Customer Apologizes For Guitar Center Screw-Up

Mitch wrote to us last week to complain that he was sent a used guitar instead of the new one he ordered. Musician’s Friend and/or Guitar Center (they’re related) followed up with Mitch and corrected the mistake, but it turns out that Mitch was in the wrong on this one. Here’s his explanation for what happened.

Well Consumerist, I’m an idiot. Among the choice genetic treats my father passed to me are a receding hairline and a touch of dyslexia. While the hairline does not account for much, the dyslexia does.

What I saw as a big yellow ‘complaint’ tag, was in all actuality a big yellow ‘COMPLIANT’ tag. This innocuous sticker was simply stating a lack of hazardous materials, something I really like in a guitar.

Guitar Center did absolutely nothing wrong. They sent me a new guitar, exactly what I paid for, the first time. Any problems in the neck were for me to take up with Fender, as the guitar was still under warranty, and not Guitar Center. So if there’s a lesson here it’s this: even if you’re an insufferable moron, Guitar Center will take care of you.

Apparently he’s not kidding about that last part. Mitch contacted Guitar Center to offer to return the upgraded Fender they gave him last week, but they refused:

It was an honest mistake, but I couldn’t rightly let this go by without letting Guitar Center, and the Consumerist know. I offered to send the upgraded guitar back but Paul, being the stand up guy he is, wouldn’t hear of it. He just said, “I appreciate your integrity and I stand by my original statement that we just want to keep you as a customer.”

“Guitar Center Ships Broken Guitar From Another Store’s Inventory, Says Too Bad, Now It’s Yours”


Edit Your Comment

  1. Sidecutter says:

    I’m sure someone is typing up something to degrade the man even as I write this, but I think it should be said anyway.

    Good for him for publicly and openly admitting to his mistake in this. And bonus points for offering to surrender his mistakenly-gotten gains as well.

  2. GC says:

    Okay, he made a mistake, but he still got a defective guitar from the get go. From the original article:

    Perhaps a week later as I was setting the guitar up to my preferred level of feel/action, I noticed things were not quite right. I had noticed some string buzzing and a couple of other playability issues. So upon closer inspection of the neck, it appears to be slightly twisted… not a good thing at all.

    • honestlytoomuch says:

      @GC: Yes, he got a defective guitar but as the above article states he should take it up with Fender b/c it’s still under warranty. Guitar Center is nice enough to send him an upgraded guitar and let him keep it even thought they have done nothing wrong.

      • Shadowman615 says:

        @honestlytoomuch: Maybe. Sometimes people can just return defective products to their retailer instead of having to deal with the manufacturer. Although this more likely would have fallen under a warranty repair since, if I recall correctly, it was past Guitar Center’s 30-day return period.

    • FrugalFreak says:

      @GC: Selling a defective guitar is not wrong? It is still Guitar Center’s fault for selling crap goods. If you sell me something defective, I want my money back from whence I paid. My business is not just an opportunity to have me handle repair hassles instead of your refund hassles. I see no logic in selling shoddy equipment and putting cost of poor manufacturing on the backs of consumers who buy.

      This story is NOT finished. Guitar Center should refund the money and then Guitar Center should then take it up with the manufacturer who sold them the shoddy goods to sell.

      • halo00to14 says:

        @FrugalFreak: I’m sorry but that is way out of line. Retailers do not inspect every product that they get from a vendor, and go on good faith that the items that they ordered are in good shape. From time to time, quality control at the vendor end, UPS, Meridian, or just plain old grimlins cause issues that the retailer cannot foresee due to them not having x-ray vision.

        Guitar Center took back the bad guitar, got Mitch a *BETTER* guitar at no additional cost (according to the story given), upon Mitch finding out that he was mistaken and should have gone to Fender instead of Guitar Center he offered the guitar back, to which, Guitar Center said, “No, you keep it; it’s all good.” And you want them to give the man his money back and let him keep the guitar? That’s very unreasonable especially since it was out of their return period in the first place.

        While I don’t know you personally, from your post I will assume that you are that one highly unreasonable customer that no matter what is done you are never happy, say you’ll never shop somewhere again when you don’t get your way, and still show up to the same store time and time again.

  3. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Nominated for the Good Customer Hall of Fame (we do have one, don’t we?)

    • dancing_bear says:

      @speedwell, avatar of snark: We should have such a thing. When companies screw up we expect them to make amends, and this should go both ways. We are all idiots frequently, and it is noble to fess up when we recognize our own impairments in judgement.

  4. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Um, why did that not post where I sent it?

  5. TakingItSeriously is a Technopile says:

    Good for him. Having severe Dyslexia myself I have made similar mistakes when reading single words.

    My Wife, friends and I were playing Cranium once and I got of those “pictionary” ones. I read Grefitti, and started scrawling away. No one guessed correctly, but much hillarity ensued in the guessing (which no one got). Then my wife took the card to put it away, and said “Sweety … this says “Girraffe”.

    Needsless to say everyone (including me) had aching sides and jaws by the time we were able to continue the game.

  6. techstar25 says:

    Kudos to editor Chris Walters (and Consumerist) for posting this follow-up. I know that bad news is what sells, and posts like this probably won’t draw in a lot of page views or comments, but providing us with the follow up is the right thing to do. Thanks!

  7. warf0x0r says:

    Gratz to Guitar Center for realizing that Mitch is probably a customer for life now and will probably generate much more revenue for them after being taken care of than it cost them to send him a new guitar.

  8. ElizabethD says:

    Bravo — a lovely apology from a good man.

  9. icntdrv says:

    BRAVO! I know where my brother’s next birthday present will be coming from.

  10. MissPeacock says:

    Thanks for the follow-up, and more kudos for Mitch for admitting his mistake.

    • Murph1908 says:

      Yea for Mitch for owning up. We’ve all been there, I’m sure.

      Yea for Guitar Center. Somebody finally figured out good press is worth something.

      Perhaps if he can get the original guitar replaced under the warranty from Fender, Mitch could find a school or other organization who would appreciate a donation.

      I once heard that Tracy Chapman’s church chipped in to buy her her first guitar, after discovering she had a gift.

  11. cmdrsass says:

    Proving once again that the consumer CAN be wrong!

    I hope all the people who were posting in the last thread ripping Guitar Center apart post here with their apologies. Wishful thinking, I suppose.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I can understand the confusion here by the consumer. My girlfriend whom i love very much has Dyslexia and this kind of thing is common with that. I think Guitar Center should be applauded

  13. digitalskyfire says:

    GC’s response has really made me take another look at their company. I may just give them my patronage.

  14. logicalnoise says:

    I didn’t comment on the OP but yeah GC has always been good to me. Samash is way closer but it’s annoying to even browse there since their selectioon always sucks their prices never change and they are always understaffed. GC has always been upfront with me on deals. I picked up a very nice laguna guitar as well as a BOSS amp with a year of no payments financing thanks to a deal with fender. the deal was buy a fender or fender product get financing with no payments for a year. So I browsed only fenders(the models I liked were all priced pretty high). They showed me the laguna which was only 300 and the amp which was only 100 and then threw in a pack of fender picks which activated the financing(then they threw in another pack of picks for free.
    GC may seem like the Best buy of music stores but my local one is run more like a ABT.

  15. Wombatish says:

    Guitar Center probably has a defective policy that he could have returned it under anyway, had he noticed the mistake in time.

    But yeah, good for him for admitting his mistake

  16. BuddyHinton says:

    How do we know Guitar Center didn’t PAY Mitch for this now favorable complaint. Someone go to his house and make sure he doesn’t all of a sudden have a signed Eddie Van Halen-signed Frankenstrat!

    • BuddyHinton says:

      @BuddyHinton: by the way, i was being sarcastic just so you know…..

      • MPHinPgh says:

        @BuddyHinton: by the way, i was being sarcastic just so you know…..

        I figured you were, but I have to admit, that thought crossed my mind. I dismissed it pretty quick, but ya have to wonder…

    • FortyMegaFonzies says:

      @BuddyHinton: If Cash4Gold can do it, why not Guitar Center?

      • tc4b says:

        @FortyMegaFonzies: Someone could VERY EASILY get me to write good reviews and testimonials for them in return for a brand new MIA Tele. What I’m saying is, I’m available for this kind of whoredom. GC?

        • RandomHookup says:

          @tc4b: Actually, I was thinking this might be a viral marketing campaign for Guitar Center. They come out of this smelling sweet.

          • thisheregirafFe says:


            Yeah, it kindov looks that way and I almost mentioned in my email to Chris that “I swear I don’t work for GC”.

            I *do* work in advertising though, as a copywriter. So if you just happen to run an ad agency in Portland (I friggin love that city) … by all means, drop me a line.

  17. privateer says:

    I blame outsourcing of luthiers to China.

  18. philmin says:

    8 Guitar Centers went out of business due to Consumerist’s original story. Consumerist should do the right thing and close itself.

  19. zentex says:

    I can only imagine how Mitch feels…I wonder if he found a big enough rock to hide under for a while ;-)

  20. CumaeanSibyl says:

    Holy crap, someone on the internet just admitted he was in the wrong. That’s about as rare as a jackalope sighting.

    Well played, sir.

  21. HalOfBorg says:

    OK, this doesn’t belong here, but as a Star Trek fan, I have to add it:

    “I am Dyslexia Of Borg. Your ass will be laminated.”

  22. FortyMegaFonzies says:

    I’m still a little miffed that it took him over 30 days to notice the defect, and that he even had time to “absolutely f[a]ll in love with the guitar” before noticing this defect.

    I actually returned an accoustic guitar once, because of a bad neck. I didn’t notice the crack until several months after I bought it, and I thought that it had failed due to poor construction. Turns out, my roomate later admitted that a drunken friend had fallen on it, causing the damage. The store lost money due to my mistake and I always felt bad about it.

  23. bastion72 says:


  24. t-r0y says:

    He screwed up. We all do. He’s a stand up guy.

    It’s too bad we have too many people here in the US that are unwilling to take responsibility for their own actions.

  25. dave23 says:

    What is odd to me is that nobody at GC said, “We don’t HAVE big yellow complaint tags”

  26. Ezra Ekman says:

    I’ve actually had some pretty decent experiences with Guitar Center over the years. The best way to ensure this (as with pretty much any store who’s business model is either commission or metric-based) is to make friends with the salespeople. It’s not hard, it’s a nicer overall experience, and if you ever run into trouble, you get taken care of.

    I know one of the local Guitar Center managers because I’ve been buying from him since he was just a salesperson. He lets me know when uncommon, inexpensive, used items come in that I’ve asked him to keep an eye out for. He chats with me about arbitrary techniques and theoretical equipment. I don’t really ever see him outside of the store, but when I’m there, he’s always a pleasure to deal with.

    A few years ago, I had a piece of equipment that I’d bought way back when. The store had lost the extended warranty paperwork, and it looked like I was going to have to pay out of pocket for the repairs. But after a few minutes of going to bat for me with the general manager, he came back out with a brand new one. Not a repair, but a new replacement. A smile, a wink, and I was on my way. THAT is what I call service. And that’s what you get when you make friends with your salespeople at Guitar Center. It doesn’t cost money. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort. Just be nice. :-)

  27. failurate says:

    I always like positive notices presented to me in the form of big yellow or red warning signs.

    • Chris Walters says:

      @failurate: I have to admit, after reading Mitch’s explanation I thought, “This is a perfect example of how bad design can have real-world consequences.”

  28. nevets68 says:

    Kudo’s to this gentlemen for admitting his mistake.
    And yes to GC for upgrading him.

    Since we’re discussing GC (kinda), I’ve noticed that they’re on the cheap side when it comes to buying equipment.

    So a question to you all Consumerist’s, where’s a good place to sell a nice Korg Drum Machine *and not get raked over the coals on the price for it*?

  29. Ysa says:

    I have a suggestion for Mitch to alleviate his guilt if he is interested – maybe sell the extra guitar and donate the proceeds to a (non-controversial) charity in Guitar Center’s name? Something along the lines of Habitat for Humanity or the ASPCA? Sadly I mention non-controversial because there are always jackasses out there who will use what one might think is a no-brainer (Pediatric AIDS Foundation for example) and hold it against the company.

    Just a thought that occurred to me.

  30. Corporate_guy says:

    So compliant is a normal shipping sticker and not something they tack onto the side of the box for a return that tests ok?

  31. Melissa Huber says:

    Dear Mitch,

    Thank you for being honest about your mistake and offering to make it right by sending the upgrade back. We wish more customers were like you. It would make our jobs so much easier.

    Everyone Who Has Ever Dealt With Customers

  32. Cody Rogers says:

    I don’t care what any “real musician” says about Guitar Center in some tirade about capitalism and rip-offs- The friends you make at your local store will stand behind you and give you the real scoop, as long as you do the same with them. How they remember me and everyone else they talk with on a daily basis astounds me, and you can tell that they truly have concern for your well-being and finance. I applaud Guitar Center.

  33. trujunglist says:

    Way to go mitch, and way to go Guitar Center.. I think they may have a customer for life.

  34. MyPetFly says:

    I think I feel a tear forming…

    Seriously, both sides acted honorably in this. Wouldn’t it be nice if the whole world operated this way? (Cue “It’s a Small World” theme…)

  35. Gargoyle_A2 says:

    Guitar center is entering “moral hazard” territory. They let this go one time and everybody’s going to want the buy one get a better one free deal.

    I jest, but only slightly.

  36. lauy says:

    Bravo for the follow up…

    Reminds me of a customer who called livid because we sent her a letter stating “we were no longer going to debate her account”. This verbiage did not sound like one of our form letters, so I accessed her history to review the letter she received. I then spent the next 20 minutes explaining to her the definitions and correct pronunciation of the words “debate” and “debit“.

    /former check card disputes associate

  37. brandymb says:

    There IS hope yet for mankind..

  38. linlu says:

    Why did they choose a yellow tag for ok (compliant), vice green. Green usually means good, or even blue. But yellow, red, even orange usually indicate something is wrong. Just a thought.

    Funny, the submit button turns red as you mouse over it, a warning perhaps?

  39. Anonymous says:

    Wow, that’s really great, especially considering how crappy the economy is right now. I work with some musicians, and every single one of them says that Musician’s Friend is great to buy from. After seeing this and hearing so many great things about them, I won’t ever hesitate to buy from them.