Since returning to the USA I've been looking for a more powerful bass amplifier - in particular, an Italian-made Markbass. They deliver a sweet, powerful tone from a small, lightweight box. Buying one before leaving Italy was out of the question since I was concerned that converting it from 220 volts to 110 volts could cause problems if not done right.
Well, it turns out one of the only places you can buy a Markbass in the States is at Guitar Center, the chain that has become the Wal-Mart of the music business (and the reason so many small music stores have gone under). They carry just about everything under the sun and their prices are very reasonable so you can see why they are successful.
So, this should be easy right? One thing you should know about your faithful vagabond is that I won't do business with someone who is rude or worse yet, won't even acknowledge my existence. I've often walked into a business ready to drop a pile of cash on something but walked out since they expressed little interest in doing business with me.
So, ready to make some young salesperson's day, I walked into our local Guitar Center here in El Paso, TX and checked out a few Markbass amps, plugging in a bass from the wall and running through some of my favorite bass lines and riffs to see which one had the sound I was looking for. At no time did anyone acknowledge my presence so after 20 minutes of being the invisible man and trying to get someone's attention, my bulging wallet and I walked out.
A few weeks later in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I stopped by their Guitar Center and had a similar experience. In this case, there was a tiny (but still insufficient) glimmer of hope; the anti-theft checker gave me a nod on the way out the door (without a Markbass or the Fender Precision bass I had started falling in love with).
After that, I started an experiment to see how many Guitar Centers I could walk into before an employee would greet me or interact with me in some way. Last week, it was the Tucson, Arizona store and while it was 110 degrees outside, it was cold as ice inside - no courtesy, no sale. I'm not looking for one of those annoying, hovering sales clerks you find at some places, just for someone to say hello and let you know they are the one to talk to if you have any questions (or show you some nice features of the gear you are looking at).
Years ago, I had good luck with the stores in Fairfax, Virginia and Indianapolis but as a former shareholder of Guitar Center, I'm shocked that so many of their stores have taken on such an attitude during these hard economic times. Say it ain't so Guitar Center!
In my opinion, these tough economic times are a chance to renew our once famous American customer service culture by spending our money at friendly local businesses who will treat us right and keep the money in our communities. You all know a few of these places in your community; the local eatery, book store, or florist where they always remember your name and do their best to deliver a quality product or service. Many of these places are going out of business or barely staying afloat these days as people have cut back on eating out, buying books, etc.
Its fair enough that people these days only want to spend their money if they'll have something to show for it. By spending our money at friendly businesses that make you feel welcome (and avoiding the ones that don't), we'll have something very important to show for our money; civility.