It started out with promise. My dad ordered me a set of Sperzel-made locking guitar tuners for Christmas. (I assume you are aware that Christmas was four months ago.) My guitar is an imported Strat with cheap hardware, and the tuners were especially bad: unresponsive, slippy, chintzy and inconsistent. Needless to say, I was looking forward to receiving the new ones. Unfortunately, they were backordered 30 days. Then 30 more days. Then 60 more days. When we received the 60-day backorder notice, we decided to cancel the order and go with some Fender Schaller tuners instead. Not my first choice but comparable--no big deal.
These arrived within a week. Thrilled that my wait was finally over, I began the process of installing them. I'm describing it here for blog posterity--I always hope someone will find it helpful when they search for a walkthrough of the job--but if you are not interested in the process or have the attention span of a gnat, you might want to skip the next three paragraphs. I promise I'll get to the seething part right after this. Here, I'll even put it in a blockquote for you, so it's easy to skip.
Removing the old tuners was fairly easy. Each tuner was held in place by two small screws in the back of the headstock, and the posts were steadied by a metal gromit inserted from the front of the headstock. Removing them was a simple matter of removing the screws and pushing the gromit out from the back with a screwdriver.
Unfortunately, the new tuners have wider posts, and the existing holes were too small to accommodate them. I would have to drill new holes. Naturally, the size was irregular (13/32") , and I had to go buy an $11 drill bit in order to proceed. After I chewed up the headstock drilling the first hole, I realized it would be wiser to widen the holes a little at a time, using an intermediate sized bit. Don't Do What Donnie Don't Does. Take it from me: gluing bits of headstock back together takes more time than swapping out your drill bit a couple times.
After drilling the main holes, I had to drill tiny pilot holes in the back of the headstock, for the little anchor posts that keep the tuner from rotating once they're installed. These ended up being 3/32", but again, it was helpful to drill them in stages. I'd get the position centered with a 1/16" bit and then finish the hole. As far as marking the position for the holes, the best thing would be to chalk the posts and press the tuner onto the headstock. But since I possess neither chalk nor patience, I just held them in place and traced the posts with a fine-point mechanical pencil. It worked fine.
With the holes all widened to the proper size and the tuners anchored on their rotational axis, I was ready to finish the install. Finally, after four months, I was about to enjoy the benefit of high quality locking tuners! Just one problem: Five of them were missing a crucial part. Only one of the tuners had come with a washer and bushing. (A bushing is a hex nut on a cylindrical sleeve that slides through the washer and over the tuner post from the front of the headstock, tightening down and holding the tuner in place in its hole.) I noticed this when I opened the packages, of course, but I didn't think anything of it. My guitar didn't have washers and bushings at all, since the stock tuners were held on from the back of the headstock with screws. But with the design of the new tuners, as indeed is the case with almost all guitar tuners, it is impossible to string the guitar without these pieces because the tuner posts will not stay in place in the holes.
By now it was about 9:00 on a Thursday night. Musician's Friend has a 24/7 customer service line, which I called. The person I spoke with didn't immediately know what I was talking about, but after I spent a minute explaining it, she realized what the problem was and told me she'd have the missing parts sent to me. I asked her to send them overnight, and she agreed but warned me that it would ship from the parts department, and would probably take 48 hours to depart their facility. I would have them by Monday or Tuesday. I could live with that.
When they hadn't arrived by Wednesday, I called again and spoke to another rep. He apologized and admitted the parts department is notorious for being a little slow, and that I would probably not see them for another week. I was aggravated, but there wasn't much I could do about it.
When they hadn't arrived after another 8 or 9 days, I called again and spoke to yet another rep, who apologized again and offered to exchange them, figuring that the retail fulfillment would take less time than the parts replacement. But she wouldn't ship them until I sent back the ones I already had, which was no help. I didn't want to wait for two shipping cycles only to risk having the same problem when I got the new ones. (After all, they were only batting .167 with the initial shipment.) When I declined the exchange and wondered aloud what could be so hard about going to a get a box of parts and putting them in the mail, she took my cell number and agreed to have the parts department call me with an update on their progress.
When I hadn't heard anything after another week, I had had enough. I called and spoke to a fourth customer service rep. I started out by saying I was very frustrated that my situation was taking so long to resolve, and even more frustrated that I hadn't heard anything after I was promised a call. He immediately got that "Uh oh" tone in his voice, the one you never want to hear on the phone with customer service, and sheepishly asked, "Didn't you get the message that we left with your wife? It says here we spoke with the manufacturer, and that part doesn't come with their tuners. We called and left a message with your wife."
I was incredulous. "That's just absurd," I said. "I cannot physically use the product you sent me in the condition I received them. They simply will not work. There is no way Fender would ship these in this condition. And as for leaving a message with my wife, I can only assume that is a lie, because we do not have a shared line, only our cell phones. There is no way anyone spoke with my wife." (This last part was completely true; she doesn't even answer her own phone half the time, let alone mine. We discovered later that they had called my parents' house and spoken with my mother. That number would have been on file since the order originated with my father, but it was not the number I told them to call.) Sensing the urgency in my voice, he transferred me to the "customer service department." Naturally, this led me to wonder who I had been talking with so far in the process, but I decided that was a finer point not worth pursuing.
Next came the really infuriating part. The final person I talked to was an intractable rock wall of customer dissatisfaction. At no time during this last phone conversation with the "real" customer service department did I get the impression that she wanted to fix the problem. At all. She refused to admit that anything was wrong with the product, explaining that the one washer/bushing combo I did receive was "just a lucky bonus." (Huh?) She suggested that I was probably wrong about the question of someone talking to my wife. To be fair, she wasn't exactly wrong about this either, but they sure didn't talk to my wife, and I didn't appreciate the insinuation that I just hadn't communicated well enough with Tracey to be sure about this fact.
And she flatly refused to fix this problem. I was really mystified. For ten small pieces of metal, she could have retained my business. But she had no interest in that, apparently. She suggested I get in touch with the special orders department to see if I could buy the parts. Actually, she said she'd have them give me a call. Yeah, right. "Don't call us; we'll call you." That's when I knew the transaction was over. I said, "You know? I'm pretty much just done. Why don't you just tell me how to go about returning these to you?" She gave me a return authorization number.
I asked her what I should do with it, and she said, "Just put the tuners in a box, mark it with that number, and ship it back to us."
"You mean to tell me I'm going to send these back an my own expense?" I replied, disbelief dripping from every word.
"Well, yes sir; there's nothing wrong with them."
Livid, I sputtered, "No. I'm sorry. That is simply not going to happen. There is no way I am going to pay to send these back to you. You sent me an unusable product, and now you won't even pay return shipping?"
"That's right. We sent them exactly as the manufacturer supplied them to us."
What was left to say at this point? I told her I'd be contacting the credit card company and asking them to reverse the charges. She predicted that they would refuse, but that she guessed they'd be hearing from my bank. "Yep, I guess you will," I said. Not without a sense of irony, she told me to have a wonderful day, and only because of underdeveloped communications technology did I fail to punch her in the kidney. Instead, I quietly hung up.
Hereafter, I will be referring to Musician's Friend as "those MFers."
But this story does have a happy ending, thanks to the existence of a certain locally owned and operated guitar shop. After talking with my dad, I decided it didn't make much sense to pursue the course of action I had threatened, calling the credit card company and filing a complaint. I'm fairly confident this would have resulted in a reversal of the charges and the MFers paying return shipping, but then I'd just be sitting around with a guitar with big holes and no tuners in the headstock. It seemed to be smarter to let it go and see if I could find the washers and bushings elsewhere.
That's when it dawned on me that I should have been dealing with Stutzman's Guitar Center all along. I purchased my acoustic guitar from them years ago, and their reputation for sales and service for acoustics is outstanding. I've never been anything but thrilled with them, but I never thought of them as a place for electric guitars. They do service and sell electrics, however, so I knew they'd have some parts lying around. So confident was I that I drove up to the shop without even calling. (Worst case scenario: I have to special order the parts and I'd get to spend a few minutes playing a T5 while I was there.)
As usual, Stutzman's came through in a big way. I explained my need to the staff, who by the way were astonished that the MFers were not willing to include the washers and bushings with the tuners, and one of them said, "I'll be right back." He came back in two minutes with a plastic tackle box full of washer/bushing combos. He matched five of them to the one I had, and said, "How 'bout a buck apiece?" Five dollars? Sounds good to me! I drove home with a big grin on my face, and I was playing the guitar within 10 minutes of walking through the door.
Hey Musician's Friend! That is how you help customers. You might want to take note. It's not very hard; you just have to put forth a little effort.
As for you, gentle reader, thanks for staying awake, and please heed my advice. Do not shop at MusiciansFriend.com. (I hate the fact that they kept any money from this transaction.) If you live anywhere near Rochester, NY, visit Stutzman's and consider them for your next acoustic guitar purchase.