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  1. Registered User

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    Default The Case Against Guitar Center

    Like a lot of folks, I've spent thousands of dollars at Guitar Center, over the years. I've participated in the Drum-Off a number of times, (and won the Store Finals six times, in three different cities). I've made friends with employees at the GC closest to me, on a number of occasions, and even became life-long friends with a buddy who I originally met as a customer; in fact, I was in his wedding.

    A few days ago, I went in to GC, looking to wheel and deal on a used 16" Zildjian K Custom Dark Crash that had been sitting on their wall for awhile. I asked the drum salesperson what his thoughts were on using K Customs as all-around cymbals, for jazz gigs, blues gigs, top-40 gigs, etc. And that's where this story begins.

    The guy I dealt with proceeded to lead me -- or so he very obviously thought -- on a twenty-minute escapade through the cymbal room, giving me every opinion he had on which cymbals would work best for rock and metal, because that's what he plays. He proceeded to tell me which ride cymbals were his favorite ride cymbals, largely due to their abilities to double as crash cymbals. On several occasions, he mentioned a line of Paiste cymbals that GC doesn't even sell, because John Bonham used them, before switching to some other brand of cymbal. I nodded, smiled, and pretended that I was even remotely interested in anything he was telling me about his (and John Bonham's) tastes in cymbals, because his disconnect from anything I was interested in had become painfully obvious. In the end, without even registering what I'd come in for, he recommended that I buy an entire cymbal pack, because they're "such a great deal."

    I wanted a used 16" crash cymbal.

    To play jazz.

    Figuring that I could get at least *some* use out of this guy, I asked him if he'd mind playing the crash I was interested in, while I listened from the other room. I mentioned that I wanted to hear how well a 16" Cymbal would cut through the chatter of a room full of customers and random guitar sounds. And as if any question remained about what type of playing I'd get, the guy proceeded to play a medium-tempo hard-rock beat in 4/4.

    I play jazz.

    And salsa.

    Like I'd mentioned.

    Several times.

    And it's not that a nation-wide retail chain hiring a mediocre player with a fairly severe case of the Dunning-Kreuger effect is such a travesty. Every Home Depot and Chili's in America has that one guy who's just totally out to lunch. The problem is that EVERY DRUMMER at EVERY GUITAR CENTER is this same guy. The guy heard nothing that I said, connected with nothing that I do, and had no real expertise to offer, but topped off that trifecta of terribleness with a recommendation that I either buy a 22" Sweet Ride and a couple of 20" crash cymbals, or one of their $950 cymbal packs.

    I play jazz.

    And I told him that.

    For real.

    Today, I returned to GC, begrudgingly. I had $120 in my pocket and a 12" Zildjian A Custom splash cymbal to trade in. They were asking $150 for the crash I wanted, so I figured I'd get 40 or 50 bucks for my cymbal, because it's got zero cracks, zero keyholing, and despite having some smudged logos, is in excellent shape. I figured I'd make up the difference between my cymbal's trade-in value and the price of the K Custom with cash. What I didn't tell the kid working the counter is that I'm going through a phase of pure, literal obsession with watching eBay, Craigslist, OfferUp, and Facebook Marketplace, to keep tabs on the prices of cymbals. So when he told me that they would sell my splash for $60, I laughed. I happen to know that GC's policy is to give customers about half of their trade-in's value, so I didn't wait for the guy to say, "I'll give you $30," before I walked off. And it's not that the cymbal is worth *way* more than $30. I see the same cymbal on eBay, in about the same condition, selling for $80. So they could have given me $40. I would have preferred $50, assuming that they'd sell it for $80 or so and make $30 on the deal, but I suppose I could have settled for $40.

    Either way, the money itself isn't the problem. The problem is these corporate chains moving in to American communities, driving off all of the mom-and-pop stores, and then giving us these second-rate shopping experiences. The kid behind the counter could have given me $50 for my cymbal and then sold me his used K Custom crash, which probably had 70% gross profit in it to begin with. On top of that, even given my hatred for the corporate takeover of our society, he still might have made a somewhat loyal customer out of me. I mean, I'll never take any of GC's salespeople seriously, but to the extent that they carry decent products at low prices, I suppose I could have looked past my philosophical qualms with them.

    But this isn't what corporations like Guitar Center build their business on. The axiom that drives companies like Guitar Center is "profit at all costs." Sure, they'll offer some degree of customer service, and many of the employees at these stores mean well. But even employees with the best of intentions can't change the bedrock of Guitar Center's mission, which is to syphon money from American soccer moms, in return for entry-level rock-'n-roll gear that GC hopes they'll lose interest in, so that they can but it back and sell it again; corporate megaliths like Guitar Center function like a cancer, in this sense, growing relentlessly, whether it's healthy or not.

    Anyway, if you're still reading this, just know that there are still hometown music stores in most major cities. We don't have to financially support the millionaire shareholders at GC Corporate with our paychecks, while they provide us with novice musicians whose primary concern is meeting sales goals.

    I encourage everyone reading this to consider supporting their local music store, so long as that store provides you with actual care.
    Last edited by Ryan_Cox; 08-14-2019 at 05:14 PM.

  2. Registered User

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    Default

    GC doesn't exist in the UK, guess I'm lucky!
    Pearl Prestige Session Select SRX 1998 in black mist
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  3. Drumming Since 1943

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bodgit View Post
    GC doesn't exist in the UK, guess I'm lucky!
    Every single GC in Paramus, NJ went down a while ago. Think about that for a moment- Paramus, NJ is the Mecca of retail on the east coast. And they couldn’t keep ONE open. Strangely enough, Scam Cash, I mean Sam Ash- remains open, despite its overall decades-long crappiness.

    I predict music stores have maybe 5 years left, if that.
    Way Too Much Crap

  4. Unban nik12

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    I don't get this thread. Sounds like just another Guitar Center story, nothing we haven't heard before. I only go to GC in a pinch, I have 2 local drum shops in Nashville, which I give my business to.

    To be fair, the kid was probably stoked to talk shop with someone who was somewhat knowledgeable, and if you'd asked me to play a jazz beat, I don't think I could. Keep things in perspective.

  5. Drumming Since 1943

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    Quote Originally Posted by MitchLyons View Post
    I don't get this thread. Sounds like just another Guitar Center story, nothing we haven't heard before. I only go to GC in a pinch, I have 2 local drum shops in Nashville, which I give my business to.

    To be fair, the kid was probably stoked to talk shop with someone who was somewhat knowledgeable, and if you'd asked me to play a jazz beat, I don't think I could. Keep things in perspective.
    What IS a “jazz beat”? I’d probably be that kid too, although I’d admit from the outset that I came up on Testament and Slayer not Coleman and Mingus.
    Way Too Much Crap

  6. Registered User

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    No issue with your rant but for accuracy sake:

    1. GC is hardly "growing relentlessly". Their stock is barely above junk status and likely to fall back into that rating given the declining market for instruments. Financially they've been on life support since the mid-2000's.

    2. "Millionaire Shareholders" is a bit of a misleading term. I don't doubt that there are some millionaires holding GC stock, but if you have a 401k or a mutual fund of some kind, you might be holding GC stock as well. No reason to class warfare the whole shareholders vs. customers thing.

  7. Drummer since 1963

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    I don't like or want help shopping drum stuff. If I don't know specifically what I want walking in the door I will either find it or I won't. In desperation I will ask if I don't find what I want.
    Cymbals especially. One whack and I can decide if a cymbal is worth a second perusing. I don't want anyone wasting my time with suggestions either. My ears do the deciding. I don't want someone demo-ing from a distance. They aren't going to hit like I do and I would want to avoid the exact scenario you just described.
    Sounds like we have similar wants. I don't play jazz, mainly blues- rockin' and traditional. The traditional can employ a lot of jazz feels and fills so I totally understand where you're coming from. For my ride I have gone to a 22" Sabian XSR Monarch Ride. I can't back off enough on other rides during the quieter stuff and I find it's easy to control and never gets in the way. You can lay into it as well without it building up. Sometimes from behind the kit it sounds too blah but then somebody will post a video from the gig and it sounds sweet as can be! It cuts after I might have been wondering if it's too quiet.
    Last edited by Ron Gerber; 08-14-2019 at 10:36 AM.

  8. Registered User

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    The guy you talked to on the first visit...was his eyes all red and glossy? 'Cause he was H.A.F!

  9. The Hardware Guy

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    Quote Originally Posted by JY Kelly View Post
    I came up on Testament and Slayer
    This is why we're brothers.... PS, going to see Testament, Exodus and Death Angel next spring when they bring their "Bay Area Strikes Back" European tour to the UK - can't wait!

    PEARL CZX "CUSTOM Z" ALL MAPLE
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  10. Drumming Since 1943

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thrush View Post
    This is why we're brothers.... PS, going to see Testament, Exodus and Death Angel next spring when they bring their "Bay Area Strikes Back" European tour to the UK - can't wait!
    Horns Up!
    Way Too Much Crap

  11. Comrade Tim

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    I've ceased using GC all together - Sweetwater gets the bulk of my business for everything not actual drumset or drumhead related....sticks, sound system, etc....cymbals I try and source thru local music sources other than GC.....****ing hate that place.

    Kit Pix
    Pearl | Aquarian | Zildjian | Vater | Yamaha

  12. Registered User

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    Unfortunately where I live it's really my only option. As far as employees...it's a roll of the dice. If you get a knowledgable person, they won't be there long. If they're smart at work they'll be smart enough to move on.

    The original Drum Shop I first used is still in business but they're only open in the evenings now and re neighborhood has gone way down.

    I don't want to get stabbed by a meth head after purchasing a drum head!

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