Those that know me know that I laugh at those that are often called cork sniffers. Whether online or face to face, I'm civil when I'm talking to them, usually. But there are times that they get on my last nerve.
Now for the uninitiated, let me define what a cork sniffer is. A cork sniffer is one of those that is so fixated on that specific piece of gear that nothing else is deemed worthy. Granted, we've all got that piece of guitar, like one of our guitars, that is absolutely the best thing ever and we wouldn't trade for anything. We've modded the heck out of it, and, despite what others tell us, there is no other guitar in the world that plays as well and sounds as good. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the ones that look down their noses at a Squier or MIM Strat because it's not an MIA Strat. They're the ones that will crap all over Epiphone because "it'll never be a Gibson." You get the idea. They look down their nose at a piece of gear and call it inferior based on its location of manufacture, the brand on the label, or some other seemingly important factor. That's a cork sniffer, and, in my humble opinion, there are 2 types.
There are those that are just uneducated. Those are the new players that are basically parroting what they hear others say and have no real basis for their opinion. They're the ones that say Gibson is the only brand to play because that's what they see their hero talk about and play (although their hero may've played a Tokai until they got their endorsement deal). I, generally, will give these folks a pass. Give them some education and experience, and they'll grow out of this stage. They'll eventually realize that, yes, Gibson is the premium guitar, but bang-for-the-buck there are some Epiphones that may be better than a Gibby.
Then there's the other kind, and they're the ones that really bug me. I call them "ignernt." Now, ignernt is a good Texas term. Around here, if somebody gets called ignernt, the speaker is saying that the speakee is smart enough, they just have chosen to act the fool and be stupid. They're ignernt. These are the cork sniffers that I have been known to make fun of sometimes. They're the ones that are so fixated on a brand (or whatever) that they can't see past the end of their nose.
I was reminded tonight that I used to be one of the second kind of cork sniffers. Maybe that's why they bug me so much. And I was reminded of this fact tonight.
Way back when I first started playing, all I knew was acoustic guitars. The first really nice acoustic that I was exposed to was a Martin. In fact, through a series of events, after only playing a couple of years, I was blessed to be given my own Martin (a D-35). Still have that Martin. It currently needs to have the bridge replaced, but is probably still my fave acoustic. It's a workhorse of a guitar. But I digress.
I had a Martin. All the pro players I knew either played Martin, Taylor, or something really high end like an Olson. Consequently, outside of Martin and Taylor, I really didn't know anything about guitars. I had played enough of each of those to know that I knew I liked the traditional Martin sound more than the modern Taylor sound, but they both sounded really nice.
Where I lived, I'd get together and play with a buddy once a week or so (we played in the same band), and we both played Martins. Another acquaintance at work was given a guitar for Christmas one year by his dad, and asked if my buddy and I would take a look at it and tell him what we thought. Bless his heart, that was during my days of sniffing corks.
The day that he brought it over to my house, I remember thinking one thing about the guitar and saying something completely different. In retrospect, I really wish I would have been honest enough with myself to give him an honest review. All I remember at this point was that it was a jumbo bodied Guild of some sort. From what I remember about the inlays on it, if it was chosen from their current lineup (although this was 30 years ago now), it would've probably been the equivalent of the F-55. And that would make sense as, from what I remember he used to say about his parents, they only bought the best.
Anyways, this guitar had a really great sound. However, it didn't sound anything like a Martin or Taylor. It was a very full, rich sound. Very balanced sound. All around, it was just a really great guitar. However, because it wasn't a Martin, I don't think I had anything good to say about the guitar that wasn't a backhanded compliment. "It has a really nice sound for something that's not a Martin." The other guy that was playing it with me was pretty much like me when it came to guitars. So he didn't really have anything positive to say about it either. The guy that had gotten it for Christmas left that evening disappointed that "it'll never sound like a Martin."
I've come a long way since then in both my musical journey and my overall view on life. I still very much like the sound of a Martin, but I also have a Boulder Creek and a Tacoma, and an Epiphone acoustic. For electrics, I've got Squiers, MIM and MIA Fenders, as well as Epiphones and Gibsons. For pedals, I have real live, green Tube Screamers and all kinds of TS clones (including the cheapest, Chinese made ones on Amazon). I've got a closet full of gear spanning the spectrum of price.
Growing up, my parents tried to teach me to always give people the benefit of the doubt; just because they're different than me doesn't mean they're bad. Give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me a reason to do otherwise. As the Disney song says, "if you walk in the footsteps of a stranger, you'll learn things you never knew you never knew." When it comes to gear, be open minded. Just because the headstock doesn't say what you think it should doesn't mean it doesn't have a song in it. Pick it up and play it and see what it says.
And, Joel, if you ever happen upon this to be reading, I really hope you still have that Guild. Had I not been in the middle of my "Martin or nothing" days, I would have told you that it was a dang skippy nice guitar that had a great, warm sound and anybody should be ecstatic to be able to play. I'm sure that guitar was full of music if I'd only taken a moment and listened to it.
I'm not a huge fan of Christmas. For more than 20 years, I've always managed to have a job that caused me to have to work on Christmas. And, if I wasn't working on Christmas, Mrs Snarf had to work the day before and the day after. So we hardly ever knew that the day had come and gone. That said, as a Christian, I believe that it is a great time of year for us to be reminded to be grateful, loving, and caring towards our fellow man.
Several years ago, Premier Guitar mag started this thing called their Mystery Stocking. I got in on that first one, and have tried to get in it every year. That first year, I managed to score a pedal out of it. That pedal got sold a while back on Reverb, but it was cool to be able to say that I had gotten it. I think that first year it was only $15. In the years since, due to demand, some years I haven't gotten one, and other years I have. I've gotten the basic box every year since then. The price has gone up on that basic box since then, and this year it was $40.
Before the big day when so many guitar players crash the PG servers, they'll post a vid that shows a room full of gear that they're giving away. As can be expected, on the video, they major on the 5 or so guitars that are being given away and the maybe 75 or 100 pedals that are in the mix as well. Those are the big ticket items that everyone wants. You, also, see a smattering of other more pricey gear like pickups speakers, leather straps, stools, but most of the room is full of strings and cables and t-shirts and things that, in the overall scheme of things, aren't expensive. PG also advertises that each of the basic boxes will contain the price of admission so to speak. This year, they advertised that they were doing 1,500 of the mystery stockings.
So the big day comes, and everyone that is interested gets to try to get in and put their money down to get one. This year, they were sold out in just a couple of minutes. And everybody that ordered one wants to get one of the big ticket items. However, if you do the math, probably 10% or less of those who get to order one get anything beyond the basic box. The basic box always includes strings and picks and a small assortment of miscellaneous items along with some "premium" item.
It always amazes me that, once the mystery stockings start shipping, the unboxing videos start, and the vast majority of those doing them are complaining about how worthless the box is, how it doesn't contain the entry fee ($40 this year) worth of gear, and how it's just a big scam and they'll never order one again. But let's look at it from a bit of a realistic perspective.
PG calls it a mystery stocking, but they're a business, so they're going to make certain that they're not losing money on them. I'm betting some of the stuff gets donated for the stockings, but I'm also pretty certain they have to pay for some of it - even if it's a really cut rate. Then factor in the price of the boxes, the price of labor to get them all assembled, and the postage. Remember, business...they're not sending these things out for their health, and they're dang skippy going to be sure that they're making money on the deal.
So we've established that they're not doing this out of the generosity of their hearts. Then they say that they you'll get your $40 worth even if you get a basic box. So, in factoring in the price, be assured that they're going to work off the MSRP and not necessarily what you might find it for on the street. Even still, not only did I get the basic box this year, I got the one that so many are complaining about online. So what was in the box?
We'll start with the stuff that I don't consider to have a monetary value. There was a ballpoint pen from a case manufacturer I had never heard of. There were several stickers and a couple of coupons. These are all the kinds of things that you can pick up as giveaways when the annual guitar show comes to town, and you can't find them online anywhere to buy, so no cash value for these. They're gimmes that are just thrown in. Then I got 2 sets of strings. One set of 9s and one set of 10s. Going rate at my seller of choice for both of those is $11.50 ($8 for one and $3.50 for the other). Then I got a strap from D'Addario that appears to list for $20. A clip-on tuner from Fender that lists for $20. A pick called a ChickenPick that appears to list for $7.50. (They sent me a single, but appear to sell them in 2-packs that cost $15.) Then I got a pack of Pick Boy picks that appear to list for $10 a pack. All that together lists out at $69. So it looks to me like PG lived up to their claim of a minimum of $40. Going to my seller of choice and getting the street price for all of this stuff still puts it at $59. So still above the $40.
So let's discuss all these folks complaining about "being scammed" and "getting junk" and "never ordering this again." In my humble opinion, the folks complaining need to put on their big boy/girl pants and realize a few things. First, PG did exactly what they said they were going to do and sent you $40 worth of stuff. They did NOT promise you that it would be stuff that you used. They did NOT promise you that it would be stuff that you even liked. What they promised is that it would be guitar related and worth $40. So quit whining because you weren't one of the very few that won a guitar or pedal or some higher dollar piece of gear.
Now for my opinion on this year's stocking...and you should know that I'm not complaining about it. Did I get $40 worth of stuff that I'm going to use? Not hardly. Did I get my $40 worth from it? Absolutely!
I got a strap that I'm not ever going to use. It went straight into the box of gear that I'll give away to someone when I hear them say "I could use a strap" or to some beginner player that hasn't thought to buy one yet. I got a clip-on tuner. I'm a guitar player, so I've got a tuner in every gig bag, and they're laying all around the house. I haven't opened it yet, so I can't speak to its durability or reliability, bit I can always use another tuner. Neither set of strings is what I use. In my opinion, strings are a pretty personal thing. Everyone has their fave, and that's the one they want to use. I won't use the 9s. At all. I don't play 9s because, for someone that plays heavy-handed like me, they're like playing with fishing line. I might throw the 10s into a gig bag to use if I get in a pinch someday, but neither set is one that I'd spend money on. The ChickenPick is a 2.1mm. That's waaaay too thick for my playing. Sometimes I play .72mm and sometimes I play 1.0mm. 2.1mm, to me, is like playing with a quarter. I've always heard good things about the Pick Boy picks, but I had never seen them. Also, I recently started playing with a jazz sized pick. The Pick Boy picks they sent are jazz sized and 1.0, so they'll get used.
Overall, I spent $40 on the box, and will use $25 worth of it. But I'm still happy with what I got. Why? First, I was honest with myself when I bought the box. I realized that I might get something good, and I might not. I, also, realize that, even if I get one of the basic boxes, I'm not going to be excited about everything in it, and there's going to be stuff in it that I may never use. Second, I look at it as a raffle that I get something out of whether I win or lose. I pay the $40 on a gamble in hopes that I win something really cool. If it were really a raffle, if I didn't win, I'd get nothing. On this one, I at least get a box of stuff that I may not use. Third, it's a fun opportunity to possibly be exposed to some things that I wouldn't have otherwise have bought. This year, that something to try is the Pick Boy picks.
I'm glad I got in on it again this year, and hope I am able to do it again next year. It's something I look forward to the first part of December. For those that complain about them, all I have to say is to be realistic. Only 10% of the folks get a premium box, and you (and I) happened to be the 90% this time. As Doc said in Tombstone, "only suckers buck the tiger. The odds are always on the house." If you're going to be a sucker, then don't buck the tiger.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. If Coca Cola was alcohol, he'd be a raging alcoholic. He dislikes going to the grocery store. And he still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 2 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.