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nightmare customers

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nightmare customers

Postby Gregory nangle » Sun Apr 16, 2017 11:19 am

i did a build that i was really happy with. i called it the 'black and tan'
it was english sycamore body,black anodized neck and all black tuners.
here is a picture of it on the bench:
Image

customerwon the auction on an auction site and paid.then sent me an email and asked if i could add relief to the body where his arm lays over it. so basically he bid on it,won it then was unhappy with it right away before he even got it. so i offered to sand some relief into it (love my oscillating spindle sander) this is of course after i had done a set up on it.

so i had to take the strings off, do the work, and then re finish it ,and then do another set up on it and sent it out.

i got a delivery confirmation that he received and an hour later i got an email from him saying :

"i really hate to say it but the bass isnt right. my hand cramped up when i was playing it" and (here is where it gets weird)
he says,"i can get each string in tune but not with one another"
(i think to myself that the muscles in your hand have nothing to do with our build, and its scientifically impossible to not have the strings be in tune if they are in tune!!)
so he says he wants to return it. wants a refund is willing to compromise on shipping costs and the work.

i say send it back and well get you a refund but the custom work i did on the bass ( i spent about 5 hours on it) has to be compensated for but i told him that id charge him half the normal rate for the labor.

i partially refund him , i get the bass back and right out of the box the tuner is busted on the D string.

i ask him if that was maybe why it wasnt in tune and he says it wasnt broken,so now its been broken in shipping.

so now i have one altered bass with a busted tuning machine. i fix the tuning machine and bring the bass over to a luthier who is my mentor and ask him to go over the bass. he plugs it in and tunes it. he criticized my string spacing ( i put them too far apart and my g string is too close to teh edge) then he offers a really great suggestion about widening the fingerboards beyond the radius of teh neck just a bit to make it wider,cool. then he says it sounds fine. intonation is fine.

i asked him if he thought that it was worth returning and he said no.

the guy now is having a fit because he wants a FULL refund. so i refuse and the auction site gives it to him then tries to come after me. i tell them what happened and they agree to let me keep the lousy 300 bucks for the "damage" even though i told them the tuner is like a minimal part of the work to fix it,whatever.


then a week later i get another guy who calls the studio and wants us to build him a custom. cool!! im on the phone with him explaining my philosophy of building instruments that are raw, tough and not fine polished pieces of furniture but tools that can be used hard etc etc. i tell him that we leave build marks on the castings and the finishes are brush painted etc. teh next day he wins a bass i have up on the auction site. im now totally confused becaseu he never mentioned that he was bidding on it or anything. then he asks if he should just pay me for the custom one and cancel the sale or if he should just keep this one and see. i tell him its easier to just keep this one and see if he likes it. if he doesnt he can return it and we can do a custom build. i send it out. the day he gets it i get an email:

" i really hate to say this but there are scratches on the neck,the body is busted where it looks like some one tried to force it on, and the pick up is slanted forward the wood work looks amateur,the intonation is off (thats why we use a compensated bridge,he didnt know that it was adjustable :roll: ) and that the finish was inconsistent (brush painted!!!) wants a refund.so i tell him that most of what he is taking issue with is not a flaw but literally how we make the instruments ,to each their own. but the busted wood sounds like it was broken in shipping.he says he is going to box it up and return it. i ask him to send me pictures and he never replies. a month goes by nothing.then he opens a dispute through the auction site. i accept his return ( i played this bass for weeks before sending it out and i know its fine) i get the pictures finally through the site and there is nothing wrong with it. no broken wood nothing.


sorry for the long reply but im ready to walk off a bridge. shoudl i just give up? :( :cry:
Gregory nangle
 
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Re: nightmare customers

Postby Brian Evans » Sun Apr 16, 2017 1:43 pm

For these reasons I don't sell guitars to anyone. As soon as I do, building turns from fun to work, and I'm done working, god willing.
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Re: nightmare customers

Postby Peter Wilcox » Sun Apr 16, 2017 8:29 pm

Maybe because of the type of bass you make, the name of your company, and where you advertise, flakes are attracted to it. Do you have other customers who are satisfied? You need to make some stipulations about refunds and return shipping costs to protect yourself, and maybe advertise and sell through a different venue.
Maybe I can't fix it, but I can fix it so no one can fix it
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Re: nightmare customers

Postby Gregory nangle » Sun Apr 16, 2017 11:11 pm

peter,
yes i think youre right,i am starting a website with clear policies about these things,written out so there are no surprises. id like to think i have customers who are satisfied. i play one of my basses every day and i think they feel ok. ive had very good input from folks who have played them and made changes based on that. im always open to the fact that they can be better of course, but at the same time i am fairly confident in my fabrication skills being at the very least competent. always room for growth. im also trying to do something unorthodox with my designs and im sure its against what most consider the norm. just some days you want to throw in the towel, but the thing is that i wouldnt be able to stop building guitars.its like everything else i do, i get obsessed with it!
Gregory nangle
 
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Re: nightmare customers

Postby Chris Richards » Mon Apr 17, 2017 11:27 am

I see exactly where you're coming from! I've been building/repairing and restoring guitars for many years it's not my full time business but an extended hobby which allows me to indulge my guitar building "fetish" make a little money and not end up with a loft full of guitars. It seems that I can go for about a year with delighted customers and then all of a sudden I get a couple in a row who are just plain nasty, unscrupulous liars and I feel like packing in the whole thing.

I have found that people who want something for nothing are really not worth dealing with, I've had customers who have pleaded with me to do a cut price job claiming that they're on a really tight budget so there's me beavering away on some guitar for next to nothing then a few weeks later they send you a set of no expense spared pickups to install And this type of customer typically keeps nagging you once they have the guitar back about issues that they aren't happy with just really to get a "refund" ..My policy now is to not do any "favours" for people, the job costs £*** and that's it, if I want to throw in some extra work or discount it when I've finished then that's up to me...But generally anyone who asks me to discount a job I refuse their custom.

My greatest ally in recognising trouble customers is my wife, she seems to be able to spot them a mile off, if she says do't do a job then I won't.

I think in your case you are building distinctive custom guitars and I would far prefer selling them to customers who are actually there in person so they can play and see them first hand, in my opinion auction sites are a waste of time even people selling more common guitars get a heap load of problems with buyers, the buyer only has to have a change of mind to get his money back.

On one hand building guitars and then selling them on completion is easier since the customer gets what he sees, building guitars to order/commission you're at the whim of the customer and in some cases the customer, just because you're effectively on his payroll expects you to do everything he asks...If you build guitars and then sell them you don't have any dealings with customers during the build, it's just a case of "take it or leave it"...Building to commission and you're at the whim of the customer, spending precious build time dealing with emails or phone calls.
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Re: nightmare customers

Postby David King » Mon Apr 17, 2017 1:39 pm

Gregory,
Starting a mail order bass business now is like jumping into the deep end of the pool. The clientele is very sophisticated and thanks to the interwebs, very full of misinformation and very powerful. Twenty five years ago this wasn't the case but now you are basically throwing yourself to the lions and expecting them to carry you around on their shoulders in triumph. They really can't wait to tear you apart in a public display on sites like talkbass and then make very snarky videos about how terrible your products are on youtube for everyone to find.
Don't lose hope. Start by doing your homework, have you shown your instruments to folks who are actually knowledgable and can give you gentle and critically important feedback that you can act on? A lot depends on where you live in the country. My town has about 400 full-time, honest to goodness luthiers who all know there stuff but it sounds like this isn't the case in most of the country. If you don't live in a good sized city with an active music scene you may have to drive a considerable distance to find someone who can help you evaluate your work with compassion and dispassion, not an obvious combination.
Short of finding a really top-notch luthier you should certainly be working with some really experienced bass players. They may not know all the ins and outs of design and construction but they can tell you when the instrument isn't fulfilling their needs and what little things they would change.
Lastly and most importantly you have to understand that you simply can't please everyone. You need to figure out what your niche is and how to reach those people as directly as possible. Also know that your niche may be incredibly limited and after you've sold instruments to the dozen or so folks that want one there may be no more customers out there.
Take this as an opportunity to learn and to grow from. Keep your ears open to what people are telling you even if you can't agree with them. It's hard to make an instrument and it takes a lot of perseverance and luck to get it into the right hands. It's even harder to make a living from it but don't give up right away if all the pieces haven't magically fallen into place. That almost never happens.
Your best bet is to figure out which are the customers you want to deal with and find where they hang out then figure out that they're looking for and how much they're willing to spend. At that point you can come up with a business plan that works. Plan to spend 1/3rd of your revenue on marketing, especially at first.
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Re: nightmare customers

Postby Mark Swanson » Mon Apr 17, 2017 5:00 pm

Sage advice!
    Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff
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Re: nightmare customers

Postby Gregory nangle » Mon Apr 17, 2017 9:11 pm

wow, super super great advice guys!! thanks a lot! its all very helpful and makes me feel a lot better. i will push on and take heed of what was posted above.its very nice to have support from MIMF! dont know what id do without this place some days. i dont have any other ways to make a living these days and being desperate and poor is a great motivator for hard work :) i always tell people to get it right you have to make mistakes over and over and over! i have spent the past 15 years doing high end custom fabrication work for people /companies/ architects etc. and its helped me understand good customers and bad ones and also helped me identify my own failures like being 'too nice' or 'wanting to help' or starting jobs with no agreements or drawings or purchase orders etc. so its all stuff i have seen in other fields so i guess it will be the same whatever i do. thank you so much for the encouragement! lets hope i can stay afloat long enough to keep it going!
Gregory nangle
 
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