Purchasing a guitar or mandolin online is a dreadful thought for many musicians. Clearly, you would want to play the instrument before purchasing it, however, if you are like many musicians who are looking for a specialty instrument, there may not be a local dealer with the model that you seek. As such, the internet can be a good way to find one. This article provides some tips for a good online purchase experience.
Let’s start with buying a used guitar or mandolin online. There is a good chance that you will make this purchase from an individual rather than a dealer, and you will likely use eBay or craigslist to find the instrument, but should also check out online discussion forums for used listings.
Of course, you will also want to avoid fake instruments, but may not know enough to determine whether or not the instrument is a fake simply through pictures. If you are suspicious, try visiting one of the instrument forums and ask members whether or not they think instrument is an original. Another good way to avoid fakes or instruments that are in poor value are to look at the seller’s eBay Feedback Score (if you’re buying on eBay) and also look at the seller’s return policy. Many instrument sellers will offer you a grace period to return the instrument if it is not what you expected. Typically, you will need to pay the return shipping charges, though.
Once you have found some instruments that you’re interested in, one of your primary concern is likely price. A good way to see the going rate for the used guitar or mandolin that you’re interested in is to use TeraPeak, an online tool that allows you to analyze eBay sales.
You can do a search for the guitar or mandolin’s builder and model to determine whether any similar instruments have sold on eBay, and you’ll get a good idea for the market value.
Once you’ve found an instrument that you’re interested in, you’ll want to know what kind of shape it’s in. Typically the seller will provide pictures in the listing as well as a description of the instrument’s condition and history. You should feel free to contact the seller regarding any other questions that you may have, or if you’d like to see additional pictures.
Now let’s discuss purchasing a new guitar or mandolin on the internet. One of your first concerns is likely price, but you won’t find much, if any, difference on price listed online, because dealers are required to adhere to a minimum advertised price policy (MAP) for many instrument builders. This ensures that the customer sees a consistent price in advertising and will make purchase decisions based on factors such as location and customer service, and thus you should focus on these aspects. Indeed, one of the best ways to turn a dealer off is to call or e-mail and ask for the dealer’s “best price”. Oftentimes this will result in the dealer quoting you the MAP because, as you can imagine, dealers do not like being played off each other, or haggling over price.
Let’s discuss the difference between negotiating and haggling. To my mind, negotiating means that the two parties are discussing the ins and outs of the deal to come to an agreement that both parties are happy about, whereas haggling simply means that the customer tries to get a lower price without offering any reason as to why that price should be lower, and the dealer resists those efforts and often will simply stand firm at one price to end the discussion. Obviously, haggling is not in the best interest of the customer or the dealer. Negotiating, on the other hand, can work in your favor. Ask yourself what can you do for this dealer? Do you have a website or blog that you would be willing to provide a link back to the dealer’s site on? Are you an instructor with dozens of students whom you will refer to the dealer? Do you host a weekly open mic and would be willing to pass out the dealer’s cards each week? Something that may seem rather easy and small to you, may be of a benefit to a dealer, whose business may depend on word-of-mouth advertising.
Sometimes the price is not negotiable. Yet, you will find different deals from different retailers. The deals will be different based on other factors. For example, you may find free shipping, free strings, or other accessories. Some dealers may have what you’re looking for in stock right now whereas others may not have it for a few months. Some retailers may spend significant time with you helping you to determine which model will best suit your needs. Spend time communicating with dealers about your needs first, and the good deal will follow.
Some good ways to find a reputable dealer are the following: First, check the guitar or mandolin builder’s website for authorized dealers. Second, do a Google search of the dealer’s name to see what comes up. Keep in mind that almost every business will have some dissatisfied customers who may express their displeasure via an online forum. As such, look for dealers who have ten good comments to every one negative comment. Third, do a Google search of the builder. You’ll likely see a listing stating “Shopping Results for [builder’s name]”. Click on this link, which will take you to a listing of Google Shopping results. Here you will see many instruments from that builder offered for sale from various dealers, whose names will appear on the right underneath the price. Underneath the dealers’ names, you will see “Seller Ratings” and can click on this link to see what the dealer’s customers who have made purchases via Google Checkout have had to say.
Buying a specialty guitar or mandolin online, with a little bit of research, can be a great way to find that hard to find instrument that you’re looking for.