Will L

I SHOULD HAVE NEVER TAKEN THE JOB!

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It might be interesting to find out any horror stories from luthiers who have run into trouble because an instrument—or even a client :)—has hidden problems when they took the job.  Might ALSO be amusing, and maybe even helpful to keep us out of trouble in the future.

I remember these scary incidents from long ago:

I was just starting out dealing instruments, and I was still a working musician.  A colleague wanted me to sell a  20th century Italian viola for her.  (I'll leave out the make to avoid anyone coming out of the woodwork.)  We talked it over, and finally we discussed what she wanted for it.  She said she wanted $3,000.  I told her that was very low and it was worth much more. But she insisted she was happy with that amount, saying, "That's O.K.  $3,000 is what I want.  (Of course this is peculiar looking back on it.  Most people would ask how much more they might be able to get.)

The viola had a few small problems which needed to be fixed before showing it around, and I didn't do repairs at the time.  So I took a long trip and brought the viola to a friend who said he'd do the work, but only on the condition he had the first chance at selling it. That was fine with me and we figured out how to sort out splitting the profits of about $3,000 if he sold the instrument.

Well, two weeks later, out of the blue, my colleague came up to me and asked, "How much did you tell me you were going to get me for my viola?"  I said, "$3,000."

She screamed like I was running off with her purse, "NO!!!  I want $6,000!  It was like instantaneous insanity.  And she hardly seemed to remember any of our earlier discussion.

So, if my friend had already started the work there was going to be a problem.  Fortunately he had not.  So I just had the lady deal with him directly and got nothing for trip and troubles.  

Years before that fiasco I sold a bow to a friend and told her the frog wasn't original.  She came back two years later, as mad as hell, because some expert had told her the frog wasn't original, as if I had tried to cheat her; of course not remembering at all that I had told her myself.  That is damned irritating and a good way to lose friends.  From these incidents I learned to get everything in writing; too many people have very bad or convenient memories.   

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I'm hoping some of you will offer examples of instruments which proved more of a problem than anticipated, as well as any other problems that I haven't thought of that made you wish you'd not taken on a client or instrument.

I only posted a couple of my specific problems to get things rolling, but I don't want this thread to deal only with my limited examples.   

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7 hours ago, Will L said:

... I learned to get everything in writing; too many people have very bad or convenient memories.   

Yeah.  Like my ex-wife.

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My biggest problem category is instruments that never get picked up and, hence, that I don't get paid for fixing.  I now have three or four of them that have been sitting in the workshop for years.  They all have one thing in common:  I never met the owners.  They were all either shipped to me or brought in by someone other than the owners.  So I now require payment in advance before starting work on your instrument if you don't bring it to me yourself.

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Here's my example -  when I took an old french bow to get a rehair it turned out also that the eyelet was stripped too.  I didn't realize eyelet wasn't working correctly until payment time after rehair.  At the time I didn't know anything about bows then but did mention one employee did turn the screw before I left it with them for rehair.   Here lies a potential problem.  Did I have a bow that didn't work in the first place before rehair, did the salesperson strip the eyelet first or did the rehair person strip the threads?

 The shop asked to keep the bow for eyelet repair and I said yes.  It took an extra week mostly, I think, because back in the 1890's - early 1900's hand turned threads were used instead of present day machined turned.  I really was ignorant of how repair processes go and bow was fixed for free.  I will make it back to purchase a few sets of Dominants w/ wound E's to help out with what I think may be I still owe the shop issue.  Truth be known I could use 7 sets of aforementioned sets.   Now if I could just get my feet to follow my thoughts................

  

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3 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

My biggest problem category is instruments that never get picked up and, hence, that I don't get paid for fixing.  I now have three or four of them that have been sitting in the workshop for years.  They all have one thing in common:  I never met the owners.  They were all either shipped to me or brought in by someone other than the owners.  So I now require payment in advance before starting work on your instrument if you don't bring it to me yourself.

Isn't that odd?  That someone other than the owner would bother?  Don't you 'own' it after a certain length of time if unclaimed?

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20 minutes ago, Rue said:

Isn't that odd?  That someone other than the owner would bother?  Don't you 'own' it after a certain length of time if unclaimed?

I don't find it odd.  Typically a regular customer will bring in a friend's instrument.

My state, like most, has laws regulating businesses which take in goods for repair.  If stuff left for repair is not picked up within a certain time period (60 days, I think) the business can get rid of it in any appropriate manner.  But there are requirement that the business has to meet, which I generally don't pay attention to because I operate so informally.  For example, I should have a sign of a specific size informing customers of the 60-day period.  And I have to give the customers receipts, which is hard to do when I don't meet them.  And owning the instrument does not help me if it's a piece of junk not worth fixing, which I told the customer over the phone before she told me she wanted it fixed anyway.  Somehow, the instruments that I would be happy to have abandoned here always get picked up.

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I sold a nice German cello bow to a local lady. It was marked Tourte on the stick, but I priced it as a good German bow probably Pfretzschner Workshop, and sold it stating explicitly that this was not a Tubbs, which would cost at least 3 times more ...

A few months later I discovered that she had taken the bow to a large violin shop in town, and had wished them to confirm that I had ripped her off by selling her a bow which wasn't a real Tubbs. They had the sense and the decency to ask to see the invoice and the insurance appraisal, both of which described the bow as a German cello bow, probably Pfretzschner Shop, branded "Tubbs".

 

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...and this is why I don't think I can deal with the general public...I have no patience.

We are very considerate buyers.  I suppose I expect the same in return.  Then I am always flummoxed when cuckoo people show up.

Non-violin example of why I can't be bothered to sell anything to anyone:

I had a horse for sale.  I was contacted by a 'nice lady' who expressed interest in coming to see the horse.  We picked a Saturday two weeks in the future.  The following Saturday, when we had made plans to be elsewhere, I get a phone call from her asking where the heck we were?!  They were at our place and we weren't!  I reminded her that we were due to meet the following Saturday.  "Yes, I know, but we were meeting our daughter in the area, so we came today instead.". :huh:

So we abandon our plans, rush back home.  They are obviously irritated at having to wait.  Then when I take her to see the horse, she is not impressed.  She is actually downright insulting. (Nice horse, like it or not, buy it or not,  but there was nothing at all wrong with the animal).  Then she started to complain about our facilities.  What facilities?  I had a horse for sale, I'm not a box store or an institution!  After all that, she demands to come into our house to use our bathroom.  There was a clean usable outhouse by the barn (and there's a sink in the barn if you need to wash hands)...there are bushes everywhere.  They could have driven to a gas station. <_<

So...come on the wrong weekend...insult my merchandise and my home...and then demand perks?

 

 

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2 hours ago, Rue said:

...and this is why I don't think I can deal with the general public...I have no patience.

We are very considerate buyers.  I suppose I expect the same in return.  Then I am always flummoxed when cuckoo people show up.

Non-violin example of why I can't be bothered to sell anything to anyone:

I had a horse for sale.  I was contacted by a 'nice lady' who expressed interest in coming to see the horse.  We picked a Saturday two weeks in the future.  The following Saturday, when we had made plans to be elsewhere, I get a phone call from her asking where the heck we were?!  They were at our place and we weren't!  I reminded her that we were due to meet the following Saturday.  "Yes, I know, but we were meeting our daughter in the area, so we came today instead.". :huh:

So we abandon our plans, rush back home.  They are obviously irritated at having to wait.  Then when I take her to see the horse, she is not impressed.  She is actually downright insulting. (Nice horse, like it or not, buy it or not,  but there was nothing at all wrong with the animal).  Then she started to complain about our facilities.  What facilities?  I had a horse for sale, I'm not a box store or an institution!  After all that, she demands to come into our house to use our bathroom.  There was a clean usable outhouse by the barn (and there's a sink in the barn if you need to wash hands)...there are bushes everywhere.  They could have driven to a gas station. <_<

So...come on the wrong weekend...insult my merchandise and my home...and then demand perks?

 

 

As the owner, or co-owner of three horses, horse trading tales make the violin business seem very tame.  On the buyer side, my most annoying experience was to drive  my wife hundreds of miles into Southern Utah to look at a horse that was "just right" for her, and would be an excellent trail horse. The price was reasonable and the horse looked good in the pictures sent (the pictures only showed one side of the horse).   When we got there, the owner very proudly brought out the horse-and it turned out to only have one eye!  It was a rescue horse-the owner was trying to find someone new to feed it-and so neglected to tell us of that simple fact.  Not too good for riding on narrow mountain trails with steep drop offs on one side or the other . . .

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39 minutes ago, lawrence furse said:

the owner very proudly brought out the horse-and it turned out to only have one eye!

Did you hear about the farmer who raffled off his dead horse?  He sold a hundred tickets at $5 and the winner came over to pick up the horse and the horse was dead.  The farmer said "So he is.  Here's your $5 back".

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15 hours ago, Will L said:

tnteresting............horror stories from luthiers who have run into trouble because ............ a client :)—has hidden problems............. .   

Of course they have hidden problems.  They took up the violin, didn't they? :lol:

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