Etiquette to follow for a successful, stress-free purchase.
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 thwackity-thwackity-thwack-thwack—horrible 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.