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When Is A Deal, Not Such A Good Deal?
Most of us enjoy finding a bargain. Whether it's at the mall, online, a yard sale or a flea market, finding a desired object at a great price is fun. But based on years of experience I have all too many times seen someone purchase a "used gem" of a musical instrument or piece of gear at a rock bottom price only to find out, it was either in such poor condition that the cost would be prohibitive to adequately repair, or even just to get it useable, the person most likely could have bought something brand new with a full warranty.
If you really don't know what to look for and how to thoroughly test an item out, or have a friend that has some expertise, you're probably going to be disappointed in the end.
But this doesn’t just apply to used gear. In the last several years, many "big box" retailers that are not musical instrument stores have begun marketing musical equipment. The problem is that most of the "brand name instruments" on the shelves are a far cry from the products that made the manufacturer famous, are vastly inferior and are essentially only trading on the brand name recognition. In addition, it's not likely you will get any qualified answers to any question you may have as most of the personnel in big box stores are not knowledgeable about musical equipment. So during and after the purchase you're pretty much on your own.
The big box musical instrument companies that specialize in music gear have a tremendous rate of turnover in personnel and its usually rare to find the person who sold you your item when you need help or have a problem. As far as finding someone who really knows what their talking about and not just trying to sell you something because there is an extra monetary bonus attached to that item even creates more obstacles when attempting to make an informed purchase. I spent 15 years working for some of the top musical instrument manufacturers as a sales manager and a good portion of my job was to train store personnel. It was rare on a return visit to find many of the same people working at the big box stores. Also, I rarely met anyone in these stores who had a real passion for gaining knowledge about instruments or gear, but when I called on independent stores, I usually had a totally different experience. Most independent stores are started by people who love music first and business second, which is the opposite of big box stores.
The main point is, you will probably have a much better buying experience if you develop a relationship which an independent musical retailer. They usually have more knowledgeable salespeople that have a vested interest in helping you to make an informed decision regarding your purchase, new or used. They need you as a customer to thrive.