The guitar wasn’t the only thing that got hosed in the end.

BetaRat

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I can’t say that it is every day that I am able to help out a friend with some financial backing to get a “dream guitar” into their hands, but this was recently my situation – yet that dream quickly became a nightmare.

Out of respect for all parties involved, I am not including names of anyone else involved.

A few months ago I was on Reverb.com and found my own “holy-grail” guitar. After consolidating a large collection of lesser instruments I was able to fund the purchased of a 1981 Gibson Les Paul Custom in a wonderfully aged Silver Burst finish. The photos in the listing were pretty accurate, and the description by the seller was spot on. It wasn’t being billed as an “all-original” guitar since the pickups had been replaced, as were the pots (and later I found the saddles were also after-market, but I had my suspicions based on the photos provided).

My experience with this coveted acquisition was enough to get a friend revved up enough that he began his own search for a similar instrument.

Back to Reverb.com we went, searching high and low for another Norlin-Era Gibson Les Paul Custom. His focus was pretty clear: originality was key and appearance mattered least. It only took about a month and we started to watch a listing for a 1983 Les Paul Custom in Heritage Cherry Burst finish.

All of the boxes started to check off: the seller mentioned that it was “100% original" with the exception of one speed knob, yet the finish was pretty mangled on the lower edge due to some unidentified past water damage. It had an unscathed “Chainsaw Case” as well! The confidence that no structural damages were present made this guitar a sleeping success story for us.

So we sat and waited. Money was saved, gear was sold, and we hoped for a price change.

During a few late night searches for more deals (yes, I do that a lot), I found the very guitar we were watching cross-listed on a forum, and after looking into both the forum member and the Reverb name we concluded that it was the same guitar. Actually the post linked the Reverb listing directly, and the message on the forum post was equally as transparent: “I’ll sell it directly to a forum member for less.”

Ok, so in an effort to save a little bit of money for my friend, I joined the forum (this forum) and became a member for the sole purpose of purchasing this guitar. Listed at $3300 on Reverb, there would be sales tax attached and the guitar would quickly leave the affordability realm negating the deal we were hoping to get. So we sent a private message and inquired as to the bottom line the seller wanted for the guitar. “$2995 plus shipping”. Not bad, so we figured that we’d skip the sales tax on Reverb and purchase it direct – everyone is happy in the end, right?

The deal is sealed in the matter of a few messages back and forth, and the seller accepts the payment through PayPal’s “Friends and Family” service (if you are unaware of this feature and the difference from other business transactions it simply means that the recipient of the funds gets 100% of what is sent, while the sender is not covered by any sales protection that usually exists with a retail transaction). We had little reason to doubt this was going to go smoothly, so we went ahead and sent the funds. Tracking numbers posted the next day, and the guitar was on it’s way to my shop.

Everyone was happy at that point. The seller moved his gear and received his money, my friend was able to purchase a coveted guitar a satiate his lust for an 80s Custom, and I was thrilled with being able to facilitate the entire thing. Of course since I am his luthier I had first-crack at the guitar when it was to arrive as to make sure it was completely legit, not broken by FedEx, and set-up with his desired strings and specs.

The day came and the guitar arrived. Box opens to reveal a well-packed chainsaw case, and inside I expected to see the wonderful “all original but one knob” Custom that just cost a friend $3k in gear and funds combined.

Everything started to fall apart at this point…

The guitar was indeed what was listed, a 1983 Gibson Les Paul Custom. The color of the finish was actually nicer in-person than the photos, and the damage to the finish was a little ghastly, but the pictures showed that pretty accurately.

I think to better illustrate how wrong everything else was we should quote the original listing and note what we found instead to be the true condition of this guitar:

“All original except one tone knob…”
This was far from the truth. Once I removed the strings from the guitar to perform an in-depth look at the overall condition, the bridge proved to be a complete replacement (the bottom of the bridge was stamped “Gotoh”, and we all know that Gibson never used a Gotoh bridge from the factory). The posts that were to hold the bridge in place were also incorrect and did not properly function. It was clear that someone replaced these parts at some point, and while the seller might not have know right away there was no due-diligence executed in verifying the originality of these components. Strike one.

“The frets are in good condition, and the ebony fret plays like butter!”
Ok, frets that are nearly 40 years old will most likely have some wear. No photos were provided of the frets, and this was partially our mistake for not inquiring to see more close-up images of any pitting. But when a listing fails to mention any severe wear (which there indeed was in the middle of the fingerboard, and enough to require a fret dress) one can’t help but feel a little let down. Strike two.

“This guitar is one of the first years that Gibson reintroduced the mahogany neck.”
This line pissed me off a little more than the others. When I removed the truss rod cover, a quick glance into the cavity below it revealed the unpainted surface that is the neck wood. Maple. The neck was certainly made of maple and not mahogany. Then I read the line by the seller again: he never said that this guitar had a mahogany neck, nor did he say it was maple. The statement was simply a statement, almost like stating “This t-shirt was made in the first year that the company made shirts with cotton” while the shirt in question was made of wool instead. It was more of a comment on what Gibson was doing, but the seller assumed that the neck was mahogany since that is what they knew of guitars in that era. The truth is that well into 1983 some Les Paul Customs still had maple necks, just like this one has! Now the wear marks on the neck where finish had come off exposed the wood for quite some time, and while maple will dirty and darken with contact to oils and other elements it is not to be confused with mahogany. Peaking under the truss-rod cover gives an accurate look “under the hood”. Big strike three here.

The game should have been over at this point, but the worst is yet to come.

“Some age checking in the lacquer as can be expected in an almost 40 year old guitar. The finish has peeled along the bottom edge of the guitar as can be seen in the pix, but the binding and wood are intact.”
Nope. Not true on either account. Firstly there was a section of the 3 piece maple top neat that water damage that was split about 1inch along the seam. It was not pictured clearly in any photo and was concealed. Secondly (and in my opinion one of the worst offenses) was missing binding from the headstock. I was completely taken back by this on immediate inspection, and I couldn’t understand how this was missed by both myself and my friend who was now going to be more upset than I could even imagine. Then it dawned on me – the seller never showed the very top front-side of the “open book” of the headstock! In the 2 publicly posted photos in the listing that showed the entire face-side of the guitar (one on the stand and the other while the guitar was laying in the case) the photo was cropped to avoid picturing the headstock condition. This was an undeniable act of deception and is deplorable to say the least. I can understand missing a few little dings or areas of wear, but this was clearly not the case of a mistake in representation but an element of willful misrepresentation. Strike four.

But there was one more thing to mention that neither the description alluded to nor would I have caught had I not been concerned with the material used for the neck construction: the fingerboard was actually separating from the neck shaft from the nut to the 2nd fret! There was a 1mm gap that the fingerboard would actually wiggle in and out of while playing on the 1st and 2nd frets! This was really upsetting and was more than cosmetic. Strike five.

I won’t even discuss how the nut was replaced with a newer bone nut (let’s face it, nuts will have to be replaced, so that was most likely for the better – yet still not mentioned in the “all original” listing!).

The pickups were original, and that is a saving factor of sorts, the wiring also looks to be original (dog house and input casing were all there, though a mounting screw for the doghouse was missing). But really that isn’t enough to make this guitar worth the amount paid for it. The reality started to really sink in regarding the entire situation: we were taken advantage of and were sold a false bill of goods. But the fact of the matter is that since we bought the guitar off-platform (private transfer of money that is much like paying in cash without a receipt) that we were not protected by any measures that usually exist in a normal PayPal retail transaction. If this were paid on Reverb for the full asking price, Reverb would have gladly stepped in and intervened on our behalf. If this were eBay, the same could be said.

I personally reached out to the seller regarding all of the findings here, and this was his response:
“I’m glad to hear it arrived safely. Sorry for your disappointment in the guitar. I thought I sent you detailed pix showing its’ condition. You must admit, that is a great playing and sounding guitar. I hope you grow to enjoy it.”
That was like waving a middle finger to me while smiling with a pocket full of cash.

A few days later, the guitar is being rehabbed in my shop. The binding on the headstock (about 4 inches total) are replaced. The fingerboard has been glued back to the shaft where it was once separating. A new bridge is on it’s way (TonePros was the way to go for him since it’s going to end up being played a lot), and the electronics are being gutted to make room for something else he has in mind. His words summed it up for me: “The allure of the guitar being at all what we bought has died, but I want to make it something even more special. Let’s turn it into an absolute ripper!” I like his attitude and his positivity.

I’m not asking for any amount from my friend for any of the work or the parts needed to make this guitar into what he and I thought he was buying. No one deserves to be deceived like this, nor is it right or justified. For every crooked sale there is a buyer that is hurt in the process, and if you don’t care than you are as soulless as your guitar was “all original except.”

To the seller, I would guess if you where selling yourself online to a stranger I would maybe include this in your description:

“All original except for any sense of moral decency.”

If I get banned or blocked for this post, so be it. But I feel like this story should be shared as a warning for all those out there who put faith in the goodness of others - the truth is that not everyone is out there to be nice to others.
 

redcoats1976

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that really sucks.but at least your friend is not upset with you for helping to get him into this mess,and hes probably very happy you are helping him to rehab this misrepresented guitar without charge.i guess i should be glad i dont buy used gits unless i can see them hands on first.would like to see pics of the git as purchased and throughout the repairs if thats cool.
 

Olds442

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just curious, why buy an "all original" or even seek out one if the goal is to gut the thing?
 

BetaRat

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just curious, why buy an "all original" or even seek out one if the goal is to gut the thing?
The original goal was to have an all-original with no major issues to enjoy. That isn't really the case now.

The new goal is to make is something unique and worthwhile for my friend to hang on to - gutting the pickups and some other items and selling them to cover some lost financial territory will make this more of a possibility.
 

six-string

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sorry to hear about this situation. i know these things happen and it is most unfortunate.
sounds like you and your friend are making the best of it and moving on. that is good.
another case of Buyer Beware.

that said, my personal experience dealing with fellow MLP members has been the exact opposite of yours.
i have bought and sold several expensive guitars and various parts (pickups, wiring harnesses, cases etc) with MLP members and not had any issues at all.
friendly communication, phone calls and emails. lots of photos exchanged, questions asked and answered.
money sorted out and paid in full. shipments made, guitars received etc.
and in the end- everybody was happy.
and i know many other members here have been able to do the same.

i wish you better luck next time.
 

guitarbob123

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For anyone that is interested, it took me about 30 seconds to find the seller using the search function.

There's not that many 1983 Les Paul Customs sold on this website in the last year
 

Tone deaf

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Sorry for your troubles. As my dad is apt to say "Caveat emptor." As The X will say, don't use Pay Friends and Family unless you are sending money to friends or family. I did look at the MLP listing for the guitar and the seller has about 50 posts. That isn't much in my opinion, if I am looking for any assurance that the seller is not a potential crook.

This goes back to what I have said about my gear acquisition strategy which has evolved to mostly CL in-person transactions where I can touch and feel the product before handing over the cash.

Considering that the seller really isn't an MLP regular, I think that you and your friend are SOL. I hope that he and the rehabbed guitar enjoy one another.

Expensive lesson. My dad calls those "Knowledge bumps."
 

scott1970

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I did look at the MLP listing for the guitar and the seller has about 50 posts. That isn't much in my opinion, if I am looking for any assurance that the seller is not a potential crook.
The seller has been a member since 2014 and has over 3,500 posts.
 

TheX

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Oh, I know. It's a running joke. TheX constantly warns everyone against using that pay method.
Yes I do, this is exactly why.

The deal is sealed in the matter of a few messages back and forth, and the seller accepts the payment through PayPal’s “Friends and Family” service (if you are unaware of this feature and the difference from other business transactions it simply means that the recipient of the funds gets 100% of what is sent, while the sender is not covered by any sales protection that usually exists with a retail transaction). We had little reason to doubt this was going to go smoothly, so we went ahead and sent the funds.
You had no reason to believe that it would go well. I'm sorry to hear that this happened, but I'm not surprised.

Not naming the seller is a dis-service to the rest of us. Well, not to me. I would have never been in this situation.
 

HardCore Troubadour

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Note to self:
Never join an onine forum with a bunch of strangers and send one of them $3000 free and clear because they "seem to be nice people".....

but that does not mean you deserve to get screwed.



Personally I like the seller he has been a member here for a long time.....

but this needs to be addressed, immediately......Either by the seller or the mod staff, I sent him a PM.

It would be better for it to be handled by the parties....but the mods will do their thing, if needed.


This could be any of us, because several of us inquired.

I would also like pics from the buyer, if they are going to post the complaint in the forum........
kind of like those water stains on that Custom, or the neck wood, trust but verify.

Besides that, you paid way too much for that guitar and there were multiple PM's going around about how no one would touch it, because of the water damage.

I even mentioned it in the ad....go check it out.
 
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