I recently purchased a guitar from the Guitar Center in Madison, WI. The experience, as a whole, was very... uh... lackluster. Now I have purchased from other Guitar Centers in America, and have found the customer service to be relatively good. As a matter of fact the Guitar Center in Tempe, AZ. is great!
I choose to buy my musical instruments and gear from a music store instead of online because I like the Music Store purchasing experience. There is nothing like the "buzz" created by the other musicians loitering on the in-store-gear and the smell of fresh tolex and guitar polish. I like to be able to loiter on the gear I intend to purchase for at least an hour to be sure its what I want. I really like the informative, musically intellectual, conversation exchange between the sales reps and myself. I also I like to give the sales reps a little workout to weed out the "weenies".
There is always at least one sales weenie who treats you like he is the guitar god and you are the lowly guitar doof. Most of the time I let them run their mouth, and then I will let them "show" me just how good this guitar sounds when they play it.... and then I burn-em-at- the- stake by picking up the instrument they just put down and "showing" them I'm not new at this.
Back to the recent purchase.
I usually work with a well informed and very friendly accessories sales rep named Rebecca. I had not, up to this point, made any major purchases outside of the accessories department and had asked her if she could sell outside of her department... say like a guitar. She said it shouldn't be a problem.
That being said let me educate for a moment. Guitar Center has figured out the selling power of a strategically placed good looking young woman. Most if not all Guitar Centers have at least one female "hottie" behind a counter somewhere in the store. The male customer traffic flow does increase when they are working and, Guitar Center also knows most guys wont back down from a major purchase in front of a good looking gal in order to not look like a broke musician. (Somehow men lose there sense of self control around fresh young woman)
Although Rebecca does fit this profile I do not work with her because she is a "hottie" , I work with her because she knows her gear very well and she knows what great customer service is.
All of you wanna be guitar sales reps listen up. No! really listen to what the customer is saying and respond appropriately. I don't want to hear about who or what your favorite player or gear is, I want you to talk about the gear I am interested in purchasing. Now I know you work on commission and it is a scary thing to look like you might not know what your talking about... but don't ramble on about some garbage I am not interested in... suck it up ... go ask the next available rep and find out what I need to know. Then you will look like a person who is more interested in meeting the customers needs than a person who is interested in being right. You'll also know the answer to whatever the question, the next time it comes up.
That is why I choose to work with Rebecca. As a whole females are more likely to find the answer to a quandary regardless if they have to ask another person for help. Don't believe... when was the last time you heard of a guy asking for directions.
Again... back to the purchase.
I don't live very close to the Guitar Center in question so when I called on a Sat. to sign up for a contest they were running I was a little disappointed to find out they would closed before I could make it there. But when the guy on the phone, Nick, asked me how far away I was he said no problem come on in and we will open the doors and let you sign up. I'm thinking this is great! A place that will keep the doors open for a person that might not even buy something.
I entered the store and to my surprise found a lot of peeps just hanging out. I found Michale the contest orginizer, and hurriedly signed up for the contest.
While I was listening to Michale the guitar guru excitedly chew my ear about some guitar player and guitar I could care less about, I spotted the guitar I have wanted to purchase for some time. I asked "How much?", he shoots me a price, I say "I need the hard shell case, cuz who would take there prize guitar anywhere without the hard shell case". "I want the (brand specific) purple or wine colored plush interior". I ask "What can you do for me on the guitar and the case". (for anyone who has not purchased a guitar before, the case is not included) He fires off another price.
At this point I realize before I get any deeper into conversation with this guy I need to honor my sales rep Rebecca. I ask, "Is Rebecca in today". "No", is his response, "She only works accessories anyway." "I usually go through her." I say quickly..... no response. I assume there is some problem and she cannot sell out of her area.
Before leaving he says he will throw in some strings, do a set up and throw in some extras. I like to think about all of my purchases so I say I will be back in a week or so and I will pick up the guitar.
About a week later I am on my way to Guitar Center to pick up "my precious", "my baby", "my...." OK I know its just a guitar but I have wanted this particular one since I was in high school before it was ever a production model! At that time this dude made one for himself and it was killer! Still is! Anyway I get to Guitar Center and as soon as I walk in I notice a foul stench in the atmosphere.
Someone had dirtied the waters with the proverbial turd. I can sense that somehow I have become the traitor... I need to get to the source of the fowl stench, but first I get my guitar. "Maestro... guitar please" Michale hands me the fine piece of craftsmanship and I saunter off to find Rebecca so that I can plug it in to a specific amp an check it for any electronic defects.
"Hi Rebecca I need to plug in to check this out!" "Well plug it in over there." she snaps, turns and walks away. Not the usual help full Rebecca. I get a hint of stench. I think I have figured out the mystery, so back over to accessories I go, and tell her I need to speak with her.
It takes a while but she is finally free to speak so I ask if she could have sold me the guitar. "Yeah" she says "but its no big deal". I could tell it was a big deal by the frustration that was exuding from her aura. I say "It is a big deal" and I explain what Michale had said about her being just an accessories personnel. I also explained that "I have not made the purchase and would gladly get the store manager involved to make sure that she was properly compensated." She says that will not be necessary Michale is her brother and I can buy from her the next time.
I was really peeved by this situation. I would like to say it was cuz someone messed over his own sister just to make a sale, but un-heroically and quite selfishly I was pissed because i was used as a pawn in someone's petty game. I start the meditation juggle.... Do I just walk out, and not get what I came for or do I buy it anyway and leave feeling a little violated. I buy it but not without a little confrontation.
Part of the problem with the customer service breakdown in America is we dont let people know that they are doing a bad job for fear of retaliation...
I go to Michale and say "Uh hey man I feel like Rebecca got short changed on this whole deal. Ya know I usually work with her, and you made me feel like she could not sell a guitar". This is where I realize this is not the first time this has happened and that he had purposely deceived me. His face gets all red and he starts to find ways to make it right, and talking about how he will have to pay for it later, because she is his sister, and this isn't the first time he has upset Rebecca at work. In the end he put her name on the ticket with his as the salesperson. I felt this was better than nothing and I picked up my axe and proceeded to leave.
The fiasco that follows will take a little more time to write so you'll have to wait for the next installment.