I live right next to two guitar stores. One of them is awesome. It’s called “Guitars of the Stars,” and it’s owned by a very reputable guy who also makes his own amplifiers (they’re called Boobtone, by the way).
The other one’s a bit more profit driven, and by that I mean that they try to rip off everyone who walks in the door. I won’t say their name, because there’s no point in that–I’m not trying to promote guitar stores here. I’m trying to help you know the signs of a rip off so that you don’t end up plunking down a few grand on a bad guitar or amp.
Here are some tips for spotting the surefire signs of a rip off when you’re visiting a guitar store.
They show you the most expensive guitar in the store. There’s no reason to show customers the most expensive guitar in a store unless they specifically ask to see it. In my time in the rip-off guitar store, I saw the owner pitch a high-end Gibson to three customers including myself. Now, there was nothing wrong with the guitar, but it’s not the type of axe that anyone would love. A couple of the guys that came in would’ve been happy with a low-end Fender acoustic.
Check out the price tags on the guitars that are being handed to you. If they’re all high, watch out. The guitar store probably doesn’t have your best interests in mind.
They don’t seem to be responding to what you’re asking for. My “good” guitar store guy listened to me play for a while and asked what I was looking for. When I asked to buy a certain Telecaster, he handed me another one which was incidentally cheaper than the one that I was ready to buy. It sounded better with my style, so I bought that one instead.
The bad guitar store, on the other hand, tried to sell me a 12 string guitar when I asked for a “fuller” sound. That’s just not listening to the customer.
When you visit a guitar store, have some adjectives ready to describe the sound that you’re trying to get from a new guitar or amp. The salesperson should listen to what you’re asking for if they’re not just trying to rip you off.
Their accessories are wildly overpriced. If a guitar store is charging a ton for accessories, it’s a safe bet that they’re also overcharging for their instruments. A common tactic is to mark up the price of every guitar to list price, then to offer customers a “deal” if they agree to buy a guitar. This “deal” is often the price that you’d get at a major online guitar shop.
Let’s go back to my bad guitar store. Their owner offered to make me a deal on a Martin D28. The deal turned out to be the same as what you’d get online (I had a smartphone with me and I checked it right away), so he offered to knock another hundred bucks off the price. Now, negotiation is part of buying a guitar, but he was being pretty transparent about the fact that he was going to make me pay as much as he possibly could. I also noticed that he sold strings for more than list price.
My good guitar shop guy not only sold strings at a good price, but he took a loss on them for years. He only sells guitars now, but he kept his accessory costs low because his customers trust him. When you find a guitar shop that’s willing to explain things about guitars to you and to help you buy a guitar that’s right for you–and not just expensive–you’ll never have to worry about a guitar store ripping you off again.
Has a guitar store ever tried to rip you off? Post about it below.