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Some unpleasantness on the subject of bass dealer ethics...sort of

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by greene, May 11, 2006.


  1. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    Mike Olivola as well as the Acoustic Bass Shop have impeccable reputations and if they say it is ... it is.
    Congrats
     
  2. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    It is my understanding that a hybrid has, at the least, a carved top. It may have solid (carved) ribs as well, but to be a hybrid, it must have a carved top. To the extent I am correct, I cannot accept the philosophy that if the highly reputable dealer says it is, then it is. Again, this may be a fine bass, the dealer seems to be one of great integrity, and the price seems to have been quite appropriate. I have no first-hand knowledge of what the dealer did or did not say. All of that does not affect what is the accepted definition.

    So folks, what is your definition of a hybrid?
     
  3. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    "I cannot accept the philosophy that if the highly reputable dealer says it is, then it is."

    Hmmmmm ... well isn't this a switch. I've read endlessly warnings to all those newbies who are looking for their first starter bass that they have to go and see a reputable luthier and how they'd be just so dumb to even think of buying any bass on line ... I've challanged this assertion myself but I've been a voice in the wilderness on this score. So here we have a very reputable luthier in Oakland who says its a hybrid - FYI I myself happen to agree that from my understanding a hybrid bass has a carved top with plywood sides and back - so I'd be just as curious to see how this one comes out.
     
  4. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Well, as far as my post goes, and as far as the majority of posts go, this is no switch at all! I don't think folks here have routinely said that newbies have to go and see a reputable luthier AND that they would be dumb to buy a bass online. The advice has surely been that, if you have the opportunity, by all means go and see and play the instrument(s) you are considering purchasing.

    The other piece of advice is that a newbie should buy from, not necessarily go and see, a reputable luthier. I have never seen the warning about buying "online" or by long-distance apply to reputable luthiers. In fact, many here are often encouraged to do so. I think newbies would do well to buy long-distance from dealers like Arnold, Upton, Sprague, Bollbach, etc. The only extent to which your voice may be one in the wilderness is the extent to which you may espouse buying online or long-distance from non-luthiers. This is an important distinction.

    Now, do we have a reputable luthier who said the bass in question is a hybrid? As I mentioned in my post, I have no first-hand knowledge of what the luthier said. I left open the possibility that there was an honest miscommunication or misinterpretation regarding the conversation between pierce and the luthier.

    Let's assume that the luthier did call this bass a hybrid. That would not cause me to ascribe ANY malicious intent to this luthier of high repute. He may simply be using a different defintion than we all seem to use. My reaction to your post was your statement that if this luthier says it is a hybrid, then it is. Well, if 1) we all define a hybrid as having a carved top, 2) the bass does not have a carved top, 3) the luthier said it's a hybrid, then it is not the case that if he says it is then it is (by our definition).

    There's no switch and no contradiction with what is routinely stated here.
     
  5. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    Whatever you say DHRUB but I'll stick to my assertion that newbies here are routinely frightened by people telling them how they should never buy on line, from eBay and how dangerous it is and so on.

    Here was an example as it appears to me, of a reputable luthier validating something that most of us agree seems questionable. I have maintained that although dealers and luthiers can be helpful, they can also be working against a customers interests. After all, they do have their own agendas. Case in point is, and I've experienced this one first hand as has probably anyone else in the string instument business. A customer will buy a instrument - lets say a cello. They will then take it to a local luthier for whatever the reason, who coincidentally also sells cellos. The luthier understands the customer is full of anxiety about having just spent thousands of dollars and will begin to "find" all sorts of problems ... and you must know that many many various problems can always be found especially when the customer is relatively new with all of this. Before you know it, the customer is soured on the cello they walked in the door with - the same one they were just perfectly happy with by the way, and the luthier shows them one of the cellos he sells ... you can see of course where this is going right?
    Everyone in this business is aware of this routine. The luthier is in business and sees he lost a sale and wants to undo that ... and he preys on the customer's anxiety and in the end whther its right or wrong, whether the customer originally got a good deal or not, he will undo the original sale. I've experienced it with the best of instruments like Roth, Semmlinger, Stohr etc and I would bet others here have had similar experiences. Its even worse where there's a relationship between the local school music teacher and the luthier. God forbid anyone getting in between that unholy relationshop which is fraught with kickbacks.

    Now, I'm not suggesting that this happens all the time but I am suggesting that when people frighten newbies into thinking that the dealer/luthier is the holy trinity minus one, they are just misleading them or perhaps they haven't a clue what really goes on inside the business and just so we have it clear, this IS a business.
    No one has all the answers, but I do believe one can always use some basic rules just to use as a guide. Educate yourself as best you can. Do listen to as many people as you can. Weigh it all and never assume anyone has all the answers. You can score on ebay and you can lose. AND you can score with a dealer/luthier and you can lose just as badly.

    Let me also add that having grown up in the music business, I have the greatest admiration for luthiers and yes even some dealers. The best of NYC ie David Gage and Bill Merchant are personal family friends and have been so for more then five decades. I often send people to see them for various things and they often send people to see us. David and Bill are constantly calling to see if my mom is OK and how she's doing and if she needs anything and I appreciate that to no end.
    I may be telling tales out of school but I never did consider myself one of the dealers - I'm merely describing what I know does goes on ...
     
  6. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    Wow, that's all pretty cynical. I'm sure it goes on. Not all luthiers are created equal, for sure. People here do not suggest that newbies, or anyone else, go to just any person who decides to call him/herself a luthier. We all tend to steer folks to those we know are reputable.

    Now, your comment above ignores a priori odds. The odds of you scoring on ebay, I would argue, are far lower than with a dealer/luthier. They are far, far, far lower than the odds of scoring with a luthier of known high integrity and skill. You seem to be saying that it's all a crap shoot. I'm not buying. The luthiers whom I consider to be of high integrity and skill DO NOT engage in the nonsense of which you speak. Those are the one to whom we steer the newbies.
     
  7. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    First off, I'd bet whether you know it or not, many who you think have never done it and are reputable, have done it. Its just not all so black and white as your posts seem to indicate you believe. There are situations where people are put in between what they consider a rock and a hard place, and they do what they believe they have to do, and for all sorts of reasons - some which may be valid for themselves. Is that to say they aren't valid?

    Here's a possible imaginary scenario ... a bass is left on consignment at a reputable dealer/luther. The dealer/luthier has been going through a rough patch lately and has found himself falling behind on rent, supplies, inventory etc. This bass, lets say is a Juzek which is a perfect example for this scenario. Ken Smith will tell you what a Juzek bass is (I use Ken's name only because I have the utmost respect for his knowledge and directness and he's mentioned this particular fact many times on this Board and IMHO Ken's a no BS kind a guy) and I'd tell you the same thing. Its a Wilfer or Lang shop bass with the Juzek label in it is all which is not to say there's something wrong with that. I'm not saying there's anything the matter with a Wilfer or Lang both of which I sell or have sold myself and both are excellent instruments.

    This imaginary Juzek bass I've been discussing has had extensive repairs, but the dealer can still make a large profit on it because the Juzek name in it now commands a substantial amount of money and because of all the previous repairs, the dealer/luthier has cut a very good deal for himself with the seller. The dealer/luthier also has a newer very good reputable American made bass on the floor but the margin for himself on that bass is far less. The newbie cannot play yet, so what the bass sounds like doesn't really enter into the picture very much. Its either the old Juzek that's undergone extensive repair (including one large crack awfully close to the soundpost), or the new mint US made bass.
    Which bass do you think the dealer/luther will be trying to sell ?

    I think the dealer/luthier will steer the newbie to the Juzek. He will choose to make the largest profit and he will rationalize it by telling himself there's nothing wrong with selling the person an old Juzek and of course there isn't. But he also won't tell the customer he can get a new Wilfer, which is pretty likely to be the same bass as the Juzek, for less money, even though I'd be willing to bet the dealer/luthier would know exactly where they can be found - and I'm not talking about me. I'm talking about a new Wilfer bass in obviously new condition from another US dealer versus an old extensively repaired Juzek. And finally, I'd bet he either won't mention all the possibilities that might occur from that crack close to the soundpost or even what it means to have a soundpost crack - another words he will either downplay the risk or not even mention it. So as far as what bass he will steer the newbie to ...

    I already know the answer to this and so do you ... things happen this way and for reasons like I've described above. They don't make the dealer/luthier some nefarious evil demon-seed. He's in business and must do what he must to survive and at times agendas do cross. Is it cynical? Maybe you think so, but I just think anyone in business knows things like this happen and you do what you need to do. So don't mislead yourself into thinking even the best most reputable dealer/luthiers haven't done this or aren't doing this all the time.

    If you were in business and made more money selling Bass A then Bass B - which one would you tell your sales people to sell? Which one would you promote ? The one where you made less? Come on DHRUB ....
     
  8. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    No need to tell me. I was playing Juzeks likely long before you even recognized the name and likely before Ken Smith ever touched one (it was 1972).

    He will be selling the one that makes the most sense for the customer if he is reputable and honest. Will all so-called luthiers do this? Of course not. You missed that point in my post.

    This is what you believe a reputable luthier will do? Wow, you must have been burned badly and often. Your generalization is an insult to reputable luthiers. How cynical. Gee, what do the luthiers of ill-repute do?

    So you're betting that the reputable luthier will, basically, deceive the customer. Amazing that you think this is what reputable luthiers will do!


    Yes, I know the answer and it does not agree with yours! You are asserting that this is how reputable luthiers operate in general. That's horrible. I have witnessed transactions that disprove your assertions directly.

    You do what you need to do? Really? Sounds like projection, Steve. Are you reporting what has been done to you and how you have lost sales? Are you justifying the practices you follow? Do you "do what you need to do" in the sense described above?

    You asked so I will tell. All other things being truly equal, I would want to sell the one on which I had the greater margin. First and foremost, I'd be interested in putting the best and most appropriate instrument I could in my customer's hands. For those who would not do this out of a sense of good business ethics, there is other motivation for doing so. This turns out to be the best long-term financial course because it allows one to build relationships with customers who will likely return and make other purchases.

    Look back at my posts. I don't believe that any of the luthiers I named would operate in the fashion you describe. Sounds like sour grapes.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    PM, anyone?
     
  10. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    "No need to tell me. I was playing Juzeks likely long before you even recognized the name and likely before Ken Smith ever touched one (it was 1972)."

    Aside from spending a few summer Sunday's at the Juzek home in NJ in the early 1960's, there were many instances when I was working for my Dad during the summer back in the early 1960's when I would be sent over to Metropolitan (Juzek) with a bass that would then have a Juzek label put in and sold - perhaps it was one of the basses you were playing ten years later DHRUB who knows ...

    And as far as projections go or sour grapes - that would infer I'm selling something when in fact I consider what I'm doing giving instruments away for virtually cost. Yes, it makes dealers angry but I've been a musician the last 35 years and haven't had a thing to do with selling instruments.
     
  11. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Okay, this thread is reopening at the request of those who want to resolve the issues. If it gets ugly, it gets closed or deleted.
     
  12. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    First I need to make sure its clear that the imaginary scenarios that I've previously described are not at all, IMHO, unethical or deceitful. Maybe its because I've been around the business for so long and I know what goes on, that these scenarios are very typical to me. Does anyone think for a moment that every problem instrument comes only from eBay? Do they believe a reputable dealer/luthier has never sold anyone a "problem" ? Deceitful? Unethical? Is it unethical or deceitful for your teacher to have a "special" relationship with a particular dealer/luthier and because of that relationship the teacher will steer as much business to this one dealer/luthier as he or she can? Is that deceitful? Not in my opinion. Does it go on and happen all the time? Yes it does. Does the teacher get "special favors" from the dealer/luther ? Duhhhh what do you think?

    As for some of the nasty things inferred about me personally on this thread yesterday all I'm going to say is I stand by everything I said previously.
    I have the unique perspective of having been a professional musician/arranger here in NYC for 35 years with many many close relationships of other musicians who know me very well - much better then some member who seems to want to pick a fight with me. I have seen dealers from the perspective of a typical customer standing on the other side of a counter in a shop just like many of those on this forum. I've had my share of problems with dealers just like I'm sure many here have had as well. But I also have had five decades of being in and around the musical instrument business having literally grown up in it, gone to hundreds of international trade shows, gossiped and BS'd with many of the icons in the business, visited workshops and factories all over the world .... and someone would be hard pressed to find anyone who would make the sort of inferences that were made here yesterday by one member. They just don't jibe with who I am and who everyone knows me to be.

    I have accused no one of being deceitful, nor do I accuse anyone of doing anything that isn't done all the time and has been done for as long as I can remember. People who don't believe it, just don't know or they're terribly naive. To try and turn the conversation about what I believe is typical behavior into some notion that I suffer from sour grapes for some unknown reason sounds to me more like the person making the accusation has some other problems with me that I'm not aware of.

    As for those who would challenge my definition of "selling" - To me selling is buying an item and selling it at a profit. What I do is sell an item at a loss ... hardly my idea of selling something. If you don't like my definition, that's your privilege. As for the rest of the armchair psychoanalysis ... I think I'll let the experiences many members on this forum have had with me, speak for themselves.
     
  13. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    .

    You said the following about what you defined to be reputable luthiers, in general:

    "I'd bet he either won't mention all the possibilities that might occur from that crack close to the soundpost or even what it means to have a soundpost crack"


    That's deceitful and that's unethical. Thus, you said you expect deceitful and unethical behaviors from reputable luthiers.

    .

    Now, I don't recall ascribing any unethical behavior to you! You said you expect dealers to do whatever they need to do. I asked if that is your own philosophy as well. You spend a great deal of time proclaiming what a wonderful guy you are.

    Hey, you're the one who wrote the words. You defined the class as reputable luthiers and then went on to suppose (even saying you would bet) that they would engage in what are clearly deceitful practices. If you don't think misleading a customer about the severity and potential consequences of a crack in an instrument is deceitful, then you have lost your moral compass. It was your scenario and it was your assertion. I have no problem with you other than what you say here. You can try to convince yourself all you want that there is some ulterior motive. There is not.

    Come again? What's that?

    "What I do is sell an item at a loss ... hardly my idea of selling something."

    So you sell something and that is not selling something. Right, I see.

    In a previous post you said:

    "...that would infer I'm selling something when in fact I consider what I'm doing giving instruments away for virtually cost. Yes, it makes dealers angry but I've been a musician the last 35 years and haven't had a thing to do with selling instruments."

    Now we know the problem with your definition. You believe that you are not selling unless you are making a profit. That's absurd and it is disingenuous for you to say that you do not sell instruments and that you haven't had a thing to do with selling instruments. That's utter nonsense! I doubt the IRS or the state of NY would accept that!

    You are accepting payment for the instruments. You are SELLING them. Plain and simple. It matters not what is your profit margin. Sales take place. You are liquidating an inventory and you have a financial interest in doing so! You are not a charitable organization and you are not a musical philanthropist. You are selling instruments. The people who have paid for those instruments are BUYERS! They were not given their instruments in return for charitable donations. Get real!
     
  14. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    Whatever you say DHRUB ....
     
  15. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Well, it's DRURB.
     
  16. greene

    greene

    Dec 19, 2003
    New York City
    Ideal Music
    Whatever you say DRURB
     
  17. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    How nice.
     
  18. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Les, lighten up. You go to the grocery store sometime, right? Is it ethical for them to sell you that crap in the Diet Pepsi bottles? That stuff rots your brain, man. It's a highly-addictive neurotoxin. There's just a bunch of stuff at the grocer that's bad for you. They shouldn't sell it -- you might be hurting yourself and they should stop you before you leave the store. You rag on the grocer, OK?

    Or bring it closer to here. Some of those kids some of you guys teach can't carry a tune in a paper bag. Is it truly ethical for you to encourage them? Yeah, they might improve, but shouldn't you guys feel an obligation to extol the relative virtues of an accountancy degree? Go rag on those guys too, Les!

    Anyway, Steve, thanks for your post. Your writing highlights the ethical dilemmas so many of us face during our workdays. The fact that you engage these issues on some level speaks well of you.

    Anyone who has ever worked for themselves encounters some variation of these types of conundrums. Even 15-year-olds find this stuff out: "I know I promised Ed I'd cut his grass but Julie pays so much faster."

    Anyone who has ever worked retail encounters these conundrums immediately. Rule Number One in retail is, "Don't tell them what they ought to want to buy, sell them what they want to buy." The reason I was such an unhappy, unsuccessful guitar salesman is because I knew how mediocre 95% of the stuff in the store was and customers did not want to hear about it at all. Is it ethical for anyone to sell a Peavey anything in a world where Walter Woods walks? My bossTom Baxer used to say, "Sam, every buyer leaves the shop believing that he has just got The One."

    Anybody who lies to a potential customer is evil. Anyone who sells broken stuff without saying so is evil. But Les, people who sell something that is solid now (but might break later if the customer is careless or unlucky) are not unethical.

    I'd like to think that I am an utterly, totally principalled person, but the truth is that I don't measure up. And I don't meet anyone most days who does. It's hard to teach or convince anybody about anything -- and I'm in a business where people pay for my advice! For most of us it's a victory just to set something in motion where people have the chance to learn for themselves, and sometimes that learn-for-yourself thing is darn painful.
     
  19. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
     
  20. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004

    For the most part Sam, I agree. Now if only what you wrote were relevant to the exchange that has taken place here. You have, unfortunately, over-complicated and, thus, muddied the issue at hand. The grocer puts the product out there and lets me decide. Of course, there can arise ethical dilemmas. Of course, business people are tempted and ethical ones watch the line carefully. You are discussing those intelligent and interesting finer points. greene was not!

    My reaction was to greene writing that what he defined as ethical dealer/luthiers would likely explicitly mislead. People who explicitly and deliberately mislead are unethical. That was part and parcel of his scenario and I objected to his assumption that reputable luthier/dealers routinely engage in such behavior. That's very different than the kind of gray areas you are discussing. Please read carefully! greene was not discussing the gray area. He was not discussing selling something solid now that might break later. I reacted to green's blatant and unwarranted cynicism. I was not and am not interested in discussing the slippery slope of business ethics (in this thread, anyway). That wasn't the point.
     

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