On Friday I decided that the Gibson J-45 was out of the question, primarily because it was gone. I guess it really was a deal, because someone snapped it up in the two weeks between my visits to Guitar Center. That's fine; the Epiphone was still there. I went and I played it and it was pretty good, just as I remembered. I compared it to some cheaper guitars and there was no contest.
As one is taught to do when buying their first guitar, I compared this guitar to some very nice Martins just to see how it stacked up. I've always been fond of Martins -- I have an entry-level Martin DM at home that still ranks as the nicest guitar I've ever played, even having played real expensive guitars in stores. "Well, that's great," I thought, "but I'm feeling the need for a Gibson-style."
But! The first Martin I picked up immediately transported me back. All of a sudden I was sitting in the rec room at home in PoCo with my DM, composing the theme song to stevekwan.com. Even with grimy old strings, this thing is a beauty, and so were most of the Martins in the store. When I A-B'd them with the Epi, it was clear that the Epi was just not as special as my DM.
I figured though that the Epiphone might not stand a chance as it had older, crappier strings on it, and a fresh set of good strings might bring it to life. I talked to one salesman about one of the Martins, and from his answers I could tell he had no idea. Also, I found out that Guitar Center doesn't offer any kind of one-year maintenance policy (it's standard at Long & McQuade in Canada to offer a free setup within a year of purchase). Perhaps even worse, it was clear he had lost all his zeal for talking to me when I told him I wasn't necessarily planning on buying a guitar right that day. I talked to another salesman and asked him -- as one is taught to do when buying their first guitar -- if I could try the Epiphone with a different set of strings. He looked at me with the smarmiest, most patronizing face I can think of and says "If all the strings are broken, for some reason."
What I did at this point: nod, walk away, decide silently to take my business elsewhere.
What I wish I had done at this point: go back into the guitar room, break all the strings, then re-request.
This is their customer service? One time back home Long & McQuade let me take not one, but two guitars home overnight just to help me make a decision! So, fuck Guitar Center and fuck the horse they rode in on. My old beater Yamaha is holding up just fine for itself, to be honest. I decided that my next guitar is going to be a 100% no-compromises instrument. It's going to be a guitar that I can honestly say that I prefer to my old Martin DM. And, unfortunately, it's probably going to cost around $2000. It might take a few years, but I can wait.
Then I got a letter this week from Guitar Center thanking me for being a valued customer and offering 10% off any purchase made before June 30.
I wonder how that Epi would sound with a new set of strings.