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When customers don't take care of their custom basses

Discussion in 'Luthier's Corner' started by SDB Guitars, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    You ever get irritated at a customer for abusing one of your custom builds?

    I just took back the second bass I ever sold "on trade" for a new one, and I couldn't give the guy as much "trade in" credit as he wanted because he had abused the instrument so badly.

    Aside from not keeping it in the nice hardcase I included with the instrument (when he brought it in for trade, he didn't have the case), there were some *serious* gouges, scratches and dings on the body... The wood knobs were all dinged (one was cracked from seriously over-tightening the set screw), the back of the neck looked like he had been leaning it (read: bashing it until there were grooves) against his amp (and like it had tipped over and hit the floor several times)... he had removed all the screws from the tuning machines so they wouldn't remain stationary, and he had, for some reason, cranked the truss rod *forward* so hard, that it separated the fingerboard... mind you, the *glue* didn't fail. It actually split just under 1/16" of the maple UNDER the fingerboard for 5" down from the nut. The bloodwood pickup cover was split right down the middle, then poorly glued back together (not sanded after glueing, not even aligned properly before gluing), and he had broken the wooden cavity cover, and tried to make his own replacement, with dismal results.

    When he started talking to me about it, I was thinking "Cool! I can have one of my early instruments back... it will be like an old friend coming home...". Now, I'm just irritable. It looks like it kicked around in the trunk of somebody's car for the past 5 years.

    I calculated the damage at *way* too much to bother repairing, and only took it back on trade because I'm probably going to use the preamp and hardware on his next build, or for prototyping purposes.

    Do I have a right to be upset about this? I mean, he *did* pay good money for it 5 years ago, but I feel personally attacked because he didn't take care of it...
  2. Bassisgreat


    Feb 23, 2008
    Dallas, Tx
    Yes and No. You have every right to FEEL bad, angry, etc, and I understand fully why you would. :scowl: You also have every right to refuse to accept the instrument in trade (for any amount) and calmly explain that it is because you make and sell fine custom instruments, and one in that condition will not be sellable to another customer, even used.

    You do NOT have the right to choose to take it in trade and b*tch him out or condescend him for treating the instrument that way. When he paid you for the bass, it became HIS...for better or for worse... :rolleyes: The artist and craftsman in you may scream, but the salesman/entrepreneuer has to sit and take it. ;)
  3. onlyclave


    Oct 28, 2005
    You can be upset but if you want to point the finger at the person who made you that way just point it at yourself. At the moment you stamped that customer's invoice "Paid in full" you relinquished any and all responsibility for that instrument. He could have walked to the end of your driveway, set it on fire and peed it out and you still couldn't have any say in it. You got his money, he got his bass.

    Secondly, what do you mean you "couldn't give the guy as much trade in credit as he wanted"? The bass is worth what it's worth. If it's beat to death and worthless then he gets no trade in credit. I bet you're mad because you bought back a bass you didn't want to. Either you're going to be in the business of selling basses or not. You can't treat these things like they are coming home to visit their parents. I think every time Leo Fender saw the cover of "London Calling" he smiled, looked as his bank account and waited for another order to come in.

    I'll wait with my flameproof suit on now.
  4. TrevorOfDoom

    TrevorOfDoom Supporting Member

    Jun 17, 2007
    Austin, TX
    i'm curious. post pics, please?
  5. Yes, you can be personally upset but not in public. Your customer is also reading this.
  6. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    I didn't give him grief about it, because when he bought it, he was a kid, and even though he *should* have known better than to beat it all to hell, it's not my place to tell him so. I'm not his parent.

    Not *my* driveway... lol. I've have got out the shotgun and made him do it in the street, if that was his chosen method of embarrassing himself. My driveway is still private properly, and I don't take kindly to people lighting things up in my drive. :D

    Nah, no flaming from this end... I'm not mad that I bought it back, as I *did* examine it before agreeing to take it in on trade. I'm irritated because I was thinking I'd keep it for myself, because it was an amazing bass when I sent it out the door. Simple, clean, and played well. When it came back in, it was a mere shadow of it's former self. I gave him on trade exactly what the used hardware would go for in eBay, and he can either have that hardware on his new bass, or I may steal the preamp, bridge, etc. for another project (for myself... I wouldn't sell them as new parts, but the Aguilar preamp is still in great shape, and I was just about to order one of those for a project, anyway).

    No, no pictures. I was kinda upset when I started dismantling things, and when I saw how bad the fingerboard/neck was split, I crammed a putty knife in there and wedged until I could get my fingers into it, and then proceeded to rip about a third of the fingerboard off... I felt much better after I vented a little. ;) At any rate, I've already gutted the body and neck...

    The $100 credit I gave him for that will go against his new bass, and the bridge, tuners, truss rod, preamp and other misc. hardware/electronics are going in my bin until I have the time to build one for myself... :)
  7. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    Point taken, Larry... there really is no privacy once something is posted on the internet, anyway, is there? Even if he doesn't read this board (and I don't think he does) he could just as easily Google me, and come across this post.

    I'm not particularly upset anymore, I guess... more like disappointed, maybe... but I'm inclined to change my policy about taking trades just because I don't know if I *want to know*, anymore, whether someone is taking care of things.
  8. Rodent

    Rodent A Killer Pickup Lineā„¢ Commercial User

    Dec 20, 2004
    Upper Left Corner (Seattle)
    Player-Builder-Founder: Honey Badger Pickups & Regenerate Guitar Works
    good advice Larry ... I wonder what Leo thought of all the backroom hack jobs people did to his basses over the years. one can only imagine ...

    all the best,

  9. Skelf


    Apr 15, 2005
    Moffat D&G Scotland
    Builder AC Guitars.
    I have a friend I sold a prototype guitar too. It looks as if he has been hammering nails in with it. He is very happy with the guitar which at the end of the day is all I am really interested in. What he does with it is his business and if he wrecks it I will not be upset as the guitar ceased being mine as soon as he paid for it.
  10. When you buy a used car the ex-owner isn't sitting in the back seat when you drive away :)

    Private business complaints exposed on an Internet forum is in bad taste, bad judgment and below professional level....'nuff said by me and that's just my personal take on it. YMMV of course.
  11. grace & groove

    grace & groove

    Nov 30, 2005
    Self-Appointed Ambassador to the Dragonfly
    Bad analogy, IMO. That was just another highly manufactured bass. Custom basses are different... the luthier can spend the better part of a year putting all of their creative devotion in the instrument.

    You guys say that it is no longer the luthier's once they sell it, but nonetheless the emotional attachment remains.
  12. incognito89x

    incognito89x ♪♫♪ ♪ ♪ ♫&#983

    Sep 22, 2002
    Royal Oak, Michigan
    So wait, after all this you're gonna build him another bass to beat up on? Tsk Tsk. :p

    I can certainly understand the frustration in seeing something you worked so hard on treated so poorly. Nonetheless, when he paid you for the bass, it was still his to do what he wished with, like Bassisgreat said, for better or worse.

    Well Alan, what did you expect from a guitarist? :rollno: :D
  13. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    Yeah, I'm a custom builder... I need the money ;)

    Seriously, though, I'll build him a bass because he's a good player, a friend, and most inportantly, a paying customer who talks my goods up all the time...

    I suppose a lot of decent players sling their instruments around a bit... I just was never the type to be rough on my instruments, no matter how much (or how little) they cost me.
  14. teej


    Aug 19, 2004
    Sheffield, AL 35660
    I agree that once it's been paid in full, the instrument is out of the luthier's hands, but I think it's different for us single-person builders, such as myself. I put blood, sweat, and 10-14 months into my instruments (and everything else that I do -- cables, cabs, even my hardwood picks), so I kind of expect the customer to put as much care into the instrument as I do when I make them. To big names like Fender (Gibson, etc.), an instrument is nothing more than a hunk of wood. Stick it in a machine and 15 minutes later, you've got a guitar, but to the rest of us, it's something more. I don't know about the others, but I consider my instruments works of art.

    That said, it should be noted that in addition to being a musician and builder, I'm also an artist (mostly sculpture and digital media). Also, of the handful of basses I've built, I haven't been able to summon the will to sell them. What can I say, I'm an incredibly sentimental person.
  15. low end fuzz

    low end fuzz

    May 9, 2008
    first off; SBD; do you have a website?
    ive seen some of your pics here, and theyre beautiful;
    second; i dont care what anybody says ;i give people s#!t when they bring me one of my basses for a setup and its grungy and dusty;
    way back i sent someone away for bringing in one of my first builds with what looked like tar all over the frets; i told him im not seetting up such a poorly taken care of work; although i would have taken it for money (i dont charge for any setups on my basses that are being delivered and picked up) but business-smishness ; its not like setting it on fire and pissing it out, its more like punching your kid in the face; now every time someone sees this swollen face kid ,theyre gonna think you did it!
  16. Thunderthumbs73


    May 5, 2008
    I agree, but I'm sure many others won't. I still am young enough to remember pining for my first guitar and how I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world to get it. With every instrument I acquire, it's been hard-earned. I know how lucky I still am to meet a musical need with what I have, and the luxury of having a little extra dough to play around with and buy what I don't need and just "like." Even if it's a very inexpensive SX bass.

    An instrument is an object; a tool (and perhaps a piece of art too). But even at it's most impersonal, that doesn't mean that a man can't love and respect his tools, and treat 'em right so that they'll be able to serve him long into the future.
  17. Jools4001

    Jools4001 Supporting Member

    Leo didn't care because he had a damned great factory turning out thousands of the things. Leo didn't personally build each bass and put his heart and soul into doing the best job he possibly could on each one, so I can imagine the disappointment of the artisan builder.

    Having said that, I'm not the most fastidious owner either and although my basses are not seriously banged up they all bear a few dings, scratches and battle scars here and there mostly because I didn't take good enough care of them. Only the other day my 1973 Rick took a fall because I just leaned it against the wall after practise instead of putting it back on it's stand or in it's case, no serious damage but one of the Grover machine heads got pinged out of alignment (fortunately that was because the cover -which also comprises the tuning key bearing - is just a press fit and popped off). Stuff like this happens, and as others have pointed out, it's my bass to do as I like with.

    Who knows what your bass went through, it may be the hero of a thousand tough bar gigs
  18. It sounds to me like you're just a builder who cares about his work a lot. I mean if I put my heart and soul into building a nice instrument for someone and they turn around and trash it I'd be a little peeved, but as was stated, it's his now so what he does is what he does. It is good to know that there are builders out there who care about the quality of their instruments even after they build them. That's much better than some I've heard about, only caring about the sale.:rollno:
  19. SDB Guitars

    SDB Guitars Commercial User

    Jul 2, 2007
    Coeur d'Alene, ID
    Shawn Ball - Owner, SDB Guitars
    I had thought this thread was long-dead. I was miffed about this instrument, but in retrospect, I realize that once it leaves my shop, it isn't my place to judge what is done with it.

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