What to do when a luthier doesn't deliver?

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by vaultnaemsae, Jun 30, 2017.


  1. vaultnaemsae

    vaultnaemsae Member

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    Hi Board Members,

    Has anybody here ever commissioned a luthier to build a guitar and then not had the luthier deliver on the deal? I’m Australian (currently living in Sydney). I have ordered/paid in part for a custom build from a luthier in California but he hasn’t come through on his end of the deal. Any ideas how to deal with this legally in the state of California? If you’re at all interested I’ve written a fairly detailed outline of the situation below. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    The barebones full story (If you like long stories):
    Back in April 2013, during the time when I lived in East Asia, I ordered a custom guitar from a luthier who has a reputation for quality builds (but as it later became clear not for punctuality). After first contact we backed and forwarded over the specs/design for a couple of weeks. Finally, we reached an agreement (all via email mind you) and he quoted a price and an 18 month wait for completion/delivery. For me, it was/is an expensive guitar and I placed my trust in this guy based on his reputation as a world class builder. This guitar was meant to be the guitar to replace all my others so I proceeded with making the down payment at 50% of the agreed price for the build with the idea in my head that I’d be selling all my other guitars over the next year and a half. I remember the international bank transfer fees and the weak Korean won at the time really put a dent in my wallet! Ouch…but I clung to the thought of playing one of his much ballyhooed guitars...

    After 12 months he advised that he was behind schedule for the due delivery period. It didn’t really phase me so much at the time but he kept presenting with more and more excuses for delays. Some of them seemed pretty understandable and I like to think I’m pretty reasonable so I just let it slide believing that it would be finished soon enough. I had other stuff on my plate too.

    But as time continued to pass by with no results I started to worry about it, a lot! So I tried to get in contact with him to get some answers. The guy doesn’t really answer his telephone so it was terribly difficult to get in touch with him. Also the time difference made it really difficult. His email responses can take up to 2-3 months to arrive if at all.

    As it happened, I was in the US in September 2015. I was thinking about just turning up at his workshop to see what was happening but that wasn’t necessary as I finally got to speak to him on the phone. He assured me the guitar would be ready by January 2016. I went back to Korea and sold a couple of guitars and some studio gear to prep for the upcoming final payments. He sent some pics of the instrument in progress but of course, he didn’t come through as promised.

    Over the following months we would have periods of communication and I did (possibly quiet annoyingly for him) change my mind on some electronics in the build. In my defence, this was mostly because he was running so late that guitar technology was changing and moving forward in leaps and bounds.

    Time rolled on and he contacted me requesting another 25% payment last October. I was feeling over a barrel but not able to 'not pay' him as I wanted the guitar finished and the finished guitar. He promptly went off the air after receiving payment again.

    Since then we’ve had some heated words via email where I really lost my ****. I got his attention if nothing else. Now I pretty much have no way to contact him since he will not reply to my emails and doesn’t answer his phone. He did seem apologetic for the delays and has claimed the guitar is going ahead and represents his 'best work' but he has given me nothing concrete re: completion. I’m sure the guy has had some challenging times and all BUT the long and short of it all is that he still hasn’t delivered the guitar in late June 2017 (over 4 years) despite him having 75% of my payments in his pocket.

    What should I do?

    I suppose it’s weird that I’m posting this here because it’s a fairly personal issue but I’m not really sure about how to proceed with this guy. He's a human and he's a artist but he's also got a responsibility here. It’s rather embarrassing to admit I've got myself in this situation - I’m kind of clutching at any advice that may come from one of the many musicians who read this forum, especially the Americans amongst us. Also, I guess some of you might know the guy and can deduce his identity from the story. Any advice for how to deal with this situation to reach a win win outcome?
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2017
  2. Musick

    Musick Supporting Member

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    If you paid via paypal, they may be able to help as long as it wasn't gifted. Other than that, I don't know what to tell you. It irritates me that other luthiers do this. People hear about it and then they are skeptical to buy from other small luthiers and it hurts everyone else. Once you get the issue resolved, please delete this thread (or name the company) otherwise, other luthiers in that city may suffer a bit. You could also edit the city out of the original post.
     
    derekd likes this.
  3. Deven Patel

    Deven Patel Lipe Guitars USA Gold Supporting Member

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    I have been on that side, it is tough to deal with. I waited almost three years thinking it was coming soon till I finally had enough. I sent the builder an email that I would out him on every forum I could. As well as filing a mail fraud claim with the post master and small claims court. In the end I got a sub par guitar which I need to work on at some point. I found out that he did this to others which seems to be common among some builders out there. In the end he has not been able sell any guitars in the last few years and I keep an eye on the forums for his name to pop up. Best of luck.
     
  4. vaultnaemsae

    vaultnaemsae Member

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    Good point. I removed the city name. Not intended to hurt the industry. Simply seeming advice on what I could possibly do to reach a resolution.

    Unfortunately I paid via direct bank transfer, but thanks for the thought :)
     
  5. vaultnaemsae

    vaultnaemsae Member

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    Hi Deven, I've had similar ideas about harnessing the power of the internet to force hand. But I'm also worried that if the guitar ever does arrive that it's gonna have some seriously bad juju resonating from it. BTW, Just a Y/N question...Are we possibly talking about the same builder?
     
  6. '59_Standard

    '59_Standard Member

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    See, you guys shouldn't have to feel the builder has you over a barrel. I'm all for naming and shaming. There are a lot of good builders who people start wondering 'is it him'.

    If true - someone will be along to say theres two sides to a story etc- this guy needs to be taken in a back alley and given a good sunburst around his eyes...
     
  7. Deven Patel

    Deven Patel Lipe Guitars USA Gold Supporting Member

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    not the same builder i am referring to Dave Bunker Jr. the bad mojo is on the builder not you since you paid and did your part.
    i have learned over time that there is a group of this small builders that have other jobs and will build in their spare time. it is difficult a business with small margins to support oneself without having an established brand. part of your problem may lies in that.

    see this thread.

    https://www.thegearpage.net/board/i...k-turner-guitars.1835737/page-2#post-24300525
     
    derekd likes this.
  8. vaultnaemsae

    vaultnaemsae Member

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    Sure, if anybody is considering a builder in California and is concerned please PM me and I can confirm if it's the same builder. I doubt there are many who start at 18months a build. A friend back in Korea who builds guitars pissed himself laughing when I told him and advised that any thing longer than 6 months is a joke.
     
  9. vintagelove

    vintagelove Member

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  10. vaultnaemsae

    vaultnaemsae Member

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  11. amstrtatnut

    amstrtatnut Member

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    Id out the guy.

    Id be furious. The rest of the population of custom guitar buyers needs a heads up about who to avoid.

    Youve been way more than patient.
     
  12. jamess

    jamess Silver Supporting Member

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    With the name now known, no one will be questioning all the other builders in California who have done nothing wrong. That is a good thing.

    Good luck with your build.
     
    Washburnmemphis, Jay K and derekd like this.
  13. mikesch

    mikesch Gold Supporting Member

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    All these threads go the same way. Pieces of information, lots of speculation, eventually the name comes out, there's suddenly some kind of resolution once the name goes public, the person deletes the thread and a few months later another thread about the same builder crops up.

    Out them early, out them often, don't delete the thread.

    There are enough good trustworthy builders out there that people shouldn't get stung by a builder that either doesn't deliver or only delivers years late after someone actually complains publicly. Especially when people who have gotten stung could warn everyone else. If the culture changes so that there's some self policing on this, maybe, just maybe, better business practices start to happen and everyone benefits.
     
  14. vaultnaemsae

    vaultnaemsae Member

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    I don't plan on deleting this thread even if the guitar is delivered but my intention certainly wasn't to out the luthier as I have no reason to believe that will either return my dollars or result in the guitar being in my hands.
    If you search the luthier's name you'll find the same comments again and again. Essentially 'builds great guitars very slowly'. My outlined story will add to those 5 words.
    I appreciate all the responses particularly the ones that referenced legal avenues like this - https://oag.ca.gov/consumers - came from a different forum but all good.
    If anybody has any other information or ideas please feel post here! Thanks, Luke.
     
  15. TDJMB

    TDJMB Gold Supporting Member

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    Smitty of Blueverb Amps absconded with my deposit in 2008 - well-documented elsewhere on TGP. I thought my credit card would protect me but that only lasts 60 days. I filed consumer complaints all over the place. It was useless. One consumer office said they sent him a letter, he didn't respond, too bad. My understanding of small claims court is that you'd have to appear in court in the manufacturer's city. And suing is expensive. I post in threads like this just to remind people. On the other hand, this experience is offset by many great transactions with luthiers & amp makers that I've found on TGP.
     
    splatt likes this.
  16. derekd

    derekd Supporting Member

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    I agree.

    This board is full of wonderful builders who do good work in a timely manner. People who are good at building but lousy at business need to work for someone else because they drag the rest of the builders through the mud.

    Bill DeLap. Thanks for the heads up on this builder.

    I hope you are able to get some resolution soon, OP.
     
  17. cmatthes

    cmatthes Member

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    Good to know that Bill DeLap is apparently unwilling or unable his obligations to customers, but is more than happy to take their money...for nothing.

    Avoid like the plague.
     
  18. 4finger

    4finger Supporting Member

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    wow that really sucks. sorry to hear it. just wanted to make one point - 18 months for some builders who have a wait list isn't unreasonable of course. And generally they've got a great reputation too. But I agree, name them, and you never know - maybe someone here on TGP could help in some way.
     
  19. Surfreak

    Surfreak Member

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    Over the years, I have admired the few Bill DeLap builds I have seen, mainly through his association with the late, great Allan Holdsworth, and I've toyed with the idea of ordering a guitar from him.

    However, the fact that his website has been just a placeholder for years, with no easy to find contact information, and a FB page that was last updated in 2013, tells me that this guy is unable or unwilling to run a business.

    I appreciate that you ordered your guitar several years ago now, but weren't there enough alarm bells ringing already?
     
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  20. Hogan/Guitars

    Hogan/Guitars Member

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    Are you sure that fellow is still alive?, when I searched his name 1 match came back as deceased in 2016 and he's been making guitars since at least 1982 according to one listed for sale.
     

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