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View Full Version : My Heart in my Mouth: Anxiety and the Selling of Ukuleles



sequoia
01-12-2017, 06:41 PM
Yesterday I got an email in my inbox from somebody that bought one of my ukuleles with the subject line: Problem with the Ukulele!

This is not a subject line a person wants to see when logging on in the morning with a cup of coffee in hand and a mellow state of mind. My heart rate went up about double. When I opened the email it said: "The problem with this ukulele is that I can't stop playing it!!!!!".

Ha ha ha. Funny joke. Ha ha ha. I wasn't laughing. So my question to you professional luthiers: Do you ever wake up at 3:00 in the dark of the morning after just having a nightmare about a disintegrating ukulele? People really respond to my ukes because they look and sound great. One of the reasons they sound great is that I build them light and responsive. But light and responsive means they are delicate and fragile. I don't build "little tanks", but I now know why the big manufactures do. They sleep better at night.

By the way, I always give a written guarantee for a full money back guarantee if anything should go badly wrong. Any thoughts on post sale anxiety? Below is a picture she sent. She loves the thing and that makes me happy. The anxiety of what could happen does not make me so happy.

96916

Dan Gleibitz
01-12-2017, 09:40 PM
No insight from me, I just wanted to say I don't know how you and others like you do it. It's a good thing you do though!

After all the ups and downs along the way, I'm glad to see such a happy outcome for this ukulele. Congratulations.

Briangriffinukuleles
01-12-2017, 10:43 PM
I know the feeling. I never send a uke out without some anxiety that the customer will not like it, even If I thought it was great. I also know the feeling of joy and relief you describe when you get a wonderful letter from a delighted customer. I guess it is just the burden we bear when making something as delicate and intimate as a ukulele. I tack those letters up in my workshop to encourage me to do my best work.

chuck in ny
01-15-2017, 07:40 PM
i am beginning the first builds and intend to produce low volume for the foreseeable future. the first few are gifts. then thinking about it they should all be gifts. doing it as a business will ruin it for me. you are talking about half a dozen instruments a year or whatever. what i get out of it is going to the next level in woodworking as well as personal instruments built to my ergonomics and taste. the wood is hand harvested at no cost so it's a matter of gifting people some strings, chinese tuners, and frets. the good effects of the activity will bleed into my paid woodworking career.
you have to be careful what you will, and will not, accept money for.

Dan Gleibitz
01-16-2017, 12:02 AM
I'm in the same boat Chuck, but I'm not convinced that gives us a free pass. What if one of our gift ukes develops a catastrophic fault down the track? Perhaps we should include a warranty that clearly states 'repair or full refund at builder's discretion'? 😁

chuck in ny
01-16-2017, 04:02 PM
I'm in the same boat Chuck, but I'm not convinced that gives us a free pass. What if one of our gift ukes develops a catastrophic fault down the track? Perhaps we should include a warranty that clearly states 'repair or full refund at builder's discretion'? 😁



in that case it was a lousy gift and the situation would be humorous. you would have to be a philadelphia lawyer to draw a contract on gifts but i guess they are a tough crowd out there. i am building with appalachian hardwoods, the first number in black ash, and then i have a standing dead hickory to harvest for next year. it is a different game than using exotics. the stuff here in the NE USA is fairly user friendly, i know how it behaves from a lifetime of familiarity, and my guess is that there wouldn't even be a crack. going past wood that has been air dried for years, we have wood that has dried in log form, on the forest floor, or standing dead. it's not a topic that gets talked about. it tends to be stable and stress free. i am not going overly thin on soundboards either. zero problems. the sound is the challenge more than the good build. i am hoping to get lucky on that front. this is the thing right here, taking one's woodworking up a notch. you are going to need good intuition to make things work.

Choirguy
01-16-2017, 05:48 PM
As a non-luthier, my first reaction is to look for your website to see what an instrument would cost. That ukulele looks lovely, even in the pixel reduced image!

I would expect that any reasonable buyer would not expect a repair unless there was a defect that occurred due to construction. And there are plenty of unreasonable people out there...maybe there is a way to sort those people out before the ordering process.

But the key is that you build them, they work, and it is up to the consumer to keep it in shape. If something catastrophic would happen, hopefully they would contact you and ask for help, not expecting it to be free.

pahu
01-19-2017, 08:32 AM
they should all be gifts. doing it as a business will ruin it for me.
you have to be careful what you will, and will not, accept money for.
I like your philosophy, Chuck. That makes me re-think WHY I am building the next one:
Is it for taking my craftsmanship up a notch?
Is it in order to buy more tooling,woods, etc for the next one?
Or is it to spread the joy of making music?
As this is not intended as a source of income, I have choices at this point.

sequoia
01-19-2017, 06:10 PM
Is it for taking my craftsmanship up a notch?
Is it in order to buy more tooling,woods, etc for the next one?
Or is it to spread the joy of making music?


All of those things for sure.... And then there is money. Always the money... Honestly, I would rate the joy of spreading music a distant third. Sure I like people being happy, but I rarely see them making music or being happy so it doesn't really motivate me. If I have to be completely honest I would say number 2 is probably my biggest motivation.

chuck in ny
01-20-2017, 06:26 AM
could be a more sensitive examination of your day job is in order. you can usually go left or right with that, add an ebay business of stuff you find free, all that sort of thing. it would take the pressure off funding your hobby. at that point you can sell the instruments for a low nominal price, i am doing you a favor, no warranty. all the drama we create is our own doing and it is unfortunate to have anxiety about this great activity. much more of that and you will dislike it.

sequoia
01-20-2017, 07:14 PM
it is unfortunate to have anxiety about this great activity. much more of that and you will dislike it.

One word on that. Amen.

There is a story about a man who loved to play golf. He said one day, "I would love the spend to rest of eternity playing golf. That would be happiness! He got his wish. Welcome to hell.".

I do not consider myself a luthier. A "luthier" is a person who makes his living building stringed musical instruments for a living. It is just another trade like building chimneys, houses or copper plumbing. A good sewer system can be more valuable than an ukulele any day. And who isn't to say there isn't a beautiful art to building sewer systems? Yeah, but what about the intonation? Basically what I'm saying is that building ukuleles isn't anything special. It is a highly detailed and difficult exercise in putting wood together yet there is nothing particularly special about it. This isn't rockets we are building here... And yet...and yet.... it is different. There is a magic no doubt about it. That is why I build the damn things. I like to see magic happen.

cml
01-21-2017, 09:13 AM
I can understand the need to sell ukes, while tools can be very expensive, I think the fact someone wants to pay for your creation is great recognition of your work. That's something we all want!
With just the one uke under my belt, I think I'm quite a few away from selling any though.

Titchtheclown
01-21-2017, 02:36 PM
It is cheaper than golf and you get to take the holes you make home with you and/or sell them or give them away. Besides I don't have the patience for knitting.