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 Post subject: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 9:28 am 
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Cocobolo
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Looking for a little input from the experienced and learned on here.

I'm not a crusty old guy. Just working towards honing my work/craft at the age of 30ish

Lately there's been a deluge of guys that are way older than I am coming into my shop and trying to tell me how to run my business (they are not luthiers).

Yesterday this culminated with a gentleman who wanted a neck reset. I told him what was involved and that it wasn't worth the effort involved and that his money was better put towards a new guitar (it was a 90s epoxy neck jointed asian made piece).

Annoyed, he simply said "I should've known, you're too young to know how to do this stuff". I told him to find someplace else to take his business.

Got any tips on perhaps some phrasing techniques and/or prefacing questions that can help weed this stuff out?

I'm guessing the simplest solution is to simply get older and not look like I'm 15 when I shave.


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 10:17 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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I don't have any real advice to offer but I can commiserate. I used to be baby-faced and always looked younger than I was. It was hard to get people to take me seriously at work sometimes. I was lucky enough to have interactions with the same people over and over so in time my competence (or lack) would speak louder than my face. The good news is, I turned 40 and my face and body caught up overnight. Now I'm just your average middle-aged looking guy. Just enjoy it while you can :)

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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 10:49 am 
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First name: Don
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Dan--

I'm in my mid 50s. I make my living in a service profession (lawyer). I can offer you a few general tips. Don't take from anything i say that I think you are lacking in any of these areas; I don't know you at all. These are just things that come to mind for me, as someone older than you.

1. Always remember that there is a very high incident rate of flakiness among musicians. That is to say: Not all musicians are flakes, but there are significantly more flakes among musicians than there are among the general population. Being in the musical instrument repair business means interacting with a lot of flakes. It's just the way things are. So, if you feel you are generally doing good work for a decent price, and you are treating people fairly and with respect, then you should not let the occasional flake get to you. Stay the course.

2. If you want to connect with the average middle aged man (regardless of political leanings), then pay the proper amount of respect to what they care about in the context in which you are interacting. If a middle aged man comes to you to have a modest instrument repaired, he probably has an attachment to the instrument that might seem to you to be undeserved, but nonetheless exists. Think about it as if you were a veterinarian who has to tell the owners of Fido that Fido is in his last days, is in pain, and needs to be put down. Bedside manner matters. Maybe while you are checking the instrument out you can talk to the guy about how he uses the guitar, how many years he has owned it, where he has played it, what he likes about it, all of that stuff. Then talk to him about what is wrong with the guitar, and what is involved in repairing it. Then talk about the cost of those repairs, versus the market value of a guitar like that, all the while being sensitive to the fact that they have probably had a lot of adventures together, and the owner might not be ready to let go just yet. If he wants to pay the money to resurrect the instrument, then he is doing so out of sheer sentimentality, the same way some folks put Fido on dialysis. Eventually, most folks see the sense of putting Fido down. You might have to hold their hand a bit while they figure that out for themselves. I know this all sounds like middle aged men are bunch of sissies, but remember, these are not WWII vets. They are aging baby boomers.

3. If you think these guys look down on you because you are too young, ask yourself why they draw that conclusion about you. These guys came to you in the first place, so something made them think you were worth seeing, right? Then they get there, have some reaction to you on a personal level, and go all "get off my lawn" on you. Is that a fair way to put it? If so, then other than the fact that you just look young, what is going on with you that triggers that response from someone who was a paying customer a few moments before? I can tell you that a lot of baby boomers see significant generational differences between themselves and millennials. They think that millennials (not all of them, but a high incident rate) are spoiled and reek of entitlement. They feel that millennials don't want to work hard and succeed on their own merits; they want everything handed to them. older folks think young folks were ruined by the whole "every kid gets a trophy" mentality. Keep in mind, I do not hold these views; I have a daughter in her 20s, and I think she has lots of guts, initiative and moxie, as well as a serious work ethic. Also, in my view, if there are broken millennials out there, it is the fault of their parents, who are baby boomers. There's some real irony there. But anyway, a lot of my peers think these bad things about a lot of folks who are younger than you, and you might get lumped in with them unfairly, because you look young. If that is the prejudice you seek to avoid, then don't look and sound like a stereotypical millennial. Look and sound like you work hard, you expect to succeed or fail based on your own merits, and you know what you are talking about because you have a lot of experience. Don't brag, but don't be shy about showing that you know what you are talking about. This is your business; show that you are an expert in your field.

4. Have some manners, even if the people who come to see you do not. That is an important character trait to develop if you want to win the respect of people who are older than you are. In retrospect, kicking the guy out of your shop was probably not the best thing to do. You would have been better served to just price yourself out of range for what he wanted you to do, even after he was rude to you.

5. Do you also sell new instruments in addition to performing repair work, or are you affiliated with a retail outfit? If so, you simply can't tell folks their guitar is not worth repairing, so they should buy a new one. I don't care what age they are; folks are not going to react well to someone they don't know and trust, who is affiliated with a retail store, telling them that. They are going to be very suspicious of you. These are the folks who have to be vigilant regarding telephone scams, because there is always someone out there trying to steal their money. Instead of telling them to buy a new instrument, you should just give them a fair price for the repair work and let them come to the right conclusion on their own.

Ultimately, none of us can really say what is going on with you that triggers the reactions you are seeing. I think you will just need to engage in some introspection, and see what you are willing to change in order to not set off the old folks who come to see you. If you need the business, then you adapt a little to what they want to see. If you have plenty of work, maybe you just let it go and not change a thing.



These users thanked the author doncaparker for the post (total 7): Johny (Wed May 16, 2018 7:33 pm) • Rick Milliken (Mon May 14, 2018 7:42 am) • Mark Fogleman (Fri May 11, 2018 10:27 pm) • jack (Fri May 11, 2018 8:06 pm) • Patrick Nelson (Fri May 11, 2018 7:10 pm) • DanKirkland (Fri May 11, 2018 1:19 pm) • Bryan Bear (Fri May 11, 2018 11:47 am)
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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 11:19 am 
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I had to read Don's post a few times to digest all of the sage wisdom, especially his Fido analogy. Well said!

Mike Franks
mjfranksguitars@gmail.com


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 11:19 am 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Some people are just A holes and you just so happen to run into one. Not much you can do about that. In some respects in a business like this I can see where people are coming from. A master carpenter doesn't become a master carpenter after a couple years of work... that kind of thing. I am 48 now and have been doing this since I was 25 or so. It's funny because now when I go to the doctor for example they all look like kids!

I can't say that I have ever run into this problem before but then I worked for music stores and picked up instruments and dropped them off and often times never even saw the customer. Now I have long graying hair and a gray beard that I shave off every spring. I just did and it makes me look 20 years younger. Anyway my only advice is just let the quality of your work do the talking.



These users thanked the author jfmckenna for the post: jack (Fri May 11, 2018 8:00 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 11:36 am 
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Let me add one more thing. Regardless of age issues, think about the following:

Separate from the old guy with the hopeless neck reset, you said that you have recently had a number of older customers come to your shop and try to tell you how to run your business. Take a beat. You run a service business. Customers choose to either come to you for a service, or go to your competitors for that service. Some of your customers are telling you things they don't like about how you provide that service. Whether you agree with them or not, maybe you should take seriously the fact that a significant portion of your potential customers (significant enough for you to mention it here on the OLF) are giving you negative feedback. I think you should have the humility to at least consider whether they have a point. I don't know whether they do or don't have a point; but anybody who runs a service business needs to take it seriously when a significant portion of customers give negative feedback. I hope this doesn't offend you, but I think you might be starting from the mistaken assumption that you are doing everything right and these guys are just a bunch of busybody old cranks. Maybe, just maybe, there is room for improvement in how you run your business, and maybe, just maybe, some of the old cranks have valid advice to offer to you about how to run a service business.



These users thanked the author doncaparker for the post: jack (Fri May 11, 2018 7:59 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 1:02 pm 
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Lots of good stuff in Don's post. I especially agree with the point about the worth/value of older instruments. Market value is only one measure, and often not the best one. When I did repairs we got into the habit of giving customers a set of estimates: the 'quick and dirty' fix that would get the instrument back on the road, the 'middle' estimate, for a workmanlike repair that would look OK and hold up, and the 'museum quality' repair. It was up to them to decide which level the instrument would get, and once they'd made the decision we did it that way, with a smile.

When a partner and I set up a shop some time back I found I was not getting the kind of respect I felt I deserved. I recalled a study I'd read which showed that, in any situation where people didn't know each other, the person with the most clothing was assumed to have the most authority. I was getting business people on their lunch breaks coming in with stuff, and I had on shorts and a t-shirt. I started wearing a shirt and tie and shop apron all the time, and it really helped. Later one of my students, who was a psychologist and the head of her department at a hospital complained that one of her subordinates was getting all of the attention at staff meetings. My student was going to meetings off the floor, dressed in scrubs, while her subordinate would wear a skirt and blouse. I told her of my experience. A couple of weeks later she came in and said that it worked: she dressed better for a meeting and was able to get her points across. I know it makes no logical sense, but that sort of thing seldom does.



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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 1:38 pm 
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Don really did lay out a lot of great stuff here! One thing that stood out for me is his #4 about manners (I'm not making judgements about the manner of anyone in this thread). Until reading his post and thinking about it, I had been under the impression that customer service was completely lost on (trying not to be an ageist here :) ) the young workers. Thinking more about it, it is not so much that I am getting worse customer service, just that the communication is more informal/ less polite than I am accustomed to. To me, casually interacting with a costumer on the other side of the counter can seem disrespectful or disinterested. It doesn't really make sense now that I think about it but if I am patronizing a business I prefer to be spoken to as a paying customer not like the guy sitting next to you at a baseball game.

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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 1:54 pm 
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Cocobolo
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Don, that is a huge chunk of good advice and thank you for it, lots to digest in there.

You are correct about needing to be kind, I was a bit gruff. Need to work on that.

Perhaps I should clarify a bit as to what actually is getting at me with the guys telling me how to do my work. These recent ones are not guys that have brought in instruments, rather they'll call or come into the shop with a question. One was about a Kalamazoo with a back crack (he didn't have it with him), the guy was asking "how would you go about fixing this? with steam?" my response was "It depends, if there's a brace loose then x needs to be done" etc... He responded with "Well how do I fix it?" it was a situation where the guy just wanted me to walk him through the repair sans any payment.

The second one was a guy that asked me how to install a pickup in the endpin of his acoustic. I explained to him that he would need to use a pilot hole and then a step bit and/or a reamer to get to the right size. His response was "that's not right, my buddy who's a tech didn't do it like that".

For every one that is a bit sour I've had many more that were sweet. Most of my older clientele are collectors so I completely understand what you're saying Don about the need for awareness regarding their money. I should have mentioned (but stupidly didn't) that we have had issues with this particular guy in the past. Just never with the repair side of things.


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 1:58 pm 
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Unless you are desperate for work and money, don't be afraid to show a client the door. They are not duty bound to use your services, neither are you duty bound to provide services. Maybe I am lucky, I have more work than I can handle and quickly developed a rep for telling people the way things are. More than once I shouted at someone to GTFO and don't come back.

Perhaps you are being tormented by a breed of self-appointed experts and knotheads who think this stuff is easy. I had loads of guys coming in asking how to build a guitar or do a repair and they wanted an education in 20 minutes.... for free. If they come in, tell them to get lost. If they come in a lot, tell them to get screwed.

Truthfully, I'd need more info on your day-to-day operations and your needs and wants from running a shop if I were to give you any real advice. Guess you could contact me if you wish.

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These users thanked the author Chris Pile for the post: DanKirkland (Fri May 11, 2018 2:21 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 2:22 pm 
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Chris, I'm always up for a chat, feel free to PM me. Phone or email is good for me.


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 2:55 pm 
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Dan, as a 35 year old who's been doing this for 10+ years recreationally, I can relate. To make matters worse, for the last three or four years, I've been a member of a local makerspace, which is like a community workshop.

I've had recently retired men come in, watch for a bit, strike up some conversation (which I love), and tell me how to use my block plane (when I'm working with my 5 1/2). Tell me how to do this. Tell me how to do that. Randomly tell me what kind of vise I have. And so forth.

While not directly on topic, what it's taught me is that there's a distinct difference in social maturity between telling someone how to do something and asking them why they're doing it the way that they are. And that's a lesson I can apply to myself in any situation.


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 3:11 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
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Tell 'em how you really feel Chris :D


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 3:45 pm 
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DanKirkland wrote:
Perhaps I should clarify a bit as to what actually is getting at me with the guys telling me how to do my work. These recent ones are not guys that have brought in instruments, rather they'll call or come into the shop with a question. One was about a Kalamazoo with a back crack (he didn't have it with him), the guy was asking "how would you go about fixing this? with steam?" my response was "It depends, if there's a brace loose then x needs to be done" etc... He responded with "Well how do I fix it?" it was a situation where the guy just wanted me to walk him through the repair sans any payment.

The second one was a guy that asked me how to install a pickup in the endpin of his acoustic. I explained to him that he would need to use a pilot hole and then a step bit and/or a reamer to get to the right size. His response was "that's not right, my buddy who's a tech didn't do it like that".


Well, I don't really consider those types of incidents as people trying to tell you how to run your business. There's running your business (how to treat customers, how to make money, etc.), and there's how to do the craft upon which the business is based (how to reset a neck, how to do a partial refret, etc.). Those are different things. And neither of those things were what was discussed when these two yahoos walked into your life. They were each asking for free advice on how to DIY their own repairs. Which, I must say, is really darn rude on their parts. Do you call a plumber out of the blue and ask the plumber to talk you through how to install a faucet? Of course not. Neither of those guys deserved any more substantive of a response from you beyond: "You should either bring the guitar to me, or take it to some other professional, in order to get that work professionally done." End of substantive response.

Seriously. Don't feed the freeloaders. Be polite, but don't tell them anything about how the work should be done until the guitar is in your hands, and they are there to actually pay you to do the work. I see this crap every so often; there are folks who want good legal work but don't want to pay a lawyer to do it. As if my services were now deemed to be essentially free, like downloading music from the internet. Nope. Nope. Nope. If you want my expertise, you gotta pay for it. I do have longstanding clients to whom I provide free advice here and there; those are loss leaders, and they help the relationship stay positive. But without that backdrop of an otherwise good financial arrangement, such a request for free advice is freeloading, and I don't tolerate it.

So, you can ignore what I was saying about allowing for the possibility that these guys might have something useful to offer you. Freeloaders have nothing good to offer you. They'll soak you for free advice, go mess up the work (because they don't know what they are doing), and then trash you on the internet because you "misled" them. Life's too short; keep those guys out of your life.



These users thanked the author doncaparker for the post: DanKirkland (Fri May 11, 2018 6:54 pm)
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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 4:00 pm 
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DanKirkland wrote:
The second one was a guy that asked me how to install a pickup in the endpin of his acoustic. I explained to him that he would need to use a pilot hole and then a step bit and/or a reamer to get to the right size. His response was "that's not right, my buddy who's a tech didn't do it like that".


I wonder if his tech friend works at Guitar Center in Cincinnati. I recently pulled out a Martin that mostly lives in its case these days and randomly flipped it up to look at the endpin jack. As I looked a little closer I realized the hole was jagged all around and filled in with brown marker. I unscrewed the cap for the jack and the hole looks like it was drilled with a paddle bit that had 2 or 3 false starts before getting going. Then the chipout was filled in with marker.

I didn't even notice when I had this done, but I also wasn't keenly aware of details on guitars like I am today.

Before starting at Microsoft a decade ago I owned my own software development company. It's much easier to get by when being young and the company is in tech, but there were still the old has been guys wanting to tell us how to write code, how much harder it was with punch cards, how big the machines were, how hot the rooms were, etc, etc, etc.... I used to try to regain the power in the conversation with a deep dive on some technical topic. Then I learned "the look". It's the look you get when the other guy is just waiting for his turn to talk again and whatever you are saying is going in one ear and out the other.

The advice from Don here needs to be framed really. Especially the puppy story. Long live Fido!

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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 4:09 pm 
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Over 3+ decades of dealing with people who were often under stress, I learned to do my best to treat people with respect, even if they didn't seem to have it coming. This saves a lot of wear and tear on both parties and sometimes leads to a better interaction.



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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 4:34 pm 
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I don't understand why, after explaining what might be involved with his guitar( type of glue, type of joint), you didn't just give him a price that you could live with, and ( dependent on the guitar) offer alternatives, one being what has been called a 'california neck set'...there are lots of cheapo guitars out there that can be made playable with this repair method...essentially, you are removing the neck, setting the geometry correct, and converting it into a bolt-on neck joint..... give the old man an option of a standard, dovetail neck reset and the cheaper version and let him make the call... From what I read, you ran him off and he'll probably tell all his player friends... seems to me you missed a repair opportunity, make for a happy customer, and maybe learn a process for cheapo guitars...


Last edited by jack on Fri May 11, 2018 5:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 4:46 pm 
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I've developed a very finely-honed skill at ignoring people.... when you get really, really good at it... they have no idea they're being ignored.


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 5:35 pm 
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Great stuff already added. I will add simply a funny anecdote:

I was at a deposition (also an attorney) in a complex multi-party case. At a break lawyers from Japan representing an electronics company asked the attorney leading the questioning how old he was. “47,” he answered. They nearly bust a vein trying not to burst out laughing. You could tell from their reaction he could just as easily said, “7”.


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 6:28 pm 
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It's not about luthiery, but I didn't believe in ageism until a number of years in the past. I could NOT get a job, and I couldn't figure out what the problem was. On a whim, I decided to buy one of those beard dying kits.... 3 days later, I was employed.

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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 6:53 pm 
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Alan Carruth wrote:
I recalled a study I'd read which showed that, in any situation where people didn't know each other, the person with the most clothing was assumed to have the most authority.


Me during Monday’s triage meeting....

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"Is this the one where I trot downfield and act like I'm lost ?" - Billy Bob


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 6:59 pm 
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jack wrote:
I don't understand why, after explaining what might be involved with his guitar( type of glue, type of joint), you didn't just give him a price that you could live with, and ( dependent on the guitar) offer alternatives, one being what has been called a 'california neck set'...there are lots of cheapo guitars out there that can be made playable with this repair method...essentially, you are removing the neck, setting the geometry correct, and converting it into a bolt-on neck joint..... give the old man an option of a standard, dovetail neck reset and the cheaper version and let him make the call... From what I read, you ran him off and he'll probably tell all his player friends... seems to me you missed a repair opportunity, make for a happy customer, and maybe learn a process for cheapo guitars...


I disagree


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 7:09 pm 
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Focus: Repair
doncaparker wrote:
Well, I don't really consider those types of incidents as people trying to tell you how to run your business. There's running your business (how to treat customers, how to make money, etc.), and there's how to do the craft upon which the business is based (how to reset a neck, how to do a partial refret, etc.). Those are different things. And neither of those things were what was discussed when these two yahoos walked into your life. They were each asking for free advice on how to DIY their own repairs. Which, I must say, is really darn rude on their parts. Do you call a plumber out of the blue and ask the plumber to talk you through how to install a faucet? Of course not. Neither of those guys deserved any more substantive of a response from you beyond: "You should either bring the guitar to me, or take it to some other professional, in order to get that work professionally done." End of substantive response.

Seriously. Don't feed the freeloaders. Be polite, but don't tell them anything about how the work should be done until the guitar is in your hands, and they are there to actually pay you to do the work. I see this crap every so often; there are folks who want good legal work but don't want to pay a lawyer to do it. As if my services were now deemed to be essentially free, like downloading music from the internet. Nope. Nope. Nope. If you want my expertise, you gotta pay for it. I do have longstanding clients to whom I provide free advice here and there; those are loss leaders, and they help the relationship stay positive. But without that backdrop of an otherwise good financial arrangement, such a request for free advice is freeloading, and I don't tolerate it.

So, you can ignore what I was saying about allowing for the possibility that these guys might have something useful to offer you. Freeloaders have nothing good to offer you. They'll soak you for free advice, go mess up the work (because they don't know what they are doing), and then trash you on the internet because you "misled" them. Life's too short; keep those guys out of your life.


Apologies for the miscontrued account then. I think I might just be interpreting what they were saying as them telling me how to do my job, perhaps I need to re-evaluate my listening skills.

Your advice on someone offering something useful still applies, just not to these guys. You gave alot of good advice and it shouldn't go unheeded.


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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Fri May 11, 2018 11:24 pm 
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Brazilian Rosewood
Brazilian Rosewood

Joined: Fri Dec 14, 2007 3:21 pm
Posts: 2591
Location: Alexandria MN
I have struggled with offering a "quick and dirty" repair on a cheap instrument at a lower price thinking that it may be seen by others and be seen as my standard technique (the quick and dirty part being lost in translation).

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 Post subject: Re: Fighting Ageism
PostPosted: Sat May 12, 2018 8:29 am 
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Cocobolo
Cocobolo

Joined: Fri Mar 13, 2009 3:06 pm
Posts: 126
First name: Howard
Last Name: Wilson
State: Virginia
Country: USA
Focus: Build
Status: Amateur
Did you wonder why the second guy didn't get his "tech guy" to install it for him? Perhaps the tech guy ran him off already.


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