After days and days of trawling the internet for reviews and user experiences of many archtop guitars I had decided on an Eastman AR580CE in honey burst finish for the sheer quality of hand made production, price and finally tone; both acoustically and plugged in.
Living in South Wales, UK, my buying options were limited to online only. I have never bought a guitar online before as I usually prefer to hold and play before I buy, but I was set on getting this guitar so I had to fold on my usual buying preference and take the plunge.
There were 3 online guitar stores that supply Eastman guitars so I looked into all customer reviews for each, both on Trust Pilot and PissedComsumer trying to get a feel for positive reviews and negative reviews; I decided to go with Richard's Guitars, as he had a Facebook page and YouTube channel where I got to really appreciate what Richard does for us fellow guitar players.
I read all of the info and watched the videos on his website. I knew not to expect a next day delivery and accepted that there may be delays in receiving my guitar due to the nature of his business practice; going through a very thorough quality control, setting up of every guitar to the highest professional standard and so forth. I really encourage every potential buyer to read Richard's website for further detail.
Before adding the guitar to my shopping cart, I saw that Richard was online on his website's built in chat, and so asked a couple of quick questions, to which I received rapid and friendly responses- bearing in mind this was at approximately 10pm, which was great! I added the guitar to the cart and went through the order and purchase steps with ease, I paid immediately, which was now after 11pm.
I had received the expected automated emails, but the next day I checked my order by sending another quick message to Richard to check he had received payment. He confirmed and updated my order status there and then.
After about 7 days I was informed that there may be a slight delay in receiving my guitar due to my order clashing with the release of Eastman's new line in Europe.
There were other delays which tallied up to
About 5 weeks which I was completely fine with as Richard and Sally (his customer service) would always reply to my emails, instant messages and calls each time with informative honest explanations, i received a call from Sally saying that my guitar had been rejected during the quality control and set up but was offered an alternative which was in stock and already set up ready to go. As Richard was on his 2 week holiday at this time I was unable to speak to him first; hey, everybody needs to take time off, especially when you have family. Before agreeing to any alternatives, I received photos of the scratch from Sally that got my guitar rejected in the first place. The alternative was the same guitar minus a few cosmetic features, it was not my first choice but I would be getting the same guitar the next day if I accepted, also getting a refund of the difference.
I accepted and received confirmation of shipping the next day. Unfortunately, on receiving my guitar, it was damaged, playable but on thorough examining, i found the damaged neck. I immediately contacted Richard by instant message even though Richard was offline, understanding that I may have to wait for a reply i also sent an email to the orders email address. Even though Richard was on Holiday (and had just been to a wedding I seem to recall) he replied within a couple of hours, all a little confused about the events that had happened in his leave. He assured me that this would be sorted in which I placed good faith.
The next working day (Richard's), i was contacted to arrange return, and was also given several options for resolution, advising that in the meantime to treat the guitar I had as my own.
Sending the faulty guitar back was effortless, Richard's arranged it all and it was collected from my house. I was then offered my original guitar after Richard looked it over and determined that the scratch was simply a minor superficial scratch to the headstock, barely going through the laquer. On top of this, I was also offered a substantial discount/ refund. I accepted and Richard arranged shipping on a Friday which shows he really cared and wanted to get this sorted for me as quickly as possible; he doesn't normally post on Friday's.
I now have a perfect guitar (ok, with a tiny scratch) and have been loving how well it plays and sounds due to the way in which it has been set up.
In a way, it's a little sad that my journey is over as I feel I really got to know Richard and his crew along the way and now I have no need to stay in comms, but hey! I know where in buying my next guitar from.
To sum up, don't expect "next day" guitar day and buy in confidence knowing that you are in safe hands at Richard's, where quality of service and products is second to none. Working in Automation, it is really nice to see an online store with this personal (human) touch with perfect communication throughout, at all times of the day and week regardless of opening times.
Well, that's it!! If you made it this far, thanks for reading :) oh and one last thing, most of the negative reviews you may find about Richard's Guitars are unwarranted as they are about issues that Richard has already addressed in his YouTube videos and on his website - read and watch them if you don't believe me ;p
Thanks again :)