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…..