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No Love from Guitar Store Owners

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Altitude, Mar 17, 2006.

  1. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin
    How many times have you walked into a guitar store to play a few different basses, expand your horizons, etc., and had varying experiences? I've had a few bad ones.

    Say what you will about Guitar Center, but they will let you play anything they have in there without a second thought. I'm sure this is largely because the $6 an hour kids that work in there could care less about what happens to the instruments.

    On the other hand...I've been into a certain, very well regarded higher-end shop here in Denver a few times. Each time but one, I've experienced a lot of impatience, and a little disinterest. On one trip I had the guy sticking post-it notes all over the bass before he let me touch it so that I wouldn't get finger oil on the wood, and at one point I was flatly denied when I asked to play a Mike Lull bass that was available for sale. I won't say the name of the store, but encourage any of you in Denver to guess where it was.

    For what it's worth, and just to complete the picture, and not because it should matter...I'm 35, a well-dressed professional, I drove up in a BMW, and I try to be very courteous when I take up a shopkeeper's time.

    However, I would never consider buying a high-end bass off the rack in a store without playing it first. (Pete Skjold is building me one now, and I won't play it before I buy it, but I think Pete will take care of me pretty well).

    Comments? Similar experiences? Guesses as to which store I was in?
  2. WarwickFan


    Feb 7, 2005
    I couldn't agree more. While a lot of people slam Guitar Center, I never have had any problems in any of them. Years ago I was in a so called Mom & Pop store. Had the son behind the counter and a couple of his buddies talking to him. I wanted to look Jazz Bass. I asked the son if I could see it and as he was getting it from behind the counter one of his friends said, "you just got that in?" He then handed the bass to his friend, not me, the customer who wanted to see it. The friend then walked to an amp and pluged in. I just walked out. :mad:
  3. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    It's quite simply bad business. It doesn't really matter how you are dressed and what you drive. This shop is catering to artists who do or don't conform to certain styles of dress.
    Bottom line is you don't know who's gonna buy what. If they aren't selling service, then they are doomed. Basscentral will deliver a Fodera or whatever via fedEx as will a dozen other hi end shops.
  4. wdinc01


    Nov 19, 2005
    Jacksonville, FL
    And I can proudly say I plan to be one of those $6 an hour kids!

    But anyway, I've only been to Guitar Center, and the customer service is always good. I have yet to leave there unhappy. Now I'm kind of afraid to go into one of these local guitar shops, although I've called a few and the person answering's always nice. Once I got a guy who seemed alittle too excited when I called about lessons.

    I suppose that's just what I get for being young and only going to one place. I save myself the trouble of getting someone who doesn't care too much.
  5. R Briere

    R Briere Bass-ically Yours Gold Supporting Member


    While you make it clear that you're a well-dressed Beamer operator, I work in a high-end store and recently had a gentleman much like yourself stopping by every day for his "fix". Let me make it very clear that I ENCOURAGE playing and we seem to be the only place around who does. At the end of the fourth of fifth day we'd become pretty good friends and he'd spent several hours playing a $4,300 guitar.

    I finally joked that he was going to have to buy it or marry it--either one. He laughed and told me that "his" would be in that day or the next. He had ordered it "online" BEFORE even coming to see us and wanted to make sure he really liked that model. Any shame in what he did? Not to him.

    The saddest part was that I now had a "used" guitar (pick guard scratches, dead strings, etc.) in the eyes of someone who likes their stuff to be in "in the box" condition (an ever-growing number) and he spent a LOT more money on line than if he'd purchased it from us.

    I'm not whining about a single incident here. We have players of all ages who give you tell-tale signs to watch out for. If the conversation begins with: "What's your return policy", chances are pretty good that the "buyer" wants to return the instrument/amp right after their upcoming "big gig". How do I know that? They tell me that in forums like this one and they tell us that in the store. When you return a "big gig" product to one of the "30-day - No Questions asked- Big Boxes, I'm sure that they put those returns in a big room somewhere and just write them off. They wouldn't just put them back on the shelf and sell it "as new" to the next guy on the list.......would they?

    As an ex-rep for a large manufacturer, I'll be the first one to tell you that there are a number of bone-headed, self-serving, coniving dealers out there who think only of mega-profits, picking your pocket, and making you feel good while it's happening......... and they manage to do it pretty well. It's become an art form actually.

    My advice has always been the same; find a dealer who takes care of you and try to respect the position that they and the entire music industry is currently in. Should you choose NOT to do that, it won't be long before GC and Wal-Mart will be your only choices. And as there becomes no need for competitive pricing, do you think that Corporate America will still give you the great deals that you think you're getting now? They exist to make money, they have a long term plan and they follow it VERY well.

    The solution: Open discussion between humans in a retail outlet. With the advent of the web, we've become excellent about complaining.......but we do it online. I still do it to salespeople who aren't giving me the service that we all deserve. :^>)
  6. bassjus


    Mar 30, 2004
    I pretty much get the same problem anywhere, I have long hair and I'm a teenager. I would always get no help form this local store, and one day I brought in my modulus and somehow I seemed to be their best friend. Although it is pretty superficial I suggest trying it. I think once they know you play a nice instrument they will trust you with their nice equipment. I don't think it should be this way, but if there's nothing else you can do it works.
  7. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    Guitar Center Service is fine. I can never find any thing in the way of basses to play in one of those places. Fenders, Music man, occasional Warrwick and lots of junk. Nothing exciting. No offense to those that love those basses, I simply mean there is nothing that comes close to Bass NW, Bass Central or many other hi end shops. But yes, you can usually find someone to help you that is fairly pleasant. Too bad, they have a great collection of acoustic guitars, why not electric basses?
  8. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    This was problem I ran into when I was younger. Sometimes, I felt race (I am black) may have been a facotr, but clearly it can happen to anyone. PRobably the dumbest thing I did on occassion was whip out a credit card and get something that was maybe beyond my means just to put someone in check. I would never do that now (those bills can take a long time to pay off) because you can't really buy respect. The jerk that doesn't want to serve you, doesn't respect you because you just dropped $2000 on him. He now thinks you're a dufus with money!:mad:

    It's best just to shop where you are appreciated.:cool:
  9. wdinc01


    Nov 19, 2005
    Jacksonville, FL
    For Wal-Mart's defence, it didn't become the mom-and-pop-store-eater that it is TODAY until after Samuel Walton died and gave it to his sons. He just wanted to make a convient place for people to get what they need. His sons wanted to make money.

    But that was still well said, nonetheless, and has restored my faith in these smaller shops. Although I've got nothing to go by. I'll go to one soon, hopefully.
  10. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    Rich Briere you are absolutely right. I'm sure that's a problem. People should shop and get the best, fair price they can. We work hard for the money we earn and no one wants to overpay. So shop! Then give their local guy a chance to meet the price.
    I fully appreciate the value of a relationship. Unfortuately, there are many who do not and would buy/borrow a bass, sweat all over a high end bass and bring it back the next day. I don't know what the answer is eccept I guess you get pretty good at reading people and take care of the honorable and honest ones and get ride of the self absorbed users.
  11. thoughtpolice

    thoughtpolice Banned

    Sep 27, 2005
    I feel very fortunate to have a cool shop to go to that is one humbling experience after another. I also agree with what was said about GC and playing basses, but from your description these guys seem really uptight.

    I agree with Dbassmon – it shouldn’t matter how you’re dressed or what you drive - but I’d say take your business elsewhere, where it is appreciated, and you can accomplish the purpose of why you went there in the first place.
  12. R Briere

    R Briere Bass-ically Yours Gold Supporting Member

    Dbassmon, I don't believe that there are, really, too many self-absorbed users. I feel that most people are quite nice, but we live in a society where being nice is a growing sign of weakness. I think that we took a wrong turn somewhere. (TV?--Too much "on-line" time?) Like every other facet of life, we tend to do what we're taught or what we see others doing. The actions of the "visible" tend to become "the norm". I truly believe that we're simply forgetting how to communicate "in person". Buying "anything" should be a pleasant experience. Since we've become more afraid of "salespeople" we shop where we feel safe---in our own homes or other predicatable places. When you're away from home are you likely to take the time to seek out a good, cheap restaurant or do you look for Wendy's or the Golden Arches?

    eBay: Did you "win" a piece or did you simply agree to pay more than anyone else wanted to pay?

    The Big Brown Truck--A guy or gal in a uniform drives up to your house and GIVES you a box. It's kind of like Santa, isn't it? You didn't pay that driver a dime. They just gave you a cool new bass!! Feels pretty darn good, doesn't it? :^>) And the best part is, you didn't have to actually even LOOK at another person. Live Communication--the dying art form.

    One of my favorite daily routines is the Mom and Dad and Son and Daughter who walk in carrying "Musicians Friend" or any other catalog and, with arms crossed--aka defensive posturing, ask if I'll match the prices in the catalog. I ALWAYS smile and say: "If you don't mind paying more for that instrument than the last guy I just sold one too, I'll be forced to take your money".

    The usual response to that is almost always the same: It begins with that famous "Cocker Spaniel head twist" and is followed by "Well, Joey told us that these catalogs sell cheaper than anyone and that we'd be taken to the cleaners if we bought something in a store".

    Now I'm not sure who "Joey" actually is, but he sure gets around......and JOEY knows how to communicate. :^>)


    Nov 24, 2001
    New York,NY
    ...IME's over the years, I've gone to some "mom & pop" privately owned stores that blew & basically had dust on all their equipment(wonder why), & then I've also gone to some GC's that were way more friendly & accommodating(I'm white with long hair)...

    my $0.02

    PS: It has nothing to do with image or vehicles driven...
  14. Sound Chaser

    Sound Chaser

    Mar 19, 2005
    Lockport, NY
    A list of my local music stores and what I think of them, closest to farthest from where I live:

    Red House Guitars - Very very small place. No good new stuff, plenty of good used stuff. Good service. Friendly. I don't stop by their very often because of their small inventory, but would I do business there? Absolutely.

    Mael Music - A lot of violins and guitars. Almost no bass stuff. High prices. I've only been there once. Would I do business there? No, there are much better places.

    Lockport Music Center - A lot of guitar stuff. Almost no bass stuff. My cousin works there, and he's cool, but the owner has been increasingly dismissive when I stop by there to check out what he has. I've spent about 75 ot 80 percent of my money there, and he should be a little more polite. So, I'm not going to buy anything there anymore.

    Guitar Center (Niagara Falls Boulevard) - Decent selection of Bongo's, a $$, a fretless Corvette, and some nice surprises here and there. They're almost never set up good, though. Great selection of amps. Service varies from blatantly trying to rip me off to giving me an amazing deal here and there. Would I do business there? Probably not, because there are other places that need/appreciate the money more. Only if it was one of their sales where they have MMs for $800 or if there was something awesome used.

    Airport Music - Decent selection. Warwick, Peavey, Ken Smith (which I wasn't impressed with at all). I've heard bad things about the owner ripping people off, and he's very dismissive, like he doesn't care if we spend our money there or not. Hey, if he doesn't care neither do I.

    Music City - All of it's quality. Ric, Gibson, G&L, Ampeg, and some nice used vintage effects. Friendly, despite the fact that I just played a few basses and, from one point of view, wasted his time. He'd give me recommendations to try this one or that one. Would I do business there? Freakin' A yes I would. If I ever buy a Ric or another Ampeg, that's where I'm going. It's also the only place anyone's ever recognized "School Days", which speaks for the musical knowledge of the people who frequent the place.

    I've only ever been told I couldn't play an instrument once. It was a music store in East Aurora, NY. A Tobias Growler. Pretty nice. I asked, and the lady behind the counter replied very curtly that no, I could not. I was kind of shocked for a second, then I went to just leave. She called after me and told me I could play it. I came back, plugged it in, and I loved it. Unfortunately I didn't really have any money, so I left soon after. I only played it for a couple minutes.
  15. Sound Chaser

    Sound Chaser

    Mar 19, 2005
    Lockport, NY
    That's awesome. Where's your store?
  16. Altitude

    Altitude An ounce of perception, a pound of obscure. Supporting Member

    Mar 9, 2005
    Denver, nee Austin

    Thanks for your well-crafted response. I can very clearly see your point of view, and the guy in your story did you a disservice that I would not consider doing to any small shop retailer.

    I'm not sure that it's the customer's responsibility to earn the shopkeeper's trust before the customer expects to be handled in a certain way, nor do I think you necessarily asserted that. What I do think, as an owner of an (admittedly) non-retail small business, is that these small shop retailers look at their inventory, and they immediately see the amount of their own money they have tied up in it. They are at times possibly too quick to make a choice as to whether someone is a legitimate customer or is just there to reduce the salability of the product. As a result, the average guy walking into the store may perceive that the guy behind the counter is a little uptight about the inventory, as I have in my story.

    I thought of another interesting experience I had with this same shop. About a year ago, I was looking at buying new amplification. This guy is the guy who carries all of the nice bass amp stuff around here (the Berg, EA, Epifani-type cabinets and the like), so I went in to talk to him. Knowing very little about the extent of the labels he carried, I asked his opinion about a number of brands I had learned about on this and other forums. I would of course expect him to support the product lines he carries first and foremost; however, this guy absolutely trashed every brand I mentioned that he happened not to carry. It went a little beyond the line, I thought. You sort of had to be there to understand what I mean.

    In the end, as I consider my past, maybe my experience is mostly about this one shop and this one guy. As a kid growing up in Austin, I used to go in and bug the guys at Guitar Resurrection a lot, and they were always extremely patient with me. I only ever bought a used Mesa cabinet from them, and that was much later. Recently, coincidentally also in Austin, I stopped by the Bass Emporium where I not only received excellent service related to the instruments, but also some great conversation and subsequent follow-up afterwards.
  17. mike sancho

    mike sancho SANCH

    Feb 10, 2004
    Milwaukee, WI
    I was at a well known high end store in NYC last year and had nothing but a hard time first of all getting someone to let me into the bass guitar area and then recieved nothing but very cold shouldered service the whole time I was there. I was in town on business and wanted to try a few basses that I have no access to where I live and man it was like pulling teeth. I woudn't go back there. I have had good and bad experiences in both high end shops and GC's all over the country. I go back and do business with the people I get good service from.
    Bass Central, Bass Northwest and Bass Emporium all come to mind as very service orientated businesses and I would do business with any of them again in a minute.
  18. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    +1 Bass Central & Bass NW

    I believe in developing a relationship with a dealer if that is possible. It is good to have a record of business with a store. Make it a point to buy strings, get set ups, or other things from somebeody who will remember who you are. That can go a long ways in creating an atmosphere where folks are comfortable with you. Even if you have only bought a MIM P-bass from a dealer
    (I shouldn't say only, $400 is not chump change to me), that purchase will establish you as someone who will evenutally come up with some dough, even you are only looking today.
  19. Pennydreadful

    Pennydreadful Goin out West

    Jun 13, 2005
    Arlington, Texas
    I don't care if I walk in in torn-to-hell jeans and worn out boots (which I do) an outright refusal to let me play something I might be interested in is unacceptable. I understand the risk the retailer might be taking with some of the folks that walk in, but that's their problem, not the consumers'. The shop is there to serve customers the best they can, not to keep them from trying out basses because they're afraid of scratches.
  20. Fawkes007


    Sep 13, 2005
    SF Bay Area
    It really depends on the store. If I am in a boutique store and I play a couple of high end basses, I always try to buy something if I don't buy the basses. Like a few sets of strings or an effects pedal or whatever...I'll spend $100 to $200 on stuff I know I'll need.

    Some places really don't like you to play anything unless the first thing you say is, "I want that one hanging on the wall there, second one from the left. I'll pay cash now. Look at all these hundreds I have here. Write that baby up, I'm in a hurry."

    I can certainly understand that a store doesn't want some stranger hacking away on an instrument with a high price tag and limited availability. And, due to their limited market, some of those basses have been in those stores for a long time.

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