How to deal with a dissatisfied customer you don't agree with?

Well, it's been a awkward time, and I'd like to have your opinions as pro luthiers. A new customer brought his old 100$ (maybe less) classical guitar with terrible plastic nut and saddle. He asks for a improvement  so he can tune with no headache. I make him a new bone nut and bone saddle without changing strings because he doesn't want to spend much money on it. Here come the troubles.

He tries it and find an annoying noise on the strings, while tuning ability is good now. Well listening carefully and plucking in a particular way, there's a tiny little noise. Not a fret buzz, nor rattling or sitar like sound. A bit like a free winding on a string or something similar. Changing strings does not improve situation, shimming the saddle or double checking my nut slots' shape neither. I spent an hour on it trying a lot of things, checking for loose braces, etc.. with no success.

When he comes back, he tries it, tell me that the guitar is not working at all because of these little noises, and that it did not have this problem when he walked in my shop the first time (unfortunatly I can't confirm this, and it's part of the lesson I guess). So to his eyes I'm not good enough and guilty for these noises.

I told him I spent a lot of time on it, and did all I can, but that I did not find the problem's origin. So I charge him half the price of a new nut and saddle and give him the address of another luthier in town who is only building classical guitars for maybe 30 years (I only do this for 7 years as a full time job).

Customer's not happy but what else could I do? It's the first time I have a dissatisfied customer of this kind, and it really is a pain. What would have you done in my place?

Tags: customer, professional, relation

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Hey Howard I ve seen myth busters polish a turd before you got it right though I appreciate the info on handling Trouble with Cheep guitars .I got just the guy to send the repairs i don't need here Good advice
Thanks guys, your answers make sense. I'm going to think about it.
I have had problems like this in the past. The worst case was when I re-fretted a mustang for a customer and he wouldn't stop complaining about buzzing even though he was playing the guitar as hard as humanly possible. He would come in with the guitar and repeatedly bother me about it.  He told me that the bass strings shouldn't be higher than the treble strings and was not satisfied with any answer. Eventually he was calling me on a daily basis and complaining for a half hour at a time. I told him to please come back for a refund and to never step foot in my shop again. I questioned my decision for a while but, a few months later a luthier from another state called me asking about this customer because he apparently complained about me to him. Well this luthier had the same problem, everything he did wasn't good enough. Needless to say this luthier ended up doing the same thing I did. Best money I never made!
I got some calls from my area to Gary and they all mesh the same way you explained your scenario , the best thing to do is calmly Explain and if needed apologize that no body is perfect no guitar is either and move on ,I am getting it now.Thanks Pierre for bring up the discussion .Sunny and Warm in Central CA today gonna be t shirts and shorts .
Wow, Gary, this one's a bad one!
Customers as stalkers!  Makes me glad I don't do this for a living.
Put on your best smile and tell him that you can save the nut and saddle and build him a beautiful guitar around them for a few thousand dollars.  If that doesn't work for you ask him to hold the guitar in both hands, open the door, tell him to "get a good running start."   All joking aside, in the end you only charged him half, recogmended a more experienced luthier, in closing if the customer paid he thought your services were good.  So he bought an inexpensive guitar, wanted it fixed for nothing and expected it to play like a 1930's Madrid school original!  Can't plz em all.
Thanks Greg.
Greg good idea ill build you a guitar around the nut and first, 12th and 24 th fret .um I was walking in the store 5 minutes ago met with my dissatified customer who has an ear for F# and his complaint was it was not sharp enough and I could not convince him that the guitar is a compromise of all the notes it is made for so when I walked in I walked right up said nicely hey shuck the hand of the Man said I said let us two compromise for each other, Right so now the fellow says pull out the nut saddle and all the frets, and I said. I cant have this conversation with you, you will just need to find another luthier .gave all options other than pulling my work apart which I will let someone else do any takers ? 911 on the F# guy with perfect pitch .

This may be the ultimate Customer From Hell story, the one against which all others shall be measured...


I shall defeat you, F# master!
it is getting better. NOT, more to follow I gota go PLEK .


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