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An Open Letter To Henry Juszkiewicz

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Dear Henry,

I’ve been playing Gibson guitars for 31 years now, currently own three (five if you count my Epiphones). I’m in the market for another electric and I was toying with the idea of buying a Les Paul Standard to replace a Custom I sold to a friend a couple of years ago, but I’m getting seriously turned off Gibson’s actions lately, and odds are I will indulge my Guitar Acquisition Syndrome with another marque.

I’m not especially alone in this feeling. A quick perusal of the Les Paul Forum will find many disaffected players, puzzled and angry at your policies. Perhaps you might say that it’s only the complainers being vocal in such forums, and that satisfied customers will merely quietly enjoy their guitars. I should note that I’m quite satisfied with my Gibsons, and that I have no quibble with their quality, playability or sound. My quibble is that you’re making it very hard to purchase a guitar in an efficient manner.

Perhaps you should talk to your dealers. My local dealer’s Gibson specialist shakes his head every time I ask about anything other than the few Standards and Classics he has in stock, quoting absurd waiting times for delivery from the factory and the possibility that an order would be rejected after months of waiting. When asking my dealer about a simple J160-E, he cannot find the standard model in your dealer catalog or price list, but he can find the more expensive “John Lennon Peace” model, something that I don’t want; funny enough, you can find the standard at Musician’s Friend, hmmmm?

I visited one of your Custom Shop dealers on a couple of occasions recently with a friend who wanted to buy one of your R series Les Pauls. The owner didn’t refer to you in terribly complimentary terms, describing dealing with Gibson currently as “difficult” (I will leave off the Anglo-Saxon modifiers he used for emphasis). This is one of your high-end dealers, Henry, who moves your primo high-end stuff, and he’s extremely frustrated with you.

Your recent moves aimed at cutting off Internet sales of Gibsons from all dealers except for your pet online sellers (and I should note that I have absolutely nothing against Musician’s Friend or American Musical Supply for purchasing commodity items, but their prices in many cases aren’t the lowest by far) has irked a lot of musicians. While I can understand trying to protect dealer territories, the fact remains that a lot of dealers cannot or will not follow through on anything out of the ordinary (for example, if you’re looking for an ES-345 instead of an ES-335, the average dealer will probably throw his hands up in frustration at the prospect). That necessitates tracking down dealers in other areas who do indeed stock such guitars, a fairly easy matter, but it would be nice not to waste those dealers’ time while searching for the instrument of my dreams. I fail to see the harm in allowing dealers to post pictures of their inventory. There might be a particular flame or quilt top that highly appeals to me, and I could make a decision offline and conduct the transaction in a highly efficient manner for both the dealer and myself. I’m sure that music dealers would prefer not to waste employee hours answering the cycle of e-mails that characterize someone in the pre-sales stage of shopping for a guitar.

And pricing. Obviously a sore spot, as unless there’s some profit in it, no one is going to commit to carrying inventory (and the attendant carrying charges can be huge, as anyone who’s ever looked at “floor planning” can tell you). The prices have gone up again, not unexpected after Christmas, and obviously since costs aren’t static, some increases might be necessary. However, your recent reissue of the Les Paul Deluxe was a really odd case. Musician’s Friend had them before Christmas for $1499. They’re now $1999. While it’s obvious that once they leave your factory you’re absolved of any role in the final retail pricing, the only way a commodity seller like MF is going to jack up prices such a huge amount is if their cost has increased significantly, and I can’t believe that a Deluxe has increased that much in less than two months, especially when Standards only increased $200. There isn’t that much difference in the guitars, especially considering the cheaper pickups in the Deluxe.

I can understand you wanting to steer people into your resellers, and believe me, I prefer to support my local dealers. However, there’s also the time factor, as I’m a pretty busy guy, and I may not have the time to take a couple of hours to get to a dealer in the region who might have what I want. If I can conclude a transaction over the Internet in a matter of minutes once I’ve committed to buying a guitar, it’s a win-win proposition. Perhaps price support is the issue here, but you’re not going to undo the theory of efficient markets and the shopping experience gained by people on the web over the last decade. Price is indeed a big point, but a local guy with excellent service at fifty bucks over the Internet dealer’s price will usually (not always) get my business. The problem is that you’re not getting the product to the local guys, at least in my area.

It’s not as if I’m looking for a custom piece here, Henry. I understand those can take a long time. You advertise ’em on your web site, and your dealers can’t get ’em. Same with your Epiphone marque. When was the last time you actually saw a Riviera 12-string in a music store (last time I saw one was an original ’67 in Guitar Center)? Or perhaps that cool Byrdland Elitist you advertise – never seen one in the flesh. Asking for an Elitist Casino gets you blank stares in most Epiphone dealers.

You’ve got the best-loved marque in American guitars, Henry (no squawks from the Martin fans, this is a Gibson rant) Don’t squander your goodwill with your dealers and players.

Now, what about that Gretsch…..

The Proprietor

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About The Proprietor

  • Chris Brancato

    I’ve been a dedicated Fender player and collector for years.

    I always wanted a Les…I still think the only ones worth owning are the ones from the custom shops.

    By the way, Gretch is owned by Fender…but I’m ceratin a man with your tastes clearly knows that already.

    The Buffettbassman!

  • Lono

    Well written, my friend. I too am a long time guitar player, but I pine for a Paul Reed Smith. At about $2000 and up, they are out of my range. Currently I play a Fender Strat as my main electic, but all my acoustics are Epiphones. As for the Les Paul, I never had much interest… too damn heavy.

    take care, and frankly you deserve a free Les Paul for taking the initiative to write.


  • Henry Justanarsehole

    Look Henry, I’m a pro, will never play a Gibson again, and will use all my influence (which is considerable) to sour everyone’s taste for Gibson guitars. From students, to kids in the audiences, to people I only see once and will never see again, I will speak of you and your company the same way you treated your employees.
    You can go to Hell, you asshole.
    To “Proprietor”. You are avery tolerant man. Have you heard what Juszkiewicz did to his employees? Your tone would change if you HAD heard.

  • Tim Bird

    I stumbled accross this site, whilst seeking some info on who to contact in Gibson to vent my complaints to (sloppy finish / deadful set up / case not as advertised etc). Was interested to see on a previous site a 67% reduction in employees at Gibson, and then the comments in ‘3 above – what have they done ??

    Incidentaly, to the guy who refers to PRS – i have one of those – really well made, great to play, great flexibility – but i just feel a bit happier using my new les paul at the moment – the sound is just what after.

    And to the guy who thinks LPs too heavy, ive heard this a lot, but to be honest i dont think there is that much of a noticable difference eg between prs/a 335 and a lp – after a couple of hours stood up playing i feel equally relieved physically to lift them off.

  • sdshell

    I have two classic guitars in which you may be interested in. The first is a 1958 Fender Stratocaster in perfect shape. Everything is original, along with the original case, and it has not been restrung (has original string). This guitar has been checked and verified. The second guitar is a National 1942 – 1946 (may be older as that was far as researcher could go back). The National needs to be restored. I have pictures if you’re interested.
    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • Kevin

    As a Luthier, I’m amazed at the poor quality of Gibson’s $3k + guitars. PRS does a great job of building consistent high quality instruments. I don’t know how they do it.

  • Jeff Mercer

    To the CEO and all quality Departments at GIBSON: The Red Light is Flashing!

    Im hoping this message goes to the guy or person who is in charge, this is the feeling of a majority of people who play music and work extra hard to buy a Quality guitar, This is addressed to the man or person in charge of all of Gibson guitars being made today, You have completely “missed the mark” when it comes to quality, and if I may speak my mind, and the mind of so many more who feel the exact same way, It’s an ABSOLUTE DISGRACE the type of guitars that Gibson is putting out in todays market, The person who came up with the the so called “worn look” ought to be tarred and feathered, and driven out of town in a dust storm, and made to buy “every one” of these lousy guitars, their cheap, they look cheap, and the word Quality should never be applied to ANY of these guitars. Whoever said this was a good idea should be SHOT! quality is gone completely, from Gibsons history as of late, these guitars are horrible and unless you sir, are being held hostage, somewhere, (which is the only excuse I would accept), this should not be! Have you people in quality control lost your minds? I’m a quality control inspector myself and take pride in my my job and my work, Quality Control people are the last line of Defense before a product is shipped out the door to a consumer! with good vision and a desire to do all I can do, meaning: Whatever is neccessary whether it’s COME EARLY or STAY LATE! these issues need to be addressed immediately, to get Gibson back up on top where it should be!
    It’s a shame a person has to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to buy a Vintage Gibson from the 50’s 60’s and 70’s an era long gone,to get a quality guitar, a real shame, and with all the money Gibson has made over the years you would think that in today’s economy, they would appreciate their loyalists just a little bit more than the smack in the face we’ve been getting,by asking these Ridiculous prices for these Cheaply made and cheaply put together guitars. Ray Charles would have made a better Quality Control Inspector than most of you! at least he could run his hand up and down the neck of a Gibson guitar and feel a BURR! that should’nt be their!
    Please this message is intended for the CEO of Gibson Operations and their so called Quality Departments all over the world, you should all be ashamed of yourselves. A blind man could see that! (sorry Ray no pun intended brother) Just some of the issues that need to be addressed are (1)Burrs on the frets, a buyer should be able to run his hand smoothly up and down the neck of “ANY” Gibson guitar without getting “spurred” or in some cases cut! what is so hard about doing this procedure BEFORE the guitar leaves the shop? again poor quality control.#(2) shoddy craftsmanship and poor quality parts, cheap plastic parts loose screws all over the guitar,poor setup,loose tuners,in alot and I mean alot of cases the bridge has either fallen off during shipment…or it’s become Verticle over the Journey to the store, Yea, whats the reason for that? using cheap decals on expensive instruments where pearl inlay should be or whatever should be used. Do you get it yet? this is about all models not just one type. these problems need to be addressed NOW! yesterday! people that pay alot of money for a Gibson guitar,do so because their proud of their Gibson guitar, and they like to brag about the fact that they have one, it’s like a badge of honor to a musician.Oh well…Im sure you get the point…hopefully. Does anybody Remember the phrase “Take Pride in your work and in yourselves”
    Frustrated and ashamed enough to do something about it! “If you don’t stand up for something you’ll fall for anything”QUALITY IS AN ACTION WORD! Anyone got a problem with anything that’s been said? here’s where you can find me,
    Nuff Said!
    [Personal contact info deleted]

  • PCW

    I am a former employee of Gibson Guitar-Henry Juszkiewicz/Dave Berryman. I was an artist rep in the early 90’s prior to going to medical school. If you are a “guitar player” and not just a “guitar owner” avoid this company. Paul Reed Smith gets it done with much more integrity. HJ displayed some disturbing behaviors while I worked for his company in the early 90’s. I highly suspect he is the same man today. The soul of Gibson was lost when it left it’s original home in Kalamazoo, MI.


    I agree with the article and many of the comments. I worked for a fairly large UK retailer that sold Gibson guitars. Many times I was forced to inform a customer that an order for a basic guitar, say a white LP standard, had not arrived and would not arrive. They deliver goods to retailers on an apparently ad-hoc basis, but unfortunately the retailers end up looking like the bad guys.

    Added to this, I saw the quality of the high instruments decrease to the point that the finish and playability of a 2011 gibson LP standard can be poorer than on my own Epi LP (circa 2000).

    I really hope that the company changes its ways.