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Thread: My Experience with The Ukulele Site

  1. #1

    Default My Experience with The Ukulele Site

    Hi fellow uke nuts. I'll try to make this short, but I doubt I'll be successful.

    I first got bitten by the uke bug this past Christmas when I took my family to Hawaii and 'Santa' brought my son an uke. It wasn't super cheap, but it's nothing special, a little, laminate soprano.

    He loved it for about 10 minutes, then moved on to his toys. I, however, picked it up and had the hardest time putting it down for the rest of our trip. It caught me off guard because I've never been a musician, but for some reason the darn thing kept finding its way into my hands.

    Fast forward a few weeks, and I start doing research on ukes. I wanted one of my own, and on these forums specifically, I kept seeing references to some place called HMS. After a bit of research, I realized that HMS was actually TheUkuleleSite, a site that I'd been on several times before just browsing.

    So, I read some posts, a lot of posts, did some research, and called them up. A guy named Andrew answered the phone. He was super kind and took a good bit of time with me. He answered a bunch of noob questions, gave some opinions, made a few recommendations, and I ended up ordering a Pono ATD. In hindsight, I probably would've liked the non-deluxe version better, but that was my fault. He didn't recommend the deluxe. I opted for the gloss finish on my own. Turns out this Andrew guy was the owner. Who knew?

    The Pono was perfect for what I was looking for. Sure, it wasn't cheap, but it was nowhere near as expensive as he could've tried to talk me into, and it really does sound wonderful for the price.

    Fast forward a few more months. I travel a ton for work, and I wanted something that I could travel with without having to worry about humidity, cracking, and all that stuff. By this time UAS has hit me hard, and in addition to the travel need, I was also ready for an upgrade. I'd seen videos, heard sound samples, and read reviews and NUDs of just about every brand under the sun. I decided that the Blackbird Farallon was what I needed for both the upgrade and travel.

    I could've ordered it directly from Blackbird, but I didn't for two reasons. 1) I wanted the setup that I knew TUS would provide. 2) I like to support local businesses when I can. (No, TUS isn't local to me, but I hope you get my drift.)

    It was a custom order. Details aren't important as I'll post a NUD sometime in the near future. Blackbird gave an 8 week time frame, but Andrew warned me that they'd taken as long as 4 months in the past.
    Sure enough, it turned out to be just over 4 months. Would I have had it sooner if I ordered direct from Blackbird? Maybe, but I'd accept the extra wait time again if I had the option. Here's why.

    I was a custom order, but when I asked Andrew if he needed a deposit, he told me not to worry about it. Midway through the wait, I asked him to put aside an aNueNue Air Air pickup for me for when the uke came in. Again, I asked if he wanted a deposit of some sort, and again, he told me not to worry about it. Every time I asked him for an update he answered. Every time I asked a silly question, he helped me out.

    But here's the best part. Once the uke was finally in, he asked me if I wanted a sound sample before officially placing my order. I didn't need the sound sample. I ordered it straight away, but he got the sound sample for me anyway. Now I have a video of Corey and Kalei playing my uke before it was shipped out. How cool is that?

    I don't know if that's something they always do, or if he just did it because of the long wait. Either way, it was more than I'd expected, which is always nice.

    Bottom line is, Andrew gave me every opportunity not to commit to buying the uke. For four months he went back and forth with Blackbird to try and figure out what was going on with my order, and I got it for the same price as I would've paid ordering direct.

    I'm sure he made some money off of it. That's the point of owning the shop, but I'm sure his margin wasn't huge.

    I'm sure they aren't the only great shop around. I've read great things about Uke Republic, Mim's, and a lot of others, but my experience with TUS has been nothing but first class.

    I'm sure someone out there has a different story about things not working out perfectly, but please don't use this thread for that. Every customer has a bad experience, and every business has a bad moment.

    I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the great experience I had and say a public mahalo.

    Aloha, Uke Family.

    Keep strummin'.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Posts
    590

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by mnb128 View Post
    Hi fellow uke nuts. I'll try to make this short, but I doubt I'll be successful.

    I first got bitten by the uke bug this past Christmas when I took my family to Hawaii and 'Santa' brought my son an uke. It wasn't super cheap, but it's nothing special, a little, laminate soprano.

    He loved it for about 10 minutes, then moved on to his toys. I, however, picked it up and had the hardest time putting it down for the rest of our trip. It caught me off guard because I've never been a musician, but for some reason the darn thing kept finding its way into my hands.

    Fast forward a few weeks, and I start doing research on ukes. I wanted one of my own, and on these forums specifically, I kept seeing references to some place called HMS. After a bit of research, I realized that HMS was actually TheUkuleleSite, a site that I'd been on several times before just browsing.

    So, I read some posts, a lot of posts, did some research, and called them up. A guy named Andrew answered the phone. He was super kind and took a good bit of time with me. He answered a bunch of noob questions, gave some opinions, made a few recommendations, and I ended up ordering a Pono ATD. In hindsight, I probably would've liked the non-deluxe version better, but that was my fault. He didn't recommend the deluxe. I opted for the gloss finish on my own. Turns out this Andrew guy was the owner. Who knew?

    The Pono was perfect for what I was looking for. Sure, it wasn't cheap, but it was nowhere near as expensive as he could've tried to talk me into, and it really does sound wonderful for the price.

    Fast forward a few more months. I travel a ton for work, and I wanted something that I could travel with without having to worry about humidity, cracking, and all that stuff. By this time UAS has hit me hard, and in addition to the travel need, I was also ready for an upgrade. I'd seen videos, heard sound samples, and read reviews and NUDs of just about every brand under the sun. I decided that the Blackbird Farallon was what I needed for both the upgrade and travel.

    I could've ordered it directly from Blackbird, but I didn't for two reasons. 1) I wanted the setup that I knew TUS would provide. 2) I like to support local businesses when I can. (No, TUS isn't local to me, but I hope you get my drift.)

    It was a custom order. Details aren't important as I'll post a NUD sometime in the near future. Blackbird gave an 8 week time frame, but Andrew warned me that they'd taken as long as 4 months in the past.
    Sure enough, it turned out to be just over 4 months. Would I have had it sooner if I ordered direct from Blackbird? Maybe, but I'd accept the extra wait time again if I had the option. Here's why.

    I was a custom order, but when I asked Andrew if he needed a deposit, he told me not to worry about it. Midway through the wait, I asked him to put aside an aNueNue Air Air pickup for me for when the uke came in. Again, I asked if he wanted a deposit of some sort, and again, he told me not to worry about it. Every time I asked him for an update he answered. Every time I asked a silly question, he helped me out.

    But here's the best part. Once the uke was finally in, he asked me if I wanted a sound sample before officially placing my order. I didn't need the sound sample. I ordered it straight away, but he got the sound sample for me anyway. Now I have a video of Corey and Kalei playing my uke before it was shipped out. How cool is that?

    I don't know if that's something they always do, or if he just did it because of the long wait. Either way, it was more than I'd expected, which is always nice.

    Bottom line is, Andrew gave me every opportunity not to commit to buying the uke. For four months he went back and forth with Blackbird to try and figure out what was going on with my order, and I got it for the same price as I would've paid ordering direct.

    I'm sure he made some money off of it. That's the point of owning the shop, but I'm sure his margin wasn't huge.

    I'm sure they aren't the only great shop around. I've read great things about Uke Republic, Mim's, and a lot of others, but my experience with TUS has been nothing but first class.

    I'm sure someone out there has a different story about things not working out perfectly, but please don't use this thread for that. Every customer has a bad experience, and every business has a bad moment.

    I just wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the great experience I had and say a public mahalo.

    Aloha, Uke Family.

    Keep strummin'.
    "I got it for the same price as I would've paid ordering direct" - They would pay wholesale for that uke, and Blackbird would get considerably less. I have no idea of the markup on ukes, as I've never been to NAMM. I do know that on typical boutique store items the markup is often 2.25x wholesale price, and on jewelry 4-7x. If the markup on ukuleles is just 1.5x, than a third of the retail price would be their gross margins on that sale.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Apr 2019
    Location
    San Francsico Bay Area
    Posts
    57

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    My experience with Ukulele Site was in person. We were celebrating my retirement and that of a close friend. Staying in Honolulu, we had no need of a car, but we rented one for the day and rove around the island.
    We saw the store and pulled in to check it out. I don’t recall the name of the gentleman who assisted us, but...

    I told him I was looking for a cutaway Tenor. He reached around, pulled one down, played a short riff and handed it to me.
    I played it, loved the sound and sustain and playability. And I played it. And my wife said, “looks like he’ll take it.”
    I agreed. He pulled down a soft side case with a front pocket. And told me the cost of both.
    I was and am extremely happy with the purchase. He not only knew his stock, he ‘read me’ and my needs.

    I’m willing to fly back ‘tomorrow ‘ and shop for my next ukulele.

  4. #4

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by AQUATOPAZ View Post
    "I got it for the same price as I would've paid ordering direct" - They would pay wholesale for that uke, and Blackbird would get considerably less. I have no idea of the markup on ukes, as I've never been to NAMM. I do know that on typical boutique store items the markup is often 2.25x wholesale price, and on jewelry 4-7x. If the markup on ukuleles is just 1.5x, than a third of the retail price would be their gross margins on that sale.
    Fair point, but when you add in staffing, free setup, free 2 day shipping from Hawaii to the east coast, which I forgot to mention earlier, the margin shrinks considerably. I know they're making money. In fact, I want them to, but I don't think the net revenue is significant on a single unit. Scale it out to thousands of ukes per year, and it could be a different story. Either way, I'm a happy customer.

    Cheers.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jun 2018
    Location
    Sparta, Wisconsin, USA
    Posts
    1,314

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    Great story. I like to reward great service as well. I have purchased 4 ukuleles from HMS (TheUkuleleSite.com).
    There is a subtle yet profound difference between the learning of something and the knowing of that thing.
    You can learn by reading, but you don’t begin to know until you begin to try to do.

    —Lou Churchill, Plane & Pilot Magazine

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Posts
    590

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    Quote Originally Posted by mnb128 View Post
    Fair point, but when you add in staffing, free setup, free 2 day shipping from Hawaii to the east coast, which I forgot to mention earlier, the margin shrinks considerably. I know they're making money. In fact, I want them to, but I don't think the net revenue is significant on a single unit. Scale it out to thousands of ukes per year, and it could be a different story. Either way, I'm a happy customer.

    Cheers.
    Don't forget that the cost of setup is the same for a cheap uke or an expensive one. Actually probably less as they need less work. The cost of shipping supplies and labor to pack is the same. Shipping costs are mostly the same, and only marginally more if they insure through a third party as many mass shippers do. The cheap ukes are the steady income that keeps the lights on, but the expensive ukes, such as your Blackbird, is where the real money is made because cost of fulfillment is a much smaller percentage of the gross than for a cheaper uke. In other words, that's where they really make their profit.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    Pickering, ON, Canada
    Posts
    5,739

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    Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed review. Everybody likes to complain in public now a days so it is nice to read something positive. I commend you for your effort in doing the right thing. Yes companies are in business to make money as you said, anyone who questions why or how much must live under a rock.

    I have bought 10 ukuleles from Andrew at HMS and every transaction has been first class just like yours. They really do care and go out of their way to try and make sure you are a satisfied customer. Are they perfect, no, can things happen, sure. But they will make it right, they are good people and Andrew is a credit to the ukulele community
    Last edited by DownUpDave; 09-09-2019 at 02:41 AM.
    Currently enjoying these ukuleles : *LdfM tenor, *LfdM 19" super tenor. *LfdM baritone, *I'iwi tenor , *Koolau tenor, *Webber tenor, *Kimo tenor, *Kimo super concert, *Mya Moe baritone, *Kamaka baritone, *Gianinni baritone, *Fred Shields super soprano, *Kala super soprano, *Loprinzi super soprano, *Black bear ULO concert , *Enya X1 concert, *Enya X1 pineapple soprano, *Gretsch tenor, *Korala plastic concert

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2018
    Posts
    590

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    Quote Originally Posted by DownUpDave View Post
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed review. Everybody likes to complain in public now a days so it is nice to read something positive. I commend you for your effort in doing the right thing. Yes companies are in business to make money as you said, anyone who questions why or how much must live under a rock.

    I have bought 7 ukuleles from Andrew at HMS and every transaction has been first class just like yours. They really do care and go out of their way to try and make sure you are a satisfied customer. Are they perfect, no, can things happen, sure. But they will make it right, they are good people and Andrew is a credit to the ukulele community
    They are also one of the few places to purchase luthier ukes without blindly placing an order as you can hear them first.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Location
    St. Louis, MO, USA
    Posts
    7,192

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    Thank you for posting such a great story. I have been a devoted customer since March 2012, and in fact have a tenor in setup right now. Andrew and colleagues are phenomenal.
    Kathryn

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2013
    Posts
    1,060

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    +1000% on HMS service, support, communications, web site and friendly help. I’ve purchased four tenors from them. All transactions were great. They go above and beyond. Three ukes purchased online. On, my first, a Pono AT purchased is same manner from store. I rented a car, I was touring the island. Stumbled on their shop. I just wish I could get back more often to buy face to face. HMS are the ultimate professionals. They are my Go To place to buy, all things ukulele. And everyone is so friendly and helpful. Great story.

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