I don't remember what politician said that line in the title back in the 90s (I think). Heck, I might've just made it up for all I know, but I'm pretty sure that some politician somewhere pontificating about the economy rattled it off back 25 or so years ago. And that brings me to today's subject: our local guitar shops.
To start, we have more than our share of Guitar Centers in my area. There's one not 10 minutes from the casa (if I catch all the lights right). That's the one I usually go to because it's closest, but, within about 30 - 45 minutes (depending on traffic), there are 2 others. Then there are 4 local shops that shall remain nameless. Granted, I haven't been to any of the local places since the pandemic shut everything down, so I'm assuming there still there.
I've gotten to where I buy most everything online. It's convenient. Find the gear I want, place the order, have it delivered within 2 - 3 days depending on where I get it. Earlier this year, I had a less than optimum experience on an order, but I blame part of it on me. I ordered a name brand guitar from a store overseas, and it came in with issues. The store made an attempt to make it right, but, since I was in the US and their warranty was not, it was a pain to try to get them to cover the work. They ended up crediting me back the cost of the repair, but the guitar is still not what I would call publicly playable. Because of that, it has become my beater/travel guitar because I don't care if it gets stolen or not. Outside of that, the only other problems I have had ordering online were pedals that were DOA. Contact the company back, drop it off at the UPS store, and the replacement arrived a few days later. It's just too easy.
First, there are the local shops. Honestly, if they did make it through the pandemic, I probably won't be back to them soon.
The first one wasn't too far from the house. I liked it because it was close. And if I paid cash, the guy would usually give me a pretty good discount. Bought several things from them, and had tried to make them my go-to store. Then I had a couple of guitars I needed to get setup. The first one was an anniversary edition Epiphone. Not at all your typical Epi. USA made pups, CTS pots and switches, and a premium price tag. Comparing it to any other Epiphone, it felt and played better. Carried that one in to him, and when I went to pick it up after he was done with it, he spent 10 minutes talking about how he used to sell Epiphones, but "they turned to crap" and he quit selling them. Next was just a stock Gretsch Electromatic. Same thing. When I went to pick it up, he carried on for 10 minutes about how all Made in Korea Gretsch guitars were the worst thing ever. Then I saw that he had a stack of Fender Frontline catalogs (remember those?) sitting on his workbench, so I asked if I could have one. So he proceeded to lecture me on why he would not give me one since I didn't need to know all the specifics of what Fender sold. Then he told me he sold Fenders, but kept all his stock in the backroom so nobody would play them that wasn't serious about buying one. You know what? I'm not giving you money so that you can lecture me and call all the gear that I bring in crap. I haven't been in his store in probably 7 years. I saw that he moved. Further away. Then I moved. Further away. Good riddance I say.
The next local place was down not too far from downtown. I went there once, and they had a good stock of budget and name brand stuff. The guy at the counter immediately started directing me away from the stuff that I was looking at towards the very budget gear. Looking at it, it was priced so that I knew he was making a LOT more money on the budget stuff than he was the stuff I wanted to see. I left feeling a bit like he was trying to take advantage of me. Haven't been back. Some day I'll go back just to see if that guy is gone. The store seemed pretty cool, just didn't like that guy. Problem is that it's across town and I have to make an effort to go that way. So, if I'm ever in the area again, I'll stop by, but I'm not going out of my way.
Then there was the local shop that everyone had always told me I absolutely had to visit. So a buddy and I went one Saturday. The place was empty when we walked in except for one employee and one customer that were talking at the counter. They had a good selection and good gear. They even had some cool vintage gear. Prices weren't bad. My buddy and I were pulling guitars off the walls, pointing and talking about some of the stuff in cases, and generally fawning over some of the gear. After about 20 minutes, the other customer person left so it was just us and the employee. There was actually a couple of things that my buddy and I were interested in (he was actually looking for a new acoustic). We were there for probably another 30 minutes. The employee never said hi, bye, or kiss my foot to us, so we eventually left. Spent an hour there, my buddy cash in hand test driving some acoustics, and not even a peep from the store staff. Towards the end, we were quietly laughing over in one of the corners about how the employee never even asked us from across the room if we were looking for anything in particular. We finally left. My buddy spent just over 2 grand on an acoustic later that day at a store where the staff were a little more attentive.
The fourth local shop is a Music Go Round. I have no problem with them. The times I've been there, they've always been courteous, and their prices aren't too bad. The only problems with them are these (and they're not really problems). They sell used, so there have been times I've been in that they didn't have anything I was remotely interested in. Other times I've been and picked up several things. So, if folks aren't selling them good stuff, they don't have good stuff to sell. Second problem is they're on the wrong side of town. And by "wrong" I mean "other" side of town. Like all the way across town. Like that one store, they're far enough away I have to make a point to go there because I'm seldom just in the area.
There was a fifth shop just up the street from where I live now that I really liked. They definitely made their money on lessons. I live in a reasonably sized house, and we have bedrooms bigger than their sales floor. I tried to buy what I could from them. Strings and cables and such. They closed back in 2019. I hated to see them go.
Then there are the 3 local GCs that are sort of close to me. One has a great selection. It's probably the biggest one in this metropolitan area (where there are actually 7 GCs that I can think of off the top of my head). One always has great staff (but the smallest selection). Then there's the one that's the closest to me. I'll go to the great selection and great staff stores if I'm in their area, but don't usually make a special trip to them. The other one is just close. That's it's biggest selling point.
GC and I have a love hate relationship because of that closest store. They've done really well by me, and I've had to argue with staff a couple of times because they weren't being up front about things with me.
For instance, I bought a guitar once from the store. They had to order it in. When I got to the car after ordering it, I realized that it was costing me more than I thought it should, so I asked about it when I went back to pick it up. The guy told me they were charging me $60 for shipping to the store, and there was nothing they could do about the shipping because the guitar was on sale. So I told him to cancel the order, refund my money, and I'd go home and order it from the GC website where it was also on sale, have it shipped to the house, and not not be charged shipping. He said he'd "take a look real quick," then acted all surprised, and said something along the lines of "if I go to this screen I see that I don't have to charge you shipping after all, so I'll knock that off."
On the other side of things, when I did the great gear purge last year, my goal was to get rid of it all in one swoop and not have to sell it all separate on Reverb or somewhere. Before I loaded the FJ up and headed over, I called and talked to the store manager, and he told me their buying strategy. So I could easily put pen to paper and see if they were going to give me enough that I could live with the transaction. Turns out, they gave me nearly twice what I was figuring. Then gave me a good discount on a new guitar on the wall on top of it.
So GC is definitely not bad. They're just not always, how do you say it nicely, on the top of their game. They're close enough I occasionally head up just to see if there's anything I can't live without, but, honestly, I don't spend enough up there to have a real relationship with any of the staff there. That's not to mention that part of that is because they seem to turn staff over enough that as soon as I figure out who somebody is, they're gone and someone else is in their place.
I like local shops. I really do. My problem, however, is that there's the big box that usually has a big selection, but I don't feel any loyalty to them. Then there are the local guys that, by and large, don't seem to offer enough of a difference to make me feel like cultivating a relationship with them either. So it definitely makes buying online easier. From my perspective, most of the local shops will complain about losing sales online, but they're not doing much to try to stem that tide. I can buy anything they sell cheaper online, but they don't seem to want to do anything to encourage me to pay them a little more. They're not going to go out of their way for me since they don't know me, but they don't do anything to get me to come in more than once or twice.
And with that, it's back to Amazon or Sweetwater or American Musical or somewhere to do some window shopping.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. He believes chocolate milk made from milk that is anything less than whole milk is basically water and deserves to be dumped down the sink so nobody has to suffer through it. He hates having to shop for clothes. But he has a thing for really cool bags, and, consequently, has more gig bags than guitars and a closet full of messenger bags and backpacks. He still misses his dog who was taken by cancer years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.