Gibson Screws Musician Out Of $10,000 Worth Of Equipment

A musician named Tonedeff won the Lolapalooza Last Band Standing contest in 2006. Part of the prize package was “$10,000 worth of equipment from our friends at Gibson. (yes, believe it!).” Well, Tonedeff believed it, and he’s spent the last year and a half trying to get Gibson to make good on their promise. As Tonedeff notes on his blog, maybe he should have seen this coming when Don Pitts—Gibson’s Ambassador of Empty Promises (shown above with devil eyes)—told him, “I mean, this is kind of weird, because you know, you DON’T play the guitar or drums.”

When Tonedeff finally reached Gibson (they never called or emailed him after he won), Pitts told him to go online and pick out what he wanted. He picked out a Baldwin piano. Pitts wrote back, “Baldwin is the only division that’s not part of the deal…” So Tonedeff picked out a list of guitars, using Sam Ash and Guitar Center to check prices because Pitt/Gibson wouldn’t provide a price list. Pitt responded with revised prices that were at least 50% higher, reducing Tonedeff’s prize list by half. After some back and forth on “suggested retail price” versus “actual price,” Tonedeff gave up and opted instead to pick a single item, the most expensive he could find that came in under the $10k mark. Pitt just stopped talking to him at that point.

We’re not sure if Gibson thinks it’s okay to bail on their promise because Tonedeff doesn’t play rock music (suspiciously, they never followed through on a promised promotional photo shoot either), or if they never intended to give any winning artist the prize package. But it’s clear that they’re doing everything they can to give the middle finger to the winner of a contest they supposedly “sponsored.”

(Thanks to Chris!)

“[RANT] Gibson Hates Hip Hop.” [QN5 Blog]


Edit Your Comment

  1. socritic says:

    Wow, i would never believe it. I guess i have one more reason to not buy Gibson gear. This is truly puzzling and disappointing. Doesn’t Gibson know that even musicians have pride? You know, there are other guitars out there just waiting to be picked… i took a Breedlove over an Ovation, i love a great underdog.

  2. chiieddy says:

    Why hasn’t he contacted the organizers of the contest, this would be the folks over at Lolapalooza for help in this case? Wouldn’t they potentially help out since it reflects badly on their competition to have a prize go so awry?

  3. socritic says:

    By the way, was there a “i play an instrument that you’re giving/making” prerequisite to enter the contest? isn’t the whole point of these promotions to put Gibson gear in the hands of non-Gibson users? Show people how cool and altruistic the brand is? how geared towards musicians and the hardships of being one the brand is? One thing has been shown here, is that Gibson obviously doesn’t think much of the people they make the gear for. And thats one more reason to buy a competing product!

  4. Propaniac says:

    On the linked blog where Tonedeff describes in detail what happened, he says that the Lollapalooza people did actually get in touch with him recently to check that everything was okay, and when he told them that no, he’d never gotten the stuff, they said they were working on it.

    Isn’t Gibson a big enough company that they can afford to give away $10k worth of stuff (that they legally agreed to) without being such dicks about it?

  5. rahmja says:

    @socritic: i took a Breedlove over an Ovation, i love a great underdog.

    How is Ovation better than a Breedlove?? I’d take solid wood over plastic any day.

  6. godai says:

    I find it funny how in like 5 or 6 of the comments, they respond.

    “Go to and submit the story.”

  7. CurbRunner says:

    This guy should contact the same relentless, pit bull lawyers, that represent the RIAA/muscians when they sue college kids for downloading music. These guys could put a big leg bite on Gibson to pay up.

  8. godai says:


    He dealt with the Gibson reps at first and they eventually dumped him back to dealing with some of the lolapalooza people

  9. gorckat says:

    This looks like an awesome opportunity for another company to come in and give him $10k of gear (after he agrees to not accept any Gibson gear from the contest).

  10. wolfjack says:

    He did contact his contacts at Lolapalooza and supposedly they just as surprised as he is that he hasn’t receivd anything yet.

  11. wkzero says:

    Gibson is a lifestyle brand just like Harley Davidson. The quality of their products have slipped considerably since that have put the emphasis on brand image. When I worked in instrument retail (Guitar Center), we used to count the flaws on guitars from Gibson’s custom shop line, more often then not these flaws would be unacceptable on a $400 Korean made guitar.

    That they would not hold up a promotional deal does not amaze me. Trying to charge retail over MAP is a trick practiced by the most devious guitar shop owners. Nice to know that Gibson has no problem being on the same level as some of their dishonest vendors.

  12. MickeyMoo says:

    I’m guessing the bad PR generated by one mention wipes out the 10K they tried to save by ripping him off (and then some)

  13. mopar_man says:

    Hmmm….tough call. Give away $10k in free stuff or lose more than $10k in business? How is it that idiots get to work for these huge companies?

  14. Murph1908 says:

    Excellent thought. Perhaps Baldwin would be interested, as that was his first choice.

  15. nweaver says:

    Small Claims court as well. $5K cash is probably worth more to him than $10K MSRP of random gear anyway.

  16. Tristan Smith says:

    Playing devil’s advocate here…

    The whole part about actual value and suggested retail price is crap. Why should he expect to be able to price match a prize? If the manufacturer’s price matches what guitar center has as their list price (not what they are selling it for) then it’s a fair deal. As far as I can tell Gibson doesn’t even sell direct to the public

  17. Falconfire says:

    @wkzero: You got it. Its sad too because I started on Epiphone equipment (a division of Gibson like Squire is for Fender) and moved up to legit Gibson stuff, but Gibson equipment has just gone downhill. Honestly the sad thing is with most of that stuff your buying the name now. Its all mass produced unless your spending 2-5 thousand on the guitar and even that is likely to only be minimally handmade.

    Your better off buying some of the smaller brands if your want quality now.

  18. DeeJayQueue says:

    @rndmideas: Well when the company won’t supply you with a price list, or even a catalog of their stuff, all but forcing you to go to a reseller’s website to find what you want to buy, why wouldn’t you expect to pay what the reseller is charging for the gear? Besides, if Gibson wanted to cheap out on the stuff they should just work out a deal with Guitar Center anyway for this guy, after all Guitar Center already paid for the merchandise so they’re not losing any money on the deal, and Gibson sells to GC for way way under what they charge anyway, so $10k in retail money is probably like $2k in Gibson money.

  19. madanthony says:

    Yes, gibson promised him the prize and should deliver. They also should have given him a price list.

    I can’t really fault them for using MSRP, though – it’s standard to quote prices as MSRP, and of course they are going to use them for the value (and it’s probably buried in the fine print somewhere).

    And I can understand why they would be a little irked. Obviously, they donated the prize in the hopes of getting some publicity from the person who won, and not expecting that the person would be just planning on selling the prize on eBay.

  20. winstonthorne says:

    Go to your local luthier (you have one in your area, trust me). Get one of their basic guitars for between $1000-3000. You will wind up have a better instrument than even the best “top of the line” Gibson could ever be, a great conversation piece, and the beginning of an awesome business relationship for less money than Gibson would charge.

  21. minnock says:

    OK, so I am a first time guitar buyer who was looking at the Epiphone. Since that is out what should I be looking at? Needs to be left handed and I am a true beginner but I am pretty good at guitar hero.

  22. inno says:

    @madanthony: Oh they’re getting some publicity alright. Maybe he’d shout them out on a track instead of subjecting them to this well-deserved public blog shaming. What they “expected” to happen with the prize has absolutely zero bearing on what their obligations are here.

  23. m0unds says:

    Bummer that they screwed this guy out of the stuff they promised the winner of that competition. Gibson’s quality has been on a steady decline for the last 10 years.

  24. savvy999 says:

    Les Paul would be spinning in his grave, if he was in one.

  25. cpc24 says:

    I used to work at a Gibson plant, and believe me, it’s really a joke. They really put out some real POS’s. I finally just left in disgust one day.

  26. marsneedsrabbits says:

    Playing devil’s advocate here…

    The whole part about actual value and suggested retail price is crap. Why should he expect to be able to price match a prize? If the manufacturer’s price matches what guitar center has as their list price (not what they are selling it for) then it’s a fair deal. As far as I can tell Gibson doesn’t even sell direct to the public

    Fine. Even if that is all correct, now, long after the event, they are offering him nothing at no price at all. They’ve quit responding to him. They got publicity out of the deal – you just know they were listed as sponsors or prize providers, but now they want to give him nothing.

    This is in no way fair.

  27. DeeJayQueue says:

    @minnock: That depends on what kind of music you want to play. If you’re a rock/blues cat, look at Fender or their downmarket sister, Squier. If you like to play Metal, look at Jackson/Washburn or Ibanez. Don’t buy the House Brand (carlo robelli) and if you can, save for a real guitar. Even if you spend a few hundred more than you’d planned, you’ll be happier in the long run if you decide to stick with it, and if you don’t you can get more of your money back on craigslist or ebay.

  28. rolla says:

    F U gibson…i will not be buying from you again.

  29. Mayor McRib says:

    @minnock: I would definitely go to the pawn shop. Being left handed is definitely going to hurt your chances of finding one, but it’s also harder for them to sell (take it from a left handed golfer). I still have my first guitar, a used Ibanez roadstar along with many others. The first one always has a special place in your heart. If you dedicate yourself and get better, there is no better reward than getting a new guitar later on. Just grab something with decent action and start playing.

  30. Craig says:

    @gorckat: No kidding…I’d love to see another company like Fender step in and honor the prize. The free publicity they’d get out of it would be worth far more than the money it would cost them.

  31. Craig says:

    It’s such a good idea, in fact, that I just emailed Fender.

  32. descend says:


    Great idea.

  33. insomniac8400 says:

    If you read the article you would know he finally chose a $9,999 MSRP guitar and they just ignored the request. So then he finally settled and chose a couple items from a list based on MSRP and still got nothing.

  34. @minnock: Consider used as well. I learned on a spectacular Fender P-Bass from the mid-70s. I loved that thing. A lot of people buy guitars and get bored very quickly; there’s always a good used market. You can buy something used for half price or less, and when you’ve played a while and know what you like, move up.

    “Needs to be left handed”

    There is no “handedness” in guitars (or other instruments — flutes all point the same way). I realize there are “backwards” guitars out there, but they’re a marketing gimmick, or for people who learned wrong.

    If you’re left-handed, you may have an easier time than your right-handed counterparts on a traditional guitar anyway, since more fine motor control is required for the fretting hand (left) than for the strumming hand (right).

  35. scoosdad says:

    @winstonthorne: Did you read the story? This dude has no money to buy anything, let alone spend $1-3K on a guitar from someone else. He was hoping to get some decent gear to kickstart his studio, and sell what he couldn’t use to finance the rest of his dream. I read his blog, trust me.

  36. MeOhMy says:


    And I can understand why they would be a little irked. Obviously, they donated the prize in the hopes of getting some publicity from the person who won, and not expecting that the person would be just planning on selling the prize on eBay.

    A) They donated the prize because getting their logo all over the marketing collateral and festival materials is worth more than the $2000 in actual cost to them. They have little interest in what happens to the actual prizes.

    B) They could have given him the piano which he wanted to keep for himself.

    C) They skipped the photo shoot.

    I find it embarassing that the people from Lollapalooza don’t appear to be doing anything more than nicely asking the guy from Gibson to play nice. They have more resources to sue or blackball Gibson from being used during Lollapalooza events, etc.

  37. harumph says:

    i had a girlfriend once who i told to enter a contest at a local guitar store. we both entered and she won. it was like $500 in merchandise. when we showed up to pick something out they were ready to take a promo photo and all that but were totally horrified it was a girl who won. i think they were expecting some shredder guitar dude. anyway, they quietly skipped the photo. they did give us the stuff though, i have to give them credit for that.

  38. Buran says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Actually, there is. Left-handed guitars are designed so that you strum with your left hand and hold the neck with your right (I don’t play but I’m a leftie so I notice this stuff). The strings are reversed so that they’re in the same order top-to-bottom, I think.

    Lots of things are mirrored for lefties even when you’d think they’re ambidextrous. Guitars are one of those things.

  39. Enigmastrain says:

    This truly is pathetic. I’ve always liked the Gibson Guitars, however I’ve never bought because of how the company treat people. Mind you I would have never entered the contest either; I mean 10k in prizes does seem a little too good to be true. Also whenever you win something of considerable monetary value a certain percent of it has to be claimed, it’s like if I were to win 100,000 dollars I am not going to see that exact amount legally a certain percentage would have to be knocked off. Now I am not siding with Gibson here, They should know better as well and not advertise such a grandiose prize. Instead they should advertise contests in a way that doesn’t deceive. Mind you enough of this rambling I say F*** Gibson!

  40. 3drage says:

    I wonder when large companies will finally realize that the weight they carry is only as good as the customers who support them. No Gibson products purchased from me.

  41. Trai_Dep says:

    Harumph – if I were them, I would have had fun with it: asked your gf if she wanted to get made up as a Goth, Rock n Roller, Lilith Fair… Clothes, makeup, have them pose her w/ a Rebel Yell. The works. Would have been fun for everyone and been a great publicity thing.

    Sigh. Retailers have NO imagination.

    I’d also like it if, somehow, he ordered 2,000 copies of Guitar Hero (w/ Rawk Guitar bundled, of course). Just to drive the Gibson Guy insaaane.

  42. nobl13 says:

    @Minnock @minnock: I’m a lefty an I play a right-handed Squier Stratocaster. Fretting with my left is easy because of that hand’s manual dexterity.

    Heck, probably the most famous left handed guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, played a Fender Strat strung backwards. Dusty Hill (ZZ Top Bassist) plays basses with both left and righthanded Strat style cuts. They’re just strung for a rightie.

    For the most part it doesn’t matter. You just need to know whether you’re using the lower frets. If that’s the case, you want something with a cutaway where your hand will be. Otherwise, it really doesn’t matter.

  43. Imaginary_Friend says:

    No Gibson for me either. Super lame.

    Tonedeff needs to set up a donate button on his website. He’s pretty good.

  44. stanfrombrooklyn says:

    When I just saw the big promotion for Gibson’s “Robot Guitar” I knew they’d jumped the shark. Part of being a musician – and I proudly call myself one (though I also admit to being a crappy one) – is knowing how to tune your instruments. It’s part of the learning process and it’s how you become a better musician. Gibson has become more focused on selling overpriced instruments to aging baby boomers than on actually being a musician’s company.

  45. snoop-blog says:

    i’m a fender telecaster kinda guy.

  46. jonathanl says:

    Maybe I am naive, I can’t believe these guys didn’t just give him the stuff…

  47. VeeKaChu says:

    OMG now that poor man’s site- which I visited about an hour ago- is dead! Hopefull, though, that bodes well for Gibson getting an earful over this…

  48. barryart says:

    What agreement or release did you sign to enter? What does your lawyer say about all this? Sue the Gibson bastards or at least file a lawsuit!
    Glad you’re digging it because Gibson may now respond.

  49. mrbill says:

    Gibson’s quality has definitely gone down over the years. At one point I owned a Les Paul Studio, and it was a great guitar – but for the $1K it cost at Guitar Center, I can now go buy THREE equivalent-quality-or-better guitars from Rondo Music.

    Paying the extra money for the Gibson logo on the headstock just isn’t worth it anymore.

  50. drrictus says:

    I was once told that one reason Gibby’s quality is sucking down the drain is that they are still using the same toolsets as when they started. They fear that replacing/updating them would not imbue the instrument with that mythical “Gibson” quality. This may/may not be true, but it would explain their recent handiwork.

    @minnock: I’m always torn when recommending to beginners. On the one hand, spending only a little money on a decent guitar is a good hedge against growing frustrated with learning and giving up playing. On the other hand, I know that if I had my PRS when I started out, I would have practiced so much more because it’s so easy to play, and would now be a better player.

    Not knowing your finances, I’ll say: spend carefully, go for value. Epis are good, and if you can find a used Fender, try it.

  51. MeOhMy says:

    @Buran: Guitars are one of those things that some hacks feel they need to have made “left handed,” but there is no technical need for them to be so. IMO a left-handed guitar is about as whacky as a left-handed piano.

    BTW @Tonedeff, if you read this, workable pianos are *extremely* easy to come by free or cheap, especially if you are willing to take a console or spinnet. When I was searching for a piano I had no less than 3 people offer me them for free – “You come get it and it’s yours.” Just a few weeks ago, my next door neighbor offered to give me her full upright for free! Look around, ask around. $200 for a piano mover (or $20 for a case of beer, 4 strong guys, and a pickup truck) and another $200 for tuning/repairs and off you go.

  52. trevor_25 says:

    Whats so interesting now is even if Gibson decides to honor their sponsorship promise they could never make up for the bad PR this has generated. When will companies learn that bad PR in the internet age is just not worth whatever money you are tying to get out of paying.

  53. ARPRINCE says:

    That’s just not right! BTW, isn’t GIBSON owned by DEBBIE? You know…Debbie Gibson? ;)

  54. flugelhorn says:

    Demanding that the manufacturer honor market prices is a little unreasonable. Look at every other contest out there with a fixed prize– “Suggested Retail Value x”. Overall, this seems to be a problem with Gibson’s contest underwriters. All these terms should be spelled out on the contest entry form, not determined by some exec’s emails.

  55. Elijah-M says:

    @minnock: Your options here are endless. My advice would be to shop around and try out as many guitars as you can and pick something that feels good. Many companies make left-handed guitars, so it would be a mistake to limit yourself to just one company when looking. With Gibson/Epiphone, you’re paying a lot of money for a name that hardly means what it did twenty years ago.

    Be sure to bear the following things in mind when searching:

    1) Since guitars don’t deteriorate the way a computer or a car does, you’re likely to find that used items give you significantly more value.

    2) As someone else pointed out earlier, if you choose to spend a little more for a new model, you can always sell it used for close to what you paid for it.

    3) If you can find a good technician, a right-handed guitar can be modified for left-handed play rather cheaply.

    @Buran: While this is true, there have been a number of notable exceptions: Dick Dale, Albert King and Jimi Hendrix, all left-handed, chose to play right-handed guitars flipped upside down.

  56. edisonblvd says:

    every first year law student should know tonedeff has a valid action for breach of contract. there are a ton of cases where contest winners go after the auto dealership or whatever sponsor doesn’t want to pay up. the winners generally win. it will take another year or so, but he could get his $10 K that way.

  57. yourbffjill says:

    I was totally going to submit this a couple of days ago so I’m really glad that someone else did.

    Truly horrible, especially considering that he was nothing but polite and patient for well over a year. For a struggling artist, it’s hard to get denied again and again, especially after you think you’ve finally gotten a break.

    And I would be remiss if I didn’t say that if you’re into hip hop, you should definitely check the QN5 label out. At the risk of sounding like a street teamer (I’m not), Tone has a real gift for music–as a rapper, singer, and producer. Even though his site’s down he’s got the usual pages up on youtube and myspace…

    And yeah, Gibson can suck it.

  58. chooki says:

    Minnock, I bought an Epiphone acoustic several years ago, based on reviews which said it was a good value. Well, 2 months after purchasing, the neck warped and also cracked the top of the guitar. I drove it 75 miles to the nearest authorized warranty repair place, which sat on it for 2 months without doing any work. Then the guitar tech called me and mentioned something about filing down the fret edges – good, I thought, that’s a nice touch. Driving back up the next weekend, I figured out quickly that he didn’t realize he had to fix the huge neck warp and crack! I complained very loudly to his boss, he fixed it that week, but no warranty coverage for me. So that was another $160 on top of my purchase price.
    Fast forward a couple of years – now the bridge is coming unglued. I will eventually get someone to unglue and reset it, but I just can’t be bothered with it anymore. So it sits in my closet, in its case. Blech.

  59. inno says:

    @gorckat: Awesome idea. I wrote to the Fender PR guy pitching that idea, an especially good one, now that this is on the front page of Digg.

  60. AtOurGates says:

    I smell a lawsuit!

  61. coocha says:

    @Troy F.:

    Not entirely true. Taking a right-handed guitar and stringing it upside down is NOT the same as buying a left-handed guitar. The bridge and nut of a guitar help determine the string action, and simply stringing it upside down causes all kinds of fret-hum and other issutes. Most bridges are adjustable, but you’d have to carve a new nut to get it right. For a newbie like minnock, he’d be much more satisfied buying a left-handed guitar, since I doubt he’s versed in guitar tech/setup.

    Although, I’m a lefty, and I play right-handed. I’m not a very good fingerpicker as a result, but I do OK.

    To get back on topic, I read about this last night, sent a nasty email to the first gibson corporate email I could locate, and now I’m glad to see it’s getting coverage on consumerist.

  62. BrandonAbell says:

    @ EYEBROWS MCGEE: I’m gonna have to disagree with you on the fretting hand requiring more fine motor than the picking hand. . . Maybe if you just play rhythm guitar, but if you actually pick notes on a guitar or other stringed instruments that part ends up being the hardest to do cleanly.

    As far as Gibson (and Epiphone) goes, their quality is going into the crapper and has been for a while now. Knockoff manufacturers are making better quality copies of their marquee models like the Les Paul and SG than Gibson/Epi can. It really is all about the name now, just like others have suggested. There does seem to be some care in the manufacture in their high-end mandolins still though — I’d go for one of those and resell it if I won a contest. Then I’d buy a real instrument from Weber or a good luthier.

  63. SexCpotatoes says:

    @trai_dep: of course they could always take the picture naked…

  64. Dave! says:

    If I were Fender, I’d be all over this… calling him up, giving him $10k of gear… photo shoot, you name it.

  65. Trai_Dep says:

    Naked ALWAYS works.

    Well, except for promoting the Bratz dolls.

  66. MauMichael says:

    BTW, there is a definite “handedness” to most guitars.

    There’s a “cutaway” in the body on one side of the neck to allow access to the higher frets. Turn the guitar the other way, and you won’t have access to them.

    If the guitar is made symmetrically, and it’s an acoustic, then you’re fine. If it’s a wired acoustic, then your tone controls are likely on the bottom where you’ll never be able to reach them. If it’s a symmetrical electric, then all the tone and volume controls would be where you’d rest your right forearm, making it uncomfortable and enabling accidental switch flips.

    A smaller issue, but your pick guard will likely be in the wrong spot as well.

  67. nffcnnr says:

    Gibson: BANNED!! Bwaaahhaaahhaahhaahhhhaaaa!1!!

  68. ogdensr says:

    You guys are being awfully hard on Gibson. They have donated a brand new guitar and case to the Vanderbilt Cancer Biology Student Associations’ charity auction for Gilda’s Club (a breast cancer charity) each year for the 4 years I have been a grad student. This contest seems to be one situation where they didn’t pony up, but they regularly and visibly donate guitars and other musical equipment to a variety off charities all around Nashville. I am proud that this business is located where I live.

  69. @Buran: Yeah. MARKETING GIMMICK.

    Exactly what TROY said: “Guitars are one of those things that some hacks feel they need to have made “left handed,” but there is no technical need for them to be so. IMO a left-handed guitar is about as whacky as a left-handed piano.”

    A guitarist playing “left-handed” absolutely screams “badly trained, no technical ability.” No legitimate teacher would set a student on a “left-handed” guitar — it’s ridiculous — and no serious musician is concerned about the “handedness” of their instrument. YOU USE BOTH. Violinists change their bowing and fingering hands. Flautists don’t point the flute the other way. Pianists don’t get backwards pianos. It’s hacky and unprofessional to play a “left-handed” guitar.

    It’s very much a result of the guitar’s place in popular culture and the “rockstar” dreams people have, people being self-taught, etc., and I get that, but it also very much says “high school wannabe.” People who play backwards guitars are also frequently only capable of reading tab, which is a major handicap (we would not hire guitar players who only read tab, period, no matter how spectacular their playing), and typically don’t know a lot about music generally.

    I realize there are notable exceptions in the professional world, some of whom do it as marketing gimmicks, some of whom are the rare self-taught musical genius, and a few of whom were able to overcome their early bad training. But 99% of professional guitarists and bassists play properly (indeed, if you learn “backwards” on an electric bass, you can’t transition to upright correctly, and that is also a major handicap), regardless of which hand is their dominant one. And when I was gigging out, nobody ever hired guitarists who played “backwards,” because 99% of them suck. The 1% who don’t suck don’t typically get a chance, because playing backwards is like announcing “I don’t know what I’m doing,” so most people won’t bother listening. There’s 8,000 shit guitarists who all think they’re Django who want to audition for whatever you’re offering, so there’s a lot of superficial weeding-out that goes on.

  70. @BrandonAbell: I strongly disagree; properly done fretting and finger placement in classical guitar (and bass) is far more difficult than multi-finger picking. (I’m a bassist, I’ve always been a picker.) Learning to finger pick properly requires some effort, but once it’s in your muscle memory, it’s there. (Or at least it was for me.) Playing the actual notes requires constant adjustment and far finer motions. The left hand’s also responsible for vibrato. :)

  71. ativadelor says:

    He really needs to take this to small claims court. If his locality’s small claims limit is $5,000, it’s a no brainer. And since Gibson’s was making him redeem his prize at a very high premium over retail, he wouldn’t be losing anything. In fact, because of taxes, it’s probably far better financially to take half the amount in cash.

    Gifts are taxed by their value, whether they’re a guitar or cash. So it’s far better to have half the cash than an inflated-price gift of twice the amount. Especially if you don’t want the gift item. Less tax means more ability to spend it on what he wants, and cash gives him the ability to pay tax out of the gift itself.

    I’m not an accountant, but a $5,000 judgment on a $10,000 debt would still leave him $5,000 in the hole. This should allow him to write off the remaining $5,000, lowering his tax debt significantly if not entirely.

    Step 1 – Read up on small claims in your State and locality (usually on the internet)

    Step 2 – File it yourself

    Step 2 – Sue them, and DON’T settle in advance unless than want to give you $5,000 cash.

    My guess is that as soon as the lawsuit papers hit their door, they’re going to call up and offer whatever he wants from their catalog. BS. It’s been a year and a half. Tell them to send a check for 5K in cash or nothing at all. (If they’re really sneaky, they’ll look up the list of stuff he’d previously requested and drop ship it. Refuse the shipment!)

  72. minnock says:

    About the hand thing guys, busted up my left hand a couple of years ago and so have only limited mobility with them, figured I could strum with them but hitting strings conssistantly – no way.

  73. macinjosh says:

    Perhaps the gentleman’s name was a problem. Gibson probably wouldn’t want to be associated with someone who is tone deaf. :)

  74. @minnock: Now THAT’S a good reason. :)

    Although something others in your situation do is simply flip a regular guitar over and play it strung “upsidedown.”

    With electrics of course there are the issues of strap and electronics placement, so it’s not as good an option for electrics, but it’s manageable.

    I still think you’ll be able to find a used “leftie” on the market, since most of those go to high school kids who quickly get bored of their hobby. :) I’ll cast a second vote for Ibanez, btw. Reasonable price, nice sound, and I’ve always had good luck with them. Fender if you’re going higher up the price scale. :)

  75. ElizabethD says:

    Fender Strat.

    The end.

  76. @minnock: You also might ask around … a lot of guitarists dork around with modding their own instruments; you might find someone who’d be willing to help mod a regular guitar for your more convenient “backwards” use. I can think of a few models with the plug in the tail where the electronics wouldn’t get in the way of the hand strumming if played “backwards,” or where they could be fairly easily moved. (And where the body is symmetrical enough that it wouldn’t feel weird upsidedown.) The fun would then be in deciding whether to turn the strings around and, if you did, playing with the pickups to get them right for the strings.

    But that way’s probably a lot more complicated than necessary. :) I’m just kind-of interested in the challenge now, lol.

  77. DW7 says:

    I read this with outrage. I have spent many years employed by guitar companies, including GIBSON and, if true (and I assume it is) this is unforgiveable. I have sponsored “guitar giveaways” and similar contests on many occassions. Of course, the ideal winner is a person who will cherish and use the product won. However, if it’s not, that doesn’t matter. You are obligated to present the listed prize to the winner REGARDLESS of who they are, whether or not you like them or what they plan to do with it. I can tell you that in my experience, GIBSON is a “unique” company to be around. While they have been making fine guitars for about a century, in the last couple of decades, they have also raised many eyebrows with some of their managment antics. Such a prized, American manufacturer is run by people whom, in my opinion, are of questionable character.

    What GIBSON likely does NOT want is the bad publicity, particularly within the guitar industry and among professional guitarists. Thank goodness for this forum which has allowed an individual to bring this matter to the public’s attention. Your recourse, including the above referenced legal action, should be explored. At some point, GIBSON seemingly would engage in this type of behavior again if not confronted and stopped. Personally, I would have hired an attorney long ago on principal alone.

    There is no such thing as a good reason for GIBSON’s behavior & I hope you can find an attorney to help you. GIBSON has powerful attorneys and decades of experience in legal matters. They will never take you seriously until, as mentioned above, the legal papers hit their desk. Don’t just do this for yourself; do it because it’s “right” and to protect others in the future.

  78. snoop-blog says:

    sorry to chime in on the left handed guitar deal here, but i agree that there is no real need for one. i’ve seen people play guitars upside down, string them in the opposite order and such, i would be more inclined to just do that opposed to buying a ‘left handed’ guitar.

    and if you can learn one way, you can learn the other. the problem is that too many people consider themselves players, but they are not. to be a good musician, you have to have an ear for it, a natural ability, i can always tell when someone has natural talent, or was “trained” as i call it.

  79. cpc24 says:

    @macinjosh: Yeah, they do. That’s what the Robot Guitar is for!

  80. hi says:

    That Gibson SG I was gonna buy.. guess what? Not gonna buy.

  81. lawyergay says:

    @edisonblvd: Totally. This is a classic breach of contract. Tonedeff’s best course of action right is to get a lawyer friend to write a letter to Gibson explaining his position and his intention to sue if they won’t uphold their end of the deal (the $10k in equipment). It’s cheap and could yield quick results. Check the statute of limitations on breach of contract actions, however. In some states, it’s three years or maybe less from the time of breach so time could be running out!

  82. guruscotty says:

    yeah, this guy should get this story to the local papers. Especially, if he could find a sympathetic ear, in the Kalamazoo papers, if Gibson is still HQ’d there. That’d twist their dick pretty well.

    Not only that, Lolapalooza ought to ban Gibson, and let Fender/Ibanez/whoever have full reign next year.

    Jerks. Oooh – look, a Paul Reed Smith! I think I’ll buy one instead!

  83. drjayphd says:

    @Elijah-M: (re: lefty guitars)

    Not to mention the wacky and zany marketing types at Fender, who sold a Jimi Hendrix signature guitar of some sort for righties… that was actually a left-handed model flipped upside-down and strung accordingly… (head explodes)

    (waits for the Eyebrows McGee “Head explosions are awesome.” reply)

  84. junkmail says:

    @drrictus: Nope. Saw a show on Discovery just a couple of days ago, (How It’s Made type show) that featured the Gibson factories. Everything is computer-controlled now. Very little hands-on actually takes place.

  85. junkmail says:

    This really is a bummer. I’ve been saving for quite awhile now to upgrade my Epi Dot, (335 copy). I had no idea that Gibson had fallen so hard. I guess I’ll keep looking. :(

  86. nabeel46 says:

    buy an epiphone, for much cheaper than a gibson. then upgrade the pickups. less than half the cost.
    gibson actual quality has slipped IMO. their epiphone division is still pretty decent/good.
    like their joke “self tuning” guitar. spend some more time on quality, then worry about gimmicks.

  87. TechnoDestructo says:

    I had a supervisor about 9 years ago who won some radio contest for a trip to a concert in Las Vegas. Great seats and backstage passes. The tickets were to be given to her when she arrived in Las Vegas.

    When she got there, the representative from whichever organization this was running the contest gave her nosebleed tickets and no backstage passes.

    He told her “possession is 9/10ths of the law” and basically told her get lost and count her blessings.

    Oh, and the prize was reported to the IRS for the full value of the stuff she didn’t get.

  88. AndyAgent87 says:

    I’m stickin with Ernie Ball and ESP….great companies.

  89. ucdke says:

    This is what I wrote on Tonedeff’s comment board:

    From reading everything, it seems like you were the one who started thing on the bad foot. Obviously if you win stuff from a company, it’s going to be at the MSRP, that’s basic street smarts in dealin’ with the man (as well as murphy’s law). You gave him a list, the stuff added up to more than $10k. Instead of making your life simple and just eliminating stuff from the list, since it appeared that he had already figured out what was available on your list, you went and picked a completely different prize.

    I would have been pissed too, if I was him. You really aren’t “owed” anything. It’s a prize, you should be thankful that you got what you did.

  90. Black Bellamy says:

    I’m really not trying to sound like I’m piling on the good guy, but I read Tonedeaf’s blog and his explanation of why he wasn’t more aggressive with his claim is that he was being a “good sport”.


    I don’t know, maybe he’s naive or a little inexperienced, but you don’t get to be a “good sport” and get what you want when you’re dealing with large corporations. You pick one or the other.

    Each and every communication he had with Gibson should have been cc’d to the Lollapalloza people as well as the Gibson higher-ups. And from the third email on he should have cc’d a lawyer, and/or the state attorney general.

  91. Black Bellamy says:


    Oh man you’re an idiot. Of course he is “owed” stuff. It’s a contractual obligation! Did you read the part where he spent his own money to compete in the contest? Duh!

  92. @drjayphd: LOL. Head explosions are awesome! I can’t help it!

  93. Elijah-M says:

    @drjayphd: Jimi Hendrix “preferred this layout because the tremolo arm and volume and tone controls were more easily accessible above the strings, but it also had an important effect on the sound of his guitar: because of the stagger of the pickups’ pole pieces, his lowest string had a bright sound while his highest string had a mellow sound-the opposite of the Strat’s intended design” [] While I doubt that a lot of people who buy that guitar will do so to mimic his technique, it is one of the more justifiable signature models out there. Most of them (the Joe Strummer signature Telecaster, for instance) are built to be hung on a wall rather than played.

  94. Falconfire says:

    @ucdke: Oh who the hell let you on here. Are you that much of a blind asshole to not realize if you win a prize contractually your owed it.

  95. yourbffjill says:

    @ucdke: Um, what? Maybe it IS a bit naive to think that they are going to match some retail store’s advertised price, but if he had already asked for a catalog and a price list and they refused to give it to him, what the heck was he supposed to do? I guarantee that had they just given him a PDF with MSRP on it up front, he would have picked what he wanted and stuck with it.

    How is eliminating stuff off of a piecemeal list more “simple” than picking ONE item and saying “Okay then, just send me this.”? Especially after he waited months without a reply?

    If what Gibson was looking for was a “simple” transaction, they could have done the right thing from the start, and provided clear rules and a pricelist to him. Don’t blame the guy who has to chase after what he rightfully won. Blame the people who say “Do this” and then don’t provide the right materials.

  96. yourbffjill says:

    @ucdke: Also, “It’s a prize, you should be thankful that you got what you did.”

    He didn’t get anything!! I bet he’s really thankful.

    Don Pitts, is that you?

  97. CPC24 says:

    @guruscotty: They shut down the Kalamazoo plant in 1985! They’ve been based in Nashville ever since.

  98. BStu says:

    While I get that he shouldn’t have used store prices to judge the value Gibson would place, the bottom line is that Gibson didn’t give him any prices to begin with. THAT is Gibson’s fault. They owed him that information so he could properly claim the prize. They got plenty of value out of this contest, but want to get away with out providing the relatively small amount they agreed to do provide to get this value. That’s just wrong.

    Reading the blog, its clear that Tonedeff understands that. He’s pissed off, but over Gibson not providing him MSRP until AFTER he went back to them using retail prices. He seems to have been very proactive about trying to solve this problem and he’s been left ignored by Gibson. I’m sure Gibson thinks his request for the Mandolin makes him look like a jokester, but irregardless it fairly responds to prize offer. Heck, picking a single $10,000 instrument seems like a good deal for Gibson here. Even still, he tried to be a good sport about it all.

    After the dusty PS3 idiot got himself a new console for being a negligent scam artist, I sure hope this story gets a real happy ending. Major good will to any company who steps up and fufills the promise that Gibson doesn’t care to so this guy can get the studio equipment he needs. And a piano. HE deserves it at this point.

  99. mammalpants says:

    @gorckat: i completely agree. any great director of marketing at another music co. would jump on this opportunity to boost their own brand image with a small $10K in equipment. how awesome would it be to have the guy refuse the gibson equipment for a company that truly supports musicians?

    gibson should really fix this mistake.

  100. mosten says:

    Looks like this is on it’s way to being fixed. I emailed the CEO of Gibson he replied and he will be in contact. Here is his reply.

    “I will investigate this issue and get back to you as soon as I get the facts. Since its Friday it will probably be early next week [hopefully Monday].

    I will tell you that Don Pitts is no longer with Gibson and has not been with us for some time.

    I have no personal knowledge about this issue and I personally approve all promotions for the company. We have a formal system where any agent of Gibson needs to present a promotion, its benefits and its cost. This then needs to be approved by a least two people before it comes to my desk. We do take these commitments seriously, and we have very strict internal processes to insure we deliver on our promises.

    Regardless, I will get to the bottom of this and we will get you what was legitimately promised.

    I do not know who you talked to other than attempting to contact Don, but we do have people on the phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week to solve any Gibson related issue [1-800-4-GIBSON]. While they do not have the authority to send you $10,000 worth of gear on the spot they are literally less than a minute from my office and should/could have resolved this in a very short period of time. If you had an unsatisfactory conversation with anyone else at Gibson, let me know so we can insure that this will not happen in the future.

    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to address this problem.”

    Henry E. Juszkiewicz
    Chief Executive Officer
    Gibson Guitar Corp.
    309 Plus Park

  101. bigGdelta says:

    @minnock: A few years back i found a great all koa Carvin neck-thru for $150 at a pawnshop. Only problem was it was lefty. Got one of the local luthiers to put on a new nut and bridge and move the strap locks and viola $1000 guitar for $250 and it also looked cool upside down. This works best with guitars with deep or semmetrical cutaways. sg copies come to mind. It only took a couple of weeks to get used to the new position of the controls.

  102. marsneedsrabbits says:

    He can’t afford to pay thousands for a lawyer. Gibson knows that (it isn’t rocket science, he’s a musician) and can bank on being able to screw him with impunity.

  103. oldhat says:

    I’m not in Gibson’s market…but my boss is. Showed him the story, he says he’ll never buy Gibson again. Another ex-customer.

    Gibson is penny-wise, pound foolish, like the oldtimers say.

    Fucking idiots.

  104. ucdke says:

    Yes he did win stuff…from his website:
    Where’s My Prize?

    Here’s the itemized Grand Prize list. I’ve bolded what I DIDN’T receive:

    * A spot on the lineup: an opening slot on a feature stage.
    * Artist passes for the entire weekend with access to catering, the artist lounge, and everywhere else bands get to go!
    * Rooms for the weekend at the House of Blues Hotel.
    * Festival tickets for your friends to see you play.
    * $10,000 worth of equipment from our friends at Gibson. (yes, believe it!)
    * An interview and in-store performance at Virgin Megastore.
    * Band promotion on the homepage of and partner websites.
    * Plus countless other Lolla goodies and schwag.

  105. dlmccaslin says:

    @snoop-blog: Amen, brother!

  106. atomicafro says:

    I’m still pissed at Gibson for destroying Oberheim, one of the greatest American synth manufacturers ever. If you’ve ever heard the Oberheim Xpander you’ll know why it’s a fucking tragedy to have the name and rights to the original Oberheim hardware schematics owned by a company who couldn’t give two shits about analog synthesis.

    Fuck Gibson, I hope they fucking file for chapter 11.

  107. OrtizDupri says:

    @scoosdad: Interesting – not doubting you, but just wondering if you know who Tonedeff is? I’ve been listening to him now for a few years, even picked up his album “Archetype” and his group efamm’s album “Happy F*** You Songs”… and I’m pretty sure he runs a label. While I don’t think he’s rolling in dough, I don’t think he’s broke broke, either.

  108. yourbffjill says:

    @ucdke: yeah, everything that he did receive he received from Lollapalooza, genius. He didn’t get anything from Gibson, which by contract he’s entitled to.

    From now on I’m going to joint sponsor huge contests with my brand offering $50k prizes, and then when the other company puts up their end of the deal, I’ll just pull out saying “Well, you’re lucky you got what you did.” I bet that will hold up in court!

    Gibson got publicity out of the deal by advertising their part of the prize package, and then didn’t deliver. How is that fair to Tone? How is that fair to Lollapalooza?

    You’re seriously tripping if you think that he’s “lucky” after all of this.

  109. yourbffjill says:

    @OrtizDupri: He maxed out his credit cards to buy the things he needed (and thought he would be able to get) for his studio.

    Dude is an artist and a producer, AND runs the entire QN5 label, and still has to work a day job. Somewhere in there he has to find time to tour.

    He’s not broke in the sense that he’s got a place to live and food to eat, but if you have to max out your credit cards, I doubt you’ve got enough money around to write a check to a lawyer.

    It’s hard to make money off of a label when it’s one you’ve built from the ground up, so I wouldn’t assume that just because he “runs a label” he’s making more than he puts into it, because I know that’s false.

    Glad you picked up some of his work though. There’s constantly great music coming out of the QN5 label.

  110. DW7 says:

    Classic Gibson/Corporate/Guilty response. We fired that guy, this is the first I’m hearing about it and darn it, I’m gonnna get to the bottom of it. Reality is that a major part of the Gibson forest has been burned down already & here comes a guy with bucket of water….with the gall to try to look like the good guy. If not for this forum & the pressure brought to bear by the readers here & on other sites, nothing would be happening. Buying Gibson = buyer beware.

  111. BOOMER615 says:

    Post the terms and conditions of the contest, which would reveal a lot about this issue. MSRP sounds right to me.

  112. 00exmachina says:

    @ogdensr: That’s the crux of the article, they only make good when it’s highly visible.

  113. Buran says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Thank you so much for telling me that I’m a hack and “unprofessional” for daring to use items that are designed for easier use for me as a left-handed person. You obviously have no sense of what it’s like to try to use things that are designed to work against you. It’s so much easier when you’re righthanded because nearly everyone else is righthanded, right?

    You come across as a huge jerk with that comment of yours. How about you keep using your right-handed stuff and I’ll keep using my lefthanded stuff and you stop making rude, insulting comments about something that is not exactly something we can control and is most likely in our genes?

    Why should we lefties have to conform to the right-hander-biased world just because some asshole like you comes along and treats us as second-class citizens and worse because we’re different?

    I have a lot of respect for other peoples’ viewpoints but you have just crossed a huge line, and you need to learn to keep your fucking mouth shut if your excuse for insulting people is that they’re hacks and unprofessional. Are we stupid, retarded, and unworthy of having been born too?

    I can’t believe you actually dared to submit that piece of bullshit and next time I respectfully suggest you THINK BEFORE YOU SUBMIT.

  114. Charlotte Rae's Web says:

    Any update on this?