally takes me a solid hour to restring a bass and set it up how I like it.
I spent hours... UPON HOURS... trying to set this bass up and there is clearly something wrong with the neck.
Jimmy said I should easily be able to set the bass up with a "relatively straight neck", 3/32" on the E and B strings and 1/8" on the A, D, and G strings. I set the neck with .030" of relief, with the B and E strings at 3/32" and the A, D, and G strings at 5/64"... which is slightly higher than Jimmy said so the A, D, and G strings wouldn't be so much lower than the B and E strings.
Here's a link to video I made so I could show Jimmy what was going on... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iLdWAJlyao
(For the record, that video was made to private where only Jimmy could view it... I only made it public for this thread)
As you can see in the video, I'm getting unbearable buzz from the 4th to about the 10th fret which tells me that there's a hump in the fingerboard. First position is OK, so I know it's not the relief... and past the 10th fret is fine, so I know the action doesn't need to come up.
Let's be clear about something... I DO NOT expect my strings to lay on the frets without buzzing. But I DO expect to be able to set this bass up AT LEAST as well as my POS Fender P-Bass, and the Alleva-Coppolo doesn't even come close.
I received the bass on a Friday, and immediately sent Jimmy an email about everything I found...
Regarding the finish he says, "I don't know how much clearer I needed to be about the finish, I even discounted the bass heavily to compensate for any cosmetic issues... hence the reason for not re-buffing it."
After several more emails back and forth where I tell him that I can live with the finish but the bass will not set up, here's what he nonchalantly says about the neck: "Hey Chris, just send me the neck, I'll re true the fingerboard and refret it. That should take of any fret issue you are experiencing."
Yeah, no big deal... I'll just go ahead and take apart that $5,000 bass I just bought from you and I'll ship you the neck. You can yank the frets out, sand a bunch of wood off the fingerboard slap some frets on with a bunch more glue, and send it back with absolutely no guarantees that it'll even work.
Sorry, Jimmy... but, I'm not cool with that.
The more I thought about it, the more the whole situation was eating at me. I am NOT a rich man... I have a wife and 2 daughters and we live in a small home in the middle of nowhere. I worked my A$$ off at a full-time job and playing gigs 35-50 nights a year FOR YEARS to buy the two basses I sold in order to buy the Alleva-Coppolo, and I was heartbroken. This bass was supposed to be my holy grail. My wife and I talked about it and we both thought it was the best idea if I just talk to Jimmy about getting my money back. I had no plans telling anyone about this if he just refunded my money so we could both move on.
I sent him an email and politely asked for a refund. Here's his reply:
" As it is posted on my web site and per our agreement All Sales are Final thus no refunds. The bass was not misrepresented, and not only was highly discounted enough to compensate for any issues but was originally in lay-a-way for someone else who was kind enough to let you have it. If you don't like the bass, fine, leave it at that. The only way I can possibly consider issuing a refund is if I find another buyer for the bass. I will reach out to all my dealers and distributors this afternoon to see if any of them will buy the bass. Hold onto the bass for now until I get word back from them. If one of them take it they will have their shipping company pickup the bass from you and it will cost you nothing. I'll contact you as soon as I get word from my dealers."
So, not only does he basically tell me that "all sales are final" is a license to sell garbage to suckers like me... he tells me straight up that he's going to try and pawn it off on one of his dealers and have them pick it up without even looking at it first himself?!?!
If you're going to screw some "nobody" from North Dakota, fine... but to screw your dealers? And eventually the next guy who buys it? WOW.
Finally... I wanted to say that I have close relationships with several people on this message board and in the music industry. I've worked in the music industry myself for a very long time. I've dealt personally with many people here and several more people who make and build the gear we all love to buy and play. I "get" what it's like for small builders to operate and I understand the pressures they're under. I would NEVER resort to going as far as making a story like this public unless I thought there was a potentially serious problem that was important for other people to know. I only post this as a warning, with hopes that someone else won't get screwed like me.
I am not a liar... and I try my best to be a good example for my daughters... this situation has literally left me broken and making it "public" was NOT easy for me to do
Thanks for listening.
PS - I have compiled my entire email correspondence with Jimmy into PDF form... if anyone doubts my version of the events, I will happily PM a link for download.