As we discussed last month, there are many different avenues for pursuing a vintage bass purchase. This month we’re going to continue the discussion by offering common-sense pointers, highlighting some red and green flags, and explaining some etiquette that’ll help guarantee a successful and stress-free purchase. Keep in mind that this is supposed to be fun, but you worked really hard for your money and you need to have peace of mind.
Be Straight Up with Sales People
Whether you’re a serious buyer or just tire
kicking, let the dealer know. Either way, it
will help you get the best deal. A dealer
appreciates you being up front. Tying up a
sales professional can cost a lot of money,
especially at a trade show or on a busy retail
day in the shop. If you want to buy a bass
right there and then, it’s best to politely ask
for a principle who could negotiate and/or
close a deal. At some places, the tag price is
the price but it never hurts to ask. The worst
thing you could do is negotiate a deal, agree
to it, and say “I’ll be back.” This conveys
one of three messages: 1) “I want to think
this over” (you should’ve thought it over
completely before negotiations), 2) “I just
played you—there’s another bass I’m going
to pursue now that I have this deal in my hip
pocket,” or 3) “Thanks for the free appraisal
of my instrument.” In most cases, negotiating
and walking away negates your best deal—
and your welcome—at that establishment. If
you’re really just thinking it over (message #1,
above), tell the dealer you need 10 minutes.
If you decide to pass, the dealer will appreciate
you coming back and telling him. On the
flip side, if you’ve found the bass you really
want to pursue, tell the seller you’re very
interested and that, if the two of you can
work it out, you will buy the bass right then
using this type of purchase vehicle. I found
that, as a buyer and as a dealer, you may get
a few extra shekels off for the guarantee of a
fairly negotiated purchase.
Don’t Be a Thwacker
Just what is a “thwacker”? It’s a dealer term
for the guy who walks in and just starts going
slaps and pops that are completely out of
tune and that usually involve a high-powered
amp. In 20 years I’ve never seen a vintage
bass sold to a thwacker, and in every case the
dealer makes sure the thwacker’s test drive
ends fast. And if you thwack at a trade show,
trust me, the entire hall will hear you—and
the dealer whose booth you are in will get
teasing phone calls from other dealers asking
him to pull your plug. Seriously, the most
efficient way to test drive a vintage bass is
by playing it slowly and at a low volume. You
need to hear the tone and the sonic goodness.
You need to feel the neck and establish
your connection to the bass. If it passes
muster after this basic test, go wild! Do your
thing! Thwack ’em if ya got ’em!
As a vintage dealer, I like nothing better than
making sure the right player bought the right
bass. Even if you don’t buy one, a solid citizen
is always welcome in my place. Some of my
best friends started out as window shoppers.
My business partner, Dr. Ben, started out as
a client! A few years back, my A-1 bro, JD
from Warrior Instruments, came by my booth.
He wanted to introduce me to his gear. I test
drove one of his basses as I described. He
and Rick Derringer came over to the sound
booth and expressed an appreciation of
my playing and etiquette. Long story short:
JD built me the only boutique bass I ever
bought—a custom Warrior with a ’63 Fender
P-bass-style neck. You never know!
Leave Uncle Henry and Your Posse Behind
My friend Dave Davidson explained Uncle
Henry to me. Uncle Henry is your know-it-all
friend who is insanely jealous of your ability
to make a purchase and will do everything
humanly possible to put the kibosh on your
deal. This is wrong, that is wrong, the bass
sounds like crap, it plays even worse, it’s over
priced, I know 15 basses that are better, let
me play it and I will play it very loud to annoy
everyone! That’s Uncle Henry. The posse is
your 10 buddies who mean well but just get
in the way. That’s as bad for the dealer as it
would be for you to have every salesperson
in the shop hover while you try out the bass.
My personal approach is to provide as much
space as needed but be nearby to offer
advice or assistance when needed.
If you’re going to an individual’s home, ask
if it is OK to bring a friend—but not Uncle
Henry or the leftovers from last night’s party.
Seriously, I highly encourage bringing a friend
or two, because there is nothing like having
help on a major purchase. Even better,
if you’re dropping real coin on a bass, hire
a vintage expert (when the time is right) to
confirm your components and your value.
I hope this month’s column gave you some
additional food for thought, and maybe even
provided a chuckle or two. Until next time,
drop the gig bag and bring the cannolis!
Kevin Borden has been a bass player since 1975 and
is currently the principle and co-owner, with “Dr.” Ben
Sopranzetti, of Kebo’s Bass Works: kebosbassworks.com.
He can be reached at: Kebobass@yahoo.com.
Feel free to call him KeBo.
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