Some of you might have heard of Raven West. They're a small, eBay-based company that sells instruments with some pretty top-notch features for unbelievable prices. I recently purchased one of their basses, and I want to make sure the TalkBass community has a chance to know more about this brand. The Bass
I ordered a 6-string walnut/maple bass with an ebony fretboard, inlays, 3-band active EQ, EQ bypass, pickup balance, and volume controls. It came with Gotoh tuners, and weighed in at 12 pounds. The Good
Because the body was hefty, the bass balanced very nicely. There was no neck-dive at all. The tone was also surprisingly versatile. The two pickups sound vastly different, and you notice a huge change with just a small bump of the dial.
The inlay work was also pretty nicely done. It looked a little forced in some places, but it never interfered with playing or caused any issues. The Bad
The ebony of the fretboard was either low quality, or just a bad selection. Upon close inspection, I noticed several holes in the wood about the size of a pencil lead. On top of that, the board was severely dehydrated and had shrunken in so much that I could literally see a bowed U shape between the frets when looking straight down on the board. The Company
When I first messaged Raven West's primarily point of contact, a guy named Eric Bergquist, he was quite pleasant (but, what salesman isn't?) He was reasonable about answering questions, but not overly thorough either. His messages always seemed pretty to the point.
I dug and dug and dug, and found nothing but great reviews of the company. Many people said they were very happy with Eric's service, the instruments, and that they had no reason to ever play another brand. However, part of me was still saying, "It's too good to be true!"
I should have listened. The Drama
I pulled the trigger on my purchase in early February. The bass arrived after almost a week. But considering the bass was coming from California and coming to Iowa in the middle of winter, I can't complain about any shipping delays due to snow.
The bass showed up on a cold, dry day. I pulled it out of the box and found the fretboard very dried out (as I explained above). Having lived in Iowa my whole life, I wasn't real surprised by this. Any bass that you pull off the shelf at a local store will be a little dried out as well. It's just something that comes with the dry winters around here, and something musicians in this area have to deal with.
So, being the responsible bass owner I thought I was, I locked the bass away in a hardshell case with a small (like 2 inches long) Planet Waves humidifier just to try to get a little bit of the moisture back into it.
After a few days, the fretboard wasn't coming back to life at all. The frets were pushing out the edges of the board pretty badly, and the board itself was as dry and porous as ever. I did a little research and found that a lot of people had some luck with fretboard conditioner (lemon oil). So, I buzzed up to our local guitar store, explained my situation, and they hooked me up. They also said that for all of the guitars in their store, if the fretboards get really dry, they will just shut a damp paper towel in the case next to the bass to speed up the process of humidification a bit.
So I took the shop's advice. I cleaned the fretboard thoroughly with the conditioner, and shut it away with a damp paper towel in the storage compartment next to the bass (not ON it, of course) for an overnight stay. The next morning, the fretboard was still just dry and jagged as ever.
At that point, I decided to contact the seller Eric to see if he had any further advice to get some moisture into the fretboard seeing as he might have more experience with this particular wood that his shop is using. The Drama, continued
When I contacted Eric, I gave him the whole story. I told him that the bass arrived pretty dried out, but that I believed it was just due to the winter. I told him about how I tried to get some moisture back into the fretboard, and that I was coming back to him as a last resort. I wanted to express that I had honestly tried everything in my power to make it better on my own, but that I was out of options and sincerely needed help.
I was NOT prepared for what happened next...
It turns out this Eric guy who is a pretty pleasant salesman is a seriously NOT pleasant customer service representative. We exchanged dozens and dozens of messages about the bass, and he was absolutely livid that I didn't call him the very minute that the bass arrived. (Like, I was supposed to call him and complain that it's cold and dry here? Really?)
Eric was insistent that the bass was NOT that way when he sent it to me. Of course, I didn't seriously think Eric sent me a dried out bass on purpose. My first inclination was to believe that it was due to the climate, as was his...
Eric insisted that the fretboard had just shifted because of the change in climate, and that I should just take it to a luthier and have them sand down the sides of the neck. He vowed that it would take about 30 seconds and should in no way cost more than $20 to do.
So I called up my local luthier, who actually happens to be a friend of mine. He gave me a run down of best and worst case scenario based on the build, neck, and finish of the bass. He said I would likely be looking at more like $40 at the end of the day.
So I went back to Eric with this information. I asked him if it was ok for me to take it to the luthier and have it fixed because his warranty card clearly states that any unauthorized repairs will void the warranty (which is totally reasonable).
Eric blew up at me even more. He said "Don't let you guy NEAR my bass!" He just asked me to return the bass to him, and said he would pay me a refund for the purchase price and shipping.
So, in a matter of minutes, I went from having a basically playable bass with a little fretboard issue to having a cross-country return on my hands. However, as Eric was getting increasingly volatile with each exchange, I obliged and sent it back to him. You won't even believe this...
The following days were filled with sarcastic, hateful, demeaning, insulting, and downright douchebaggy messages from him. In addition to CAPS LOCK YELLING at me and attacking me personally on many occasions, here are some of his prized gems:
- He accused me of RUINING the bass by trying to re-hydrate the fretboard. (So, if I ruined it, why did you ask me to send it back?)
- He said that as far as he's concerned, I voided the warranty by trying to hydrate the fretboard and putting conditioner on it. (You have to be kidding me...)
- He said that I was screwing him over, even though he was the one who asked me to return it to him.
And this is the great part... Now that the bass is already on its way back to him, he's backing out
- He's saying that the warranty is void because I tried to hydrate the fretboard without his permission.
- He is saying that he is going to refuse the UPS shipment to waste $60 of my money.
- He said he is going to intentionally not cooperate with the eBay Resolution Center so that I have to wait 30 days to get my money back.
- He is saying that he is only going to pay me what eBay makes him pay, and not the purchase price and shipping costs like we agreed to.
Thankfully all of our messages took place via eBay, and he was dim enough to literally say, "I'll refund your money and the shipping" to me after asking me to send it back, so eBay has already told me that the case is in my favor if he does anything else dumb. I even contacted him within his 14 day return window, so even without all this fretboard drama, he should take it back with no questions asked - right? You'd think...
So, here I sit on a Tuesday evening. No bass. No money for a bass. No hope that a guy with 10,000+ positive feedbacks on eBay could muster up some decency to resolve a situation peacefully with me. Anyway...
I didn't come on here to defame Eric, Raven West, or anything at all. In fact, in our exchanges, I even told Eric that I genuinely did enjoy a great many things about the bass, and that I had only wanted his assistance with the dried fretboard.
However, I want TalkBass to know about this so that if anyone else comes around asking about Raven West basses in the future, they know what they're getting into. Eric will sell you a guitar or bass readily, but after that, you're on your own. He has absolutely no clue how to interact politely or decently as a business owner, and absolutely no sense of customer service. None.
My advice: Save a few extra dollars and buy your next bass from a TalkBass member, or a local store.