Guitar Shop Do’s and Don’ts

So, I’ve worked at a small but successful “mom and pop” type shop for nearly three years now. Over that time, I’ve learned many things that you might not think of as obvious, but should be. Some are common courtesy. Some are things that you wouldn’t think would annoy a guitar shop employee, but do. Here’s my best attempt at documenting them.

  1. Don’t go into a shop, and immediately reach for the most expensive electric or acoustic guitar.

    You might be interested in buying it. You might just be curious what it’s all about and why it’s expensive. That’s cool too. But you should always ask first. The guitar shop has to sell this instrument as new. They don’t want it to get shop worn with dozens of nicks or marks.

  2. Don’t just grab a guitar, plug in, and turn on an amp, especially a tube amp.

    Tube amps can be very expensive. If you turn one on and don’t let it warm up, or even worse, turn it on when a cable has become free or loose, it can damage it. Again, shops sell these as new, warrantied amps. They don’t want unnecessary wear and tear, whether you want to buy it or  you have no intention on ever buying it, or you are, but not until next month. You are a customer, but so is the guy after you.

  3. This isn’t your jam room.

    Don’t grab a couple acoustic guitars and start jamming out with your buddies. Sure, trying out a couple acoustics is totally normal. How else would you know if you want to buy one, either then or later down the road? But sitting there for an hour jamming with your friends, particularly when you’re belting out some singing, isn’t cool. It’s annoying, to the shop employees and other customers. And yes, it has happened where a couple gentlemen were playing acoustic guitar loudly, in the main area, and one dude started singing. Loudly.

  4. Don’t try something out, take the shop employee’s time, and then go and buy it online so you can save tax.

    I’m sorry, but this is just bullshit. The shop, be it our small shop, Guitar Center, Sam Ash, or whomever it is, is not your personal showroom for you to try gear, then buy it on Amazon. It’s just not the right thing to do. We want to sell you the gear. We want to provide you with world-class service. We want you to make an informed decision, even if that means buying the less profitable gear, or nothing at all that day.

    But at no time do we feel sorry for you because that last minor amount of money by way of state and local tax is the tipping point for it being too expensive for you. Think about that the next time you get a flat tire because roads suck, or your kid’s school is asking you for more school supplies because they have no money. 🙂

  5. Do ask questions, if you have them.

    There’s the old cliché “there’s no such thing as a stupid question”. Well, there are stupid questions. 🙂 But even if you ask one, that’s okay. I can only directly speak for my shop, but we’d rather answer too many questions, than have you get home and regret your purchase because you didn’t ask enough. Can you bring your guitar in with your pedalboard to try out an amp we have? Hell yes. Great idea. Can you try out a pedal with your amp? Absolutely.

  6. Do be honest with the shop employees.

    Are you just looking? That’s cool, look away. Are you going to buy something today? Sweet. Just starting to look for a guitar you’re going to buy in a month? We’re hear to help. Just being straight with the shop people is the best way to get what you want, whether it’s about buying gear, or getting your gear fixed, or whatever the case may be. That should be an obvious universal truth, not just a guitar shop thing, but I think it should be said, because I don’t think it’s often enough the case.

  7. Don’t devalue someone’s work.

    Just like it is with a car at a mechanic for the most part, the labor fees for a guitar are the same whether it’s a sweet $4500 Paul Reed Smith or a $299 Ibanez. It takes someone’s hard work to make sure the instrument is adjusted correctly for intonation, neck relief, saddle height, and fret level. In fact, often it’s more work to work on a cheaper guitar, than it is an expensive one.

    So don’t hem and haw over paying $50 bucks or whatever to work on a guitar that only cost $200. It’s insulting to the technician, and it’s not going to get you anywhere. Just understand that it takes money (if you ‘re unable to do it yourself) to properly maintain an instrument. Just like it’s $50 to get the oil changed on your car, whether it’s a Porsche Cayman or a Honda Civic.

There might seem to be more “Don’ts” than “Do’s” here, and that’s true. And that may seem like it makes this a negative article. It’s really not, though. No good employee at a guitar shop ever thought less of someone because they’re not able to play “Eruption” on that expensive guitar but bought it anyway. No good employee ever snickered because a dude rolls up in a Benz, and yet walks out with a $300 guitar. No good employee ever talked someone into getting a service done for the instrument that’s not really needed.

What’s a happy customer? Someone who comes in and buy something? Hopefully. What’s truly a happy customer? Someone who’s in the shop frequently, once a month, once a week, once every other month, whatever. The person who thought we did a good job, and were happy with the results, whatever it may be. That’s what every shop wants, a relationship, not a one night stand. 🙂

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