Archive for April, 2022

Fedex Follies: Part One

Saturday, April 30th, 2022

The Fugitive. MIA 1960 ES-355 mono. These are not cheap and you really don’t want to lose one. It eventually arrived after a month on the road.

On March 20th or so, I bought a 1960 ES-355 from a seller in Europe. Nothing unusual about that. I paid for the shipping and Fedex was the shipper. The guitar was properly boxed, the paperwork completed (including the form that is supposed to notify customs that it is a USA made product returning to the USA so that no duty is collected) and off it went. The guitar was scanned in Sweden on March 22nd. next stop was Denmark, the same day. At 3 AM on the 23rd it was in Paris. Then it disappeared. Now, I’d love to spend a month in Paris but the idea of my guitar spending a month there (without me) isn’t what I had in mind. No scans as of March 27th. It should have at least left Paris by now, right? It was shipped International Priority. Online tracking said “operational delay” whatever that means. I hit the phones.

Them: “Fedex, please describe the reason for your call.” Me: Missing package.” Them: I’m sorry, I didn’t get that.” Me: Missing package. Them: “You want to ship a package.” Me: REPRESENTATIVE. Them: “Please say or enter the door tag number.” Finally I get to the international folks and the rep tells me that there is an airline strike and no planes are leaving Paris. I go online to check flight schedules out of Paris (you can see the Fedex flight schedule online). Plenty of flights. I call again. After the usual ordeal of talking to a recorded voice, I’m back at international. This time I ask for a supervisor. The guitar is now 12 days on the road. Them: “The guitar is in Paris” Me: Why hasn’t it been scanned in the last 10 days? Them: “It’s in a container.” Me: How do I know it didn’t walk out the door with one of your employees?” Them: No, it’s definitely there.” Me: “I expect a phone call every day until the package leaves Paris.” Them: We’ll be happy to do that. They don’t.

I get in touch with the shipper to get him up to speed and ask him to talk to Fedex as well. He gets a similar story. It’s now more than two weeks. No scans, no calls, no guitar. I’m back on the phone. Me: “Where’s my package?” Them: “We’re not sure. I think it might be lost. Maybe the label fell off.” Me: “oh crap”. I should mention that this happened once before. That time it was a 345 coming from Greece and the guitar was lost for about 3 weeks. It did finally arrive though. I wasn’t so sure about this one.

You should know that Fedex will take your money if you write in the actual value of the guitar supposedly “insuring” it for that amount. BUT, in their terms and conditions, they state that the limit on vintage (more than 20 years old) in $2000. So, they’ll take a huge pile of money from you if you don’t know that and then, when they lose (or break) your guitar, they will tell you to “read the terms and conditions”. I’ve been trying to get this changed for at least 8 years now. The declared value on this guitar was, if I recall, $2000, the limit for vintage. That’s all I could possibly get from them even though it was worth more than ten times that. I have an outside policy so it was fully insured but nobody likes to make a claim because the rates go up.

After another 3 or 4 phone conversations, the guitar turned up. The guitar was finally scanned again on April 20th, nearly a month after it was shipped. It appeared to be on the move, finally. Customs had it for a day in Indianapolis and it was delivered, intact, on April 22nd. It doesn’t end here though. You didn’t think I was going to pay the $500+ bill they sent, did you? Tune in for Part two soon.

Negotiation 101

Thursday, April 14th, 2022
It doesn’t matter if it’s high end or a beater, everything is negotiable. Sometimes it’s just free shipping but sometimes you can knock thousands off. You want to stop a negotiation in its tracks? Lowball. That’s a ticket to nowhere.

It always happens this way. The market heats up and everybody thinks their guitar is worth way more than it is. Asking prices have skyrocketed due to a number of factors. Demand is up since the pandemic began because pandemics are boring and vintage guitars are not. Supply suffered for nearly a year because everybody was buying and nobody was selling. Inflation creeps in and the prices surge again. The stock market sags and folks are moving their money into collectibles and other hard assets. With all these factors converging, it’s no wonder the market is so strong. Add to that, the conventional wisdom that vintage guitars have been undervalued since the crash of ’08 and you have a nearly perfect storm for prices to rise.

Up front, I will stick my neck out and say it isn’t a bubble. Or at least not only a bubble. The factor that makes it look like a bubble is sellers testing the market. I could put an average 59 ES-335 out there for $75,000 like a couple of dealers have and wait for someone who “has to have one today” or I can price that guitar at $65,000 and know that it will sell at a fair price. Individual sellers are doing the same thing. So, you put that 60 ES-345 out there at $44,000 and then wait for some billionaire with more money than brains to come along? Problem is that most billionaires (and millionaires) didn’t get to be billionaires by overpaying for stuff. But, it’s your guitar and you can ask anything you want. I test the market too but when something that should be popular doesn’t sell in a few weeks, I know that something is amiss and it’s usually the price. I’ve said this before…the only reason something doesn’t sell is because the price is too high.

So, as a buyer, you need to get comfortable with negotiating. It doesn’t make you a cheapskate. It isn’t insulting. And if you won’t negotiate, then you could be missing a great deal. Most folks are happy to adjust their price to make a sale. Just be smart about it. If there’s a guitar out there listed at $30,000 that you really like but you feel it’s overpriced what are you going to do? You can wait out the seller and hope he comes to his senses or you can make an offer. The worst the seller can say is no. Actually he can call you names and insult your mother but the sentiment is still “no”. It’s pretty easy to get a handle on the market. Look at similar guitars, look at selling prices and not asking prices (Ebay let’s you see that). Reverb is kind of useless for that because they give you a list of selling prices but not much more information than a general condition. When you have decided on what you think is a fair value, start your negotiating within striking distance of your intended price. Don’t start at 50% of the ask. Lowballing is the fastest way to rejection. Nobody likes that type of negotiation. The seller probably has a bottom in mind but if you ask “what’s your bottom price?” the likely response is that it’s the listed price. That isn’t negotiating.

Charlie’s Rules of Negotiation: 1. If the asking price seems fair, negotiating probably won’t get you anywhere. 2. If the price is high, start 10%-20% below your hoped for final price. 3. No lowballing. A lowball is 50% of the asking price or less. Nobody likes it and it will generally shut down negotiations before they begin. 4. Don’t list everything that’s wrong with the guitar in order to justify your offer. You don’t have to justify your offer. If the seller doesn’t include the issues in the listing, you might want to look elsewhere. If he does include them, then telling him what he already knows is simply annoying. 5. Be nice. 6. Be prepared to walk away. You can’t negotiate if you’ve already fallen in love. This is hard but there will almost always be another. 7. If these rules don’t work, then feel free to break them. Again, the worst that can happen is the seller says no.

I negotiate nearly every deal I complete as a buyer. I will pay the ask if it’s fair. I won’t overpay for a guitar no matter how much I want it. As a seller, I’m always willing to listen to an offer. I try to price my guitars fairly but that doesn’t stop me from listening to a fair offer. Lowball me and I won’t counter, I’ll simply reject the offer. I won’t say nasty things about your mother. If you know nothing about guitars and you’re selling a family heirloom, I’ll encourage you to do your research to come up with a fair asking price or, more often, I will simply make you an offer. Looking at Reverb and pricing it like the highest price guitar that looks something like Grandpa’s old Gibson is a recipe for failure. Buying and selling is fun. The best way to keep it that way is to treat folks fairly and make a deal where everyone is happy. There’s no negotiating that point.

This post doesn’t really lend itself to photos, so here’s my dog, Zoubi at her most recent gig. Rocker Spaniel?