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more... GearGigging AdviceHow-TosBass GearUpkeepApril 2011The Low End

The Low End: Sometimes the Good Guys Win

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This is the true saga of the recent theft and recovery of one of my basses. This bass is very expensive and a very special instrument. The crazy thing is, the thief was a repair guy who just took off with the bass and would not return it.

Maybe it’s the business owner in me. Maybe it’s the engineer in me. Or maybe it’s just the insurance professional in me. But this combination allowed me to recover my bass. My claims adjuster told me that, without perfect paperwork, I might not have ever seen the bass again. She asked me to share this information with PG readers so that, if something similar should ever happen to you, you will have a leg to stand on.

First, some background: Although I perform my own repairs, sometimes I need outside expertise. The major repair that was needed this time was outside of my comfort zone, so I enlisted the assistance of a luthier I trusted and had worked with many times prior without a hitch. This luthier had done tons of work for many of my associates, too. Back in late 2009, I contacted this luthier, discussed the repair, and sent the bass with a deposit check so the work could be performed. I was promised a 30-day turnaround.

Thirty days later, I called and was told not to worry— within the next 10 days I’d have the bass back. Ten days went by, no bass. I called and emailed many times, with no reply. Over the next month, I made at least 20 calls and sent follow-up emails, but again there was no reply. Then I found out the business was no longer at the street address, though the phone and email were still working. I received confirmation the emails I sent were being opened. Sixty days past initial delivery, I sent an email stating I’d report the bass stolen. I finally got a reply that I’d have the bass back in a week. Long story short: I didn’t get the bass. I emailed and said that if the bass wasn’t returned in five business days, I’d report it stolen and press charges. No bass, no response.

Through the efforts of my local PD and my insurance company, my bass was recovered and returned to me nearly a year after its intended due date. Not all thefts end in disaster! But for a good outcome, you have to be prepared.

I saw my buddy Brian in the NYPD, and he explained what paperwork I’d need and told me to visit my local police station. I also learned my local PD might refer me to the department in the town where the bass was delivered. I then realized the magnitude of the situation: Grand theft, theft by deception, theft of services—and this was all across state lines!

Through the efforts of my local PD and my insurance company, my bass was recovered and returned to me nearly a year after its intended due date. Not all thefts end in disaster! But for a good outcome, you have to be prepared. Below are all the things I needed to recover my bass.

The work order. I drew up a formal invoice on plain white paper that stated who I am, who was receiving the bass, the details and serial number, the shipping addresses, all costs involved, and a tentative completion date. I mailed this to the luthier, and he signed and returned it before I shipped the bass.

Payment. I paid via check, which had a brief description of the bass and its serial number on the memo line. This proved very important. I received an e-copy of the check directly from the bank. This showed that the memo was written prior to the check being cashed, so no one could say it was added afterward. The check deposit records showed the luthier received payment for the work—this was key for the “theft of services” portion.

Shipping information. I had the pickup date and high-dollar shipment confirmation from the big brown truck. I had the signature of receipt from the shop, which showed where the crime occurred and that they had possession of my instrument. I also had a credit-card receipt for my shipping expense, which showed I paid for the shipping.

Photo identification. I had a photo catalog identifying my bass.

The process went something like this: I called my insurance agent to file my claim, and my insurance agent contacted the insurance carrier to capture all the details. I then had a lengthy conversation with the claims specialist, who assigned me a claim number. (If this happens to you, keep the claim number safe.) I was put in contact with a “Special Investigations Unit” recovery specialist. These SIU guys knock on doors for you.

If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to file a police report. All towns and municipalities are different, so check with your local PD for protocol. Be sure to bring all the above information when you file your report, because if you don’t have the documentation, you have no proof. No proof means no claim, no case, and no recovery.

I eventually found out other folks were trying to track this guy down for missing instruments after he closed his shop and moved. Another victim saw this luthier had resurfaced on an internet social site! We provided this info to law enforcement, and, voilà—story over.

I need to thank the following people for their assistance: Joan Gallo of Heritage Insurance (my friend and insurance agent extraordinaire), Beth Echeveria and John Dubois of Travelers Insurance (who helped me with my claim and recovery), NYPD officer Brian Blazer for explaining the process, and an extra-special thanks to Detective Russo and Officer Santa of the South Brunswick, New Jersey, Police Department for their efforts in recovering my bass.


Kevin Borden has been playing bass since 1975. He is the principal and co-owner, with “Dr.” Ben Sopranzetti, of Kebo’s Bass Works (visit them online at kebosbassworks.com). You can reach Kevin at kebobass@yahoo.com. Feel free to call him KeBo.
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