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Why... WHY does Guitar Center suck so bad???


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I had some time to kill today while I was in Phoenix, so I stopped into one of the four Guitar Centers we have here.


Now, anybody who's read many of my posts knows about my complete disgust with their business model and their idea of customer service. I've had many opportunities over the years to do business with them and been thoroughly disappointed about 90% of the time.


Still, they move alot of merchandise and they try to stay on the cutting edge of trends and technology.

That's worth something, though most of it is lost on a traditional guitar buyer/collector like me.


I know many of the guys that work at the various stores, and there are some good eggs in the ranks.

A few are nothing more than amusing, but I do enjoy eavesdropping on their sales pitches to the uninformed.


They've all learned to simply ask if I need help and then move on...




Well, to tell this story fully, I need to rewind a couple weeks.

Same deal, I just stopped in to see what was new and say hi to a couple guys I know from other stores.

Saw a really cool used Guild Starfire IV and a few nice Les Pauls and Firebirds - nothing else of note.


Looking at a T-shirt display I noticed they had some in XXL.

I can NEVER find rocker shirts big enough to fit my dynamic physique so I decided to pick up a couple.

(Why are so many shirts marked as XXL when they shrink to medium? Me in spandex is not pretty!

One was a Marshall logo shirt, the other was "The Original Crybaby" so I was pumped with my little score.


Went to the cash register to pay out and the guy asks for my first and last name.

For a cash purchase?

He says it's in case I have a return or something lame like that, so I tell him to put HIS name in there.

I tell him with a smile I'm on the Do Not Call list, the Don't Mail Sh!t To My House list, and every other list I can find.

He says he'll call me Mr. Cash then.



No harm, no foul, and $34 later we're done.

Then I head out the door 20 feet away and I have to show my receipt to the girl at the door to prove to a minimum wage Goth chick that I'M not a criminal, trying not to be too offended by the idiocy of it all.

Some security, she's 90 lbs. soaking wet.


Got home, showed the wife my shirts, of course she reminds me how they never fit me. Thanks honey....

Tore the plastic open and held them up - Nope. Too small even if they don't shrink.


Mrs. Neo says it's no problem, she works just a few miles from there so she can take them back for a refund.

She knows what happens when Customer Service "issues" develop with my money at stake, she'd rather go alone.

I tell her to call me if she has any trouble, she just smiles and says she'll take care of it.

She's really way too nice, but she gets stuff done way after I get pissed off and scare everybody out of the store.


A few days later she calls me on my cell phone saying she's at Guitar Center.

There's an issue with the refund. Even with the receipt showing a description and product codes, they can't do cash.


They prefer to do store credit, and she KNOWS this ain't gonna be cool.

My wife knows, and with a pleasant smile tells the nice guy at the counter that if her husband has to drive 50 miles into town this afternoon to settle this bullsh!t, they'll wish they never got out of bed this morning. She tells them that I won't get mad at them, it's their manager who will lose his head.


One of the guys remembers who I am (wonder why?) and they hatch a plan. While she's on the phone explaining this to me they cut my wife a check for $34 and wish her a good afternoon.


She leaves the store and calls me back.

Turns out the check is on the same bank as one I use, so depositing it is not really a big deal.


I call the store later and ask to speak to a manager to get to the bottom of this and get an assistant manager.

There's NEVER a manager at a Guitar Center, but everybody is an assistant manager...

Turns out I've talked with this guy before, he knows me. He's a good guy - knows his guitars - so I go easy on him.


He explains they don't refund cash over $25, and though I point out that's the value of two sets of strings he says it's their policy to keep minimal cash in the store. I tell him I could understand if it was $500 or something like that but they could do a $34 refund in coins!



Okay, I just wanted to make sure they weren't pulling a fast one on Mrs. Neo.

That would NOT be cool...

They did a few times before we met because her boy was playing guitar, she is now wise to their tricks.



So, I go to the store again today because I'm thinking seriously about buying that Guild Starfire IV.

This is where it becomes so apparent one more time how badly Guitar Center sucks.


To be continued...

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So, I go to the same Guitar Center again today because I'm thinking seriously about buying that Guild Starfire IV.

This is where it becomes so apparent one more time how badly Guitar Center sucks.


I had planned to surprise Mrs. Neo and meet her for dinner in town, so I had some time to kill before she finished up.


I find the SF IV has been moved into the "Platinum Room" where the signs everywhere state that you should ask for assistance before handling anything. One of the Assistant Managers sees an "older Dude" in the room with the expensive stuff so he comes in with a smile and introduces himself.

Turns out he's a Guild guy himself, he's owned a couple of them and gigged with them.

I dunno, at least he knows the difference between a SF IV and a SF V...


About this time my cell phone rings, Mrs. Neo is pleased to hear I'm gonna treat her to dinner.

I tell her where I am and invite her to decide on a restaurant while driving over.

She says she will meet me at GC, so I jokingly tell her she can see the guitar I wanna buy...

She tells me to stay where I am and play guitar until she shows up - what a doll she is!



So, the Assistant Manager leaves me to play whatever I want.

I ask him if all the amps are plugged in and ready to go, he assures me that everything in the room is good to go.


That'll be a first for GC....


First order of business, get a cord so I can plug into something.

Then I remember this is Guitar Center - and I strum the guitar - it's out of tune big time.

I carry it out to the guitar counter and ask them to tune it to standard E with their fancy digital set up.


Grab a cord and head back to the "Platinum Room" to choose an amp, and plug into a Blackheart - it's dead.

Plug into a Bogner, flip the switch, nothing.

Same with the Fender Twin - wait, it works but the power light is out. No Master or gain, I'll need something different.


I see a Mesa Lone Star and decide to try that. It's not plugged in.

What the fxck?

Okay, I hang the Guild up and find a live outlet for the Lone Star. Everything seems to be in order.

Plug in and I'm rewarded with TONE.

Cool guitar, killer amp. Man, this is what it's all about!

I'm really liking this Starfire IV. I'm a semi hollow guy guy anyhow, but this thing is very cool!


So, I close the door to the "Platinum Room" in consideration of the rest of the customers and proceed to indulge myself.

Get a good setting on the amp, dial the volume up and start running through some blues riffs and.... what's that smell?

Well, it's a new amp and it's warming up nicely so it'll go away in a few minutes.



Sonofa*****, it's starting to really stink in here, like they left the plastic mesh on the tubes or something.

I switch the amp off, hang up the guitar, and look around at the back to see where the smoke is coming from.

How many times have I heard of GC putting a tube amp on the floor without checking the back?


No, the tubes are okay.

Wait, what's this sh!t buried under the paperwork?

Yeah, melted tube protectors.


Somebody already did the deed and pulled them off. Hiding them under the warranty paper work isn't good enough.

There's plastic melted onto the power tubes already, that sh!t will NEVER cook off completely.



I'm reminded one more time how badly Guitar Center sucks.


Oh, this is nowhere near the end. Mrs. Neo hasn't even arrived yet.


To be continued...

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This is definetly a story that I never herd about at GC.


Usally its about how the floor sales men don't know anything about guitars.

Or its about how beat up the guitars are.

sometimes its about how sluty the girls at the door are.



very interesting problem with the vintage room. Be glad the sprinkler system didnt go off. Thats what happend at scaramento GC.


GC is honestly a joke, the only things I have ever bought from GC is Guitar straps, metronome, and straplocks.

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So, I open the "Platinum Room" door to air it out and make it habitable for humans again, then step out to the floor where a couple of Assistant Managers are hanging out. I show them one of the melted tube protectors and let them know they have a stinky Mesa Lone Star in there. Not gonna sell THAT amp when it chokes everybody in the room....


One of them says "Yeah, these new guys, man we tell 'em and tell 'em.... They get in a hurry I guess."


Oh yeah. I forgot I was at Guitar Center. They really don't give a flying fxck.


I go back into the "Platinum Room" to look at some of the other guitars while awaiting Mrs. Neo's arrival.

I take down a really nice Tele Deluxe, noting the neck profile is slimmer than my American Ash Tele.

Very nice guitar.

As I'm hanging it up I get a shiver thinking how the skinny Tele headstock doesn't offer much surface contact for the hanger fingers, and how many I've heard of falling to their death in stores or at home.

I lower it gently into the hanger and hear/feel a scraping sensation. Uh-oh. The foam cover is worn through.

The headstock is sliding on metal!


I look at the headstock, the damage is negligible, could be minimized with a new hanger.

Being the Good Samaritan I am, I look for another hanger to swap with - no luck.

Don't worry about foam rubber damaging nitro finishes at Guitar Center, it's all torn off and metal doesn't react.


Amps not hooked up, amps that don't work properly, hangers that damage NICE guitars before the 12 year olds do...


About this time Mrs. Neo comes walking in, smiling that beautiful radiant smile at all the sales guys who come running to assist her. She points in my direction and tells them she's fine, she needs no assistance from any of the 8 Assistant Managers...


So, I show her the Guild Starfire IV and she is suitably impressed.

The price isn't anything special, but the guitar is pristine. We take a couple of digital pics of it (I'll explain why later) and then I plug it in to the now cool Mesa Lone Star. I caution her about the acrid smoke it will be developing in a few minutes while she closes the "Platinum Room" door.


Yeah, it's kinda loud, but check it out!

I would really love to take this SF IV home to join my SF III and ES-335, man what a cool trio of guitars that would be!


Mrs. Neo is sufficiently impressed with the tones offered by the guitar/amp combo and I tell her I would sell BOTH of my Fender tube amps in a split second to get one of these Lone Stars. I tell her it's only 30 watts - really!


Well, it's starting to stink again now that the tubes are warming up and I stop playing for a second to talk to her.

What's that rushing/hissing sound coming from the amp?

That's not cool.

Last time MY amp did that it was time for tubes....


Mrs. Neo is concerned I broke the amp!

No way in hell, you can't hurt these things - especially no harder than I drove it in 20 minutes of playing!!!


I check the cord, wiggling both ends, no difference.

Volume off on the guitar, still sounds like a drunk with his head in the toilet.

I pull the cord out of the amp - no change.

Yep, I flip the switches and kill it.

Maybe THAT'S why it was unplugged....


(EDIT - added later since I forgot this part)

Between a near fire the first time it was cranked up with the plastic mesh tube protectors, and the vacuum-cleaner-inside-a-toilet-bowl sounds it makes, somebody probably thought it should be unplugged from the wall.

The next guy to play it will probably think it's a piece of sh!t with a price tag rivaling that of a Marshall JCM 800 head...


We hang the Guild up to discuss it and sensing my frustration and disgust she asks

"Why would you buy a guitar from these guys after all these years, all the sh!t you've put up with from them?"

Well, they don't make these anymore and it's in perfect condition.

Another week inside Guitar Center and it'll look like sh!t.

Think of it as a rescue, like saving a puppy from certain death at the pound.


She asks if the price is really that remarkable, or if I can find another one for the same money on Ebay.

No, the price is right in the middle of the norm. It's just a stunningly clean guitar.


Then Mrs. Neo gives me The Look.

All you married guys know what The Look means....


We went and ate Mexican food, spent $30 total.

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I need to dig through my colossal stack of stuff and post my story about the last guitar I bought from GC.

That was 2003 - 6 years ago, and I remember it like it was yesterday.


PERFECT example of the shady sh!t they pull.


More to come...

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Here's a post I dug out from last year, not concerning the last guitar I bought from GC in 2003, but their continued BS.




These guys are ruining the guitar business for all of us...


I went to one of our 5 lovely Phoenix-area national chain stores this past Saturday in Tempe, AZ.

It was as bad as I've ever seen.


Eight year olds playing Stairway to Heaven on new Explorers. Yes, eight. I asked him.

Then he promptly banged it into an SG.


I was gonna plug into a Hot Rod DeVille, since that's what I have at home.

The cords are attached to the display stands, too short to reach an amp in the middle of the rack.

I finally get a cord from one of the Slacker Dude/Tattoo Show employees, and find the amp won't power up.

Look behind, yeah, it's plugged in.

Move over to the Bassman combo, it powers up. Plug the cord in and BUZZZZZZ!!! POP!!!! ZZZZOTTT!!!

Okay, go find the cool kid to get another cord.

Tell him this one is f-ed up, and he puts it back on the same rack without so much as a mono-syllabic grunt.


Play a new Standard a little, I'll post about that elsewhere....


They have a Custom Shop EDS 1275 double neck like mine on the rack where everybody can grab it, so they did.

It's scratched all to hell, WHO would buy such a thing?


I decided to check out a Firebird V with its mini humbuckers, bridge p/u is loose and flopping around.

Went to the counter to ask for a screwdriver, was told

"yeah, that guitar's been f-ed up for a couple months. I wrote it up...."


A third of the Les Pauls are missing toggle tips, every guitar I touched had bent pots or at least crooked knobs.

Not one guitar I looked at was flawless, every single one had scratches or dings.



I talked to guy about the in store credit thing, since he asked.

They had tags on half the guitars touting the no-interest payment plan. Good name because I have no interest.



Anyhow, I acted interested enough to prompt him to "explain" to me how convenient it is.

I asked him about the 13th month if you still had a balance. He just smiled, and said "Yeah, that's what they WANT!"

All the interest is retroactive? "Yep."

So if you only owe five bucks due to some fee, because you KNOW you paid it off, you still get hammered? "Yep."


Their prices are WAY optimistic, saw a used Marshall JCM 800 reissue head for $1900. That was the new price...


Recognized a guy named Nic who transfered from the Scottsdale store, spent half an hour talking to him.

He's pretty sharp, unlike the rest of the crew there.

They just took in a BEAUTIFUL PRS Custom 22, bought it off a guy needing cash real bad.

Made in 2001, Amber like my PRS, nice flame top, with three P-90's and a Maple neck.

Flawless. Stunning.

Ironic how a seven year old guitar bought used off the street is the ONLY guitar in the store NOT banged up....

They want $2500.

That's about what it sold for new.



Left there, went to my favorite indie dealer and found out the PRS had just been there a couple days ago.

The guy was a complete ***, so Mike (the manager) wouldn't make an offer on the guitar.

He got on his bicycle and left....

It's 105 degrees in Phoenix and this guy's on a bike?


Think about this for a minute.

This store is over twenty miles from the chain store in Tempe.

The PRS was swinging around on a bicycle in summer heat and made it to the Tempe Guitar Center in better condition than any of the new guitars they have in stock at air-conditioned stores....


What a f-ing sh!t hole those stores can be.

Some of these guys on the forums amaze me.

Talk endless sh!t about Gibson being the Evil Empire, the Dark Force of Guitar Hell.

Then defend Guitar Center and Sam Ash like it was attached to their mother's virtue.


I go into all five Big Box stores here regularly to look a little and buy odds and ends.

Today I was in there for almost two hours, and my opinion of their business model was only reinforced.


Oh, and the Coup de Grace?

On the way out the door, I get shook down like a common thug by the tattooed and pierced chick manning the door.


She keeps people from stealing stuff, eh?

Wonder how all those toggle tips get past her?

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Another BIGSTORE story for the kiddies....




As much as I'm a capitalist, I believe in honesty in business.

If you have to screw people to make a buck, you deserve to go broke.

I own a small business myself and I'm completely up front about my prices and policies.

People can buy from me or not, I have no fear of a customer getting pissed and coming back.

I steer people to other dealers for prices better than I can give, they STILL buy from me in reward for the honesty.

Everybody wins.


Guitar Center is a retail rip-off, it's their business model.

Worse than car dealers, almost as bad as furniture retailers.

Denying it won't make it go away, and no matter how much I rant and rave in half a dozen forums it continues unabated.


I still buy stuff there now and then, I would buy another guitar from them if it was a smoking/rare deal.

I know several people who work there, they don't like what I say, but they can't change the company to stop it.


I'm friends with several guys who work in retail guitar sales, I know all the guys at Bizarre Guitar very well.

They have a new story every week from a customer who was shopping at GC then came to Bizarre to buy.

These stories are unsolicited, shared voluntarily.




My favorite was the guy last year who called Bizarre looking for a black LP Studio with chrome hardware.

Bizarre had a dozen marked at $999 and when the guy called he thought Manager Mike was jerking him around.

He asked twice "Are you SURE you have one?"

Mike told him he was looking right at two of them. The guy said okay and hung up.


When he showed up at the store, he couldn't believe Mike was telling the truth when he said he had them.

GC told him they were a special order with chrome hardware, and hard to get.


GC had a black studio with gold, he asked for chrome.

GC told him that the $1300+ price tag on the one with gold hardware was invalid if they had to order a chrome one.

And the hardcase would be an extra $250.

The "more expensive" chrome hardware was gonna make the Studio $2000 from Guitar Center if they ordered it.


He stayed and explained the whole thing to Mike in painful detail for a half hour AFTER he bought what he wanted for $999 total.

He was THIS CLOSE to paying DOUBLE what the guitar was worth new, five hundred dollars OVER retail list price.


Mike explained that ALL the Studios they get leave Gibson in a factory hard case.

All hardware options available do not change the price whether gold or chrome.

Mike also explained to the guy that a brand new Les Paul Standard was less than $2000, and he had 15 of them hanging there in the store. For $2000, the guy could certainly get more guitar for his money....


Mike had Studios in black, white, and wine red with either hardware and KEEPS them there at all times.

He also has many other colors and tops for variety in the Studio line.

All are spotless.


He can't bad mouth GC too much, he'll get himself in trouble.


I go into their stores and tell people to shop around before they buy.

I don't even mention Bizarre unless they ask, I simply tell them to do their homework and be careful.

A few purchased at Bizarre and told the guys there "somebody" warned them at Guitar Center.


Am I proud of that?

Only as proud as Guitar Center is when they fxck customers to death....


I know many of you don't like it, but it's true.

I made NONE of this up, embellished nothing, stretched nothing.

They really are that bad at GC if they can get away with it.

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Go, Neo, go!


I hope you have the same success putting GC out of business in Phoenix that I had putting CompUSA out of business here in Nashville.






just leave my GC here in Nashville alone... they rock!

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Then I head out the door 20 feet away and I have to show my receipt to the girl at the door to prove to a minimum wage Goth chick that I'M not a criminal' date=' trying not to be too offended by the idiocy of it all.[/quote']


Hehe.. I know just what you mean. Although, I have to say that despite the look on their faces, the goth security guards at my local GC are refreshingly nice.

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Why you continue wasting your time on GC is beyond me, man... Everybody and their mother knows you don't like them at all (and for good reason), but still you go there from time to time and end up more pissed at them than before (like any other musician that knows his stuff and goes there anyway).


GC sucks, but the same can be said about almost all mega stores (wether they sell car replacement parts, pillows, or guitars).

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oh' date=' and by the way, if you order stuff from musicians friend, you're just as guilty as shopping at GC, since GC owns them.[-( [/quote']


No man, he hates MFers as much... (as do most people... well, I do and that is more than enough for me:-" )

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man...i know the rep GC has but this is a new level of hate haha. i also don't buy significant things from places like these. i usually get the typical accessories like strings, straps, cords etc etc but never thousand dollar guitars and amps because i know theres a chance or killing myself over the anguish and incompetence of the 19 yr old assistant managers handling problems that arise.


on the plus side though theres this super cute chick that works the counter at my local GC. it doesnt seem like she knows much about anything with guitars but she's better than any 90lb security girl at the door for sure [-(


only complaint i have with GC is that some guitars are in crap condition on display floor. selection is obviously biased to big brand names so i can't expect a super huge variety.

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it's clear to me that GC needs a new business plan and someone like you to turn the store fromt he piece of sh!T it has become into what it was originally inteded to be, the No.1 store in America.

I love your posts about GC. It just goes to show how the mighty has fallen.

When I bought my Alembic Spoiler and my Gibson ES 175, it pretty much was a perfect experience. Since then, I too have had several run ins with the snotty nose, tattooed and pierced sales staff who know little about customer service, let alone show any pride in their work place.

My last trip there resulted in me laughing in the guys face when he told me "The sticker price for that ES 335 is $3,900." When I asked him about a case he told me that it was extra. I also said I wanted to speak with a manager and he informed me the manager was not in at that time.

I finally told him not to even bother taking it off the wall, because if he thinks I'm going to pay sticker price for that guitar, he's out of his 20 something mind. I told him I've never paid sticker for a guitar in my life and I'm not about to start.

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You'll never hear any argument from me on their customer service or knowledge or how it is managed.In that regards,it totally bites.

My name keeps coming up on their computer as my correct last name,but incorrect first name.My name is Randy.It comes up as Eric every time I am there.I tell them about it every time I am there and they say"Well,I guess we could change it ,but how about we just leave it as Eric and you know you you really are anyways?"

I also experience the out of tune guitars,guitars with missing or broken parts on them,amps not plugged in.I could actually make a pretty long list of crappy service and run thing within their store.

I still go there tho to check out things because they stock alot of things there and you can try them all.I don't buy anything that is not new in the package tho and nothing thats been out being used by everyone and everyone.

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