Well the day finally arrived.... After waiting MONTHS for yet another delayed Gordon-Smith guitar order. One which I have no schedule for - no real idea of what is coming when.... Linda tells me "We have decided to put you on pro-forma - You consistently fall out of terms on your payments".
Its not the first time we have fallen out - anyone following my progress will know I threw my dummy out the pram a couple of years ago following a chain of poor quality guitars (wood dust falling out of jack sockets and a number of other bizarre issues). However I never wanted to fall out with them and have always appreciated what they can produce so I visited them in person and was inspired by Johns workshop and once again fell in love with the concept of his guitars.
So as you see, my relationship behind the scenes has always been turbulent - you could call it a love hate relationship. I LOVE Gordon-Smith guitars - they HATE me!!! Linda calls me a "problem". Apparently I am always complaining, not happy with the guitars - she doesn't seem to understand why I even bother selling them at all.
The reality could not be further from the truth which is that I love the concept of Gordon-Smith guitars with a passion, generally love the end result and I love all the quirky aspects of the business - until it drags down my own reputation - that is the bit we have always had a problem with....
Being a team player by Gordon-Smiths standards is accepting any level of quality, keeping your mouth shut over any issue that arises, discounting the guitar for customers from your own profits if you feel you have to - but whatever you do - don't ask for a discount in return from them. Its a "my way or no way" approach - zero tolerance - no compromise situation.
On several occasions I have been asked at Johns request to send guitars out to customers that don't meet my standards in the hope that the customer won't have my attention to detail. I had no option than to follow his demands as I either followed them or risked the fear of not being supplied. On the basis of course I was a "problem". I was told that "no other dealer has a problem with us".
Well Mr Smith! No dealer in the UK picked up on Faith guitars fitting the wrong saddles for a period of time (mistakes happen and they quickly remedied the issue after my contact). No dealer in the UK picked up on a European wide quality control issue on Fender guitars when I ran Regent Guitars. No other dealer picked up on Vintage Guitars electro acoustics when they had faulty endpin jacks on all their UK stock. No other dealer noticed the geometric issues in the Fender Stratacoustic - which Fender then discontinued. Actually Mr Smith ONE did. ME - and so did my customers as a result. It is the fact that NO OTHER DEALER NOTICES ANYTHING that I keep as busy as I do - and you should be ashamed that you don't see that as a positive aspect of my business.
I have pictures shown below of the issues with the LATEST guitar which was sent to a customer and RETURNED as they were not happy with it - I was mortified as I should have returned the guitar and possibly accepted the closure of my account - I still have it in the building now. The customer quite rightly said it was not up to his expectations even though I had reduced the guitar to £1299 from £1499.
Image 1: Hair in lacquer
This hair is approx 3 inches long and runs across the grain of a £1499 Gordon Smith Gemini. It would be bad enough surely on a £600 guitar even by Gordon-Smiths standards but I could never accept this on a £1500 guitar of any kind. I contacted John and during my conversation I accepted the fact that maybe Johns DNA did have a price and I may get away with it - until he jokingly told me its probably one of his dogs hairs..... At the time it was funny - good old northern humor eh?...
Image 2: Poor Quality Veneered Headstock
A colour coded headstock on any veneered top guitar is supposed to follow the quality of finish on the body. This guitar had a highly figured flame top. If you look at the headstock, not only is there no flame at all, the veneer seems to have been cut out, like a square in the main section of the headstock so the veneers grain sharply changes direction, doesn't match and even looks a different colour at the bottom. Clearly a different piece of wood and it looks terrible. Again I have to remind you that this was on a £1499 guitar and John could not understand what my problem was with it - despite all the guitars I have received on previous occasions which had lovely headstocks? Expectations are only based on my experience and if I suddenly receive a guitar with a headstock that looks like its been cobbled together from off cuts, how on Earth can I expect that to be "ok" when I proudly tell my customers that the reason they need me as the middle man is to protect them from this kind of issue.
Image 3& 4: Poor laminate finishing to reverse of guitar
As you will see, not the most appealing wood - looks a little like a bit of plywood especially where its been trimmed around the edges. As a dealer I have no idea what wood John will decide to use and of course would never request one that looked like this. If a customer is spending £1499 on a guitar they will naturally expect something better than this?
Image 5: Nit picking? Well Probably! An ugly mark in the top that spoils an otherwise gorgeous flame top.
I presume it is a lump of wood glue in the bookmatch. Maybe the veneer broke at the edge and had some filler put in Without all the other issues I would put this down to a quirk of Gordon Smith production but with the rest of the problems it was simply the icing on the cake.
The next example was from the previous guitar! The examples are two Gordon Smith Classic T Headstocks.
The first example is how I would expect to see the logo. IE you only see the logo and NOT THE TRANSFER!!! This guitar retails at £799 and I currently have it in stock and is perfect...
This next headstock is from a guitar that I waited well over 6 months for. It was customised top to bottom. Gold hardware, highly figured veneer top, Birdseye maple board, neck and headstock. All these features were paid for upgrades giving the guitar a retail of £1199 if I remember correctly. It was however sold after many months for £999 due to the cheapest looking logo stuck on with what can only be described as something you would find in a christmas cracker.
When I discussed this with John, merely highlighting my disappointment he explained that it was a bad batch and "won't be having any more". As if that simply explained it all away, my problems were over and I need not worry. No John!!! What are you going to do about the guitar you sent ME!!!???
Why would John Smith use this cheap quality logo on a guitar that he has spent so much time working on? Destroying the appeal of the guitar in a moment? Its unthinkable to me how he could do this? But this is what I have to consider every time I place an order!
I have loved Gordon Smith guitars since the first one I ever picked up about 18 years ago. The first one I ever saw still belongs to my Father, a Gypsy 1 (I gave it to him).
I love the quintessentially eccentric British & quirky background to the guitars and even the raw down to Earth production style and have tried so desperately hard to balance this with my own view of what is acceptable and what is quite simply POOR. There is NO excuse for sending a guitar with a transfer like the one shown above on a £1200 customized guitar - you cannot excuse a total lack of care to detail purely because you are "Gordon-Smith Guitars" and thats how they come. Surely it doesn't have to be that way? Why should SOME customers get a great guitar and others not?
I give a promise to every customer who visits my website or my showroom and that is they can trust me, my judgement and my ability to supply them the best of what is available from each Brand. Gordon-Smith have demonstrated that it is clearly impossible for me to provide such a promise and have blatantly ignored requests to provide me with reasonable examples of Johns work. Or maybe I should simply accept that these ARE examples of his work and that is ultimately the problem.
I just cannot see how there can be any going forward from here. The time every order takes, the work in tracking its production, no schedules and ultimately the inconsistency of guitars supplied, backed up by their total lack of support and now the demand of payment up front. Anyone with any ideas let me know but in the mean time like they say in Dragons Den...
"I am out"