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How is guitar center still in business?

I have a policy of never being a dick to customer service people, even if they are jerks or incompetent. I've been in their shoes so I just check myself and try to behave. So I have to vent here. Sorry, this probably won't make sense to anyone outside the USA, but be thankful you don't have this horrid company in your country.

tldr; Guitar Center can't get three separate transactions right and is super sketchy with the truth

Two weeks ago my wife buys be a $100 gift card at Guitar Center. They have a promo. They will give an additional $10 certificate for each $50 certificate bought. I'm not a big guitar center fan but I've got $120 to spend! Woohoo.

  • Hole burning in pocket I go in stor to Guitar Center to buy something. They have two Novation Launchpad Pro's in stock for $50 off the normal price. Sweet. It's one of the items on my list, so I'll take one. 30 minutes later the sale clerks can't find either one and gives up, telling me, "You're better off just ordering it online." I ask if I can get the same price online and they assure me I can. I go home and try to order it online. I find out 30 minutes later through customer service they don't honor in-store pricing online and it is one of several dozen items exluded from their current discount coupon. Oh well. No biggie. I'll spend the coupon later.

  • A few days later I go to a second Guitar Center. They have a different item I want in stock. Better yet, the item is actually valid for their Independence Day promotion of 15% off any "qualifying" item off $199 or more. The guy brings it out in a damaged box. GC guy swears he was the one that opened it and it was only to show a customer everything was in the box. I open it up and there are scratches and grime (yes grime) all over the item and no documentation whatsoever. I'm nice but adamant that I want a new item. He sighs loudly and goes to the back. Ten minutes later comes out with another damaged, clearly opened box and says loudly, "This one is definitely new!". As he's ringing me up I open the box and ask why knobs are missing from the item. It is totally used and he's either incompetent or lying.

  • Today I go to spend the gift cards because I just realized the two $10 cards that came as a bonus on the $100 card my wife bought me expire at midnight tonight! I enter them at checkout and they don't work online. I call customer service and explain that I want to use 3 gift cards but that 2 aren't working. I spend 30 minutes with customer support person trying to figure it out. They finally tell me, "let's create a transaction, put the item you want in the cart and we'll sort it out once we've done that. Don't worry, I'll resolve this one way or another." I figure they will take the gift card that works and apply a discount equal to the two that don't. I give them my credit card and address assuming everything is good. The GC guy puts me on hold (presumably to get a supervisor's approval for the discount) and comes back 10 minutes later telling me the order has processed just fine, I won't have any more trouble with my credit card. I'm totally confused. I ask how much he's charged me and he tells me he's charged me FULL price for the item. I explain that I called about gift cards and was expecting him to resolve that issue before just charging me. He's totally confused (almost like he's stoned) and puts me on hold again. He comes back 10 minutes later and tells me he's canceled my order and there isn't anything he can do about the gift cards, they are expired (even though they clearly state they aren't). I ask for a confirmation # on the refund and he tells me there isn't one, I have to take his word for it.

What is wrong with these people? Between the lost inventory, used items sold as new, gift cards that don't work and pretending you are solving a customer's problem and then charging them full price, I've completely written Guitar Center off. I've also written off the gift cards and won't ever go back to this chain again. In fact, I'll pay a 20% premium to NOT shop at Guitar Center.



  • Very interesting. My only experience with GC is my Martin Acoustic I bought 15 or so years ago in MN. It was a great experience, no stoned, stupid or incompetent employees.

    It would appear you hit all of the bad experiences yourself. Usually this kind of thing is spread out and doesn't hit one customer. Sorry you had to experience it.

    I just bought a guitar through Musicians Friend over the 4th. It went very smooth, sales guy on the phone was very nice and competent. Plus I did get 15% off my guitar, no tax or shipping. From what I understand, they are the same company, or sister companies or something.

  • My experience with music stores in Sweden (big or small) is that they are all hustlers & scammers, or tries to be. Customer service isn't exactly top notch. And yes, you do need to check your product to make sure it's actually new, before walking out a store. If we had something like sweetwater here, that would be amazing lol

  • Try Sweetwater. Very professional salespeople! Been dealing with them for about four years and have had nothing but great experiences with them!
    I used to work at GC but quit because it was like the Wal-Mart of music stores!

  • Update:

    I decided to contact GC one last time via chat. It's $20 after all! Apparently their system is down and couldn't automatically check the balance. They gave me credit, but I have to use it in store :s

  • Been there too many times, although I'm referring to Radio Shack. My experiences with GC have been decent, but your story reminds me of my dealings with RS. I used to work for them years ago, and I was amazed with how shoddy their training was.

    Agreed with @ colorofdubious...Sweetwater is more of a premier provider.

  • @colorofdubious said:
    Try Sweetwater. Very professional salespeople! Been dealing with them for about four years and have had nothing but great experiences with them!
    I used to work at GC but quit because it was like the Wal-Mart of music stores!

    Though it doesn't really help the op's situation at all, I will also vouch for Sweetwater. They are absolutely amazing as far as customer service goes. I still get calls and emails asking me about a guitar I purchased there. Not selling anything. Just making sure it's making me happy. Not even kidding. It blows my mind. They deserve a shout here. Again...of no use to the op and his problems at all. Apologies.

  • I'll take the recommendation anyways @colorofdubious and @boone51!

    I have a short list of a few things i'm looking for so I'll end up trying them next.



  • They're struggling to keep up with online stores that beat them in every area. The Guitar Center in Flint, MI where I live has almost no one working there, mostly empty shelves, and the worst guitars I've ever seen. It will probably be a payday loan shop in a a few years, if that.

  • I buy most of my stuff from a locally run shop (McNeil Music -- owned and operated people who live here). Buy local, and all that jazz. But if McNeil doesn't have what I need, Sweetwater is the place to go.

    There's a local Guitar Center. You couldn't pay me to buy stuff from them.

  • @colorofdubious said:
    Try Sweetwater. Very professional salespeople! Been dealing with them for about four years and have had nothing but great experiences with them!

    I heartily agree - and also recommend Sweetwater. I've had nothing but good experiences with Sweetwater in terms of my purchases from them.

    They assign you a sales person and you always go through to that person if they are available. You get to know them. They get to know you. Excellent customer care. They immediately have your purchse history to hand and will also call periodically to see if there's anything they can help with or anything you need they can recommend. Same with followup emails. Not at all pushy.

    In fact, my current sales guy seems a tad slower to interact than the previous ones I've had - they've been more proactive - but still has come up with what I've needed when I've needed it as I've touched base with him.

    Always polite. Always helpful. Always appearing to go out of their way to help. Site is great - plenty of tips and tricks and technical help which they don't need to put up there but they do to help customers.

    Post-sales tech support is also good. They've helped me out with a couple of issues I had with a 3rd-party company - placing a service call on my behalf and following up with that company and with me. Excellent! :+1:

    Their prices are usually competitive too, and they also do a great deal with spreading the cost on the Sweetwater card on many purchases - 24 or 36 months.

    Plus you get candy in the boxes when they deliver :wink:

    So, for Sweetwater, I'd say three thumbs up! :smiley: :+1: :+1: :+1:

  • @robertreynolds said:
    I have a policy of never being a dick to customer service people, even if they are jerks or incompetent. I've been in their shoes so I just check myself and try to behave. So I have to vent here. Sorry, this probably won't make sense to anyone outside the USA, but be thankful you don't have this horrid company in your country.

    tldr; Guitar Center can't get three separate transactions right and is super sketchy with the truth

    Agree. Many years of bad experiences. Like you. Used gear sold as new. Deceptive coupons or promotions. Dishonest salespeople. Nothing in stock. There are a couple of good flagship stores. The rest are a joke.

  • I think your GC experience can be applied to a lot of retail stores today which is sad because stores were a lot better when I used to work in retail in my younger years. Back then you were well trained and taught the customer is always right. I agree Sweetwater is the best.

  • Another nod to Sweetwater. Great service and great support as well.

  • GC has been through so many ownership and leadership changes now that they're a shell of what they were (which wasn't great then really either). But I know they've been finding ways to pay people less and less and you get what you pay for.

    And between online sales and Walmart, anak stores have trouble keeping up. Sweetwater is not small at all but they are fantastic.

    The only reason I go into GC these days is to get something small that I don't have time to order, like a stand light the morning of a gig that I was told i needed to bring my own.

    Probably the only store I don't generally replace with mail order is microcenter. But when I went to get a raspberry pi a few weeks ago they didn't have much there, so I had to order the case and power supply from Amazon. But generally they are well stocked and knowledgeable. Still, I do see a decline the from when they first opened here as well.

  • I love the used section on the guitar center website, and have had unusually good experiences with the staff online and in person over the years. Any time there was something wrong, they made it right. Ironically, the shady experiences I've had have been at mom & pop music stores. It's a strange world.

  • edited July 2016

    They are heavily into the used market. You have to be on your toes

    They are very convenient.

    45 day return on instruments, no hassle.


  • I try to avoid the one here in town but I've actually had decent interactions the few times I went. I try to buy from one of the locally owned shops first, sweetwater second, GC/MF last.

  • Sweet Water gives you candy! ;-)

  • It's a little sad really. I used to buy from Musicians Friend (parent of or owned by Guitar Center) exclusively for online stuff, and never had anything but an excellent experience. I hadn't bought anything for a couple years, but naturally assumed MF would be the best place to pre-order my NanoKey Studio.

    I was the one who started the original thread about the NanoKey Studio, and sadly, after pre-paying via PayPal, I watched as one after another everyone received theirs from other sources, while mine remained on backorder. I finally got yet another email update saying they were still out of stock. Fed up, I called to cancel the order. They looked it up and it was in process of being shipped. This, minutes after they emailed me saying they didn't have it. They were very nice on the phone, but definitely not the company they used to be.

    Sweetwater it is for online purchases in the future for me I think.

  • I still like MF. The deal I got on my Les Paul was really nice. They were nice and helpful, to me at least.

  • wimwim
    edited July 2016

    Yeah, just one bad experience on a pre-order isn't much to blacken their reputation for. I'm probably being a little harsh. I was surprised, more than anything. They used to totally have it together.

  • I have dealt with MF for years and years and have never had a bad experience. I always recommend them to everyone.

  • grrrrr... just had a tiny but annoying issue at a locally owned shop. This stuff can happen anywhere. just gotta shrug it off and appreciate the moments / places with good customer service

  • never had any issue at the 3 guitar centers locally, they have always been helpful and reasonable. However, I always check with Sweetwater first. they have an over the top excellent staff, that get you the right product at the right price, and deliver it very quickly. After your first purchase they will set you up with a salesman. I can call my salesman, and ask him questions about new gear, and ask about sales or anything, and he always responds back to me the same day, and is never pushy about selling something. they are exactly how a music store should work. In fact they have a video online, that shows how much of a family they're employees are there, and what a cool campus their work environment is. I highly support Sweetwater!

  • Having read through this thread (and with no dog in the fight) I think Sweetwater should be using this forum as an ad in some creative way and be sending us all candy as well.

  • I would never buy new there, but their Used area on the website is great, price-wise. I just picked up a Volca for $99. Works beautifully.

  • They are so confused I’m out of around 125 bucks. They said 116. So they’re confused and have me confused but I have bank statements and documents. I have had instore credit as a refund without my knowledge. I had to call their customer service to find that out because they charged me twice for the same fuzz pedal. Originally they charged me more than brand new for a used fuzz pedal. And so the gave me 31 bucks on a gift card and said the rest would be in the bank. Well instead they charged my bank twice. And put my money in their store. I had just brought a gift my wife bought which was originally 346.00 and they wanted an extra 70 some bucks because I wanted to exchange for a Jhs unicorn and a fuzzz. The unicorn Jhs didn’t come in until over a week later. I had confirmed with customer service line and the local store I had 116 because of their mistake.
    So ok I guess were even now. Figured the math of close enough. Well my Jhs unicorn cake in and it was defective and noisy I wrote Jhs 3 days no replay so ok refund. I called customer service and they assured me I could even get shipping because the pedal should have been checked. I have already spent 2 hours from them trying to get me the first time. I want a refund and give me 116.61 that is instore credit. I’m done because at the local store they said no we’re not giving you your shipping.

    He gave me 113 and some change for my instored credit so something happened right there it was supposed to be 116.61. So I’m just happy to eat 10 bucks here 3 bucks there to get away from them. The Jhs unicorn used cake to total of 194 with warranty shipping and taxes. They had no new ones available on backorder until April of 2019.

    Wel only 72.83 of that went into my bank after I was told 186 something. Well I called customer service and they said they show 116.61 still in my instore credit and now 113. I said what are they trying to pull here ? Called the store they said no we gave you all that. I said no I got 113 and some change and y’all only gave me 72.83 in my bank. I figure around 124 short.

    Now I think they all do that to confuse people. And confuse the managers and maybe judges. Lawyers. And try to pocket this money. Funny 113 and some change plus 72.83 equals what they told me my refund would be so where is my 116.61 ?

    Then I spent more hours at the store and on the phone and it was like the local guy said he put it on my gift card. So now I’m going back to where I was overcharged and I lost my cool because now I’m thinking they had to many bong hits and they need drug money.

    I called hq and they said they would inform a regional manager I haven’t heard anything yet. Except the local manager called and he said he can find a needle in a hay stack and he’s got my. Told me to give him the numbers of the gift card and he’ll put the money on it. I said it’s at home can I come by after work. I do plumbing and work late so I’m very tired to ride in that 8 lane busy traffic where guitar center is.

    I showed up at 8 pm last night and his buddy nick gets my gift card and he keeps it and gives me the 31 bucks off of it. And reached to shake my hand as if we are square. I said I was told you were going to give me 116.61. He said no you have to see Richard. I said Richard told me that you nick were going to get me straight so I just wasted yet more time and gas. I said y’all wanted that bank card pretty bad are y’all trying to cover your ass. They owe me more than 116.61 but I was willing to eat shipping and a few bucks. But now I’m calling hq and preparing for court.

    I did business with musician friend for years never had a problem. And my wife goes to guitar center for a gift and I already knew from what I heard with my luck something was not gonna be cool. But I didn’t think it would be this bad

    I’m respectful to people and I haven’t even cussed me out yet. And I haven’t talked bad about them yet. But I’m going to let the truth be known as of now. I’m going to get them for court cost lost time at work and all the time I have documented on our phones now. All I wanted what was fair.

    But it looks like they want to pay way more. And they will.

  • I have bought a number of synths, and a couple of guitars, and some miscellaneous musical equipment and returned a couple of items because they didn’t meet my needs. I never had any problems. Took advantage of their free financing and being able to see the equipment in person at their store. Bought a few items from them online. I’ve never purchased any used equipment there.

    Being able to see some items in person is important to me so I’m willing to spend a bit more as I want to support businesses that still allow me to do so. There haven’t been many retail places where I’vd lived which sell musical equipment so this could help to explain why they continue to stay in business too.

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