Overpaying for a bad set-up job.

DonaldDemon

Member
Messages
8,837
So I have a respected place that I take all my guitars for setup work every change of the summer/winter seasons. Most other setup things I can usually handle myself. That shop is about 30-40 minutes away though so I decided to try a new place in what I will call “trendy town.” It’s a store that is new but has another location farther away for many years and are generally a good mom & pop place.

So I paid $65 for the setup, which is the most I have ever paid (other place is around $40). That seemed pretty steep to me but I figured if they do a good job I can use them in a pinch. Well I got the guitar back and the E & A strings were almost a half-step out on intonation. That’s pretty amateur and kind of pathetic but no big deal because I fixed it in about 2 minutes. Problem is the guitar is fretting out badly in the low strings above the 10th fret.

So I take it back in last night and the hipster behind the counter gives me attitude when his only suggestion was to raise the action (LP style guitar) and I said I want the guitar setup right, not higher action. The guitar had better action and less buzz when I gave it to them. He was testing the guitar through the amp plugged in, because “it’s an electric and that’s how they were meant to be played” was the answer. Am I out of line in thinking that’s just silly? The guitar feels like **** now and frets out, who cares if it sounds fine though an amp?

I don’t like to be “that guy” that causes problems but I feel like I got ripped off pretty good and these guys have no clue what they are doing. I need to make time to get there today and speak to the manager, though I predict the same hipster attitude. I had planned on using this for Saturday’s show but that doesn’t look so good now.
 

buddastrat

Member
Messages
14,691
Well all guitars do buzz, but much of that doesn't come thru the amp. I know where he's coming from. New strings will buzz/rattle more than old strings, and part of a setup will be to put new strings on.

If fretting out, then there's definitely something not right. as for the "saddles almost a half step out for intonation"! I don't think that is even possible for, never seen a guitar that far out!

Also $65 is not high for a setup. $40 is Cheap!
 

thelatrobe33

Member
Messages
202
I had a brilliant guy I was using and $25 got you a pro setup including strings. That shop has since closed, so I learned to do it all myself. Between YouTube and Premier Guitar articles you should be able to handle it in under an hour.
 

C-4

Member
Messages
13,533
You did get ripped off, but, the money spent may save you money in the long run. First of all, do your own tweaking and don't pay someone else to do what you could do just as well, and better once you keep doing it.

Secondly, you now know that your old store, where you went for such work, is still the best place to go.

I consider it fun to do my own set ups. No one is going to do a better job at setting up my gear then I will.
 

Gasp100

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
21,764
I took a guitar in for a pickup swap and full setup, they charged me $100.
When it was returned the pickup wiring was CUT ON BOTH PICKUPS, old and new and twisted and reattached with electric tape.
The strings were so low they were falling off the fretboard... intonation??? LOL!
The absolute WORST "work" I had ever seen (not to mention ruining TWO sets of pickups in the process.
I do as much as I can do myself, there is one guy I trust and he is just "okay" which kind of sucks. I hate to pay good money for something that I can most likely do myself, maybe even better, but just don't have the time.
No really good techs here in my area of Delaware that I know who are reasonable on cost AND turnaround :(
 

splatter

Member
Messages
1,018
A good set up is not that hard to do . unless its a POS guitar with neck problems . That being said take the extra time and go to the guy who does it right . Don't let someone who has shown hes not good at his job continue to work on your guitar . Write it off as a learning experience

So I have a respected place that I take all my guitars for setup work every change of the summer/winter seasons.

.
I see this alot . Does your gutiar give you some indication that it needs a set up every change of season or do you just do it because it was suggested by somone along the way ? IMHO if the gutiar plays well and isn't showing signs of needing a setup ( fret buzzing ,change in action ,etc) then there is no need to have it set up .
I live in Ga and the humidity here goes from 90% in the summer to almost nothing in the winter .I may have to set my gutiar up once every 2 years and I sanded the finish off the neck .
I check the intonation from time to time and the relief also . The last time I really had to do anything to it was because of fret wear not a change in the neck . I filed crowned and polished the frets and haven't done anything since .
Just my $.02
 

DonaldDemon

Member
Messages
8,837
Well all guitars do buzz, but much of that doesn't come thru the amp. I know where he's coming from. New strings will buzz/rattle more than old strings, and part of a setup will be to put new strings on.

If fretting out, then there's definitely something not right. as for the "saddles almost a half step out for intonation"! I don't think that is even possible for, never seen a guitar that far out!

Also $65 is not high for a setup. $40 is Cheap!
I think $65 is high but would pay it if it was done well. Yep, strings buzz a little and new strings for sure but after playing for 20 years I know where the lines is between acceptable and not.

Where in NJ are you?
Monmouth Co.

I had a brilliant guy I was using and $25 got you a pro setup including strings. That shop has since closed, so I learned to do it all myself. Between YouTube and Premier Guitar articles you should be able to handle it in under an hour.
Been trying for years to learn to DIY but haven't gotten near the pro level, which is why I take my guitars in at least twice a year.

You did get ripped off, but, the money spent may save you money in the long run. First of all, do your own tweaking and don't pay someone else to do what you could do just as well, and better once you keep doing it.

Secondly, you now know that your old store, where you went for such work, is still the best place to go.

I consider it fun to do my own set ups. No one is going to do a better job at setting up my gear then I will.
Yes, agreed and see above.

From my little experience I think you got poor service. I used to use a "trendy" shop until I wanted someone to open up some pickup routs on an R6 (to fit 1/32nd inch larger vintage P90s) and they referred me to another shop. I was allowed to hang out in the back while the guy worked on my R6 and when he finished, he played it for a second and asked me if I liked it the way it was set up. I said it was OK and he asked me if he could do a quick tweak. It took him about 10 minutes including checking everything with a machinist's ruler and it was much nicer to play - and he charged me about half of what the trendy shop charged.
I did. I just talked to the manager and he is willing to make it right so that's good. Either they get it set up right or just give my money back. I think the guy I dealt with yesterday was just unprofessional.
 

DonaldDemon

Member
Messages
8,837
A good set up is not that hard to do . unless its a POS guitar with neck problems . That being said take the extra time and go to the guy who does it right . Don't let someone who has shown hes not good at his job continue to work on your guitar . Write it off as a learning experience



I see this alot . Does your gutiar give you some indication that it needs a set up every change of season or do you just do it because it was suggested by somone along the way ? IMHO if the gutiar plays well and isn't showing signs of needing a setup ( fret buzzing ,change in action ,etc) then there is no need to have it set up .
I live in Ga and the humidity here goes from 90% in the summer to almost nothing in the winter .I may have to set my gutiar up once every 2 years and I sanded the finish off the neck .
I check the intonation from time to time and the relief also . The last time I really had to do anything to it was because of fret wear not a change in the neck . I filed crowned and polished the frets and haven't done anything since .
Just my $.02
Oh no, my guitars change pretty drastically in the Spring, mostly because my house is a POS and has poor climate control. Also, no AC in the house. When the humidity hits my guitar setups go to hell. Once they are set up well I can maintain the little changes pretty easily.
 

speedemon

Member
Messages
2,624
So I have a respected place that I take all my guitars for setup work every change of the summer/winter seasons. Most other setup things I can usually handle myself. That shop is about 30-40 minutes away though so I decided to try a new place in what I will call “trendy town.” It’s a store that is new but has another location farther away for many years and are generally a good mom & pop place.

So I paid $65 for the setup, which is the most I have ever paid (other place is around $40). That seemed pretty steep to me but I figured if they do a good job I can use them in a pinch. Well I got the guitar back and the E & A strings were almost a half-step out on intonation. That’s pretty amateur and kind of pathetic but no big deal because I fixed it in about 2 minutes. Problem is the guitar is fretting out badly in the low strings above the 10th fret.

So I take it back in last night and the hipster behind the counter gives me attitude when his only suggestion was to raise the action (LP style guitar) and I said I want the guitar setup right, not higher action. The guitar had better action and less buzz when I gave it to them. He was testing the guitar through the amp plugged in, because “it’s an electric and that’s how they were meant to be played” was the answer. Am I out of line in thinking that’s just silly? The guitar feels like **** now and frets out, who cares if it sounds fine though an amp?

I don’t like to be “that guy” that causes problems but I feel like I got ripped off pretty good and these guys have no clue what they are doing. I need to make time to get there today and speak to the manager, though I predict the same hipster attitude. I had planned on using this for Saturday’s show but that doesn’t look so good now.
2 years ago I did this too. Doh! One place sat on it for a month, the other one hacked all the lead off the pickups and wired them wrong (strat). I had to prostrate myself and promise to never do it again.

As others have said, no reason not to do it yourself. IMO if you can get world class badassery for $40, why not?
 

bricel24

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
1,186
I almost got con'd for a TERRIBLE $75 setup job last year at a local mom & pop shop. I ended up paying a fraction of it but it was the first and last time I went in there. Don't be afraid to voice out in a professional manner. If you firmly believe that it's wrong, then so so.
 

djy8131

Member
Messages
653
It happened to me too. Luckily, it was only $35. I was using my local setup guy. He got in over his head and started to file the frets to get the action where I wanted it and finally told me to take it to a pro. They ended up doing a fret level job and it played perfectly but I never saw the $35 from the first setup. Needless to say, I don't use the first guy anymore.
 

Fatboy666

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,604
I'll vouch for the Jersey climate change issues!

Every Spring and every Fall, I hafta take all of 'em down off the wall for at least a truss rod tweak. Usually I do a quick intonation check and adjust the action too. But sometimes I get lucky and it's just a 1/2 turn and done

I learned how to set up my guitars through trial and error. And by trial and error I mean I f-ed up a bunch of cheap guitars ;) That said, I usually get them playing fine....for me.

I did take a new guitar to a shop once - I needed a setup and a pickup installed before a gig and I just didn't have time to do it. Luckily I have a great shop near work and they have been working on my stuff for decades. They were able to get me going in time for the gig.

The work was stellar as always. But being the tinkerer that I am, I did play around with the action a bit. It was set up great - no buzzes, no fretting out. But I keep my action low, probably too low. I slam it down past the buzzing point acoustically, but just before you hear it through the amp.

I would happily bring my guitars there again for a setup, they do great work.
 

DonaldDemon

Member
Messages
8,837
I'll vouch for the Jersey climate change issues!

Every Spring and every Fall, I hafta take all of 'em down off the wall for at least a truss rod tweak. Usually I do a quick intonation check and adjust the action too. But sometimes I get lucky and it's just a 1/2 turn and done

I learned how to set up my guitars through trial and error. And by trial and error I mean I f-ed up a bunch of cheap guitars ;) That said, I usually get them playing fine....for me.

I did take a new guitar to a shop once - I needed a setup and a pickup installed before a gig and I just didn't have time to do it. Luckily I have a great shop near work and they have been working on my stuff for decades. They were able to get me going in time for the gig.

The work was stellar as always. But being the tinkerer that I am, I did play around with the action a bit. It was set up great - no buzzes, no fretting out. But I keep my action low, probably too low. I slam it down past the buzzing point acoustically, but just before you hear it through the amp.

I would happily bring my guitars there again for a setup, they do great work.

Where in Jersey do you take your stuff? The good place I go is Raritan Bay Guitars, they get it right the first time…but’s it’s always nice to know other places that are good in the area.

I keep all my guitars in cases and in a closet but the climate change wreaks havoc on most of them regardless. Of course, it’s also guitar dependent. My Strat with a mill sawn USACG neck is solid as a rock and needs very little adjustment if ever. Same goes for my Edwards LP. My Korean guitars are great, but they bend with the weather a lot more.
 

KSL

Member
Messages
477
I think when you are paying for a service, you should expect the service to be good and the job done right.

I know how to setup my own guitars but sometimes I don't have the time or energy to, so I take it to a tech.

I made the terrible mistake of having Guitar Center in Un. Square NYC (for convenience) set up one of my guitars and all they did was just changed the strings....100% serious!

A good tech should be able to set up your guitar the way you want it period; even if it needs new parts, a fret level or etc.

Usually a good tech will let you know whats needed for your setup preference and the costs associated.

There's no excuse for bad service or incompetence in any industry!
 
Messages
2,141
The Music Box in Trenton ask for Mark. He's the best I've found in Jersey but, don't commission his work privately, pay the extra bucks and go through the store because, store work gets first come first serve priority and your guitar will sit for weeks.

RRC
 

Guitarworks

Member
Messages
10,402
You can do your own setups and save yourself the money and headache. It's really not that hard, which is surprising considering how often I read about all these guitar shops that can't get it right.

The response you got from the hipster is a standard 'guy-behind-the-counter-at-a-guitar-shop' answer that guys behind counters at guitar shops have been giving for decades as an attempt to get unsatisfied customers to go away. And it doesn't matter what you want:
"The action is too high."
"That's the way it's supposed to be."
"The action is too low - I'm getting fret buzz."
"That's the way it's supposed to be."
"The pickups sound really thin and weak, what did you guys do??"
"That's the way it's supposed to be."
"I had my trem down flat against the body, now it's pulled upward towards the neck."
"That's the way it's supposed to be."
"The fret ends are cutting into my hand..."
"That's the way it's supposed to be."
"WTF?! My strat was white! Now it's Neon Green!"
"That's the way it's supposed to be."
 

axe4me

Member
Messages
4,116
Mark Simon is probably the best.
He's in Bridgewater, NJ.
I use Paul Unkert.
Some swear by him. Some hate him.

Chris Clayton at "Pick of the Ricks" is the best Rick set up guy I've found.
I'm not a fan of Raritan Bay or the Music Box.:anon

Rt 9 Guitars shared space with Raritan Bay.......not my cup of tea. The owner had a shop in Lakewood, NJ.
He closed, moved to Freehold, NJ, and did not tell people that had guitars on consignment at that shop.
He's no longer sharing space at Raritan Bay.
He's doing biz on line.
 




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