So i'm sure it's happened to everybody at some point.  Somebody wakes up, decides their guitar isn't performing to their standards, comes in, agrees on a price, work is performed, and then they fall off the face of the earth.  I've used a general rule of 90 days and at least three attempts to contact them.  This is usually for beaters and what not, and I will exercise leniency based on the value of the instrument and or the cost of the repairs done.  What i'm wondering is if there is a concrete law here in California that I can refer to.  Any actual documentation I can refer to on a .gov website would be really helpful, as I would prefer not just pull it from the air.  

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Hey Brian-- Here's a good way to do bus. with people who leave a guitar for work to be done.

I put it in writing that if the client __DOES NOT____ pick up the repair within 30 days of completion it becomes mine.

Just my two cents on this one....

Peace, Donald

What I have done in the past is  I get them to sign for the repairs and I give them a time of 30 days to pick it up or let me know if they are going to be  longer coming for it .Other wise after 60 days I will sell it for the cost of the repair...P.S. I have never been stuck with a repair yet.Bill..............

Offhand, I figure if a cheap or modest semi-dead instrument is left for more than a couple of years, it has to go.  If I can't contact the owner, I stick it aside and wait until space is the real issue, which doesn't come for quite a while after that. 

In checking with an attorney (years ago, mind you) I received the word that I would need to send a REGISTERED letter to the owner, and HAVE PROOF IT WAS RECEIVED, in which I declared that after a certain date the instrument would be declared abandoned property.  After that  date, I could claim and sell it.

Plain and simple, that is NOT the way I choose to live.  So, sometimes instruments stick around a while.  I reckon the longest stay for a repair job was about 14 years.  While it was with us, we'd have occasional contact and promise to pay and pick up.  Owner eventually developed and was institutionalized with early onset Alzheimer's.  His conservator finally paid the bill with interest and a storage fee.  The instrument was then sold to help offset care expenses.

Another person left a mandolin with us just for a short term storage, so her young son wouldn't have access to it and possibly damage it before he was read to take care of it properly.  THIRTY years later, she'd died and he dropped in asking about the instrument his mom had always talked about.  The adult son was so overjoyed when we handed it over that words can't express the scene.

Now, if I'd have sold the thing decades before, I'd have missed that moment - a poor tradeoff, I think.

Somewhere around 1997 we sold a new Les Paul to a Japanese customer who'd been traveling in the area.  It was a Studio model, but by accident it had received a high grade flamed top under the transparent red finish.  On his return flight the peghead snapped off because of really bad wood selection and grain direction at that point.  We sent it to Gibson for a warranty neck replacement, which was beautifully done.  By the time it was returned from Gibson, the owner had changed his job so he no longer made frequent visits to California.  Despite our calling him to arrange shipment, he still insists he'll pick it up "next time he's in town."

Got a few others around the shop as well, but these are the most dramatic stories that come to mind right now.

Frank, that's very noble of you.  It gets a little blurry when you have contact over a long period of time.  I kind of feel like every time I get somebody on the phone, the timer kind of starts over again.  When there's flat out no response, it's different.  I've probably had a dozen instruments go rogue over the years.  Recently I had two Ovations, or as I like to call them, "salad bowls with strings" that became an issue.  One I gave away to somebody interested in parts, and the other came in some time in November.  It's U.S. made, so even if i'm not a fan, i'll try to be lenient.  

What Frank said and local laws may vary too.

We inherrited a few that had been here a while and actually managed to return some of them to the rightful owners including a Bandura that had been here over 10 years....

I wanted to add, and flame me if you will, that we had one situation where someone had fallen on hard times and decided to train to be an EMT.  We were impressed that they wanted to help others so, you guessed it, we ripped up the bill and gave them their repaired instrument back.  Feels really good to be able to do this too I have to tall ya!

Very recently we were able to also locate the decendants of the original owner of a left instrument.  The daughter lives in California now and the instrument had belonged to he Mom who recently died.  We tuned it up, packed it up carefully, insured it and shipped it back the daughter free of charge and we paid shipping and insurance too.  After all this was all about someone's Mom and that has a lot of meaning to me personally.

Anyway even though in the OP's case this may not apply sometimes it feels really good to simply help folks out and go the extra mile.

My business partner likes to say at times that he is the worst businessman in the world.  Well I think that I many be the second worst but I do sleep well at night though. ;)

Flame you for building your reputation and buying yourself the best word of mouth possible? Not on your life. There is something to be said for being true to your heart too.
Im definitely with Frank and Hesh on this. Being in the instrument repair business I feel like we should be distinguishing ourselves like this from the rest of the business world when we can. My car repair man often takes it easy on me with payment due dates, so I figure I can at least pay it forward. Karma y'know.
Just wanted to say I think it's great for the luthiers who go above and beyond to hold onto instruments. I'd never leave a guitar at the shop a day longer than needed, and having a guitar hanging in my shop (I mean if I had one) on the wall for decades would bother me, but I think it's great.

I have nothing else to add. I've been on the other side (paid a luthier hundreds of dollars to damage a new neck . . .), so it's great to hear about luthiers who go out of their way to treat customers well.


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