what to do: luthier takes deposit ... update

Construction and repair of Classical Guitar and related instruments
musicalhair

what to do: luthier takes deposit ... update

Post by musicalhair » Tue May 15, 2007 4:00 pm

Hey everybody, I'd like some advice on how to proceed. If I follow my own instincts on these sorts of things, things always work out badly for everyone concerned; so I'm trying to find a higher road to take on this.

Back in October I met with a some what local to me (less than a 90 minute drive) luthier about building me a guitar. We came to an agreement, I got a reciept for my deposit and a sheet specifying what he's building and an estimate of when it will be ready. He said around the end of November I'd come down to check it out and see about a set up on it, and that it would be ready end of Dec/begining of Jan. Since then each time I've contacted him about progress he's given me a run around.

Should I get a lawyer to negotiate on my behalf to just get out of this deal with him, either getting the deposit back plus some interest, ask for one of his guitars that he has right there instead, or something else. I play lefty (all the lefty "haters" out there, save it for a different discussion) and he was supposed to be building me a "cross-over" guitar with a cut-away and internal mic.

He gives me no update on progress, no description of problems or any reason for the delay. He does not contact me but only responds with vague delaying tactics when I contact him. If the guitar were "finished" the next time I contact him (highly unlikely he's even started in my opinion), I don't know if I'd even want it as I'd see not the guitar but the six months of delays and being ignored.

Anyway, how should I proceed?
Last edited by musicalhair on Wed May 30, 2007 8:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Dan Kellaway

Post by Dan Kellaway » Tue May 15, 2007 4:20 pm

I think you've been patient enough as it's nearly June and if everything you say is correct he doesn't deserve more time. It would be different if he kept in touch and had some personal problems but then you would probably be understanding with that and not asking this question.
So the next thing is you have to ask yourself if you want the guitar if it ever gets made. You've already suggested that you are now going to be unhappy no matter what and it's always hard to deal with someone when you feel that way. But sometimes being upfront can dissolve these things while other times it gets worse.
I suggest that you contact him to say that you have definitely run out of patience and unless results are quickly forthcoming you will be seeking legal advice and maybe you can also tell him about this forum that is worldwide and suggest that he probably wouldn't want to be exposed here.
Of course you do need legal advice before actually taking that step because defamation is a nebulous concept used by unscrupulous people for nefarious purposes, but once you've said this to him you will soon see if it's going to resolve itself or deteriorate in which case you go the legal route. In any case the law expects you to make every attempt to resolve matters amicably before the court would even want to hear about it so you should also keep records of when you speak to him and what is said and all correspondence.
Best of luck with it. It's always sad to hear of this sort of thing.

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Vesuvio
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Post by Vesuvio » Tue May 15, 2007 7:02 pm

Hello Musicalhair,

It is so unfortunate when this kind of thing happens.

If you have not been made aware of any extenuating circumstances, then I think you should check on your legal position. You need to get local professional advice.

In the meantime, do not do anything that could further sour relations between you and the luthier concerned.

Some of our members who are also luthiers will be saddened to hear of your experience.

Best wishes, V
"There are only two things worth aiming for, good music and a clean conscience." Paul Hindemith

Pepe Vergara

Post by Pepe Vergara » Tue May 15, 2007 8:19 pm

Well, please cool down first. Take a deep breath and think first how much it is going to cost you to involve a lawyer. Probably a lot more, if you find one. Every problem is specific, and it depends on the individuals involved. So, there is not rule that applies to everyone. I can tell you something that can help you make a calmed decision.

You are not alone in this. Several people have come to me requesting a guitar, and the strongest enphasis is over the delivery time (even more than over the quality itself). They have said that they had a bad experience with other luthiers on the promised delivery date. In my first years, I wanted to please and get customers so desperately, that I promised (to the best of my will) to finish the guitar in a certain time. Only to find out that it was hard to do it. Then I started extending the time, etc. Now, I have a grasp of the exact amount of time it would take me to finish one guitar, and even then, I apply a safety factor to it. I do not take more than what I can handle. Some luthiers may be taking more than what they handle.

There are other reasons a luthier may be late: Once the guitar is almost ready, he got sick or had a personal problem to deal with, he may have had an accident with the guitar that renders it impossible to deliver it to you. I agree that he should keep you posted at all times. That is the good thing about contracting a luthier, you are supposed to see the progress. Did you drive the 90 min to see him and verify the real reason for the delay?
If it was because your guitar got sold to another person, or because it requires to many details that he underestimated the amount of work? Is he too busy?

What does the agreement read? It will be ready AROUND November of by November 30? of what year?

I suggest you drive and talk to the guy. Walk around his shop, touch the other guitars. I once was late with a guitar, and to make sure the customer was happy at the end of the transaction, I replaced the back and sides from Indian rosewood with Brazilian rosewood. The customer was happy. In another ocassion, I had an accident with a guitar at the finishing stage, and I informed the customer, and again, I changed to BR. Good thing Ihave BR around. Dont be surprised if you find many people in the same boat you are!!

I make guitars not as a business, but as a labor of love, love to the guitar. By doing so, people come and come. So I do not offer or push it. If I am not happy or impressed with my customer, the relationship is not good, I am sure the guitar will also come that way. If the relationship is great, the guitar will be great.


I just got a commission for a flamenco guitar from a professional player, educated in Malaga, Spain, great great player. He tried several of my guitars and told me that my guitars were better than the guitars or two other famous makers (I will not mention the names, because I admire those luthiers - I know they make great guitars). Guess how I feel? GREAT, I have not taken a shower, I do not want that comment to go away from my skin!!!! or my ears!!! One thing I tell you, that guy is going to get the BEST guitar ever!!. So, it is important that you keep your cool and whatever the problem the luthier is, you go and talk things over.

Keep it cordial and you will enjoy the guitar when it comes. Otherwise, you will not be able to enjoy it. How much is the deposit by the way? $500? $1000?. Keep the amount in mind when making a decision. I hope it will work for you, and you get the guitar soon.

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Vesuvio
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Post by Vesuvio » Tue May 15, 2007 8:39 pm

Hello Musicalhair,

I was hoping one of our responsible luthiers like Pepe would see your thread.

Give your luthier the benefit of the doubt one more time. As Pepe has said, all sorts of things could have happened and though it would have been courteous for the luthier to have got in touch, circumstances may be difficult.

I was thinking that you could probably get free legal advice from some kind of community advice centre—the legal eagles charge such a lot for their services.

Please let us know what happens.

Best wishes, V
"There are only two things worth aiming for, good music and a clean conscience." Paul Hindemith

Marcus Dominelli
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Post by Marcus Dominelli » Tue May 15, 2007 9:21 pm

I hope this works out for you in the end.
I just want to relay a quick story that happened about 10 years ago when I first got into building guitars.
I knew a luthier who was doing very well in his business. He had many orders, and some really good endorsements from previous clients. He got behind on his guitars and started to have some health problems, both mental and physical. He thought that things would improve so he continued to take deposits for guitars, but as his health worstened, he became unable to build the guitars.
People started to get mad. I was working in a repair shop at the time, and we had lots of people coming by our shop looking for him. He was hard to track down. He had to deal with his health issues first, but his big mistake was made when he cut off contact with his clients.
In the end, a year later, the luthier got better and tried to get back in the shop to make the guitars he had promised. He was too broke to buy the supplies he needed, and a lock had been put on his shop by the landlord for lost rent.
By this point one of his disgruntled clients (waiting for his guitar) had payed a web-master to destroy this luthier's reputation on-line. People could no longer access his web-site without knowing what had happened.
He lost his business, and a bunch of people who had paid big deposits up front never got thier guitars. His shop tools were legally taken and sold to pay for his rent.
I felt sad for the builder because I knew that his intentions were good. But I do not blame his clients for the anger and frustration they felt, which led to the ruining of this luthier's reputation.
This kind of story exists in every occupation.

My guess is that if the guy making your guitar is in contact with you, and is indeed still building guitars, he is probably not a rip-off artist. I think that you are doing the right thing by hiding his identity at this point.
He may be having some other difficulties. But he's really got to let you know what is going on. There is no excuse for keeping a client in the dark.

Marcus Dominelli
Dominelli Guitars

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Michael.N.
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Post by Michael.N. » Tue May 15, 2007 9:26 pm

It is a difficult situation to deal with. Sometimes there are genuine reasons why a person can't meet the initial contractual agreements. I once had one of Pepe's 'last minute accidents' and there was just no way I could have corrected it in time for it's planned delivery. It wasn't a guitar but it was a rather expensive custom built Hi-Fi furniture item. Although I had a couple of sleepless nights in the end I ended up phoning the client and explaining truthfully what had happened. They were very understanding and everything worked out fine.
In your case it seems that the Luthier is not responding in the correct manner. I agree with pepe, perhaps you should make one last request regarding the Guitar or at least obtain some sort of real proof of progress and time scale. If this fails then go see a Lawyer and ask him to write a letter threatening legal action if he does not return your deposit. Sometimes a simple letter from the authority of a Lawyer is enough to focus someones mind.

brian
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Post by brian » Tue May 15, 2007 10:26 pm

if ALL else fails, a blanket, telephone book(thicker the better)
and a baseball bat should get your deposit returned.
i'm not suggesting doing this :wink: but, people who agree
to and take deposits for, services, should be aware that sometimes
people aren't as forgiving or as understanding as they'd like to think :twisted: .
some of us guitar players aren't as mellow as some of the music we play.

FWIW-personally, i think it's a dirty rotten shame that
you are getting 'the treatment'. no matter what, that taste
would stick in my throat even if the guitar is wonderful.
i'd cancel and find someone else.

Francis

Post by Francis » Tue May 15, 2007 11:21 pm

brian wrote: ... if ALL else fails, a blanket, telephone book(thicker the better) and a baseball bat should get your deposit returned.
i'm not suggesting doing this :wink: but, people who agree
to and take deposits for, services, should be aware that sometimes
people aren't as forgiving or as understanding as they'd like to think :twisted: .
some of us guitar players aren't as mellow as some of the music we play
Are you a classical guitar player, or an electrical guitar player? :cry: They are not the same. Players aren't either. What will happen to your life when the strength of your muscles go away?

Brent

Post by Brent » Wed May 16, 2007 12:00 am

Luthiers, like musicians, are a generally quirky breed. They're creative people, and are not necessarily business people. As Pepe described, there are many things that could be the real problem. Perhaps he's just embarrassed about something that went wrong and is avoiding you for that reason.

Your deposit is likely much less than any legal action will cost you. That way is not likely to satisfy anyone.

Make an appointment to talk with him face to face. Let him know your concerns. Find out what his are. Luthiers aren't in it for the money. There are easier ways to make a few thousand dollars. Generally, they love guitars and they love music. Approach him with understanding and make a life-long friend.

Brent

brian
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Post by brian » Wed May 16, 2007 1:45 am

Francis-
i don't quite catch your drift but,
i'm a classical player who doesn't like to see people
get taken for a ride.

:arrow: "when the strength of my muscles go away?"
pssst-that part of my post was a nudge, nudge, wink, wink,
JOKE!!! :roll:

if you were to copy my complete post,
you'd have included, "i'd cancel and find someone else."
we clear???

Allan

Post by Allan » Wed May 16, 2007 3:07 am

Be direct with the guy. Business is business, whatever his problem is. You're a client, not a social worker or a psychiatrist. If you have an agreement, written or oral, and he is six months late on fulfillment, and dodging you on top of it all, I suggest direct action. One last phone call or email asking for the guitar, or your money back, and tell him if you don't get a definitive reply within 24 hours you will have no choice but to take legal action.

If you're in the US, get down to small claims court and file against the guy. At least you'll save some money instead of hiring a lawyer. My bet is that once he gets a notification from the court telling him he needs to appear, he'll cave in and do the right thing one way or the other.

Playing a two-fisted tremolo on his face in double-time is always an option, but unfortunately that doesn't get your guitar (or your money back).

Best of luck and keep us posted, I'll be curious to see how it all comes out.

Allan

zeroeffect

Post by zeroeffect » Wed May 16, 2007 4:12 am

Allan wrote:Be direct with the guy. Business is business, whatever his problem is. You're a client, not a social worker or a psychiatrist. If you have an agreement, written or oral, and he is six months late on fulfillment, and dodging you on top of it all, I suggest direct action. One last phone call or email asking for the guitar, or your money back, and tell him if you don't get a definitive reply within 24 hours you will have no choice but to take legal action.
I agree completely. He owes you at least an explanation...or your money back...very simple. Be direct and firm :!:

musicalhair

Post by musicalhair » Wed May 16, 2007 5:19 am

Hey everyone,

thanks for the comments, please keep them coming!

Hey Pepe, the guy is not some new luthier just starting out. He has a reputation in a big city where some of his guitars are for sale in the classical guitar store (and so we talking a city big enough to support a classical guitar store) and one of the teachers there even plays one of his. His name and reviews of his guitars are easily found on the internet though he doesn't have a site of his own. He's built enough guitars to have a good sense of how long and his process is and all that.

With respect to the idea that he might have meant december of some other year, well I can appreciate you're looking for ways the delay might make sense but that is just silly. I didnt' ask for a two month turn around and spoke not once of time at all. He set the dates, not me. I expected six months, but I didn't think to question him when he said november for set up and dec/jan for pick-up.

I'll give him one more chance to make an excuse for why he's not done yet then I'll ask for the refund.

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James Lister
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Post by James Lister » Wed May 16, 2007 7:59 am

I'm pretty much in agreement with what the other luthiers here have said. The only thing I would add is that you really need to talk to him face to face - I think this is the only way you'll really know what's going on. You could ask to visit to see how progress is going, or even just to see the tonewoods he's going to use for your guitar. None of the luthiers I know would decline such a request. I also like to think that it's extremely rare for a luthier to deliberately try to rip you off.
Hope it all works out OK.

James
James Lister, luthier, Sheffield UK

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