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  1. #1
    Atomic Punk lovemachine97(Version 2)'s Avatar
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    Default Do you shop online? If so, why?

    As some know, I work at a mom and pop music store. The surrounding area is about 400,000 people. There's no guitar centers (and won't for some time), and two other music stores in town. One specializes in sheet music/rentals, the other is like us but does more used stuff. We're the only full-line store, however.

    The median household income in the area is below $40,000, so there isn't much room for a lot of high end stuff or for stocking everything. We have Yamaha acoustic and digital pianos, Yamaha keyboards, used acoustic pianos, Takamine, Fender, Yamaha, and Guild (just dropped Taylor) acoustic guitars, Fender, Jackson, Schecter, and Yamaha electric guitars/basses, Yamaha/Fender PAs, CB and Gretsch drums (anything above entry-level sets is tough to sell in our area), and as many accessories as possible. The staff is knowledgeable and if they don't know something, they find it out. Our instruments are priced at MAP, and some accessories are at online prices, but many are above online prices but still cheaper than retail.

    As you know the economy has been hurtful, and in non-essential retail it has been very tough. So, my question to you guys is, why would you or do you shop online for instruments accessories? Do you also shop local? Is there a reason for one over the other?

    I know I shop Amazon for a TON of stuff and it's basically price. I have a prime membership, so everything is free 2-day shipping, no taxes, and the price is usually cheaper than at the store.

    I have a skewed view in MI because I get things at cost, basically. Of course, it has to be stuff we carry, but for the most part, we do. So I would like to know what you guys think about the online/mom and pop/big box/prices debate, and what influences you.

  2. #2
    Baluchitherium
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    Quote Originally Posted by lovemachine97(Version 2) View Post
    As some know, I work at a mom and pop music store. The surrounding area is about 400,000 people. There's no guitar centers (and won't for some time), and two other music stores in town. One specializes in sheet music/rentals, the other is like us but does more used stuff. We're the only full-line store, however.

    The median household income in the area is below $40,000, so there isn't much room for a lot of high end stuff or for stocking everything. We have Yamaha acoustic and digital pianos, Yamaha keyboards, used acoustic pianos, Takamine, Fender, Yamaha, and Guild (just dropped Taylor) acoustic guitars, Fender, Jackson, Schecter, and Yamaha electric guitars/basses, Yamaha/Fender PAs, CB and Gretsch drums (anything above entry-level sets is tough to sell in our area), and as many accessories as possible. The staff is knowledgeable and if they don't know something, they find it out. Our instruments are priced at MAP, and some accessories are at online prices, but many are above online prices but still cheaper than retail.

    As you know the economy has been hurtful, and in non-essential retail it has been very tough. So, my question to you guys is, why would you or do you shop online for instruments accessories? Do you also shop local? Is there a reason for one over the other?

    I know I shop Amazon for a TON of stuff and it's basically price. I have a prime membership, so everything is free 2-day shipping, no taxes, and the price is usually cheaper than at the store.

    I have a skewed view in MI because I get things at cost, basically. Of course, it has to be stuff we carry, but for the most part, we do. So I would like to know what you guys think about the online/mom and pop/big box/prices debate, and what influences you.
    i always try to buy from a store, i know the owners of both my local stores and regularly jam with one (and i have just been asked to teach the others son to play guitar)...theres nothing like feeling an instrument in your hands before you part with your cash and also i feel its important to support your local business man/woman in these times. the only recent aquisition i have had to make online was the Fractal Axe FX Ultra and Atomic Wedges, no stores that i know of carry them. Times are hard for everyone right now especially as you said, non-essential retailers, the guys i know have amazing customer service and knowledge and i would hate to see them go, so they will always get my support before the internet.
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  3. #3
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    I've worked in MI retail as well as web design, so I have seen both sides of this. Although price is always a factor, particularly on bigger items, I've always maintained that availability is the greater influence. That's what Amazon does really well - they have that obscure book or DVD you can't buy down the street. Most people don't want to wait when they purchase something, they want it yesterday if at all possible, so if they can buy the same item locally on their lunch break, even if it's marginally more expensive, then they'll do that rather than wait two or three days for it to arrive in the mail. If it's significantly more expensive, then that's a different story, but if you're talking about spending $9.95 and getting it now, or spending $9.50 and getting it in three days, most people will opt for the former over the latter.

    For example, I bought a Charvel So Cal from the guitar store in my nearest major city (Belfast) for £899, and they would not budge on price. I almost walked away because I knew I could get it online for £850, but I had the money in my pocket and the guitar in my hand, so I did the deal then and there rather than wait. But if they hadn't had the guitar in stock, like the Ibanez RG2550Z I bought the previous year, I would have happily bought it online.

    It's a simple equation - if a local store has what I want, I'll buy it there even if it's slightly more expensive. If they don't, I won't order it from then and wait weeks for the supplier to deliver it. I'll just buy it online.

    It's about choice and availability first, then price. And, to be honest, service doesn't have a great deal to do with it.

    Another anecdote - in the music store I used to work in, we sold Yamaha keyboards about 5% to 10% cheaper than the big catalogue store in the next town, but a lot of people still drove twenty miles to pay more for one from some kid who wouldn't know middle C from their middle finger. I once asked a sales rep why he thought people did this, and he simply answered, "Because it's easier."

    On certain products, particularly electronics, people don't want to deal with a knowledgeable salesperson. They just want to buy the thing and get out. That's why they'll go to a Walmart or somewhere for things like beginner's packages, even though they might not get the best product for their money.
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  4. #4
    Atomic Punk
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    If we're talking specifically about music gear, I buy in person, generally from the main guitar center in Houston...little stuff I grab at the suburban GC closest to my home.

    I have bought an item or two online but only stuff I will not need much support on and stuff that I know isn't going to be different item to item...like a pedal or something. I prefer to buy this stuff in person though...for a couple of reasons.

    1. Part of what I'm spending my money on is the service, both before and after the purchase. I like knowing I have someone to call if I have a problem and I like shaking hands with the person I'm giving my money to. Now, I buy everything from my best friend so that's another incentive for me. I want to take care of my boy.

    2. Ease of return/exchange. I don't have to hassle with return shipping etc and if something isn't as it was described, it's a lot easier to walk into a store and say "what the hell!?!" than it is to fire off emails. You know?

    Yeah there's the whole "local economy" thing but it's not as big a factor. I shop for price, service and selection. Whoever has the best gets my money....whether they're there here, there or where ever else.

    For other stuff, cds, books, crap like that, online every time. I hate going to the mall, record shops never have what I'm looking for, I hate lines and the prices are too high. I buy almost every cd from ebay and I get them for less than half of what I'd pay if I went to Best Buy and less than a third of what I'd pay if I went to mom and pop record shop. If I'm not buying stuff from ebay I'm buying direct from the artist at shows or from their websites. I would much rather order something from the web and wait for it to show up than deal with driving somewhere, looking for something, not finding it, asking someone who doesn't know, going somewhere else etc etc. I go to Amazon or Ebay because no matter what I'm looking for, they have it and it's usually cheap. I also shop online for flowers, roller derby gear for The Wife, camera stuff, games, all sorts of shit. It seems the only time I buy in stores is when I'm buying clothes, jewelry or when I get drunk and decide to give into my impulses.

    As for the whole mom/pop vs big bad Guitar Center...most of you know where I stand. I think GC gets way too much shit and I think mom/pops get way too much credit...just like in any other situation with big box retailers.

    I've seen the absolute worst guitar center has to offer and I've seen the absolute best. Right now, all three stores here are humping on all four cylinders. They have good crews full of super knowledgeable people who work hard, stay up to date, do their homework, are working musicians, family guys and girls, take care of their customers and are trying to live their lives just like the rest of us.

    I've also seen them when they were full of kids who knew NOTHING. Some of the stories I could tell you are pathetic and embarassing and shameful.

    That said, the mom and pops aren't all that special. They have their flaws. Take price and selection out of the equation and let's just look at service. I've run into just as many service issues with mom/pop music and hardware stores as I ever have with lowes or GC...in fact, actually MORE.

    mom/pop mechanics have fucked me over way more than Firestone. The mom and pop music store won't let me play a guitar without them standing over me. The guys at Guitar Center allow me to play whatever I want and don't watch me like I"m going to scratch their precious merchandise. Now I know, some of you religion of the guitar guys think it heresy to let just anyone play some super awesome sacred axe but whatever...and yes, the mom and pops have a lot invested in their high end gear and have to be protective BUT this is where service comes into play. A kid comes in wanting to play your only Collings acoustic that just happens to be brazillian rosewood? Tell him NO. A good salesman should be able to identify within just a few moments of engaging the customer if they are someone who should be given a few moments to play a fine instrument.

    A mom/pop store kicked my buddy out because he worked for guitar center...and he was there to spend money...big money because that mom and pop carried a certain modded boutique line of pedals that GC didn't and couldn't. The guy had a 1000 bucks in his pocket...but he worked for the enemy and was just a "poseur" musician. Great customer service there.

    Another mom and pop owner sold my father my first acoustic guitar for $495 bucks plus tax no case. Wanna know what guitar it was? An Applause...Guitar Center used to sell those all day for $149. The fucker at that shop wouldn't even throw a case in because "he was giving him such a great deal."

    Has GC screwed people over? Sure. Are they an easy target for attack? Sure...just like Lowes, Walmart, Best Buy etc.

    But you know what? They also do a lot of things right...they obviously did something right because if not they'd be a little mom and pop looking up at another huge company.

    There are a couple of mom and pops in Houston that are great. Houston Percussion is a fantastic store and so is Fuller's Vintage. Both of those places are run by great guys who really and truly know and love the business and I'm glad to have those stores here. I don't generally shop there because I seldom need anything they're selling but I refer a lot of business to both...but the rest of the "local" stores? They can go lick a dick because their service sucks, their attitudes suck, they're a bunch of counter monkeys who spend more time holding the counter down than they do actually working and engaging customers and they act like I'm putting them out by asking for a cable or asking to see a guitar hanging behind the counter.

    For now and for as long as I still friends at GC, I'll continue shopping there...for the most part.

    There was a time when unless Brian was there, I couldn't even walk into one of the GCs because they were all a bunch of knuckle dragging idiots but like I said, things have gotten much better.

    With a company like GC it's tough to keep consistency because of turnover and promotions and just the sheer size and scope of what they're doing. Right now, things are good in at least Houston and I feel pretty good because right now, I'm getting great service from my local Lowes, my local Firestone and my Guitar Center so at least my hardware, autocare and MI needs are being met.

    The fact that these are big bad corporations doesn't even register because I'm handing my money to a guy who lives in my neighbourhood, puts gas in his car, shops in the local stores, and is trying to make his ends meet just like I am.

    That's what seems to be forgotten so often when people are talking about corporations. They employ lots and lots of people just like the rest of us. If everyone stopped shopping at corporations and decided to pay the increase and drive the extra time to get to the "local" stores then what happens to all the downsized employees at the Guitar Center or Lowes or whatever? Well, they're out of work. Now the mom and pop has to expand so they hire them and THEY become the big bad corporation.

    it's all the same shit as far as I'm concerned.

    The only thing I'm worried about at the end of the day is, like I said, price, selection and service. If you have those three things you can have my money. I will pay more for better service and selection every day but I will never sacrifice the second two.
    Last edited by broken9500; 12.02.10 at 07:31 AM.
    Stay out of it, dude.


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  5. #5
    Sinner's Swing!
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    I would buy effects, or other sound reinforcement, but I'd never buy a guitar online again. I've bought 2 in the past and promptly returned both. One had a warped neck that couldn't be fixed by truss rod, and the other had a bad rub mark on the paint, I could get past that as it could be rubbed out, but the guitar sounded pretty dead as well. Always better to go into a store and try a few out before purchase. At least on new production instruments. For collectors purposes, I could see ordering online for something rare or desirable.

  6. #6
    Eruption
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    I have bought some stuff online because the local stores (mom and pop and GC) didn't have what I wanted.

    I bought the new Wolfgang Special and a used EVH Charvel at Guitarcenter.com. GC has a 30 day return policy so I didn't worry about the purchases too much. Both guitars were in great shape and needed no serious adjustments when I received them. I would go this route again if I found something I wanted online.

    I got a guitar kit at mean street guitars online that was great as well.

    I never used to buy anything online, but I hate to go into guitar center now (maybe I'm getting too old). Its loud in there and full of kids just hanging out playing all the guitars and drums and its hard to find someone that works there to help you out. The mom and pop shops around town are quiet enough and great to deal with but they don't have a big selection and typically don't have what I'm looking for (EVH stuff).
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  7. #7
    Atomic Punk
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottyBHarris View Post
    I have bought some stuff online because the local stores (mom and pop and GC) didn't have what I wanted.

    I bought the new Wolfgang Special and a used EVH Charvel at Guitarcenter.com. GC has a 30 day return policy so I didn't worry about the purchases too much. Both guitars were in great shape and needed no serious adjustments when I received them. I would go this route again if I found something I wanted online.

    I got a guitar kit at mean street guitars online that was great as well.

    I never used to buy anything online, but I hate to go into guitar center now (maybe I'm getting too old). Its loud in there and full of kids just hanging out playing all the guitars and drums and its hard to find someone that works there to help you out. The mom and pop shops around town are quiet enough and great to deal with but they don't have a big selection and typically don't have what I'm looking for (EVH stuff).
    When I was working in the MI retail business, that was my biggest criticism of GC. It was a fucking zoo. At one point the main GC was set up like this:

    Walk in and there's piped music over the air. Then, in accessories two TVs each going at full volume with DIFFERENT DVDs. Then at each of the pedal stations there was a CD boom box inside each playing different music.

    Walk over to the main guitar floor and there were the three risers; one for Crate, one for Fender and one for Marshall. Each had a TV or a boom box, yep, each playing different shit.

    Into the acoustic room and yes there was a boom box playing music in there.

    In Keyboards/PA there were two TVs at the counter each playing something different. Then there were boom boxes set up at two different areas and then keyboards were set to "demo" mode so THEY were playing music.

    In the live room/DJ area they had house/jungle/trance shit playing with all the lights going and a fog machine set up to go off when you walked in.

    Drums had two TVs and a boom box.

    Add ALL of that to the dozens of young people just checking out gear and the dozens of actual customers trying demo possible purchases, the phone and then all the shouting (because it was too loud to just talk) and it was just a damn zoo....but they feeling was "we need to create 'vibe.'"

    Yeah fuck that.

    The recent shift has been to reduce the noise, get away from distractions and create havens where discerning customers can actually demo gear in peace.

    The previous idea was to create a sense of activity and yes, people do tend to like doing business in a place where business is being done but they began cutting themselves off at the knees because there was soooo much "vibe" and clutter and bullshit that discerning customers were turned off.

    The new model is much nicer. They have done away with all the boom boxes and crap and just have GC radio over the air which is kept at a moderate volume. Players on the floor are encouraged to keep the volume down and there are isolation rooms in the new floor plans that provide a place where people can compare amps and guitars. All of which were much needed changes.

    As I understand it, all these updates are moving their way across the country as the new guard redesigns the new floor plans, rretrains the old managers and bring in new ones and new salespeople.

    It's in full effect in Houston and it's quite nice. Makes for a cool shopping experience.

    They'll never turn the volume completely down, hell, the main GC serves as many as 1000 customers on any given day leading into the holidays, 400 on an average Saturday and for a big sale day during the year can hit that 1000 mark so that many people teching drums, amps, guitars etc is going to create a cacaphony but, as a GM I used to work with would say "that's the sound of money son!"
    Stay out of it, dude.


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  8. #8
    Atomic Punk lovemachine97(Version 2)'s Avatar
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    Thanks guys, this is great. I appreciate the feedback.

    Anyone else feel free to contribute as well :-)

  9. #9
    Good Enough nobozos's Avatar
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    If I'm buying a guitar or an amp, I will ALWAYS make the purchase face-to-face. I have to hold it in my hand, and play through it first. I prefer to make all of my purchases through my local mom-and-pop guitar store, but will occasionally get something from GC, if it's something not offered at my M&P store, or if it's an insanely good deal. I will under no circumstances trade anything at GC.

    If I see a good deal at GC, I will always give my local M&P an opportunity to match the price. I recently did this with a LED stage light kit. The M&P was a full $200 over what I could get a comparable kit for at GC. I let them know, and they got it down to $50 above what GC was offering. I took the deal from my M&P, because if I had any problems with the lights, all I have to do is take it to them to take care of it.

    I have ordered some cases and pickups online, but these are products that either aren't offered anywhere else (GFS), or cannot be matched price-wise. For example, there was a display case on the "musician's gear" part of GC online that is a great value when compared to other similar display cases. http://www.guitarcenter.com/Musician...23-i1428178.gc

    I happen to have a great M&P store in my area. There are others in my area that I wouldn't piss on if they were on fire. I've had the experience of going into M&P stores that act like they are doing you a favor for being there. Those have since closed, or they have lost the big-name products, and now their anchor line is Samick.

    The GC in our area is aweful. They have way too much inventory, and not enough skilled employees to maintain them. The guys at the M&P shop are always busy. if they are not waiting on customers, they are maintaining their inventory. If they need a setup, they do it. If they have fingerprints on them, they polish it. If a pimply-faced 13 year old plugs a $4500 PRS into a $5000 Bogner stack, and starts banging out some death metal chords (badly), an employee will politely ask him to turn it down, show him the "No Picks On New Instruments" sign, and assist him in trying out the guitar. The employee will then tune, clean, and re-hang the guitar.
    "Having an opinion that people disagree with doesn't make you a Douche, arguing with the people who disagree with your opinion and calling them stupid does!" -Me.

  10. #10
    Atomic Punk
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    [QUOTE=nobozos;1313937]If I'm buying a guitar or an amp, I will ALWAYS make the purchase face-to-face. I have to hold it in my hand, and play through it first. I prefer to make all of my purchases through my local mom-and-pop guitar store, but will occasionally get something from GC, if it's something not offered at my M&P store, or if it's an insanely good deal. I will under no circumstances trade anything at GC.

    If I see a good deal at GC, I will always give my local M&P an opportunity to match the price. I recently did this with a LED stage light kit. The M&P was a full $200 over what I could get a comparable kit for at GC. I let them know, and they got it down to $50 above what GC was offering. I took the deal from my M&P, because if I had any problems with the lights, all I have to do is take it to them to take care of it.

    I have ordered some cases and pickups online, but these are products that either aren't offered anywhere else (GFS), or cannot be matched price-wise. For example, there was a display case on the "musician's gear" part of GC online that is a great value when compared to other similar display cases. http://www.guitarcenter.com/Musician...23-i1428178.gc

    I happen to have a great M&P store in my area. There are others in my area that I wouldn't piss on if they were on fire. I've had the experience of going into M&P stores that act like they are doing you a favor for being there. Those have since closed, or they have lost the big-name products, and now their anchor line is Samick.

    The GC in our area is aweful. They have way too much inventory, and not enough skilled employees to maintain them. The guys at the M&P shop are always busy. if they are not waiting on customers, they are maintaining their inventory. If they need a setup, they do it. If they have fingerprints on them, they polish it. If a pimply-faced 13 year old plugs a $4500 PRS into a $5000 Bogner stack, and starts banging out some death metal chords (badly), an employee will politely ask him to turn it down, show him the "No Picks On New Instruments" sign, and assist him in trying out the guitar. The employee will then tune, clean, and re-hang the guitar.[/QUOTE]

    all stores should be run by such guys!
    Stay out of it, dude.


    I am Van Halen.

  11. #11
    Eruption
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    Usually in person. BUT, I have to admit, the best guitar I've ever owned as far as comfort and playability was on ebay ('99 Wolfie Standard) for just under $1,100. Thought it was a good deal and I always liked the amber flame. It's getting harder and harder to find places around that sell used stuff where I am. So, for example, if I wanted a Fender EVH, but didn't want to pay $3k, one option is to wait and buy a used one online. I am hesitant about doing that, but it has paid off before.

    And with the EVH example, I still haven't seen a new one in person. The Mom and Pops are gone. GC is about the only thing around anymore where I am. There are about 2 others in my area and let's just say their reputations are that, that I won't buy from them (at least, not again).

  12. #12
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    You guys have no idea how lucky you are.

    Living in US, it's a blessing to have both M&P stores and also GCs and alikes.

    Take my case: I live in Portugal, in the capital. No Guitar Centers around here. The big stores, are much like oversized M&P stores. The biggest ones employ kids. You go and ask them something and they reply something different. Customer service is quite bad.

    On the other hand, let's consider some facts. You go into a M&P store, ask for the price of an amp, you get their price. You go to the next, you get a different price, mention the previous, they make a discount. You go to a third store, same as before, get a bigger discount. Ok, it's all fine, because they want to grab the customer. All is fine, you decide which store to buy it from. Then the problems begin: sometimes they don't have the product in stock (let's suppose that you tried the amp only in the first store and decided that you love it). Now, you have to wait longer than they claim it'd take. You receive the amp, go home everything is fine for two months, something happens, you go back to the store because of the warranty, they don't have the parts to fix it in stock (it's a small M&P store). So you end up waiting a very long time. It happens all the time.

    Last time I decided to buy something locally, I asked several stores over the phone if thay had a certain pedal. Most didn't have, one could get it in a couple days. Ok, so bring it on. Several day later, no pedal. "Oh it may take a month or so"... Nice customer service.

    I guess it all comes down to availability. It's dangerous to buy a guitar without testing it first. But right now suppose I want to buy a Gibson historic. No stores have them. Well, only one, with a single guitar in stock. If I donít like that one, theyíll only order from the supplier if I commit to buy (which is pretty much the same as ordering it myself). So, itís nice to have certain places with a lot of offer, at least to know what you have in the market. You guys go into GC and you can test a certain brand and find out if itís your thing or not. On the other hand, itís good to have some M&P stores that recognize the customer and are willing to go that ďextra mileĒ in customer service.
    I have some certain store in my area, some really great guys that unfortunately donít offer much variety in gear. Once I went there to test a piece of equipment I was going to buy used. I tested it on their amps (at the time I didnít have a decent amp) and they even watch the test and checked if it was properly functioning and all. As a result, everything that I intent to buy, I ask them first if they have it or if they can get it. Unfortunately most of the times, they either canít get it, wonít get it (because of the supplier policies), or canít compete with online prices, bacause many online stores don't have the extra expenditure of "storage": they just ship directly from the supplier, thus eliminating a part of the chain.

  13. #13
    Atomic Punk
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    I have a lot of friends from South America and they all say the same thing. A drummer I worked with for about a year had horror stories about buying gear down there...and not in little places either...places like Rio, Bogota...large metropolitan areas and he described what you're talking about...large mom and pop shops with lots of haggling, lots of special ordering, lots of things not being available etc etc.

    We do have it pretty good as far as MI retail is concerned.

    Hell, I know several Europeans and South Americans who make shopping trips annually to the States so they can stock up.

    One guy, from Mexico, came up here and bought a 9,000 dollar Les Paul last year and even bought the guitar it's own seat on the return flight! He said it just makes more sense, both financially and otherwise, to come up to Houston a couple times a year than it does to deal with the hell down there.
    Stay out of it, dude.


    I am Van Halen.

  14. #14
    On Fire
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    Yeah, I can't buy (expnsive) stuff from the States, because as soon as it lands here, you have to pay 30% on taxes, so...

  15. #15
    Good Enough
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    If you can match the online price (GC and Musician's Friend are the 'standard') then customer service will seal the deal.

 

 

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