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Secrets of an ex-Guitar Center employee

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RDM

Senior Member
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3,713
Not sure where to post this....so I'll just do it here.



Ah yes....Guitar Center. Such a wonderful place to shop. A relaxed shopping environment that's full of friendly sales people who know exactly what they're talking about 100% of the time.

OK....maybe not....but seriously folks...it's not THAT bad.

I'm going to let you in a a few little secrets that will hopefull maxamize your shopping experience at GC. If not...maybe it will give you some insight as to why your experience was a rough one. I was once just a customer of GC. I got treated like ****....and never went back...until one day , I decided to give them another shot...and it was much better than the first time I went into the store. I was looking for a career change so I thought I'd apply and see if they'd hire me. I was hired into the accessories dept and quickly moved up into guitars and eventually became a manager.

Finally...I'm no longer employeed by GC. I left to start my own business...and I'm going to try to make this as unbiased as possible.

First off....yes....GC cares about you. You have to remember you're dealing with a company that's publicly traded on the NASDAQ. What does that mean to you? Even though the dumb-ass selling you a guitar might not care about you as a customer....the muckity-mucks in GC's corporate world care. They have to. It's their job. If you don't like something....complain. Get a store manager on the phone. He needs your business. He's a salary employee...but still gets bonused off of sales figures and how much of an increase his store can post. EVERY DEAL COUNTS to him/her. If he still blows you off....go straight to corporate. A
little factoid about GC is that every month each store gets a "Playbook" from corporate. It outlines each store that GC runs....and how many praise letters each store got from customers....and how many complaint letters each store got. Managers don't want to look like asses infront of their peers....especially if they're up for a promotion....so if you write a letter....you will get taken care of. Just speak up for yourself.

The sales guy. We love to hate him...don't we? Most people hired at a GC are hired simply to have warm bodies on the floor. The average life span of a GC employee is 90 days. (That's an actual statistic from corporate) In a perfect world....shopping at GC would be an awesome expereince. They have some really great policies and procedures set in place to ensure you, the customer, will get what they want at a bitchin' price. That doesn't always happen. Most of the people that GC will hire are musicians that don't grasp customer service and it's meaning....and are there to collect a paycheck. Unfortunatly for them....they're commision based...so if they don't sell....they don't have a job. Anyway...salespeople are required to take on certifications in the departments that they work in. They are lenghty, and boring but are there to educate the sales guy. There's even incentives for certifications. When I left, if you completed your A cert, you got a nice GC shirt, $500 and an iPod. There are different "grades" of certifications and with each new grade...you get a higher comission percentage. So..........when you're dealing with a salesguy who you think has no idea what he's talking about...look for his certificatoin
lanyard/nametag or call him out on it. Maybe he does know what he's talking about. I've dealt with several customer that swore up and down about a certain something....only to find out that they were wrong. Keep in mind again you're dealing with a guy who's paid on 100% commission. He wants to get you a good deal....but don't treat him like ****. He's a human being....just like yourself. Salesguys get paid off of 2 factors. The first is Gross Sales. They get a very, very, very, very small cut of the total ammount of sales they make in a month. The second is gross profit....how much money the item actually makes. Also keep in mind that there's not always alot of room to move on certain pieces. Just because you are a musician....and get the "Pro Discount" at Fender....don't walk into GC expecting the same thing. It is what it is. Also....don't drop names...you'll look like an even bigger douchebag. Finally....don't ever, ever, EVER drop the line "I've spent $35k here in the past 6months!" If that were true....you'd already have a "go to guy" at GC and they'd be hooking you up with a fat deal....but you didn't....so you'r stuck grinding down the poor kid behind the accessories counter. Not only that.....but employees can see how much money you've spent at the store....so don't get yourself caught in a lie.

GC LOVES to hold incentive contests for the sales team. They will have certain promos like "Sell the most USA combo amps from $499 to $1799 in your District" and will a Boogie F30 amp." GC has also given away trips to the Montana and Nashville Gibson factories for top sales guys. If the salesguy is super stoked on a piece of gear, it may be because there's incentive for him to sell it. If you have a bad experience with a sales guy...or he's not helping you out on the price....get a department manager FIRST. The DM's also get a bonus for getting gear out the front door. He will work with you to get you the price. If he's still being a turd, leave and call the store manager. Again...he needs you to buy stuff and not call corporate.

There are certain items such as vintage gear, used pieces, and specialty brands such as Monster Cable, Mesa Boogie and other proprietary brands that have set price minimums. If the sales guy can't break the price because of a minimum he can't. Not even the Regional mgr will be able to do anyhting for you. It is what it is. Go ahead....get pissed off and go to a different store.....they're going to tell you the same thing. It is what it is. There are however minimums that need to be broken by a manager. The sales guy simply needs to get approval from the store manager or sales manager and the price can be broken. This isn't always the case though.

The 30 day return thing can be bent, broken, shattered, etc. I used to accept exchanges for my good customer after 3-6 months as long as the stuff was in good shape and they got better gear. You cannot fully grasp the capabilities of an instrument by playing it for 15 minutes in a store....which is why the policy is in place. Be cool to the guy. If the piece wasn't for you ask for store credit. No need to be a dick and raise hell because you brought somehting in 3 days after the 30 days period. It's not the salesguy's fault. It's your own.....but we all make mistakes. Just be nice...and he'll hook you up.

Another thing I used to do for customers is in regards to floor models. No one wants an amp that's been played by grubby hair metal kids for 35 hours straight. So....if there's an amp of guitar that you want...and there's only the floor model left....ask the sales guy to take the guitar/amp home (after you pay for it) and in the meantime have them order you a fresh new one....that can be swapped out when the new one comes in. They'll do that to save the deal....but before you leave make sure you get that in writting on the sales receipt incase he forgets to order it for you....or gets fired.

There isn't someone in the back office or warehouse that's jumping around and can sprinkle fairy dust on the keyboard to make the price go lower. Again, in most cases....it is what it is. If the dude has to get a manager to OK a price...he's probably not pulling your chain or using some car salesman tactic.....he probably just needs to get an override on the price. If it's a big deal to you....get the department manager BEFORE you even start dealing with anyone. DEPARTMENT manager....not the store manager. The store manager can help you....and can be your friend....but don't bitch to him right away.....he's busy running a store.

Finally....most people who walk into a GC don't realize that they're dealing with commisioned based salespeople. It's their job to not let you leave without buying something. (Also....the front door people keep a head count of people who walk into the store and they use that to form a "closing ratio" against the number of sales made that day) So.....if you walk into a GC...and kick the tires and have to come back to buy because you need your wife's permission......give the guy a break and buy it from the guy you talked to FIRST. What happens is you create a "No...I talked to him first" situation amongst the sales staff and you'll have the 2 or 3 guys you dealt with all trying to help you at the same time. This is where people bitch and moan about having 5 sales guys talk to them. It's your own damn fault. You initiated contact with all those people...and let them to believe you were actually going to buy....and now they want the deal.

Pick 1 dude to work with at GC...and stick with him. He'll be your buddy and hook you up after he sees you're his repeat customer.

Also....keep in mind that GC isn't always a place to hang out and talk to the guys about gear. Time = money in sales and if you're not selling something...you're losing money. There are Sooooooooooooooooooooooooo many customers that will come in to a store....and just talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk about the guitars and amps they owned and are sorry the sold. Guess what? No one cares. Why would the salesguy care? He's not getting a sale from it unless you decided to buy the **** you shouldn't have sold in the first place. This is also where alot of guys get pissed because they were ignored when they walked in to the store. Maybe you were ignored for a reason.................ever think about that?

GC is a high stress place to work. For the most part....good guys work there. However....even the best of us can crack, especially when it's the last week of the month and you're not "clipping" your goal. In most stores there are minimum performance leves. DOn't hit them and you don't have a job....so be nice to the GC crew. They're people just like you and me.

I didn't start this thread to turn it into a "let's bash GC" thing. We ALL have horror stories. What's happened to you has happened to 50 other guys on TGP. I just wanted to share some "insider" info on the workings of a Guitar Center. And....if you're currently working at GC...I'm not trying to be a "whistle blower" and share secrets of GC. I'm trying to help you out so you don't have a difficult/asshole custy on your hands.
 

Surfguitar!

Member
Messages
38
Well said, I have had a million great experiences there and get tired of the bashing. I educate myself, then go buy there. I know they're the big 900 lb. gorilla, but it would be a drag if they went away. We're lucky to have a guitar megastore. Period. I do deal with the same guy who runs the Platinum room and probably have dropped 35k over the years. Yes, you are dealing with young sales guys/musicians that have little experience - understand that going in, and if you're shopping for big ticket items, speak to a manager. A Blink 182 wannabe cannot educate you on an Eric Clapton Martin. A good friend of mine constantly complaints about GC and it hacks me off. He doesn't "get it". I happen to love GC, and go there every week for a lunchtime jam/shopping.
 

John Bell

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
2,911
Agree with the pick one dude and always deal with him.I even get calls from him when a cool used item comes in.I've said this before.....every time I go to GC I see lots of A-holes. 99% of them are NOT employees.
 

Sniper-V

Member
Messages
3,530
From personal experience, Ron's got it righ pretty much...

But,

Last I heard was that GC was no longer public.

It seems their overly rapid expansion has finally start to sink in.

I still don't care for GC.
 

hogy

Member
Messages
13,533
Did you not post an identical thread a number of months ago? I mean word for word.
 

Rock Johnson

Member
Messages
4,745
I don't bash GC... my town doesn't have any cool guitar stores, except for one mom & pop with about twenty guitars. GC is usually my only chance to look at, much less play, most of the stuff I read about on here.
 

big mike

Cathode biased
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
13,190
My dood at the local GC said the special 'deals' they give me stop at the end of the year. New fiscal with the new owners things will be much different.
 

hogy

Member
Messages
13,533
No. I've chimed in on other GC posts.....but I just wrote this today.
Hmm, the search doesn't go back far enough, but I know I've seen another post by an "ex-GC employee" that was basically the same as yours. It was in the Pub. Weird.
 

Lance

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
10,874
My dood at the local GC said the special 'deals' they give me stop at the end of the year. New fiscal with the new owners things will be much different.
Greaaaat, I'm already scared. I have had pretty good luck at my GC. Though I don't go there very often, the few times I have, were just fine.
 

padavis

Member
Messages
2,348
I'm still in the closet when it comes to GC... I love them and love goin there but I hate to admit when I buy something from there. I feel like I just betrayed my local shops. But, if there is Gibson or USA stamped on something around here then it is like some sacred piece that deserves no less than a thousand and up at the GC its more reasonable.
 

rivaeast

Member
Messages
628
From personal experience, Ron's got it righ pretty much...

But,

Last I heard was that GC was no longer public.

It seems their overly rapid expansion has finally start to sink in.

I still don't care for GC.
The deal isn't final until Q4 and their dominance in the market has made them the business to own. Looking at their financials the price paid was a good deal.
I personally have had good experiences at the GC in Cincy. The one is Dayton less so but it is a young store and they don't have the staffing quite right yet.
But hey, I'm in sales for 25 years commissioned sales guy are my friends....
 
M

Member 995

Finally....most people who walk into a GC don't realize that they're dealing with commisioned based salespeople.
Really? Every time I go into a Guitar Center or any other commission-driven shop I know it instantly. Usually, it is because I'm called "dude" or "bro."

There are Sooooooooooooooooooooooooo many customers that will come in to a store....and just talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk and talk about the guitars and amps they owned and are sorry the sold. Guess what? No one cares.
While I do partially agree with you (I'd get sick of the stories), if you ever do work in a retial position like that again, it would be good for you to care about the customer. A lot of sales is building a relationship between the sales person and the customer. If that means hearing about their '72 Gibson SG, then that is what it takes.

Bryan
 

davess23

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
6,475
Thanks. Definitely worth a read for anyone who wants to get the most out of shopping at GC. And probably very helpful for those who don't have experience with the sales end of running a business.

The 90-day average tenure for its salespeople goes a long way to explaining what GC is really about. It speaks to a sales model used by the most competitive, cost-averse and volume-hungry operations. This isn't an indictment, just an observation that means you need to deal with GC the same way you'd deal with any major retailer.

My rule for GC is to get any notion that it's a "music store" out of my head. That kind of thinking can really screw you up. Music is likely to be way too near and dear to your heart to allow you to cope rationally. Don't kid yourself that their merchandise, emotionally engaging as it may be for you, is anything to GC except inventory, units to be moved. I just treat GC people the same way I treat employees at Best Buy or Home Depot or whathaveyou: I try to be demanding but nice, I don't expect kindred spirits who love what I love and whose sole desire is my happiness, but I don't dehumanize the help either. And I do expect that they will at all times act in their own best interests, not mine.
 
E

el_cid

Bah, I got my guy at the local store that takes better care of me than any GC ever did, and even though he works on commision, he has never tried to sell me what I dont want when they dont have what I came for.
 

RDM

Senior Member
Messages
3,713
Really? Every time I go into a Guitar Center or any other commission-driven shop I know it instantly. Usually, it is because I'm called "dude" or "bro."



While I do partially agree with you (I'd get sick of the stories), if you ever do work in a retial position like that again, it would be good for you to care about the customer. A lot of sales is building a relationship between the sales person and the customer. If that means hearing about their '72 Gibson SG, then that is what it takes.

Bryan

DUDE....I totally agree. (haha)

BUT....if you had the SAME guy come in and talk to you about the same stuff over and over again....you'd be in the same boat. People love to talk about their gear. That's all good. When it starts to inhibit your work and your job performance....well...that's not good. That's where I was going with it....not just some guy that came in once to talk. No...that's cool. Trust me...I know sales. I've done it my whole life...and I'm successful at what I do because I listen. That's something that most guys don't do...not only at GC...but any major retailer.

Imagine someone at your job...a coworker....or a customer....coming into your work to talk about whatever.....EVERY SINGLE DAY. And not just every day but for 5 hour periods at a time. That would get annoying....especially when they brag about how good the other stores are down the street and tell you how broke they are...and how they have no intention of ever buying aything. That's what I was talking about.

Customers like that do exist. Just ask your local GC dude about the wierdos that come in. I have sooo many stories. Stories about how guys have their entire guitar rig built inside their van in the parking lot....the same van they sleep in. I'm not kidding.

I was just saying don't be one of those guys.
 

topbrent

Member
Messages
441
Staffing makes all the difference, no matter the size of the store/organization. My degree and practical experience has hammered that one home!

As a total vintage gearslut, and former manager for GC, I would much rather shop at a well staffed GC that is stuffed to the gills with great new, used, and vintage gear... than shop at the filthy, depressing little mom and pop shop that has the curmudgeon a-hole behind the counter that figures that if you are not rollin' in a bmw, you obviously have no money to purchase, (and could never have a gear collection better than his own.) (that was a very long sentence, but the point is valid)

Some small shops get it, and some don't. Some big box stores get it and some don't.

I have wrangled much better deals out of GC employees(pre and post employment) than I ever have out of small shops.

GC, for better or for worse lets you play the gear. I can't say the same for small shops. Granted, the small shop has more to lose when top end gear gets damaged. But Jeez, how can you possibly decide if you like something if you can't play it.

"it can't be played"..."don't point..."

my .02
 

Nolatone Ampworks

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,773
I do a lot of business with GC, but it's almost ALWAYS under the following cirucumstances:

1) They have what I need. They usually DON'T. The seem to cater to the decidedly NON top shelf market

2) I know what I'm looking for. I've RARELY found anyone there that knew the amount of detail about a product I was able to gather by simply reading a bit on the mfg website or forum posts.

I have "a guy" I work with too. He always hooks me up. No questions asked.

My last run'in was this little "volume Nazi" woman that kept asking me to turn the amp down. I went to the manager and explained the following:

1. I'm not going to drive 40 miles with gas prices what they are to buy a high end guitar amp without hearing what it sounds like at volume. I know you have a 30 day return policy but I'd prefer to have an idea i actually want the amp.

2. I would have GLADLY taken this amp into the soundproof boutique room, but it was being perpetually occupied by some kids who had taken a Crate combo and some Korean Ibaneze shred axes to work on their latest Korn riffs. Not that there's anything WRONG with that, but...

My point was, the volume Nazi shouldn't just bitch to a customer, she should help the customer find a way to accomplish what he/she wishes to accomplish.

But, I also realize that same thing could happen in any music store. That's not unique to GC.
 

stevieboy

Clouds yell at me
Gold Supporting Member
Messages
37,877
The 90-day average tenure for its salespeople goes a long way to explaining what GC is really about. It speaks to a sales model used by the most competitive, cost-averse and volume-hungry operations.
I'm sure that's true, but I think it also speaks to the fact that a lot of the young guys that GC hires in bulk to staff a massive operation are players with aspirations who just want to get started working somewhere in the music business, but soon discover that selling guitars and being a guitar player are way different.

As far as GC going private, I think that is something that has to happen by definition when a company buys out a publicly traded one and calls in all the stock. That doesn't mean it's going to stay that way. I'm sure Cramer could tell us a lot more about it.
 
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