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MGM
07-16-2009, 04:08 PM
With so much better expectations on quality etc peoples idea of a warranty have sometimes gone of the roof....For example replacing a instrument that was bought secondhand for alledged defect although mentioned here is NOT the norm. Warranties are against most major manufacturers defects. Some are easy to spot. A bridge flies off... tuner peg doesn't work...electronics fail or don't work right, neck breaks off....These are easy to determine....Others....action??? high or low,,,buzzing..for how is it played, strings changed etc. cracking..proper care and humidification..user error. Light spot in grain?? Hmmm. With all the variables I would be sending back 50% of all ukuleles i buy and receive if i were looking for 100% pristine perfection as ukuleles as a whole have not reached that level of sophistication. even with customs i find character as i call it in almost every one....showing they are handmade one by one...every ukulele manufacture with their warranty requires the buyer to burden the cost of shipping in repair....Kamaka, Kanilea, Koolau, Koaloha and G string all do and they need most times to determine cause and whether warranty covers said repairs. Most will not even cover cracking...as many factors could cause that....Using what is reasonable is what the rule of thumb is. Saying you kept the ukulele in its case all winter in a heated home with a humdifier sounds great until you find out you needed to add water every few days to the humidifier. As a car needs oil for maintenance the big demand for now all Solid Ukuleles are making for a rush of purchases by consumers who don't research enough about proper care for their instrument. it was easy when most were laminate but increasingly the demand for solid instruments and people wanting to play in Utah, Arizone or temperate climates where dry house heating and AC are always a factor makes these problems all more formidable. 10 years ago solid koa ukes as a commanplace in the east coast and arid areas etc was a rarity...now its a norm. I find that most makers do there best to keep the consumer happy. Keep in mind I comment on this as if you guys want perfection...you can get it but higher cost will soon be reflected by the manufacturers to cover the quality control needed.....anybody ever worried just how it plays and sounds...to me that is still the number one issue in my mind....

WhenDogsSing
07-16-2009, 04:11 PM
Very well said and understood...:D

cocohonk
07-16-2009, 04:42 PM
I'm sorry that I've ranted in the other thread about my ukulele now!

I do understand that no uke is perfect, but at the same time it was quite upsetting for me to find a not so small crack inside a new first hand ukulele that I've owned for only a few weeks that I took the time to take good care of it. I don't I was wrong to ask Pono or my local store about the warranty.

pithaya9
07-16-2009, 04:55 PM
Very well written Michael.

sukie
07-16-2009, 05:27 PM
Thanks, MGM, for pointing out the way things really are.

You forgot to mention what isn't covered. Sitting on an ukulele -- no. Dropping it -- no. The list goes on...

DeG
07-16-2009, 05:31 PM
Thanks, MGM, for pointing out the way things really are.

You forgot to mention what isn't covered. Sitting on an ukulele -- no. Dropping it -- no. The list goes on...

I was wondering who was going to bring up "Sitting on the Uke". :D

glp
07-16-2009, 05:33 PM
Its all about humidity it seems. I think the real problem is everyone in the East coast almost forced to buy sight-unseen.

sukie
07-16-2009, 05:33 PM
I was wondering who was going to bring up "Sitting on the Uke". :D

Ya gotta! It's way too funny.:biglaugh:

Harrison
07-16-2009, 05:47 PM
I was wondering who was going to bring up "Sitting on the Uke". :D

My two years old son almost did that if I was not watching him. :p

danged
07-16-2009, 07:24 PM
Very well written and informative, hopefully people will read this prior to ranting and raving on the UU. It is not fair to the manufacturer's especially when they are willing to take care of most of these problems. :shaka:

Myala509
07-16-2009, 10:34 PM
Does anyone have the cliffnotes for the first post?

HoldinCoffee
07-16-2009, 10:52 PM
Does anyone have the cliffnotes for the first post?

In a nutshell, take care of your uku and learn to appreciate the little differences that make your particular uku unique.

haolejohn
07-16-2009, 11:26 PM
Does anyone have the cliffnotes for the first post?
They can be found on ebay. I can't believe what they are saleing for. I'm a little weary because they are so cheap. Must be fakes.

ukantor
07-16-2009, 11:59 PM
It is clear that some people use uke forums as a means of applying pressure on dealers/manufacturers when they are dissatisfied with a uke. Sometimes the dealer/manufacturer responds (for the sake of their good name) by offering an exceptional service, well beyond reasonable expectations. Then there is a frenzy of posts about how great they are. Have they thought where this could lead?

It is time sellers of new ukes stood up to this kind of manipulation, and simply stated their case clearly. Provided they deal with the situation promptly, and within the terms of the warranty, that's fine. If it involves returning an instrument at the customer's expense, so be it. That is what you do when you buy from a local store. If you choose to buy on line from an outlet hundreds of miles from your home, be aware that in the event of your needing to return the goods, it WILL involve you in extra expense.

I like buying on line, I've bought at least eight ukes that way, and I've never had a problem, but if I did I would expect the responsible party to respond properly. I would only complain to my fellow ukers, via a forum, if I had been treated badly by a supplier.

Give the Trade a chance - be reasonable.

Ukantor.

buddhuu
07-17-2009, 05:26 AM
There is a balance to be struck.

As with all products and services, perfection is rare. A manufacturer and supplier does his best to provide good quality. As has been observed, quality costs in time and materials, so if one expects top-notch materials and near-perfect build quality one must expect to pay for it.

That said, I believe it is the duty of the seller to ensure that a ukulele is fit for purpose - i.e., fit for the purpose of being strung with a range of commercial uke strings, being kept in a climate whose temperature and humidity fall within a reasonable range, and being used to make music. If, for example, the fretting of an instrument or the positioning of a bridge is inaccurate to the extent that the instrument cannot be adjusted to play in tune with acceptable intonation then the instrument is demonstrably unfit for purpose.

If, however, the instrument plays out of tune and intonation is poor due to high action, then this is a case of adjustment being needed. The instrument is not inherently unfit for it purpose. Set up is an area where manufacturers sometimes make small savings by leaving adjustments that can be done on a DIY basis by many retailers or purchasers.

One of the buyer's duties is to research the market before making a purchase: to learn what level of quality is the norm within his budget.

Another duty of the buyer is to find out how the instrument needs to be kept and maintained. The analogy with car maintenance earlier in the thread is valid in context.

Mike mentions some things that are warranty issues and some that are not. A newbie player will often not be able to tell the difference. It is, therefore, unavoidable that they will ask for advice about perceived problems in communities such as UU.

What John says about people using forums to put pressure on manufacturers is true, and that is not just the case where musical instruments are concerned. Part of my day job (internet marketing) involves managing the online reputations of clients. Customers in all areas of commerce have realised that the web has given them a voice. Businesses have often been slower to cotton-on to this new empowerment of consumers.

For good or for ill, virtual "word-of-mouth" can make or break a business. The only way to influence it for the better is to provide promptly reactive service and to address customers issues. If the customer raises the issues publicly (on a forum, for example) then it is often a good idea to deal with the issues publicly - by smiling and going the extra mile. Arguing with customers, or trying to tackle negative publicity by the use of lawyers is a losing strategy. Mr Nice Guy wins the PR battle every time.

I make no judgment about the rights or wrongs of the situation. I am saying, from a position of informed, professional, expert knowledge, that that is how it is.

But not all whinges on forums are complaints intended to pressurise sellers. Many are simply the heartfelt cries of the uninformed who are devastated to find that there is "something wrong" with the instrument they had such high hopes for.

From a buyer's point of view, I support the posting of issues with instruments. Such posts provide a valuable reference when potential buyers want to research. A switched-on seller/manufacturer will look out for such posts and respond to them in a prompt and positive way. Thus taking ownership of the situation and turning a complaint or poor review into a PR coup - and being seen, in public, to be the good guy.

In many, many cases the complaints will be unfair, and the fault will lie with the customer. But the manufacturer/seller will never win by attacking from that angle. No matter what the seller does, readers of complaints posted online go away with one of two impressions:

a) The seller sorted the problem out straight away and took care of the customer.

b) The seller did NOT fix the issue and take care of the customer.

I'm afraid I can't agree with John about standing up to the manipulation. This stuff is my daily professional battleground and I've seen the casualties of that strategy.

Google may be a great source of traffic and revenue. But it (and forum search boxes) are also your enemies, as they can return search results full of complaints to be read by the buyer who is researching his next purchase.

You need to make sure he goes away with impression (a) from the options above.

buddhuu
07-17-2009, 05:29 AM
Just to add: MGM is obviously does things the right way. His reputation is rock solid. When one sees his name in a thread, even one describing a problem, one goes away knowing that he is the good guy.

His business, no doubt, reaps the benefits of that wise investment in customer service.

inkandsilver
07-17-2009, 05:36 AM
It is clear that some people use uke forums as a means of applying pressure on dealers/manufacturers when they are dissatisfied with a uke.

I agree with your post and have seen this happen in other arenas as well. The only qualification I'd like to make is that I think in some cases, people are not trying to be manipulative -- they just run into a problem, are upset, and go where they can get immediate feedback (is this as bad as it seems? has this happened to anyone else? am i overreacting? etc.). But yes, people should keep in mind the points that you and Mic make. This can get out of control.

Melissa82
07-17-2009, 05:37 AM
Being from from a business/online background myself, very well said buddhu!

haole
07-17-2009, 05:47 AM
Thanks for clearing up some things that people have been wondering about for a long time, MGM!

I wouldn't say that UU has a lot of folks who complain while fully expecting the company to feel bad for them and step outside their warranty in order to help them. I'm sure it happens, but I think buddhu's right; most complaints about a uke are usually an innocent "help, something's wrong with my uke, what should i do" and it's usually other members who suggest they get in touch with the company.

Still, I'm glad this thread was posted so in the future people won't have unrealistic expectations of what the warranty entails after seeing one or two outstanding cases.

wee_ginga_yin
07-17-2009, 05:54 AM
Warranties and guarantees are like impromptu speeches

Not worth the paper they are written on.

Ukeffect
07-17-2009, 06:10 AM
I have taken some time and thought about this subject since it has been brought up...here are my thoughts, solely from my perspective as both a consumer and a manufacturer of consumer products (25 years worth). If a manufacturer wants a consumer to pay a premium price for their products, then the manufacturer has an obligation (in their own best interest) to insure that they are putting out the best product possible, period. This includes quality control and failure analysis so that any problems in production are addressed and corrected.
In the case of an ukulele, being a piece of art, and being made from natural materials...any slight variations in color, tone, grain, etc. merely add to the individual uniqueness of the piece, and can not; nor should it be considered a flaw in the instrument. Nobody expects a $20 Mahalo to have the same quality and sound as say a $1,500 Kamaka pineapple sunday...however, the higher the premium charged for the quality of the instrument does include a certain expectation that the piece will have gone through a higher level of quality control.
That being said, no manufacturer can control what happens to a product after it leaves the factory, and this is where consumer common sense must come into play. Taking proper care of an ukulele is both an obligation the consumer makes with the factory, and it just ensures that the ukulele will get better with age, and just become a finer instrument all around, thus becoming a priveledge that we can have increasingly rare pieces to hand down to the next generation.
This is why waranties can not cover blatant abuse (ie. sitting on your uke), or trying to put high tension strings on a piece that just wasn't designed for it, or keeping it in the desert sun unprotected and dried out, thus cracking. Read your waranties, ask questions about factory recommended care and cleaning procedures, even about what accessories are appropriate to use in a given circumstance.
The factories want you to behappy wioth your purchase and to tell your friends, so they will do all they can to help.
MGM, (Mike) does a lot of good work for the community, and I understand his frustration with some consumers out here (you know who you are)! Mike also is a consumer and deals with the factories on a daily basis, so let's give him a bit of a break, OK? He has a vested interest in making your experience a good one, and I know from experience that he does more than most to help...remember, he gets his ukuleles from the factories, too!
I'll get off my soapbox now...I really hate venting!

Jim X-S
07-17-2009, 06:34 AM
Well I'm a cantankerous guy. I've won a contest that MGM sponsored and bought products from him and his service is good ... very good. But when I buy a new product, I expect it to be perfect or to perfectly operate. With no apparent flaws. That include no buzzing strings. After I buy the product it is my responsibility with the exception of manufacturing flaws such as seams coming unglued or neck separating because of string tension.

Some flaws are just difficult to call. Like an instrument that has been constructed from wood that hasn't been dried sufficiently. One side will say, oh, you didn't use a humidifier. The other side will say the wood was dried sufficiently. There are postings in such a number here and elsewhere that a reader can make a likely determination.

I hate the phrase, "you get what you pay for." Because it many times isn't accurate. Companies will raise the price to get past the saying.

Another part I thoroughly dislike is the part where the retailers say upon a customer wanting to return a flawed uke that the customer has to pay for the shipping back to them. This to me is ridiculous. It puts the burden or risk of the transaction on the purchaser when the purchaser hasn't even seen the Ukulele. My ukulele (one and only) is an Oscar Schmidt OU2 that I bought from Amazon. Total cost with shipping was about $60.00. If this Ukulele had been received by me with a flaw. I could be shipping it back to Amazon and they pay for the return shipping

MGM as I said you provide one business with great service. But you are right there in Hawaii. If you are getting Ukulele from the manufacturers that are high class and not perfect quality why are you accepting them? Or why are you not noting the flaws that each instrument has. From what I've seen most of the manufacturers are in Hawaii. Getting the product back to the manufacturers is a much easier process from your location then from the continental U.S.

We as consumers have been seeing product quality drop dramatically. Look at the American Car industry. At one time U.S. Autos were at the top. The manufacturers stopped being concerned about quality and focused more on sales and a greater ROI. Look where the U.S Autos are now. Almost at the bottom of the heap.

From what I've read on this website. KoAloha has been the one company that really backs up it's product.

Consumers are really getting tired of getting mistreated. Here is an example. A guy was flying to a gig in Nebraska from his home in Nova Scotia. His guitar ... like a lot of baggage was broken. He wrote a song and made a music video. He hoped for a million views the first year. He was up to 3 million views in less then 9 days. Why do you think so many view? Because people identify with the problem ,they/we're frustrated. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo

If ukulele manufacturers keep downgrading their quality and use lame excuses. Then the market will deteriorate.

Thus endith the lesson/lecture.

Have a Great Day,
Jim

sukie
07-17-2009, 07:02 AM
Ok. I basically agree with just about everything that has been said.

Sometimes, however, the comments about new ukuleles not being playable to "basic playable standards" might not necessarily be correct. I have been playing ukulele for about a year and a half. When I first started to play, my fingerings were absolutely atrocious. I did not chord properly nor did I strum or pluck very well --I still don't fingerpick anywhere near as well as I would like. ANYWAY...In time my intonation has improved, some of the dull sounds have gone and other noises aren't quite as bad. These sounds are all of my own doing. They exist on no matter what ukulele I am playing. I can't tell you how many times I read about problems that new ukulele owners have with their ukes. Buzzing can be your own fault. Not letting your new strings settle can certainly make your uke go out of tune after or even before 1 song is finished. I, personally, cannot believe that all the problems posted are of the manufacturer's doing.

I just want people to think about their skills, etc. before being so quick to blame the company. I hardly ever read responses pointing this out.

I am done now.:)

RevWill
07-17-2009, 07:13 AM
Any well-constructed uke ought to be able to hold high tension nylon/fluorocarbon strings without the neck separating from the body. Whether the top of the uke can hold those strings for a long period without a degree of warpage in the bridge area is a different story. Still, we're not exactly talking about the tension of steel strings on a nylon string instrument.

That being said, my old, abused Harmony bari has multiple cracks in its body mostly due to neglect but it still sounds fabulously warm and mellow. Some flaws, even serious ones, can be lived with.

ukantor
07-17-2009, 07:23 AM
I found Buddhu's comments most interesting. On reflection, I'm sure he's right, and that resisting unreasonable expectations can only leave a negative impression with the wider public. This will lead inevitably to a situation where complaints are dealt with on public forums, and only an extraordinary response will be considered satisfactory. Eventually, the only way to sell on line will be "Full replacement or money-back if not satisfied. We pay the shipping". That will be expensive. Prices will rise to cover it. We'll all end up paying for it.

Ukantor.

Melissa82
07-17-2009, 07:31 AM
Prices will rise to cover it. We'll all end up paying for it.

Ukantor.That's basically what MGM was saying too at the end of his comment.

petah
07-17-2009, 07:51 AM
In my Thread 'A Little disappointed with my KoAloha'

I just wanted to share my experience. I had no other expectations of where the thread was going to go. At the time I wrote it I was looking for a good local luthier to carry out repairs as well as a paypal dispute and credit card claim (Both dropped). I didn't plan on pressuring anyone to do anything. I wanted to share an experience and I think that's what a forum is for isn't it? (to the naysayers :wtf: Don't every post then!) After Paul commented. I was quite upset that he offered to fix/replace. I felt really bad, he went well over the top on this one. Because of that I really pressed the paypal claim to get the $$ so I could give it to him. but that all is history.


Continuing:


EDIT: I would think that allowing companies to have their fingers in the forums would let this happen:
That's basically what MGM was saying too at the end of his comment.

I don't want to get into the Politics and Corruption I have seen when popular forums get sponsored by companies 'donating' to them. Bark River and Knifeforums.... It's like China's google some things may not be said.


As for expectations of build quality. I like many people probably came from a guitar background. My practice fender even though it's made in Mexico is almost flawless. As is my cheap flame maple Seagull. These instruments are not high end by any means. I would think these would be like a $200-300 ukulele. My Gibson songwriter Is where I would put KoAloha in terms of price point of the instrument a 1500-2500 guitar I believe is like a 500-700 ukulele.
The Gibson is perfect. Perfect in build quality, not even a scratch inside the body. Tone is what it was built for so I won't comment on that. So, am I wrong to think this (ukulele's are allowed to be flawed in any sense just because it's a ukulele)? ( If you want to dispute the Quality of my claim concerning my guitars feel free to drop by my house and view them I have nothing to hide )
I know that machine made instruments are usually completely flawless and 'hand made' aren't flawless. But prove to me that The K's and lesser makes considered on par...etc are actually hand made? Maybe had assembled, hand selected from a bin of machine made parts. If a man sat there and carved something and you can see the variations between instruments I would think that's hand made. The only thing I would consider hand made I would think would be something from Pete, Moore and the like.

Please refute this I know Kamaka uses more hands on ( I mean like installing kerfing) as well as a few of the others. But this is a little more general overall observation and take it as such.


( All $ is in Canadian )


Directed at MGM,

Long and Mcquade is a great guitar shop near me and I'd put you inline with them. From my experience there they would send back your 50% because whats the point in selling something flawed when at this price point consumers want perfect product. If enough sellers did this it would pressure the manufactures to make a better product? just a cheap comment.

buddhuu
07-17-2009, 08:11 AM
I found Buddhu's comments most interesting. On reflection, I'm sure he's right, and that resisting unreasonable expectations can only leave a negative impression with the wider public. This will lead inevitably to a situation where complaints are dealt with on public forums, and only an extraordinary response will be considered satisfactory. Eventually, the only way to sell on line will be "Full replacement or money-back if not satisfied. We pay the shipping". That will be expensive. Prices will rise to cover it. We'll all end up paying for it.

Ukantor.

Yeah, that's a real danger.

In the days before the internet, the way for consumers to reach a wide audience was often to contact publications, or TV and radio shows, that specialise in championing consumer rights. In the UK we have, as you know, the TV show "Watchdog" which does this. With those older media there was an element of editorial moderation that could provide some objectivity. An unfair consumer complaint would not get through the filters (libel laws made sure of vigilance) and would not be published or broadcast. On the web there are fewer filters. If a forum moderator will not allow a complaint to appear then the whinger will blog it or make a Youtube video. The consumer has direct access to the audience.

Fortunately total submission isn't the only way to deal with this kind of thing. If the seller responds carefully, sometimes it is possible to placate the person complaining just by listening and (gently) explaining the way things really are.

wearymicrobe
07-17-2009, 08:17 AM
As for expectations of build quality. I like many people probably came from a guitar background. My practice fender even though it's made in Mexico is almost flawless. As is my cheap flame maple Seagull. These instruments are not high end by any means. I would think these would be like a $200-300 ukulele. My Gibson songwriter Is where I would put KoAloha in terms of price point of the instrument a 1500-2500 guitar I believe is like a 500-700 ukulele.

I know that machine made instruments are usually completely flawless and 'hand made' aren't flawless. But prove to me that The K's and lesser makes considered on par...etc are actually hand made? Maybe had assembled, hand selected from a bin of machine made parts. If a man sat there and carved something and you can see the variations between instruments I would think that's hand made.


Machine made means better quality for a cheaper price, Period. Gibson builds god knows how may guitar so they should have a better handle after building millions of instruments. They have a market to buy them/

Two I don't buy the price difference argument. Ukuleles as a whole when compared to guitars should go the other direction. They should be more expensive for the same quality just on market pressure. They are also made with a different wood set that has humidity issues in a smaller frame which makes damage easier to occur.

There is not enough market pressure to drive the automation of the processes, not enough high end buyers in the market. Say over 3K for a instrument. I am amazed that chuck and a few others only get what they ask if they built koa guitars they would be much richer.

Also

I can count on my two hands the number of high end buyers/collectors for ukuleles that I have met at shows or online ever. I bet there are 100x that total in San Diego alone for guitars if not higher.

The expectations for ukuleles on the low end as it grows are highly disproportionate to what I see as reality in terms of running a business. Also the skill required to get amazing tone out of a ukulele is disproportionate to its image. They see people on utube like sesso who has amazing tone and don;t see the technique and level of dedication requred to get that. They just see the instrument.

allinfun
07-17-2009, 08:18 AM
Just as an FYI: It's actually harder to make a beautiful sounding uke than a guitar. The scale of error is so much smaller, and the size of the sound chamber is so much smaller that misakes tend to be amplified by the instruments diminutive size. I build miniature scale furniture and the same problem exists.

I see several sides of consumer complaints in this thread...

Instrument failures such as necks separating, bindings peeling off, bridges popping off etc. those as long as reasonable care have been taken by the owner typically are covered by a company.

Cracks can be builder error due to bad build practices, others are owner/environmental problems. those take significant amounts of diplomacy to handle, as some of those are subjective as to WHY it split.

Then there are the performance issues of intonation, buzzing, etc which are for the most part a very hazy world of quality. Case in point: I have an instrument that the C string buzzes whenever I pick it up. Changed strings, still buzzed. I've had 3 local luthiers inspect the instrument and none of them can get it to buzz. I took it with me to Hawaii to have the builder take a look at it, none of them could get it to buzz. Then I pick it up in front of them and sure as heck it buzzes. Turns out it was my technique. So I got all sorts of pissy for something I was convinced was a quality issue, turned out I was the player from Special Olympics. Intonation, that to can be a function of playing (where finger sits by fret), and sometimes it's just off a bit. How you define "playable intonation" or "acceptable" is entirely subjective, as how sensitive your hearing is to pitch varies from human to human.

Then there are the people who have decided that an instrument needs to be perfect to be sold. Let's not go there though that's a whole different beast.

Musical instruments are individually made, the characteristics of the wood, the hands of the luthier, the way it's crafted are what make instruments so special. Perfect? That's subjective.

petah
07-17-2009, 08:26 AM
Machine made means better quality for a cheaper price, Period. Gibson builds god knows how may guitar so they should have a better handle after building millions of instruments. They have a market to buy them/

Two I don't buy the price difference argument. Ukuleles as a whole when compared to guitars should go the other direction. They should be more expensive for the same quality just on market pressure. They are also made with a different wood set that has humidity issues in a smaller frame which makes damage easier to occur.

There is not enough market pressure to drive the automation of the processes, not enough high end buyers in the market. Say over 3K for a instrument. I am amazed that chuck and a few others only get what they ask if they built koa guitars they would be much richer.

Also

I can count on my two hands the number of high end buyers/collectors for ukuleles that I have met at shows or online ever. I bet there are 100x that total in San Diego alone for guitars if not higher.

The expectations for ukuleles on the low end as it grows are highly disproportionate to what I see as reality in terms of running a business. Also the skill required to get amazing tone out of a ukulele is disproportionate to its image. They see people on utube like sesso who has amazing tone and don;t see the technique and level of dedication requred to get that. They just see the instrument.

Hm, when can we compare the two? when the market for ukes grows? How do you compare ukes to other like things then?

allinfun
07-17-2009, 08:28 AM
I'm not sure I could scale the pricing on ukes like you mentioned. A $700 uke plays like a 700$-1000$ guitar. It's the family car of instruments. It gets the job done and does so decently.

MGM
07-17-2009, 08:33 AM
I notice some have mentioned that guitars are perfect in the lower price range...True and i can tell you why When fender or gibson produce a model the factory churns out thousands of the item...yes the best and perfect get to have their name on it...what happens to the others....they often get rebranded as knockoffs and off brands Ukuleles are not run in that numbers 200-300 of a model at times What happens if you tell the manufacturer they are all flawed....they say they won't make them anymore and there goes the line....its a delicate balance of negotiation and compromise to get our small market segment what we want for the prices we are seeing...otherwise most wont bother...remember these facilities are making nearly 100 guitars to every ukulele....do they need us in their facility to survive no....do we need them to get affordable product...sadly yes

petah
07-17-2009, 08:34 AM
I guess I'm way off. Playing my dad's guitars must have tainted me :P

But I Agree with you now that I really look at it. A ukulele is not a guitar, and Guitar quality is Way better than ukes.

petah
07-17-2009, 08:37 AM
I notice some have mentioned that guitars are perfect in the lower price range...True and i can tell you why When fender or gibson produce a model the factory churns out thousands of the item...yes the best and perfect get to have their name on it...what happens to the others....they often get rebranded as knockoffs and off brands Ukuleles are not run in that numbers 200-300 of a model at times What happens if you tell the manufacturer they are all flawed....they say they won't make them anymore and there goes the line....its a delicate balance of negotiation and compromise to get our small market segment what we want for the prices we are seeing...otherwise most wont bother...remember these facilities are making nearly 100 guitars to every ukulele....do they need us in their facility to survive no....do we need them to get affordable product...sadly yes

I thought that the two markets are pretty much identical but I see otherwise now.

ukerazy
07-17-2009, 08:50 AM
In my Thread 'A Little disappointed with my KoAloha'

I just wanted to share my experience. I had no other expectations of where the thread was going to go. At the time I wrote it I was looking for a good local luthier to carry out repairs as well as a paypal dispute and credit card claim (Both dropped). I didn't plan on pressuring anyone to do anything. I wanted to share an experience and I think that's what a forum is for isn't it? (to the naysayers :wtf: Don't every post then!) After Paul commented. I was quite upset that he offered to fix/replace. I felt really bad, he went well over the top on this one. Because of that I really pressed the paypal claim to get the $$ so I could give it to him. but that all is history.


Continuing:


EDIT: I would think that allowing companies to have their fingers in the forums would let this happen:

I don't want to get into the Politics and Corruption I have seen when popular forums get sponsored by companies 'donating' to them. Bark River and Knifeforums.... It's like China's google some things may not be said.


As for expectations of build quality. I like many people probably came from a guitar background. My practice fender even though it's made in Mexico is almost flawless. As is my cheap flame maple Seagull. These instruments are not high end by any means. I would think these would be like a $200-300 ukulele. My Gibson songwriter Is where I would put KoAloha in terms of price point of the instrument a 1500-2500 guitar I believe is like a 500-700 ukulele.
The Gibson is perfect. Perfect in build quality, not even a scratch inside the body. Tone is what it was built for so I won't comment on that. So, am I wrong to think this (ukulele's are allowed to be flawed in any sense just because it's a ukulele)? ( If you want to dispute the Quality of my claim concerning my guitars feel free to drop by my house and view them I have nothing to hide )
I know that machine made instruments are usually completely flawless and 'hand made' aren't flawless. But prove to me that The K's and lesser makes considered on par...etc are actually hand made? Maybe had assembled, hand selected from a bin of machine made parts. If a man sat there and carved something and you can see the variations between instruments I would think that's hand made. The only thing I would consider hand made I would think would be something from Pete, Moore and the like.

Please refute this I know Kamaka uses more hands on ( I mean like installing kerfing) as well as a few of the others. But this is a little more general overall observation and take it as such.


( All $ is in Canadian )


Directed at MGM,

Long and Mcquade is a great guitar shop near me and I'd put you inline with them. From my experience there they would send back your 50% because whats the point in selling something flawed when at this price point consumers want perfect product. If enough sellers did this it would pressure the manufactures to make a better product? just a cheap comment.


Well said, i completely agree... we as consumers deserve perfection, the brand or product should not come into it whether it be a bag of sugar or a ukulele.

haolejohn
07-17-2009, 09:42 AM
Petah, When I visited the koaloha factory I saw ukuleles being made by hand. I saw a stack of future ukulele tops and backs that were having braceing applied by hand.

As far as quality goes I think we baby our instruments too much. It appears that our ukuleles become social status claims. Look back five years ago. How many manufactors were available? Go back ten years. At same time I get frustrated with things (my house build quality) and we have our right to complain. I notice that most QC issues come from imports. But back to us babying our ukes. I own a mele 6 string that I bought with 2 cracks in it. It sounds great. They were repaired and the scratches on the front of all my ukes tells people I play them.

Maybe we need to have congress form a commitee and fix this problem. They can fix anything with the new change.

sukie
07-17-2009, 09:45 AM
Maybe we need to have congress form a commitee and fix this problem. They can fix anything with the new change.

I'm sure hoping so.

haolejohn
07-17-2009, 10:01 AM
I'm sure hoping so.

Yep we need change. I think they should be able to "fix" this problem with a new oversite committee and $467.23 million.

Ahnko Honu
07-17-2009, 10:41 AM
Maybe we need to have congress form a commitee and fix this problem. They can fix anything with the new change.

Maybe we can have Obama appoint a 'ukulele czar. :rolleyes::cool:;)

RevWill
07-17-2009, 11:07 AM
Ukulele Czar? Couldn't we at least call it an Ukulele Kahuna?

haole
07-17-2009, 12:02 PM
I'm fine with imperfection as long as it doesn't affect the structural integrity or the sound too much. I'd worry if binding was falling off, the neck/bridge had a big gap, or the sides and back were separating, but few other things would really bother me, especially if it were a handmade instrument. A small imperfection doesn't always imply shoddy workmanship or lowering standards. ;)

Haven't seen a "perfect" guitar either; no matter how strict the quality control is and no matter how consistent the fit and finish is, you're still dealing with wood (an inconsistent substance, even if you built two instruments from the same part of a cloned tree!) and some form of human interaction (might be news to some, but humans aren't perfect either ;) ). Even if someone built a mathematically flawless instrument out of the most consistent material possible, I guarantee only a handful of people would notice or truly appreciate it.

Especially irregular instruments should be, and are, sold as factory seconds for a reduced price, but expect to see some variation between any two wooden musical instruments of the same make, model, and price. You're at nature's mercy. If MGM returned everything with an imperfection to the manufacturer, the remaining ukes wouldn't cover your kitchen table. :eek: Any good seller isn't conspiring with manufacturers to sell you junk; it's just up to the buyer to use common sense, understand the difference between bad workmanship and natural inconsistencies, and become acquainted with their warranty's criteria if/when something goes wrong. Buying a wooden instrument is like finding a mate. If you're looking for absolute perfection, you'll never find "the one." :o

buddhuu
07-17-2009, 12:05 PM
I notice some have mentioned that guitars are perfect in the lower price range...True and i can tell you why When fender or gibson produce a model the factory churns out thousands of the item...yes the best and perfect get to have their name on it...what happens to the others....they often get rebranded as knockoffs and off brands Ukuleles are not run in that numbers 200-300 of a model at times What happens if you tell the manufacturer they are all flawed....they say they won't make them anymore and there goes the line....its a delicate balance of negotiation and compromise to get our small market segment what we want for the prices we are seeing...otherwise most wont bother...remember these facilities are making nearly 100 guitars to every ukulele....do they need us in their facility to survive no....do we need them to get affordable product...sadly yes


Well said, i completely agree... [with petah] we as consumers deserve perfection, the brand or product should not come into it whether it be a bag of sugar or a ukulele.

Mike is right in what he says. The volume (or lack of it) of demand for ukes compared to guitars simply doesn't encourage mass production at a quality level comparable to that expected from Gibson guitars (or mandolins). You can not, IMO, reasonably expect perfection at the Kala or Pono price point. By perfection I mean flawless woods with no knots or grain irregularities, top quality hardware, meticulous finish ensuring no residue from glue squeeze-out, expensive varnish finishes etc.

However, I think the brands who buy their string instrument product from the mass production facilities in China and Korea do have a duty to make sure that the items they accept and sell on to us are at least structurally sound and capable of making music. There are some manufacturers in China, both large and small, who take real pride in their quality control. They're mostly not up to Japanese standards of QC yet, but then neither are a lot of UK and US companies.

I take Mike's point about the risk of a factory declining to build a line if they get a lot of returns and QC issues raised by rebranders and dealers. But then a year of crap product reviews online will soon impact market share.

I can think of one pretty well known brand that has its instruments built in the same Chinese factory as several other brands. In the last year or so its reputation has become seriously tarnished, and newer competitors (whose ukes come from the same facility) have largely taken their market share because of a better quality control and after sales service reputation.

Sometimes it does pay to complain, and to refuse to take product below a certain minimum quality threshold. IMO, some companies set that threshold too low.

It is all a matter of perception. From what I have read, Mainland seems to me (and I do not own one of their ukuleles) to consistently satisfy its customers. I do not recall seeing complaints. I do see at least a few complaints or reservations about most other brands at that price level, or from that factory.

If one brand can get it right, then so can others.

buddhuu
07-17-2009, 12:07 PM
Oh, and BTW, any middle aged guitarist will tell you that both Fender and Gibson have been through periods where their quality bounced along the bottom for a while.

ProfChris
07-17-2009, 12:38 PM
I don't think the fears about being forced to replace defective products without question are justified.

In all European Union countries, the seller (note, not the manufacturer) of a defective product has to replace it. In addition, if there are costs in shipping the product back to the seller, the seller has to bear those costs. Just as pointed out earlier, wear and tear post sale is the buyer's problem, but sellers have to factor into their prices the fact that they must cover the cost of replacing defective products they sell.

I don't think this makes prices dramatically higher in Europe than in the US. Many products are cheaper in the US, but that seems mainly to be because of the much larger single market. If I were to hazard a guess, I'd say that no more than 5% of the price difference is because customers have a right to automatic replacement.

In fact, in the UK things are even worse for the seller. Customers now expect to be able to return products within about a month, even if there is nothing wrong with them, simply because they have changed their minds! Again, sellers factor this in to their pricing, and sellers who don't offer this service generally lose customers.

This is the way the world is going, at least for mass market products. If you fear it automatically leads to higher prices, look at Amazon which I think offers this service all over the world. Amazon is often the cheapest for mass market products, and almost never the most expensive.

How, then, do small sellers compete? The answer seems to be that they compete on service - you pay a premium, but you get something for your extra payment. Those who don't offer better service than the Amazons, Walmarts, Marks & Spencers (a UK company) or whatever, go to the wall.

If MGM will forgive me (as a happy customer, even though only for $20 or so), he's a prime example. If he sells to Europe, as he did to me, he is subject to our European laws. However, I doubt he'd pay return shipping to Hawaii unless he'd made a serious mistake, and there's no point me suing him in a UK court because it would be financially pointless to try to enforce the court judgment against him. So, if I buy from him again (as I probably will) I'm taking a bigger risk than if I buy locally.

Why would I do so? Because he offers a wonderful service (huge product range, setup of the instrument, advice on what to buy, after sales advice, etc.). This is worth the higher price (which includes the risk that I pay return shipping). However, he could probably up his sales in Europe if he could work out a way of offering free returns and refunds if the customer didn't like the uke and factor that into some kind of differential pricing, because that's how we're used to buying.

In terms of customer rights and expectations, the US seems to me to be somewhat behind the rest of the world. Someone mentioned US cars, and I've seen many of them in my own country. They were never better quality than elsewhere, just that no-one competed with them on quality. Once Japan invented quality manufacturing, in the process killing off the UK motorbike industry, and took its cars to the US market, the only chance for US car manufacturers was to adapt or die. Many made the wrong choice, as did UK car manufacturers.

The uke market seems very like the modern car market. At the top end we have the four Ks and the custom luthiers, who fill the Rolls Royce/Ferrari type slots. At the bottom we have the mass market makers (in this case from China mainly) who are rapidly ramping up quality, just as the Japanese did with cars in the 70s and 80s. The middle market in cars has largely ceased to exist; there are always people who will pay a 400% premium for an appreciable increase in quality, but almost no-one who will pay 50% more for a marginal increase in quality. Bizarrely, this is where Martin and Fender seem to have gone, and I for one wouldn't pay their premium over, say, a Kala for at best a marginally better uke.

Sorry this has rambled off topic - it's late at night in the UK and the wine has been open for some hours.

allinfun
07-17-2009, 12:52 PM
I really think expecting perfection is unrealistic, and quite frankly most wounldn't be able to afford it. As much as you would like to think wish, there is no such thing as a perfect instrument. Accurate, yes. Well finished, yes. Perfect, no.

For crying out loud these are under $1000 ukes for the most part, and some of you are expecting it perfect. put the crack pipe down and stop and think of what you are asking. In isntrument land, if your 700$ guitar has issues, you say, well it's only a $700 guitar. But because the uke is smaller people automatically assume that somehow it's standard of quality should be somehow higher. Sure, many of the production guitar facilities are doing better than they ever have with mass production, but the uke world isn't going to reach that scale of production any time soon.

When manufacturers in uke-land have a dud, they make it right. Whether it's Kala, Ko'olau, or KoAloha they do the right thing. If you are going to whine and fuss over shipping, that's your right. Just take a giant breath and relax. Now pick up your uke (in tune or not) and play!

vahn
07-17-2009, 01:42 PM
I dont think necesserily that when someone posts that they have to return an instrument it is them putting pressure on sellers. For one, I had a seperation that more than likely was not caused by user error. I was worried that it might be initially because I had used Savarez classical guitar strings but others have posted that other elements of the uke would have failed first (such as the bridge coming off, or the neck or soundboard warping) before causing this particular type of seperation.

A lot of ppl post these types of things so the word is out there that these have some QC issues. Take the Ohai Tenor, for example. Probably one reason these are more inexpensive is because they didn't do as much RD into what adhesives and bracings would work best with the Ohai Wood, they probably just swapped out the cheap wood on their specs for another model. You will notice in every post about an Ohai tenor defect you have about 50% of people who own one and post also complain, and the other 50% stick up for theirs and say how much they love it. Pretty much everyone agrees that their quiet.

as far as my situation, I called MGM, he directed me to ko'olau. And when I emailed dean he explained to me they would fix it, for free, I would just have to pay shipping and wait for it. This is a totally justified response to the situation, It just happened that in the circumstances, it would be over a month before I could get the uke back, which is my fathersday/birthday present (bdays in 5 days). MGM went above and beyond, giving great service. I did pay for return shipping but he let me go with the cheap parcel post so it only cost $13 to ship back, I paid the difference between that and my new uke, and I got my new one 3 days later. I was extremely satisfied and appreciate him going out of his way to make my birthday awesome!

buddhuu
07-17-2009, 01:46 PM
@ ProfChris:

A good first post, mate. Welcome to UU.

As you say, the UK "Distance Selling" regs make things even more complicated here!

petah
07-17-2009, 02:08 PM
turning into a fruitful thread. We need a summary of it all.

uluapoundr
07-17-2009, 04:27 PM
I really think expecting perfection is unrealistic, and quite frankly most wounldn't be able to afford it. As much as you would like to think wish, there is no such thing as a perfect instrument. Accurate, yes. Well finished, yes. Perfect, no.

For crying out loud these are under $1000 ukes for the most part, and some of you are expecting it perfect. put the crack pipe down and stop and think of what you are asking. In isntrument land, if your 700$ guitar has issues, you say, well it's only a $700 guitar. But because the uke is smaller people automatically assume that somehow it's standard of quality should be somehow higher. Sure, many of the production guitar facilities are doing better than they ever have with mass production, but the uke world isn't going to reach that scale of production any time soon.

When manufacturers in uke-land have a dud, they make it right. Whether it's Kala, Ko'olau, or KoAloha they do the right thing. If you are going to whine and fuss over shipping, that's your right. Just take a giant breath and relax. Now pick up your uke (in tune or not) and play!

I agree, it bothers me a bit when I see folks who buy an ukulele for say less than $400 and expect it to have the same quality as an ukulele that cost over $1500. I know some of you will get very defensive with this attitude but I'm saying this based on being around ukuleles for over 20 years in Hawaii. When you grow up playing a Kamaka, you quickly learn what uke sounds good, and what uke sounds and feels like a toy.

With the popularity of import ukes, the cost to own a playable uke has gotten much more affordable in the past few years. I am very impressed with what you can get for $200 in comparison to the selection of ukes we had 10-20 years ago. The misconception is though, that if a decent uke can be purchased for $200, then the $400 uke better be perfect!! Not true. Don't get me wrong, there are many, many, many great ukes out there, one should purchase what they can afford, whether it be $50 or $5000. My point is more about the expectations.

I have read some say here on UU that an ukulele over $700 is just to show off and for "bling bling" and that you can get a perfect ukulele for $700. They'll say they own a ____, that it cost them $700, and that they cannot imagine an uke better than that. Well, time to start imagining because they do exist.

I would guess that the majority of ukulele owners here have an "import" ukulele, so their cries of injustice when it comes to quality are heard louder and stronger than others who know that if you're spending $200, there will most likey be some compromises. When I purchased a $500 Pono, I knew it wasn't going to be like any custom uke. When I mentioned it had some scratches on it from the factory, I was politely told that it's normal since Pono is the lower end of the Koola'u line...which I knew.

As for warranty, the buyer should be expected to pay the costs of shipping. We in Hawaii pay way more to ship things here, then others pay to receive things from Hawaii. The planes are full when they arrive, which is why rates to Hawaii are high. When they fly back, they aren't as full, which is why shipping out is cheaper. My point is, you know where you are buying from, you should pay shipping for warranty repair.

So many great points on this thread, I hope I didn't come across too strong. I love ukes, I'm sure most of you do. Let's all be fair and have realistic expecations from our ukulele manufacturers. We need them, they need us. Aloha!

clayton56
07-17-2009, 11:17 PM
Mike I am with you on the character flaws, wood is individual and these makers do great ukes for very cheap. I was amazed at the low prices for solid wood instruments, when looking for my first ukulele. Try that with guitars or mandolins. Just saw a new Gibson mandolin, $3k. I also play clarinet and a passable one is $1500, a good one is $3k. You can get a whole collection of ukes for that. As long as the bridges stay on I'm not going to sweat a knot or some waviness in the wood. All my ukes so far sound great with the right strings, much better than you would think for the size or the money.

buddhuu
07-17-2009, 11:40 PM
Mike I am with you on the character flaws, wood is individual and these makers do great ukes for very cheap. I was amazed at the low prices for solid wood instruments, when looking for my first ukulele. Try that with guitars or mandolins. Just saw a new Gibson mandolin, $3k. I also play clarinet and a passable one is $1500, a good one is $3k. You can get a whole collection of ukes for that. As long as the bridges stay on I'm not going to sweat a knot or some waviness in the wood. All my ukes so far sound great with the right strings, much better than you would think for the size or the money.
Heck yes. What I would class as decent beginner-intermediate mandolins start at about £300 in the UK, $400 - $500 USD in the USA. And at that level flaws are not uncommon.

A new Gibson mando for $3k? That's the low end of their prices. A Gibson DMM F-5 mandolin is $25,000 list! Now that's where you can expect perfection!

This has been an interesting thread. Some good perspectives.

Pippin
07-18-2009, 02:56 AM
Gibson still has quality problems, even from the Bozeman, Montana factory.

One of the interesting things about acoustic instrument forums is the number of people that always recommend a solid-wood guitar, uke, or another instrument. Laminated instruments have lots of advantages including the following:

They are more durable.
They are more dimensionally stable, so they stay in tune better.
They are less likely to create feedback when played through an amplifier.
They are less likely to crack due to dry weather, cold, or high elevations.
The bodies are stronger because of the glue in the laminated body.
The uke is often cheaper to build - but not necessarily.
The outer laminated layer can be the cream of the crop aesthetically while more durable, but less visually appealing wood lies beneath... which can save money for the builder and buyer.
The uke can take more banging around without issue.
The uke can be tuned too high with less likelihood of the sound-board cracking.

While it is true that the uke may not sound as nice as the "K" ukes or any solid-wood instrument, it might have a sweet, warm tone and be perfect for someone wanting to play without lots of volume.

To some people, louder is better.

I have both solid-wood instruments (both guitars and uke among them). My favorite guitar is solid wood. My favorite uke is actually a thin laminated model (not telling).

MGM is right about everything he said. He has a stellar reputation as a reseller of ukes and his knowledge is extensive. Many people trust his opinions and I number myself among them.

By the way, Fender guitars, even those made in Samick factories, are really excellent quality. The huge availability of Chinese-made ukes of very nice quality at budget prices has made it possible for many people to enjoy playing music that would never have been able to buy a Martin, Taylor, Breedlove, Gibson, or other fine guitar.

nikolo727
07-18-2009, 06:31 AM
nicely done mike. hopefully it will put people at ease hearing those words from a professional.

haolejohn
07-18-2009, 07:29 AM
How long does it take for a solid koa ukulele placed in a dry environment to crack?

buddhuu
07-18-2009, 07:31 AM
Depends how long you leave it there before sitting on it... :D

MGM
07-18-2009, 10:45 AM
i have seen ukuleles have problems in wrong low humidity develop overnight. In vegas 30 minutes thats not a norm but I have tried to display ukuleles in Vegas outdoors and the fret ends develop pokeyness in less than an hour.. I have seen the major makers at trade shows have problems with some ukes overnight...come back the next day and some of their ukes cracked.....each ukulele is different.....different grain, wood type, tiightnesss of grain conditions it was in before exposure all make a difference. Wood like others say, is a natural never two pieces exactly the same so how can we expect sameness from a natural varying product....

SamUke
07-18-2009, 11:23 AM
One thing Mike said struck me....getting back to how something plays and sounds. I purchased a Ukiyo Vita Uke, an $800 dollar instrument from Buffalo Bros Guitars. Upon receipt I noticed a 1cm sized crack on the back extending from the side, when I called them they where more then happy to take it back and I got the same response from Marc at Ukiyo. The problem was the Uke sounded amazing and I had to decide whether to send it back and opt for some thing different, or take the crack and get the sound I was looking for. Decided to keep the uke and have not regretted it, I play it everday and the crack remains the same. Anyway I can see why people get ruffled about these things, there expensive and can be fragile, but they are built to be played and make great sounds. A local luthier told me that guys that come across great woods that end up having little cracks and imperfections use 'em anyway since its hard to give such great sounding soundboards.