It's Christmas time and the flakes are flying,


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Within the past two weeks at my shop I've seen two customers walk away from specially ordered instruments (one without even returning to the shop) and have taken numerous calls from il-informed customers shopping for "brand X" violin for a super discounted price (because that's what they read on the internet or that's what the teacher insists on.) This is such a tricky time of year to try and educate potential customers and would-be violinists and provide instruments while trying to reduce year-end inventory for tax purposes. I don't view this time of year as particularly productive for violin-shopping for the above reasons, not to mention that people tend to overextend themselves at Christmas and lose interest in that violin they ordered a week ago. This time of year seems to bring out much of the less-than-informed element, or the self-educated, label-conscious discount shoppers. I try to politely educate people on more practical and productive ways of choosing violins, but I meet with much resistance and usually waste the better part of an hour on the phone trying to promote quality, service and value rather than brand names and discount prices. I suppose that's better than wasting a 2 hr shop appointment.

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Yes.

We are in the midst of a retail revolution, and I think when the dust settles, people will be stunned at the changes. It could go as far as to make shopping malls a memory. When price is the only concern, you have to go to stores where price is the main consideration.

Some of us remember hardware stores that had nuts and bolts in bins, and sales help that knew what nuts and bolts were for. Now the sales help can scan the SKU (I think I have it right) of the cardboard-and-plastic encased item, tell you the price, but can't tell you if it's really what you want.

Fortunately, there is a difference between price and value. Finding the folk who are looking for value is the tough part.

I don't know the answer, besides adapt to survive.

edit: I should also add that many internet surfers confuse information with knowledge (along with price and value).

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"Nuts and bolts in bins" - YES. Back in the days when USA didn't know it was number 1; not like now, when it doesn't know its day is done.

While I've had occasion to bemoan the diminished vocabulary of the general population, this is a distinct corollary to the situation. Everything is bubble-packed, sold by bubbleheads.

I'm not sure if there will ultimately be a turnaround, or if the general degradation has gone too far to reverse. I am pretty sure it won't improve in my lifetime, which pretty much means that there will be no one left who remembers how it once was, which leads one to think (well, SOMEone to think) that what was never known or understood will not be missed.

Too bad.

Incidentally, I seldom or ever hear or see frogs any more. Brick and mortar bookstores are also vanishing, at least the ones that had interesting backstock. I think something similar is going on with people like the above posters, and myself. I doubt I'll be missed.

Too bad.

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"Nuts and bolts in bins" - YES. Back in the days when USA didn't know it was number 1; not like now, when it doesn't know its day is done.

While I've had occasion to bemoan the diminished vocabulary of the general population, this is a distinct corollary to the situation. Everything is bubble-packed, sold by bubbleheads.

I'm not sure if there will ultimately be a turnaround, or if the general degradation has gone too far to reverse. I am pretty sure it won't improve in my lifetime, which pretty much means that there will be no one left who remembers how it once was, which leads one to think (well, SOMEone to think) that what was never known or understood will not be missed.

Too bad.

Incidentally, I seldom or ever hear or see frogs any more. Brick and mortar bookstores are also vanishing, at least the ones that had interesting backstock. I think something similar is going on with people like the above posters, and myself. I doubt I'll be missed.

Too bad.

Didn't mean to sound quite so pessimistic. Here's a photo from the year my grandfather was born.

http://www.shorpy.com/node/7173

I don't think many of us want to go back to that. We do have the quaint idea of life in the old days. I tend to remember the good things, forget the bad, then compare it to the present day.

So, survive by being good. There is an excess of junk out there. People make money peddling it, maybe even live in better houses than we do, but we add quality. Not too shabby, really.

The frog thing, though, I've noticed that too. I live in what was an agricultural area. Just a few years ago, the frogs in the irrigation ditches used to keep us up at night. Not now. But it's not the retail situation. It's the new subdivisions and their insane need for giant, green lawns. I guess the chemical fertilizer/herbicide folk think of it as retail, but it's really just nuts who want a green lawn to come back to after commuting to work.

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I don't mean to seem overly pessimistic, but I see plenty of downside as well as improvement.

It's sort of ironic that the folks who promote diversity and globalisation seem to have brought about a reduction in social diversity, with languages and cultures falling by the wayside, and a reduction in biodiversity, as species disappear in the rush to Western-civilise everything by massive industrialisation. And while bringing the third world into the economic fold, they've destabilised the western industrial base (except for weapons system production) as well as helped create a global economy that is so interlinked that it is inherently unstable.

But it has succeeded in bringing opportunities for increased wealth to ruling classes everywhere, so don't look for change to come from the top.

Here in the DC-VA-MD area, we're finding lots of fish with strange genitalia, presumably caused by trace drugs in waste water. As well as non-native species taking over ecosystems.

Who knew we could cause so much damage, with the best of intentions?

Well, the Yellow Brick Road seems to lead to those gates with "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here" over the golden arches.

How's that for a Tinfoil Hat Rant? Got my Curmudgeon suit on. Gotta buy some white shoes and a belt to match.

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When I started my string instrument business in 1967, it was just the beginning of discount string suppliers. There were no internet sales outlets. When someone needed an instrument or set of strings, etc. They got into the car and drove to the local violin shop. Customers had greater loyalties to their local violin shop. Strings, rosin, cases, violins, etc were a dependable source of income for the neighborhood violin shop.

Then the number of discount mail order string suppliers started to multiply and violin shops started to have a hard time competing with the "cut to the bone profit margin" Then the internet appeared and upped the ante making it harder to sell instruments. The local violin shop saddled with a constant overhead now had to deal with loosing market share to the great cyber-sphere. In order to remain in business many of them had to raise the price of repair work in order to stay solvent.

At one time a violin shop proprietor could count on a certain amount of sales of instruments, supplies and repairs for their income. Most inexpensive student instruments came from Germany and they were imported in large quantities by the large wholesale houses. The small violin shop was not able to import these items as most of the German manufactureres dealt with the big boys. If you were on the East coast you bought from either Schroetter, Metroplitan Music or Meisel amongst others. Prices were reasonable and allowed the retailer a decent mark up.

Now days, anyone can import from the numerous Chinese manufacturers, however there are so many doing that the competition has forced the retail prices to be close to cost. People who don't know a violin from a pair of shoe laces are selling violins on the www.

Yes, the retail environment is quite different than it was 40 years ago and it is hard to understand how some shops remain in business.

My advice is to stock instruments if possible rather than to special order. If one person does not like a particular offering., the next customer will. It is a tough business and one must be thick skinned to survive.

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A tough business it is indeed, and I knew that when I opened my shop 11 years ago. Being a home-based shop I can keep my doors open without borrowing money during tough times, but keeping money tied up in a large inventory when demand is low doesn't quite make sense to me. It's impossible to predict what fractional-sized instrument in what specific model the next customer is going to request. I don't like to require deposits or pre-payments from customers, but I think I'm going to have to at Christmas time from now on.

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Are there particular tax consequences in keeping a large stock of instruments on hand? This has been a problem for book publishers, who used to keep a large backlist until they were forced to pay taxes on unsold stock, which led to the pulping of unsold titles and the general difficulty of publishing books by unknown authors. Publishers are increasingly uninterested in taking a chance on someone whose works may not sell.

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It's sort of ironic that the folks who promote diversity and globalisation seem to have brought about a reduction in social diversity, with languages and cultures falling by the wayside, and a reduction in biodiversity, as species disappear in the rush to Western-civilise everything by massive industrialisation. And while bringing the third world into the economic fold, they've destabilised the western industrial base (except for weapons system production) as well as helped create a global economy that is so interlinked that it is inherently unstable.

These remarks and a few others prompt me to make a curious (off topic?) observation about the smearing of lines in retail.

At one time, when you went into a hardware store, you bought hardware. When you went into a grocery store, you bought groceries. When you went into a department store, you bought clothes and home furnishings.

Last week, I was strolling around my local CANADIAN TIRE STORE, whence I came upon a bank of food freezers, as if I had slipped into a supermarket through some weak spot in the fabric of spacetime. Not so. Indeed, it appears Canadian Tire now sells groceries. My grocery store sells hardware and clothing. In fact, everyone sells everything. Now I suppose the corporate barons think they are winning by stealing market share from others, but the fact is that this morphing is going to be catastrophic, and will result with only one or two giants left standing, who will only carry products if the skew number shows enough sales.

I must admit to being thwarted by the disappearing skew more than anyone else I know. It happens to me on a weekly basis, but was brought to a crescendo when I recently had to drive to another city an hour away to buy real wood round toothpicks :)

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Surely part of the problem is the insane, crazy, frenzied madness that is Christmas in the U.S. of A.

Last year some people were TRAMPLED TO DEATH AT WAL-MART in their frenzy to buy useless, worthless junk.

Retailers expect to sell 20% of their total sales over the Christmas shopping frenzy.

This is how to celebrate the birth of the Messiah???

It blasphemy and heresy to all Christian teachings. Why do church leaders not speak out?

~OK

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Surely part of the problem is the insane, crazy, frenzied madness that is Christmas in the U.S. of A.

Last year some people were TRAMPLED TO DEATH AT WAL-MART in their frenzy to buy useless, worthless junk.

Retailers expect to sell 20% of their total sales over the Christmas shopping frenzy.

This is how to celebrate the birth of the Messiah???

It blasphemy and heresy to all Christian teachings. Why do church leaders not speak out?

~OK

You said it Oded! What people consider Christmas these days is something I never look forward to. Even Thanksgiving has been completely paved over and reduced to being a Christmas shopping holiday. In a country that has a bad habit of overdoing just about everything, all the over-consumption seems to reach a pinnacle this time of year.

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. It's impossible to predict what fractional-sized instrument in what specific model the next customer is going to request. I don't like to require deposits or pre-payments from customers, but I think I'm going to have to at Christmas time from now on.

I sell out of my 2 bedroom apt. That keeps the cost down. I keep in stock 5 to 10 0f all the sizes . of verying quality. Most people only want the cheepest ones. I seem to keep the best ones forever. It makes me sick because I realy love to sell people the very nicest ones. I am doing this for fun!!! I am a plumber! and a boiler operator. I can make more money doing plumbing!!!

The one thing that I think would help all of us , is think of a way the to buy violins together from China so we can save money. Like I said on here one time before, The shipping is much cheeper if you can ship a 20 foot container full from China back to one cental spot.

I would do the work for nothing just to save money on the shipping, Also I can get better prices when I buy a larger number at a time. I will be buying more violins some time in May or June 2010.

Woodland, I think you and others like you, could aford to stock more violins if the cost was lower. I can get a good student violin outfit for about $50.00. The smaller sizes about $30.00 . I`m not talking about the junk you can get for under $20.00 .

I just think if we small violin shops want to make it in this new enviernment , We will have to think of ways to work together!

If anyone is intrusted in buying together with me they can email me at : Mr_violin@hotmail.com

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Didn't mean to sound quite so pessimistic. Here's a photo from the year my grandfather was born.

http://www.shorpy.com/node/7173

An incredible archive. I could spend all day looking at those historic photos, but then I wouldn't get any work done. Thanks for posting the link. I think that I will join and upload some of my vintage photos.

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An incredible archive. I could spend all day looking at those historic photos, but then I wouldn't get any work done. Thanks for posting the link. I think that I will join and upload some of my vintage photos.

Back in the day when I tried to be all things to all people, I could barely compete with online stores and general musical stores in the entry-level market. Nobody seemed to be prepared to pay even a slight premium for a decent setup and after-sales service. So I ditched that part of my operation, and started to import my own brand of entry-level instruments on a small scale for select customers, at almost three times the price of some real rock-bottom entry-level stuff locally available. I didn't advertise this, just kept these instruments around in case somebody wanted a better-than-average fraction-sized violin.

The strange thing is that I'm selling more of these than I've ever managed with the real rock-bottom stuff.

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This is how to celebrate the birth of the Messiah???

It blasphemy and heresy to all Christian teachings. Why do church leaders not speak out?

~OK

- like the rest of us, they're not entirely immune.

I know that everyone likes to speak as if they themselves are somehow separate from these events, but that's not very likely, is it?

Often, they (religious leaders) are just as caught up in the rush and ferver to capitalize on the event, as any businessman is... And, lets face it, for a Church of any size to exist today, it must also be a successful business.

Religious leaders are often in an odd and seemingly hypocritical position on this point. As much as everyone seems to want to deny it - we ALL create the society we live in.

(a quick refresher course, given by Paul, might help all of us in this matter... <g>)

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An incredible archive. I could spend all day looking at those historic photos, but then I wouldn't get any work done. Thanks for posting the link. I think that I will join and upload some of my vintage photos.

I look forward to seeing your photos there. I've been a lurker on Shorpy for some time, contributing only the occasional comment. An interesting glimpse into the lives of our predecessors.

we ALL create the society we live in

Yes, indeed. I do plenty of shopping on-line these days. It's just the way society is going. Never did like wandering around town shopping, so it suits me. In some way, it's going back to something like life when I was a kid. Lived in a small remote town, and many things were bought through the Sears catalog outlet. Order, and in a couple weeks to a month, you got your stuff.

But have no interest in competing with the bottom-of-the-barrel instruments being sold on-line. I do, on the other hand, try to support the local growers, small businesses, the true local businesses, and hope that there are others who think of violins the same way.

Just to be safe, thought, I put a lot more effort into my gardening these days! :)

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Just to be safe, thought, I put a lot more effort into my gardening these days! :)

Same here.

At one time, I thought being safe entailed buying silver or gold bullion, for when it all went bust, but you can't eat silver!

My wife and I have a huge plot of empty semi-desert land (our yard) - like just about everyone else here in the middle of nowhere, where we plant a vegetable garden every year...

Lots of "farmers markets" pop up, every summer, here on the courthouse lawn.

The funny thing is that many vegetables do well in this particular soil.

Lots of bugs, small reptiles, and rodents/animals to keep things interesting.

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There is much I would like to say, but I won't. It is nice to see that some here have eluded to their surface understanding of what is being done to us with great intent. Everyday that goes by someone new begins to understand the reality of the situation. You are either unplugged and have taken the appropriate pill, or you are part of the matrix. Those who have not been unplugged or are not willing, ready or able to do so, those who "we" try to save, unfortunately contribute greatly to the problem, and jingoistically defend evil,tyranny and actively contribute to their own demise. Bob your not pessimistic, its called reality. "It" is being slowly implemented so as to allow it to occur in a way that is undetectable by most. The frogs are gone because they have been slowly boiled in the pot, the temperature was turned up one degree at a time.They did not see it coming, heck at first they thought they were in a hot tub, nice and warm, they didn't notice that they were sitting in babayaga's pot being cooked one day at a time.

The reality is this country has been diluted with great intent, your government is not your country, the country is the land and its people.

The people can effect change any time they want. "free trade",outsourcing and offshoring are not free, it is quasi corporate/governmental venture aimed at "globalizing" and destroying what made this country great...

Don't wait for them to save you, don't say "well everyone else is"....Until you stop buying crates of cheap goods made with slave labor, and the consumer stops buying these things because they realize they are shooting themselves in the foot, "we" will continue to demise.

Well, I guess I did say a thing or 2, but I kept it pretty clean :) , hard as it was :)

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With all the ranting going on, it's good to think of the big picture:

We're on a tiny spec of dirt at the outer edge of an average galaxy, much like billions of other galaxies.

Humans aren't the only disaster that has visited the Earth. Asteroids and volcanos did a good job not too long ago. And before that, plate tectonics caused global cooling that froze over the entire surface. So the Earth and life will likely survive this latest disaster.

Until the sun ages into a red giant, then we're toast.

So, enjoy the ride while it lasts. Don't panic. :)

(Yes, I read all of Douglas Adams' books)

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Well, I guess I did say a thing or 2, but I kept it pretty clean :) , hard as it was :)

Ha ha! (this is great!)

Well said. But there are a number of factors at work here, though what you say has many harsh elements of the truth in it.

But there is also another side to the reality of living today, for some of us. Not to say something would be to ignore a huge truth that exists side by side with your depiction of the world.

In any of the wonderful pasts, where all was well, delineated here, I would have been dead and gone for the last twenty one years.

Only this evil and suppressive era has kept me alive and functioning.

I have easily cost the government (or the tax paying public - however you want to look at it) over a million, perhaps over a couple million dollars. Of course, I paid into the system all of my working life, for such insurance, so I don't feel bad burdening the system now.

But the fact is that I must acknowledge that part of this, admittedly corrupt system, works, and works well. To condemn everything whole cloth, (and I'm not really accusing you of doing this - I'm just pointing out that there is more than one way to look at some things) is as big a mistake as refusing to open your eyes. Living in such a world can be a slow form of death - in my opinion.

Closing your eyes isn't necessary, but neither must we prop them open with sharp sticks.

We have never seen the era where corruption was fully absent, ever, right from the very beginning, and we never will see it.

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I'd like to share a situation that I had with a customer recently that pertains to this topic and another recent topic that discussed the trustworthyness of violin shops. I was called by a person that knew of an instrument that was owned by another person that may need repair and an evaluation of worth, I don't give appraisals but am always interested when a person tells me that they may have found a noteworthy violin. I set an appointment with this person and explained to them that they had a Conservatory violin circa 1900-1920 instead of an original Joseph Guarneri 1714. Since there were decisions to be made about the repairs to be done I resolved that the person with the instrument was the customer because the true owner wasn't present. It was decided that I would reglue the lower bout, restring, refit the bridge and refit the fallen soundpost to get this instrument in condition to sell by the owner. When the subject of the bow was discussed it was decided to be not costworthy to do, it needed rehaired and the frog was broken out badly on one side. I was asked if I would give them a bow. I said no and we let the bow situation go. All went well with repairs and payment. As an afterthought I proposed a trade of a lesser quality bow for the bow with the bad frog, this trade was gladly accepted. One week later I received a call from the true owner who told me that her whole family was upset with her for letting the bow be traded. Let me add that this is not a family heirloom. I am currently holding the bow in limbo waiting for who knows how long to retrade bows. I have learned to never do business with a third party as I did here and that good intentions are often mistaken as taking advantage of someone.

Scott

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