Cultivating A Relationship With Your Local Drumshop…And Forget About Those Confounded Superstores!

Please Note: The opinion of this columnist is not necessarily the opinion of the webmaster. But then again, maybe it is.

Last Saturday I headed to the closest Guitar Center store in suburban New Jersey, just to look around. Looking around is about all I do at Guitar Center. Let’s face it, they have a LOT OF STUFF. They also have pushy, obnoxious, barely-out-of-high-school, fresh-out-of-sales-training-school salespeople who know very little about the products they sell, not to mention inflated prices, and a distinct lack of personalized attention and service.

Not the kind of environment that makes for a pleasant buying experience. I practically had to fight one sales guy off who was trying to sell me a trap bag. He followed me all over the damn store. Then the manager butted in with his two cents and wanted to know what the problem was. Not wishing to make a scene (although I sure wanted to), I left, went home, then called the manager back and flamed his butt over the phone.

The point of all this? Cultivate a relationship (if you haven’t already done so) with your local music retailer or drum shop and stick with them. Here’s why.

Using myself as an example (who else would you expect me to use?), I have had a great relationship with Ritchie’s Music in Rockaway, New Jersey, for almost twenty years, and with drum manager George Sigler for nearly that long. Now, this is not meant to be some sort of advertisement for Ritchie’s Music, but over that period of time, George and I have developed a very close retailer/customer relationship.

George knows what I like and dislike, what I need to cut my gigs, and most importantly, he knows when to leave me alone and let me browse to my heart’s content…without pressure, without yelling “We have the lowest prices in the country, we guarantee it!,” and without an attitude. He treats me like a pro, with the kind of respect and courtesy all customers deserve. If I need equipment, George can get it for me. If I need something fixed, he can handle it in most cases. And when it comes down to dollars, he discounts righteously for me. No question about it. I feel like George is my personal drum tech. Now, if I can only talk him into carrying and setting up me drums…

That, kiddies, is the kind of relationship every drummer needs to establish with his or her local music retailer.

The musical superstore concept is a relatively new phenomenon. Their goal is to push merchandise out the door. Guitar Center now has over seventy stores, Mars Music isn’t too far behind, and Sam Ash, once just another local northern New Jersey/New York retailer, is bringing up the rear. All of them guarantee the lowest prices, best selection and best service. How can that be? Somebody’s prices have to be higher, don’t they?

Next time you need to buy an 18″ crash cymbal, are you going to spend all day driving around to three or four music superstores to save $5.00? Who has time to schlep like that? I don’t, nor do I have the patience. Just give me a good selection of merchandise, a comfortable environment in which to try things, a great price, and treat me like a human being-not some means to a sales goal. It’s called common sense, “Mike, The Manager”.

You will get that kind of treatment from your local, well stocked smaller retail music store or drum shop, and NOT the superstores. Local music retailers are well aware of the stiff competition out there, and most will bend over backwards to earn and keep your business. Something Guitar Center has not done. At least with me.

And what about those drum catalogs that mysteriously arrive? Usually every time Modern Drummer sells their mailing list, much to my annoyance. Catalogs have their place…if you live in Nowhere, USA, three hundred miles from your nearest music store. Keep in mind that with catalogs, you can’t see, feel, touch, or try out the item you’re buying. You may avoid sales tax, but you’ll pay dearly for shipping. And then, what if something is broken or wrong? Good luck. By the way, the Musician’s Friend catalog emanates from the same company that owns and runs Guitar Center. Caveat emptor. Besides, how could anybody buy a cymbal out of a catalog?! Are you going to rely on some warehouse laborer who makes minimum wage to pick YOUR cymbals? No thanks.

Fellow drummers; we live in country where the “Mom & Pop” store is facing extinction from bloated, gargantuan behemoths like Wal-mart, Home Depot, or Guitar Center for that matter. The small music retailer faces a perilous future unless we all do our part to support them. In turn, you will benefit many times over.

All drummers should have their own George Sigler.