View Full Version : Bad experience with Guitar Center starter uke kit

08-22-2013, 05:59 AM
I know, WTH am I doing buying a starter ukulele at Guitar Center for, and why am I complaining?
I bought the uke starter pack for my 13-year-old son. It arrived last night, we picked it up, and as soon as we got home we opened up the boxes and got right to tuning the uke. Out of the box, not even five minutes in, as my son is tightening the G string, SNAP! Already down a string! Bummed but determined to get him playing, I tuned the other three strings. Almost instantly, I saw the pegs spinning, unwinding. WTH, I mutter as I tighten once more, only to have them unwind again. I flip the unit over and find small screws at the tops of the pegs. I call for a screwdriver and tighten the screws, realizing they added friction to hold the pegs in place. Now tuned and down a string, I hand my ukulele over to my son, vowing to let him practice on mine while we get his instrument fixed.
Lesson learned: DO NOT buy a starter kit from Guitar Center without having them set it up first, if they even offer to do that for ukuleles. Better decision, go back to the Denver Folklore Center where I bought my instrument, put down the extra cash, and buy an instrument that is set up, ready to play, better quality, and helps support local businesses.
For the folks at the Denver Folklore Center, I will come by this weekend for face slaps and mocking, as I hope you are willing to fix the string.

I do have to say, the gig bag is actually decent, and I could have fun just playing the pitch pipe. Ukulele is by Rogue, and at this price I suppose I don't care if it gets trashed. Good thing I bought the warranty to cover everything from broken strings to having the youngest kid sit on it.

hawaii 50
08-22-2013, 06:17 AM
I lived in Calif..and have been to a couple Guitar Centers...

there main problem is the sales staff there....they are all guitar junkies...it is Guitar Center after all...

and they think the ukulele is a toy...and since they have no high end ukes...they will never know the difference..
buy a uke at a ukulele store or shop on line at many uke websites....only way to get what you want

my 2 cents

Pukulele Pete
08-22-2013, 06:27 AM
Sounds to me like you and your son learned an awful lot in the first hour of receiving that ukulele.
I suppose that could be considered a positve part of the experience.

08-22-2013, 06:42 AM
I can't argue with buying a ukulele, even a low-price one, from a reputable seller who provide setup. The few extra dollars spent will almost always make a difference in satisfaction.

With that being said, I don't see the bad experience. You paid $40, including shipping for a uke, a gigbag, a pitch pipe, and some learning aids. Can't say they scorched you on the price. A broken string is frustrating, for sure, but could happen to anyone, and cheap ukes usually ship with cheap strings. I would recommend replacing them, anyway.

As far as the pegs go, all friction pegs have a set screw that requires adjustment. When a instrument is setup, a technician will set that screw for optimum friction, but really, its a matter of a few seconds to set them if it hasn't been done. Since the listing clearly states that the uke has friction pegs, I don't see the issue.

As I said, I can't argue buying a better instrument from a more reputable seller with setup. But it looks like Guitar Center provided exactly what they said they would.

08-22-2013, 06:48 AM
Changing strings is not that bad (if I can do it, I bet anyone can) and Youtube has lots of how-to videos to follow. I hope your son enjoys his new instrument. Putting nicer strings on it will probably improve the sound. I bought two Lanikais off ebay for my kids and I will be changing the strings out for them in a few months, as they both want the low G sound.

Getting the action set seems to make a lot of difference for me as a novice player. Lower action makes my life a lot easier.

Radio Flyer
08-22-2013, 07:07 AM
i kind of like Guitar Center, it is what it is, a department store for musical instruments. you wouldn't expect a taylor to sell you a suit at Sears. with the ukulele your expecting knowledgeable sales personnel for a fairly obscure instrument. think of what a harmonica player must go through, and they do carry harmonicas for $6000 and up! not much love there. ALL the music stores in my area treat the ukulele as more or less a toy, i'm just happy they do at least carry some ukes and parts. if not for Guitar Center a lot of people would have no knowledge of what a ukulele even looked and felt like. the GC near me does have one guy that is knowledgeable about ukes and they have uke lesson night. all in all not bad for a Wal-Mart of music.

08-22-2013, 08:58 AM
For the folks at the Denver Folklore Center, I will come by this weekend for face slaps and mocking, as I hope you are willing to fix the string.

I do have to say, the gig bag is actually decent, and I could have fun just playing the pitch pipe. Ukulele is by Rogue, and at this price I suppose I don't care if it gets trashed. Good thing I bought the warranty to cover everything from broken strings to having the youngest kid sit on it.
You actually bought GC's warranty on a $40 uke? I'd imagine they won't pay for another store to replace the string, you'd have to take it back to GC.

08-22-2013, 09:13 AM
I bought the warranty because the two boys share a bedroom, and I can almost guarantee they will break the uke. The warranty will replace it if anything happens to it, and I asked them about one boy sitting on it by accident. They said it's covered, cost me ten bucks, and if it means I don't have to shell out $40 for another instrument, I'd say it's worth it. (Also looking at when the youngest is ready to start playing one, he can inherit this one. He'll be rough on it!)

08-22-2013, 11:43 AM
Friction tuners on a cheap uke might unwind, but not that readily unless they are really, really loose. It sounds like you may have been tuning an octave high - that would explain the broken string and the slipping tuners.

Try tightening the screws that hold the tuner knobs on - that will give you more friction so they hold better - but unless they were ridiculously loose they should not have been visibly unwinding unless you were tuned an octave high.

Do keep in mind that nylon strings will detune quite rapidly for the first few days they are on - meaning you have to retune frequently - that is normal and is just the strings stretching. But, if the tuners are visibly unwinding then the friction needs to be adjusted or you are tuning too high.


08-22-2013, 12:46 PM
Won't see many recommendations here to buy your first uke at a Guitar Center......now you know why. Sorry, hope you get it all sorted out.

Radio Flyer
08-22-2013, 01:11 PM
it was not GC fault. i believe a ukulele should not NEED a setup, except to fine tune your wishes. the manufacturer should look at their instrument with enough care that it plays decently right out of the box. if it's a toy, then it's a toy, don't blame a store for not setting up an inexpensive uke when not asked to. i've been living in the guitar world but since starting loving ukes i have had nothing but good service and help from Guitar Center. i recommend them.

08-22-2013, 08:19 PM
Also, as an added bonus, you now have a practice uke to perform amateur-luthiery on! Get to sanding down those nuts since the action is probably really high!

08-23-2013, 09:58 AM
I'm really not all that concerned about this instrument, since it really is going to take a beating, probably be replaced in the next year or so (hence the warranty, why pay $35 when I can spend $10?), and give us all something fun to mess with? No, I won't go to Guitar Center for uke stuff again, but the only reason I went there in the first place was to get a cheap instrument that won't cause a meltdown when/if it breaks. Anyway, going to get the string fixed tomorrow, and get the boy to strumming! I'll ask about whether it's tuned too high, but I could see the pegs spin so I really don't think I'm way out on the tuning. Oh, and those screws were very loose.

08-23-2013, 11:14 AM
...the only reason I went there in the first place was to get a cheap instrument that won't cause a meltdown when/if it breaks...
Hmmm... :p

08-23-2013, 11:36 AM
I am having trouble seeing how Guitar Center did anything wrong. What did I miss?

It seems the lesson to be learned is that if I don't understand how something works I should either ask for help, or expect to learn from my mistakes. I'm usually of the "learn from my mistakes" school. I'd just chalk it up to experience, by some new strings, and read up (or ask here) about friction tuners.

08-23-2013, 01:20 PM
take it back, get a refund and order a Makala Dolphin.

Chris Tarman
08-23-2013, 01:36 PM
Get new strings, tighten the tuners, keep it AND get a better one from The Denver Folklore Center! I love that store. Win/win!

08-23-2013, 02:34 PM
I am a huge advocate of never stepping foot in Guitar Center. They have little or no knowledge about ukuleles. They will treat you like a king when you are there to buy, but offer no service if you have a problem. Support your local music store.

08-23-2013, 08:54 PM
I don't think Guitar Center is to blame, those Rogues are available all over, and no one's going to do a setup on a uke and sell it for $30. I bought a Rogue soprano a few years ago, and while I was never too thrilled with it, you can't expect a lot at that price. Your $10 warranty is probably not such a bad idea after all...mine came apart at the top seams after a while, and while I managed to glue it back, it was never quite right.

The one thing I think may be an issue is the tuners; peg tuners and kids just aren't a great idea, it's just too hard to get a good accurate set on the note, let alone for a kid. I'm not a big fan of peg tuners anyway, (yes, I can use them, but why would I want to, other than it's easier to change strings?) but I suppose it will make geared tuners seem easy when they get a uke that has them. Once the kids get started and you see that they're liking it, you can worry about getting them the next uke, but it's nice having one around you don't have to worry about.

Chris Tarman
08-24-2013, 04:15 AM
I've never played a Rogue ukulele, but I believe that mmstan keeps one next to his computer and REALLY likes it a lot. That seems strange to me, given all the other fabulous ukuleles he has, but I'm pretty sure that's what he told me.

08-24-2013, 06:02 AM
The Rogue can benefit a lot from better strings...when I changed mine to Aquilas, I noticed a significant improvement (or probably whatever one's personal favorite string is). While mine came apart at the seams as mentioned earlier, all one has to do is order something at a similar price. The Schoenhut "Flea-like-but-only-in-appearance" models come to mind. While it looks decent and 'cute', with its plastic fretboard it's truly a toy, and will make you appreciate the Rogue (and it usually costs more).

I don't think any shop, big or local, should get a bad rap for not setting up a $30 uke, and the string breakage is just one of those things, which in fact could easily be from someone twisting the peg tuner a bit too far.

09-06-2013, 10:36 AM
Well, we returned the uke with no hassles, upgraded to another brand (I forget which) with no additional cost outlay. The clerk who sold us the Rogue recognized us and dashed over, applying many discounts so we didn't have to spend any extra money. He also did a setup, tuning the new instrument and getting it ready to go. Now, my son has an instrument he really likes and plays fairly regularly.

09-06-2013, 12:32 PM
I as well have had bad experiences (3) with GC but I had 1 good one. I complained to their Customer Service and at least got someone who was willing to make things right. If you need the help and PM me I will forward that email address.
PS those bad experiences were solely customer service since I was looking for a vintage Martin. Luckily I found someone reputable but it was here on UU!!!!

09-09-2013, 04:36 AM
After many years (as in when it was "The Vox Room") of wandering into Guitar Centers with earplugs and buying exactly what I was looking for and making a bee line for the door, I am now convinced that the humane thing to do is to simply allow GC to act out it's slow suicide and fade into history.

Notwithstanding the news reports of sales staff getting stiffed for wages, an astounding level of staff turnover and the disasterous effect of the Bain purchase, I decided to take a chance and buy a PA system from a local GC for my wife's Sewing Guild chapter's events. It easily qualifies as the worst buying experience of my lifetime.

They had all but three components of the system in stock. We wanted a wireless mike but I didn"t want the "open box, returned" unit they had in stock so they ordered me a new mike that was delivered from a nearby store a couple of days later. Oh, wait. It was delivered to another address as GC managed to corrupt the 10 year old address I had in their system to a street that sounded nothing like mine and the mike was sent to an abanoned house where it sat on the porch for two days before I was able to figure out what had happened. After GC customer service acting dumb and suggesting that I had somwhow given the store a wrong address, I decided to track down the UPS delivery on my own. I found the box on the wrong address porch and took it home only to discover that the "new" mike I had specified was another "open box, returned" mike. At least they saved me the time of installing the batteries.

After literally hours on the phone with GC customer service, the mike thing was sorted out and a back ordered accessory pack with speaker stands was shipped out again to the wrong address. This, after I had been assured by GS management that all had been corrected. After I brought the mis shipment to their attention, and that I was unwilling to enter abandoned private property a second time to retrieve yet another missent item, they assured me that they would issue a recall ticket with UPS and ship me another accessory pack to my correct address. After getting an email confirming shipment and waiting three days, I checked the tracking number and discovered that the package had not been shipped, the UPS call tag had not been issued and I was now charged again for the accessory pack I had already payed for.

After a week, I received a call from someone who was considering buying the abandoned property I mentioned earlier and they told me that they found a bix on the porch with my phone number on it. I went by and picked it up. After more than a month of paying for a PA system, we inally had what we payed for and 90% of the effort that went into correcting GCs screwups was exerted by me, not GC customer service folks.

GC exhibits all the characteristics of a company on life support.

Radio Flyer
09-09-2013, 12:54 PM
do-do occures

09-09-2013, 01:45 PM
Guitar Center will treat you like a king when you are buying. If you have a problem, you are pretty much on your own. They just sell low end ukes but don't know anything about them and don't care to. See if you can find a local music store or buy from a reputable online store. As mentioned before, strings are pretty easy to change. There are several really good tutorials on youtube telling you how.

Radio Flyer
09-09-2013, 02:45 PM
the guitar center near me sells Martin ukes, not to bad, and several other fairly nice ukes. they have a uke oriented person available also.

09-09-2013, 08:29 PM
do-do occures

Most folks can tell the difference between an occassional screwup and endemic dysfunction.

09-09-2013, 11:40 PM
My advice is to never buy the extended warranty -- If the store didn't make money on the extended warranty, it wouldn't be offered. Such warranties are huge profit generators for retailers.