So you took your guitar in for a restring and action setup, and got it back with problems, and damage!
Thought you’d be in good hands with the big boys, did you? The chain store is bigger, better, and more likely to handle a customer service issue than the pricey local boutique guitar shop, right? Maybe not.
Sadly, any place you go for guitar repair can make a mistake, create damage, or just not know what they’re doing. The point here is don't assume all shops are experienced and careful based on their trade name.
That’s why this article will focus on what to do beforehand, instead of trusting the big name shops to deliver what they promise. Your homework is simple – check some qualifications, and specifically ask the service department some key questions. To be fair, many chain stores and local guitar shops do have great qualified techs and offer a good service. Yet some guitar shops have guys working on repairs that don’t know much more than how to change strings, and that’s the truth. While string changes should be easy, some guitars with locking tuning pegs, special bridges, or Floyd Rose tremolo setups require more knowledge than handling a peg winder and a month’s worth of experience.
But Shouldn’t They Be Qualified?
They really should be. But they aren’t always! Just like the last time I took my vehicle to the dealership, and they tried to charge me for labor that was clearly covered under warranty. When I pointed this out, they actually changed their story and tried to say it was a mistake when earlier they were justifying the labor charges. Additionally they messed up a simple oil change and massively overfilled the engine oil, which the owners manual and every other reputable source says is damaging to the engine, so the excess had to be drained. No one should be more qualified to work on my vehicle than the dealer who is also the manufacturer, but lo and behold, they screwed up badly. It gets worse – they just made excuses and never once followed up with me to offer customer service or a solution after I raised the issue. An utterly dreadful experience and my last visit ever, from a big-name California dealership that valued profit over customer loyalty.
The same holds true at the big chain guitar store. A recognized national name alone means little, it doesn’t guarantee a competent guitar tech nor a good service experience (mirrored in my awful car dealer repair above). This is evidenced in our video above about a USA Jackson Blue Dinky where not only was the chain store unqualified, they didn’t back up their work. The owner of that beautiful guitar got it back with three new paint chips, all on the front of the body. It even gets worse – they only offered a $5 repair solution - by touching up with an unskilled hand and paintbrush an expensive USA custom shop factory finish. Of course the customer wisely declined their offer. To them this was a good solution because they didn’t want to pay for the damage caused and it saved their bottom line; to the rest of us this is an abomination on a $2000 USA-made guitar and a life-changing opinion about the chain store!
Customers Come to Us for Damaged Guitars
On nearly a weekly basis, customers reach out to us at GuitarScratchRemover.com for finish solutions on guitars that were scratched or otherwise damaged, often by their local repair store. Many times we can help remove scratches with the Player’s Kit. We’ve helped customers eliminate scratches resulting from tools, careless string changes, and other issues; often totally remedied with our polish kits with some amazing before and after results. However we aren’t in the miracle business and there is nothing that can be done for finish gouges, dings (dents), and missing paint from a major finish impact or incident. For that, nothing short of a fill and refinish will do the job. To ensure that doesn’t happen to you, here’s some steps you can take:
Your Safety Net – Tips for Success
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” as they say, and the only preventative solution is checking around and asking questions before you drop your guitar at just any repair center. Find out how long the tech has worked there and his experience level. Yelp and other online reviews will often tell the story of how reputable a place is for repairs, and more importantly if they help the customer when things go awry. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper and ask the following questions:
1. “Have you ever worked on this particular guitar issue before…how many of these have you done?” (Floyd Rose setup, neck or action adjustment, fret repair, set intonation, change a pickup ...mention your topic here).
2. “What steps does your guitar tech take to ensure my guitar won’t be returned scratched or damaged?” This is the golden question! If you do nothing else, at least ask this question. If they are caught off guard by this inquiry, you might want to find another shop. Some correct answers here would be: “We use a special soft or padded work bench… we cover delicate areas with towels or a protective mats while we work around painted finishes and keep a clean work bench… we use a guitar neck stand to keep your guitar off the table … we are very careful, etc. Basically any decent answer here besides dodging the question will help you gauge how serious this shop takes guitar safety. Plus, this is a great insurance policy if they DO damage your guitar, you can simply say ‘hey I asked you guys about safety precautions before we got started and you assured me of a good experience.’
3. “How long has your guitar tech been here?” Don't rely on this item alone, but it's nice to know if their repair tech has been around for awhile. Chain stores are notorious for high turnover so a little digging here can determine whether their guy is a newbie.
4. Ask if the shop refinishes guitars, if they say yes, you’ll know they are probably way more experienced in more types of repairs than the shop that simply does string changes. Any shop that does finishes and paintwork is more advanced. Doesn’t mean they are better, but it does mean they have additional experience.
5. If your guitar is in mint condition and you want to keep it that way, take a photo front and back. This will go a long way if the shop damages something. In the rare unavoidable event you have a dispute over an expensive mishap, this will also prove the condition of your instrument prior to the perilous episode at the repair shop. A conversation in tip #2 above also will secure your legal standing if it comes to that. We don’t recommend anyone sue their local repair shop, but in rare cases of gross misconduct and lack of remedy we can see how it might be an option. You can even take the photo in the repair shop before you hand it over, that way you can prove the photo was done before you dropped the guitar. Then you won’t hear them say “how do I know that wasn’t a photo from last year before you scratched it yourself?” nor “hey, that was probably already there, man”. Get a drop off receipt for your guitar. A detail-oriented shop may even write comments on the slip about any prior damage to your guitar. Just like they do at the rental car place. This is also a good time for you to review your guitar to recall that nasty ding you forgot about.
6. When picking up your guitar, remove it from the case and examine it at the shop. This eliminates finding new damage at home or in a couple days when it will be difficult to prove where damage occurred. You may be surprised how some people just pick it up and run without looking over the instrument.
Even the best shops make mistakes, but the best shops will also make it right and not make excuses like the chain store did in our Blue Jackson video. A little forethought on your part and our above tips for success can minimize risk of a bad experience. If your guitar damage is limited to scratches, check out our amazing Guitar Scratch Remover kits below. Any questions let us know, and we hope all your guitar tune-ups are good ones!