Buying A "Black Friday" Guitar From Guitar Center's Website Is Extremely Difficult

I have a story to share about an ongoing problem I’m having with Guitar Center’s 20% off Black Friday sale. The sale was last Friday morning from 8am-10am. I woke up a little before 7am Friday, and had NO desire to go out at all. So I looked online and realized I could get the sale price on the Gibson SG I wanted (and free shipping) online. Perfect! Below is a brief rundown of what has happened so far (they still have not let me buy the guitar at the sale price):

1) I had to call their 866 number to order the guitar. OK, a little annoying, but I’ll deal with it.

2) Their phone lines were completely down within minutes after the sale started at 8am. I just got a generic phone company message, no busy signal or anything. For an hour.

3) I found their live chat, and got in Queue….at number 21

4) After almost 40 minutes I finally was number 1 in line, then got a message that all agents were busy, with a button to click for an email form.

5) I filled out a fairly polite email as my children and wife ran around me getting ready to meet my sister for breakfast.

6) I finished and moved my mouse over to scroll to the submit button……..NO SCROLL BAR. Just a word of advice to etailers out there, you MIGHT want to support Macs. It is the 21st Century.

7) After much cursing I managed to copy and paste the web address into Safari where the form did have a scroll bar, but I also forgot I copied the text of my email prior to that, and lost it. So I had to type it all over again, much angrier this time.

8) I hit submit and got a page that said nothing about my message, and had a “create account” button. WTF? So I clicked the button and got a page that offered generic solutions to problems I didn’t have, then in small type at the bottom of the page was a line of text asking if I was sure I wanted to submit my email. I did. At 10:05am. My wife and kids were now waiting in the car at this point, and we ended up 20 minutes late for breakfast with my sister.

9) 11:30pm Friday night I got a reply from what sounded like a high school kid with bad grammar, but he said I could call any time and still get the 20% off, b/c “We only had a few reps on the phone and there were hundreds of calls in cue.”

10) Sunday night at 5pm after family had left I finally had some time to call and order (again), so I called their 866 number. Another high school aged “dude” told me (after putting me on hold for 5 minutes) that I needed to respond to my email and tell them to create an account for me with a note that I could get the 20% off. I asked if he had any way of doing that. He said no. I offered the “incident number” from my email, but still no go. Ridiculous.

11) I sent a quick but slightly obnoxious response to my email from Friday, and asked for them to create an account for me, blah blah blah. Then I went downstairs to make/eat dinner.

12) 2 hours later I checked my email to find a generic response stating that my response had to be written between 2 very specific lines in the email or they could not process it. WHAT?! I then sent a very nasty response back about how it seems like they are trying very hard to keep me from purchasing the guitar at the sale price. This all happened almost 72 hours ago, and their email form states that a reply will be given to all communication within 24 hours.

13) I just checked back through my communications with them, and found a link to their site that has cataloged the emails I’ve sent. This is probably the only thing I can say they have done well so far. Yet it says the status of my complaint is “solved.” Great, now I get to start from scratch–thanks Guitar Center. I wonder how many other 20% off purchases they successfully stopped this way? I’m going to continue until I get my guitar at the sale price!

Jon

Sounds like they’d rather not sell you a guitar. We’d just as soon not give our money to people who clearly don’t want it, but that’s just our personal philosophy. We admire your tenacity.

Anyone have any advice for Jon?

(Photo:Random Hero)

Comments

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  1. ChewySquirrel says:

    That sucks, but seriously at one point you need to stop and think about how much your time is worth. I bet the time he spent trying to get this resolved isn’t worth that 20% discount, unless you do it out of principle.

  2. cmcd14 says:

    Guitar Center is one of the worst places I’ve shopped at. The two times that I have shopped there, it was an awful experience. The first time I was trying to buy an acoustic/electric guitar. For about 30 min the the sales guy was trying to get me to buy a more expensive acoustic. The whole time I was telling him I just wanted the one guitar I selected but wouldn’t get it from the back room. The second time I went there, I asked a simple question about a few guitars and the help just laughed at the question and walked away. Their help is awful and think they’re gods when it comes to the knowledge of guitars.

  3. Howie999 says:

    Strange. I went there on WEDNESDAY before BF, to check out what was going on sale. I found a nice 12 string I was lusting after, and the guy offered it to me for 20% off the marked price right then and there. The price in store was 10% MORE than the online prince, so I didn’t go for it (and I hope to get it for Christmas from loving family anyway), but there are obviously two sides to every coin. I think I could have gotten 20% off the online price if I had pushed…

  4. He says:

    My advice, buy used off craigslist or ebay. I’ve gotten a few ebay guitars. Or, check if musician’s friend is offering the same offer. Same company, slightly better website.

    Unrelated comment: SGs suck. If you really want one, get the epiphone (Gibson’s cheap brand for everyone who doesn’t know) version and buy better pickups separately.

  5. Howie999 says:

    Addendum: when I say I went there, I actually WENT to the Guitar Center B&M store.

  6. hamsangwich says:

    This seems like a lot of work on your part, and I’m sure the “snippy” comments just counteracting your efforts. If you’re polite the whole time you may get a little further.

  7. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Why would you want to buy from these morons? You think online or on the phone, the class of employee is any better than the wannabe musicians populating the sales staff like pimples on the ass of customer services?

    Not that I don’t like that shithole or anything. At least it’s not Sam Ass.

  8. armydrummer says:

    If you really want that guitar, go in the store, and talk to the sales associate or manager. Their prices are so inflated above invoice, I can promise after some serious negotiating, you’ll be able to get the guitar for invoice, if not cost. Whenever I buy drum equipment from Guitar Center, I waste a few hours hassling the sales guy, but he’ll usually give me the price Guitar Center paid for the equipment. If nothing else, go to a manager with the story, and if you can’t get the 20%, demand a free case or something, or maybe work a package deal by buying an amp with it. The guys I’ve had (the veteran employees) are usually flexible.

  9. ex_ea_slave says:

    So with the 20% discount, it should have cost as much as it would in a reputable music store. Guitar Center is notorious for being a pain to deal with in person, so I’m not surprised you got the runaround from their website also. And HE, who mentioned “SGs suck” above makes a good point. Not that SG’s suck, they don’t, but that the Epiphone SG is very nice for a lot less money. Over the years, I’ve become a purveyor of fine Korean guitars. I own an Epiphone SG, a PRS Santana SE (budget Paul Reed Smith), and an Applause (budget Ovation) acoustic/electric. The only one to give me trouble was the Epiphone which needed a volume pot replaced. I’ve been playing it regularly for 15 years, so replacing a pot is no big deal.

  10. Rode2008 says:

    Over the years I’ve had good luck buyng online and in-store from Daddy’s Junky Music (East coast chain).
    Website is http://www.daddys.com – NO, I’m not an employee.

    Your problem seems exemplary of the “wear you down” approach – in the hopes that you’ll go away.

    BTW: Is it true that Musician’s Friend and Guitar Center are one in the same? I did not know that. I’ve never dealt with Guitar Center, however, I’ve done some business w. Musician’s Friend (positive experience) and have also had a favorable experience with Zzounds (wwww.zzounds.com).

    Not sure if any of this helps, but I felt compelled to share some positives with online music supply places.

  11. Sixxtwo says:

    @Rode2008

    Musicians Friend and Guitar Center used to be one in the same, but if you drop into a Guitar Center retail location they will deny/play dumb about it. If you have our american ‘instant gratification’ thing, most of the prices still match between the 2 sites and the retail centers.

    @Everyone:
    I dont work for these guys, but here is my plug.
    http://www.chrisguitars.com

    These 3 guys have built a huge internet following on word of mouth alone. They are located in Albany, NY I believe. They tell it like it is, and set up the guitar properly before it leaves the store (cant speak for the UPS/USPS shipping apes that handle it afterwords) They dont carry a constant ‘line’ of guitars; they just pick what is good. Website is basic because it is constantly changing inventory (no flash/xml/crashIE extensions =) I like em!

    Sixx

  12. MonsieurBon says:

    Why is the original poster using Safari? It’s unstable and doesn’t play well with many sites. Firefox should really be your primary browser on a Mac.

  13. esmith747 says:

    I find it very funny that they do not have a Mac friendly website, because they are an Apple reseller.

    The best advice I can give is to find someone, anyone breathing or not to buy guitars from over them. I realize that they may have good prices (from time to time) but their stores, and apparently website are run by monkeys. And not your typical well-organized Indian Monkeys, but your backwoods, fling poo at themselves type.

  14. CharlieFogg says:

    Find a good local store (where they’re nice and helpful,) and give them your money. They might even match the price.

  15. JOSH_FROM_QUEENS says:

    I think the original poster was indeed using Firefox and GC’s website didn’t support it, so he had to use Safari -I’ve had this happen a couple times, where the scroll bar doesn’t work in Firefox, and it’s always at the worst time, too. It’s GC’s fault.

  16. jpleonard says:

    I should have submitted my story.
    Easily the WORST company I have ever dealt with. Last time I got burned, this happened. I called and explained I was looking for a specific guitar with specific electronics (Epiphone just changed some things, so I was trying to avoid the old stock). I spoke to some young, yet polite punk. Explained everything about the guitar and even explained the specific electronics I wanted. He put me on hold twice and came back and assured me they had it in stock. It was so new that they did not even put it on the floor yet. I told him I would drive in tomorrow (1 & 1/2 hrs away) to get it.
    Next day, I showed up, punk was at lunch, so I got another guy to help (who was actually very nice).
    No guitar. Grad another guy, go in the back. No guitar. Search continues.
    Just then, punk comes back from his lunch break. He begins looking. I did not talk to him, the other guy did. They go in the back for 10 minutes. As they are coming out, punk tells the other guy, “Tell him we sold it this morning.” I knew I was in trouble. However, nice guy let punk tell me. He begins to tell me they sold it today. When I questioned him what were the chances that someone would come in and ask for the exact same guitar I was looking for, mere hours before I made it in, he said they just sold it. He could not lie to save his life. So I called him a few choice names and left.
    Then decided to call the store and speak to the manager. Explained my story and the manager pulled up their inventory in the computer. Then he tells me they never had that guitar and it was only special order. He did apologize, but what good did it do? 3 hours wasted.

  17. grizzman says:

    I’m the guy who sent this long story in, thanks for the advice and comments.

    Some replies to people:
    –I’ve tried many guitars and this SG sounded great. I’ve been playing a PEAVEY guitar for 20 years, so this is a treat. So sorry, no Epiphone for me. The SG Classic felt and played much better than even a few of the more expensive Les Paul’s I’ve played.

    –I’ll gladly buy the guitar I want somewhere else, so if anyone can point me to an SG Classic for $719 please post a link. I’ve looked, so I somehow doubt you’ll find a better deal for me. Plus, I have a $50 gift card, so really this will only cost me $669.

    –And yes, I was using Firefox. I was forced to switch to Safari for the scroll bars.

  18. leftystrat says:

    You learned the first lesson of Guitar Center: Don’t Shop There.

    The stores are typically staffed by morons (with exceptions, of course). They’re managed by the same morons, who undoubtedly proved their worthiness to manage by selling a lot of stuff.

    The company must be run by very interesting people, because no one can seem to figure out how they’re still in business.

    They’re an international joke. About the only thing they have going for them is location.

    And heaven help you if you’re left-handed:

    SALESGUY: duh… we can order you one
    ME: Would you drop a few grand on something you never played?

    SALESGUY: you’re the third lefty this weekend. I keep telling Manglement that if we have them in stock, we can sell them, but they won’t let us order them.

    ME: Let me make sure I understand… you have fifteen relic’d `58 Les Paul replicas at $11 grand each. Under those, you have thirty other repro Les Pauls for $6995. Under those, you have the rest of the wall full of `regular’ Les Pauls and you don’t have a single lefty in the store?

    SALESGUY: Yup. We have an Epiphone for $199.

    ME: No thanks – I want something made from wood.

    (btw they’re not exactly linux-friendly either)

  19. RokMartian says:

    @cmcd14:
    Guitar Center is the Radio Shack of the music world.

  20. donnie5 says:

    Guitar markup is higher than furniture markup. 20% is not that great of a deal and you can usually get more off if you just wait a week. I got 35% off a LesPaul and thought it was a great deal until I saw it on sale for 50% off a month later.

  21. reimero says:

    Guitar Center is hit-or-miss, with more places being “miss” than “hit.” That said, a few places are actually very good, if you know what you’re doing. I can’t speak to the online bit, but I did learn a couple of secrets from someone I trust implicitly and who is in the know on these things, because it’s his job.

    For starters, you should approach buying guitars and amps (and other instruments) the same way you would a car: nobody charges MSRP, and the “sale” price is generally actually the going “street” rate. Guitar Center (and actually, GC’s parent company, Musician’s Friend) is all about getting the sale, and at just about any cost.

    A good rule of thumb is that for most guitars, dealer’s cost will be about 50% of MSRP. This isn’t always the case, but it’s usually a safe assumption. It’s rare that they’ll sell it to you at their cost, but you can easily leverage that into getting a much greater deal than you otherwise would have. The salesperson wants his or her commission and dealer perks, and may be willing to negotiate with you on it. If they won’t negotiate, you can walk away and find someone who will.

  22. DraconWolfX says:

    A few comments –

    1. Shop on rondomusic.net. Trust me, Kurt (the owner) has AMAZING customer service and will bend backwards. Plus, their Agile/SX brands are WAY cheaper than any comparable guitar. The high end guitars for $600 are AMAZING instruments that would cost $1500+. Their cheap $200 guitars are the same Epiphone sells for $500. Great stuff, I learned of them after being burned by GC.

    2. Speaking of burned — Guitar Center ruined my credit. Well, it wasn’t ALL their fault but it was their fault. I bought a drum kit and kick pedal when they had a 12 mo no interest no payments sale going. I bought the kit (like I was going to anyway) and put that money away in a savings account to pay off at the end of the 12 months. The kid at the desk forgot to ring in my pedal but told me “Oh don’t worry the promotion will still apply since its purchased on the same day”. Come to find out (this is where it is partially my fault) I had been getting charged for that pedal that wasn’t interest/payment free. I found out only when a debt collector called me. Since then I had it fixed but it was a ROYAL PITA. Stupid kid at the desk…and guitar center REFUSED to fix it for me or give me anything!!! Even though their employee screwed me up they did nothing! Awesome customer service huh? I had to deal with fixing it all myself.

  23. nffcnnr says:

    @Sixxtwo: Thanks for the heads up on Chris’ Guitars [www.chrisguitars.com] i found my dream axe (An Ash USA Tele) there at an excellent price, & i’m leaning heavily in the direction of splurging.
    As for GC, i had an OK experience in Dallas last week, but all i did was purchase a Big Muff Pi. i knew what i wanted, and thought the price was fair ($80). Joel, the sales associate saw me gawking at stuff and stopped by and introduced himself and said to let him know if i had questions. He was the one who rung me up and was answered my q’s about strings. Overall, a (+) experience. i have also had excellent service online at Musician’s Friend over the last coupla years: Fast shipping, no hassles, easy website.

  24. monkee13 says:

    First off I have always had problems at GC either you can never find someone to help you or you have 9 guys trying to sell you LesPaul Custom Shop for 5k when you only want strings. The only reason I really go there anymore is to play something before I order it online. I have had much better luck at Sam Ash B&M stores (but they can’t carry the gibson line). Ebay has killed the Pawn Shop visits (where I found some of my best guitars and deals).

    Secondly SG’s don’t suck. I actually love them. When you are gigging three or four times a week and you not 6 foot plus and 200 pounds a SG is much more kind to your back. I played a LesPaul Custom for years but when we played live I would usually use my SG or 335. It’s Gibson, it’s all good. Also I recently picked up an Epiphone SG G-400 Custom and love it. Over the last 5 years or so the Epiphone quality has really improved and I plan on buying a Epiphone LesPaul custom soon.

  25. ChrisPC24 says:

    I have to agree this time. GC is the Wal-Mart of guitars. GC is pretty bad for big items, they’re only good if you need strings, picks, or pedals in a hurry.

    You’ll never find any “hidden gems”, just the big two or three names. Gibson cranks out cheap models just for GC, in fact. If you do ever find anything rare, they have a price tag to match.

  26. dlab says:

    Dude, Guitar Sphincter sucks big time. Like chrispc24 above, I treat the place like Wal-Mart and use it only to buy strings and guitar parts (things that are so cheap, small, and light that they would cost twice as much online just b/c of s&h).

  27. Twitch says:

    find a local music store and buy from them. Sheesh.

  28. emax4 says:

    I used to work at Guitar Center in Monroeville, PA for a few years, but I was only in Pro Audio and Keyboards first for 8 months, got let go due to not being an aggressive enough salesman, then got hired back for internet sales. I left a little over a year ago but I can tell you some things that might still apply (for those who aren’t burned by shopping there).

    1. Musician’s Friend is NOT the parent company of Guitar Center. It’s sort of the other way around. If you go to GuitarCenter.com and want to purchase something, it redirects you to Musician’s Friend, which is for all online orders. A good thing is that if you find something in the Musician’s Friend catalog that is cheaper than the same item at GC, GC will price match it and refund the difference to you. Remember that you can’t haggle with the price of an item on Musician’s Friend though, which is something you can always do in a brick-and-mortar store, Guitar Center or otherwise.

    2. We were never allowed to hold items for a customer if they called in to request it to be done over the phone. The only way to hold an item was to stop in and put a down payment on it. If they allowed this to be done over the phone, perhaps that Black Friday special might have been easier to hold.

    3. I’m no guitarist, but left-handed models don’t seem to be stocked much. In most cases they can do special orders with certain manufacturers. Special orders can be a bit pricey though.

    4. Sales associates start from whatever they know about their particular type of instrument and go from there, with D-level being the beginning level and A-level being of expert knowledge. So if the service or answers aren’t up to your par, it won’t hurt to get a second opinion from another salesperson. I had a guy come in asking for a 1/4″ phono-to-MIDI cable one time, and I tried explaining to him that MIDI does not carry any audio, even having a second salesperson back me up. The guy left pretty frustrated, but this proves that sometimes the salespeople do know what they’re talking about.

    5. Management – There’s always a main store manager or an assistant manager, in addition to each department having their own department manager. Some stores are bigger than others, so not all stores will have a department manager at all hours during the day. In any case, store managers and assistant managers have to have an A-level (maybe a B-level) certification to get their rank, in addition to having excellent customer service skills. DRACONWOLFX should have gotten some sort of compensation on being mislead the way he or she was, but that would have come from a manager of some sort.

    6. Lower-level salespeople have limitations on the computer terminals than higher-level salespeople. So if you’re looking for a particular piece; left-handed, special hardware, used or otherwise; ask a department manager to check the system and they can search chain-wide for particular pieces.

    7. Zzounds.com is an ok site, but some (not sure on percentage) of their items are usually repackaged or remanufactured, so Guitar Center won’t match their prices.

    I also found it strange how GC sells Apple Computers and iPods, yet GC’s website won’t work on Safari.

    Hope this clears things up.

  29. ZugTheMegasaurus says:

    I don’t know about the online service, but I thought I’d mention some excellent customer service in the Guitar Center store (Denver) also was available on Black Friday.

    My dad and I went with my younger brother to look at keyboards on Tuesday; he was looking at a $1450 keyboard. We talked to a salesperson who explained the sale they were having and the financing options. Then, we left and waited until Friday to come back to buy the keyboard (since that’s when the sale was, of course).

    Friday, the store was completely and totally packed. However, even with all those people, the same salesperson from a few days before recognized us and was talking to us in less than 10 seconds. We were only in the store for about 15 minutes total before walking out with the keyboard, which he’d given for the price of $1060.

    I suppose that some individual stores, or the online service, may be different; but at least in my case, I’d definitely go back if I needed to research/buy some sort of music equipment.

  30. mgreer says:

    Dear Jon and all other people who experienced less than desireable service with GC,
    My name Mickey and I am the store manager for Guitar Center in Winter Park, FL. To all who had comments, I hear and understand each of you and I would like to help expedite any concerns you might have. We work very hard to provide good customer service and it is disconcerting that you’ve walked away with such a poor opinion. Please feel free to reach me directly at (407) 975-9119, or via email at mgreer@guitarcenter.com.
    My advice to all customers who have issues is to simply ask to speak with the store manager. It is all of our jobs to take care of you. I am not the president of the company, just a humble in-the-trenches local store manager, but I feel safe in being able to vouch for my compatriots around the country that not one of us wants a customer to walk away unhappy, and if you have an issue, we’ll listen to you on the spot.
    Thanks for reading so far and I hope to speak with you soon.
    Michael ‘Mickey’ Greer,
    Store Manager
    Guitar Center Winter Park
    407-975-9119
    mgreer@guitarcenter.com

  31. jdjonsson says:

    In my experience, you can get about 20% off any guitar in the store at any time simply by haggling. The salesmen work on commission, and have a great deal of leeway in discounting stock, even new stock. I walked in my local store the other day looking for a 2×12 speaker cabinet. I located a Marshall cab marked $339, and noted that it was dusty and had a tiny rip in the tolex. I walked up to a salesman I have bought from a few times, and haggled him down to $249.

    YMMV.

  32. asscore says:

    Last year my friend Tyler was a semi-finalist in Guitar Centers “King of the Blues” guitar contest….

    It was held at the guitar center in Roseville MN. Tyler and this other guy from St. Louis are totally awesome guitarists. It was totally between those two to win.

    To everyones shock they declared the winner was this idiot high school kid who had only been playing for short time. He was the only person from Minnesota, and had all of his friends there with him.

    The whole crowd in attendance thought it was a crock of shit.

  33. gcmgr says:

    Jon,
    I’m so sorry to hear about that unfortunate incident. The reality is however that when companies grow, they sometimes experience ‘growing pains’. Small companies that are really good at what they do, eventually grow up to be larger companies due to positive word of mouth, repeat business from satisfied customers, and yes…also from effective advertising. There are a lot of people standing in line here seemingly standing in line for their chance to ‘bash’ Guitar Center because they feel like they’ve found someone who is mad enough to listen. I agree with you, this should not have been this difficult. It’s a pretty simple thing…..20% off. But sometimes things just happen. And sometimes things happen in succession…a “series of unfortunate events” if you will…that make it seem like the entire company is a bunch of idiots. But do you really, REALLY think that a company full of idiots that don’t have a clue what they’re doing could produce a company with such a proven track record and incredible following as Guitar Center has? I mean…really think about that logically for a moment. I know you’re upset, but just think about that. This is a company full of musicians who understand the needs of other musicians. But being a musician, you should understand that sometimes things happen that are unexpected and/or unexplainable…and sometimes for no apparent reason. On behalf of Guitar Center…we are all very sorry for your unfortunate experience. But the question is this: Are you going to allow us to make it right? Are you going to just write us off because of an obviously unintentional mistake? You are very important to us, Jon. My name is Sean and I am the general manager of the Guitar Center in Roseville, MN. Please call me at (651) 634-0100 if you would like for me to make this right for you. I would love to speak with you. Happy Holidays!

  34. VonKrankenstein says:

    I don’t feel its that bad, every specialty store has their share of elitist a-holes, but I have met some really cool GC employees, maybe the Las Vegas Boulevard location is better but I cant really say I have ever had a horrible experience. Got my Ibanez there a few months ago and it was perfect, brought it back to have the bridge saddle filed down a couple times and the tech drops what he’s doing and throws it right up there for me free of charge. Im in there once a month for strings or whatever and have sold them some used gear, everyones pretty chill except for two of the guitar guys who think they are hot shit. But I’ve asked a lot of noob questions about guitar care, cause this is the first one I really cared about and they were more than patient and told me to just get lemon oil instead of the big Dunlop pack that I was looking to buy.