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?
When I have a customer who wants me to do a great job on a crappy guitar, I always treat him/her with the utmost respect. I explain how some guitars are better than others, that many times there are hidden problems that appear while doing the work, and such. Most times, when I take the the time to educate them, they get a more grounded approach. Also, I always have in my shop my own instruments for them to try out. When one of these picky customers plays my axes, most are humbled enough to cool down the attitude.
And for the unavoidable jerk who comes down in everyone's life at least twice, I treat him like a drunken Hooligan: "Yes sir, you're right, I'm wrong, I'm sorry for not being good enough craftsman, God bless you..." You know the drill.
yes Howard there is a way if you have a jpg then add it by clicking upload image
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I confess that I'm not a luthier, but I have experienced difficult customers in my technical support business. There are just going to be people who will never be satisfied, no matter what you do to please them. This is their problem, not ours. Their hobby is sucking other people into arguments.
I preserve my self-respect by acting professionally. It helps to set realistic expectations early and keep them updated as the work progresses. If they can't be pleased, I'll charge them only for material, not labor, say I'm sorry I couldn't help them, and politely get them out of my life. It's worth the monetary loss not to have to deal with them any more. There are very few customers like this, thank goodness. If I spent my time arguing with them I would just end up aggravated and sour. When I don't, they just become a learning experience and an amusing story about an impossible person.