I knew I was taking a chance with Darrin. When I spoke to him on the phone, he sounded like an earnest up-and-coming builder, willing to provide a discount on his product in order to establish his name and reputation. He had only built a few basses, but the pictures on his website showed amazing work. I contacted one of the owners who said that the pictures didn't lie. The rest is history, but I knew I was taking a chance going in. Darrin's lack of delivery didn't stop me from buying customs. I stayed with well-established shops (e.g. Sadowsky) at first. The biggest chance I've taken was with a luthier named Martin Keith, essentially a one-man shop, but he had built many instruments and I got a great reference from Marshall Perry who owns four of them. My experience with Martin turned out to be the most pleasant I've had ordering a custom, partly because of the quick turnaround of just four months. I should add that the Sadowsky experience is also excellent: build time is at least twice as long because of high demand, but this is known up front, and the shop remains communicative throughout the process. Nothing wrong with buying off the rack, the advantages are obvious. But it's not like the custom market is fraught with danger (it isn't).