Buying to Try

efiscella

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Hey everyone,

I've noticed many members mentioning visits to ukulele shops or local luthiers, but I'm curious how many others are like me, without access to these resources. Recently, I needed a simple nut adjustment for my KoAloha tenor, but the technician wouldn't touch it for fear of voiding the warranty. I ended up having to send it back to KoAloha, which cost me over $100.

I'm wondering how many of you have been in a similar situation, where you've had to buy ukes beyond those at Sam Ash or Guitar Center just to try different brands. Initially, I was concerned about what others on the forum would think if they saw me getting so many ukes and then quickly putting them up for sale. However, I've come to realize that sometimes it's just not a good fit, and putting the uke back on the market can be seen as an opportunity by others.

I've also discovered that buying from the marketplace on UU is a great way to buy and sell. The community here is made up of knowledgeable uke fans who take care of their instruments and know how to price them. If a price is low, you'll get comments like "Great price" or "This is a steal." And if the price is too high, nobody complains; they simply don't buy and wait until the price matches the value of the uke. This creates a very safe marketplace that is passively regulated by the membership, to ensure successful transactions for both buyers and sellers.

How do you all feel about these experiences? Have you had similar encounters or found other ways to navigate the ukulele world without local resources?
 
I hugely appreciate the resources here on the forum. I've obtained two ukuleles, that I would otherwise have never had an opportunity to, from the Marketplace (Kiwaya Famous FS-5, aNueNue Moon Bird). I've learned so much about so many amazing builders and brands that I have zero access to locally. I've also obtained an ukulele because of one of our member's (BazMaz) gotaukulele.com reviews. I've purchased two instruments (one is mid-build) from one of our forum's many amazing luthiers (Tukanu). Everything I've tried locally that I've been able to get my hands on have not really been what I want, and one of which I've gifted onwards to another forum member.

If I lived in the States and had USD, I'd certainly be more likely to buy and sell a lot more to try different ukuleles on the Marketplace. Unfortunately, this platform is less fabulous for non-US members, given differences in exchange, taxes, duties, shipping, etc. but it's not enough to STOP me, lol, just slow me down a lot.

So yeah, I think this is a great place to take advantage of the amazing resources of our members. If I could, I'd be buying and selling a lot more to try all the wonderful ukuleles!
 
If it's something like a nut or saddle adjustment and other basic setup jobs, I spent some time learning how to do them and buying some of the tools.

If there is a problem with a nut, I have a set of nut files, or can fill in the slots as per instructions here:


As for buying instruments, buying in person at a local store is much better than ordering online without trying.
For me it doesn't boil down just to the model, but the specific specimen as there are usually noticeable differences in stock setup in mass produced instruments. The ideal situation is trying an instrument in store to find that it plays exactly how I like it to (or has potential) and buying that very one off the shelf. The music store staff sometimes offers me to get an unopened one from the back and give me a strange look when I insist on taking the display model.

It's a shot in the dark to order online, and on some occasions the issues cannot always be completely fixed with a DIY setup. Or it may be an inherent characteristic of the instrument that can't be changed.
 
What did you need to do with the nut and how would that void the warranty? Seems like the warranties nowadays are worded so that everything and anything can basically void it, even if the owner didn't damage or alter the instrument. Doing something with the nut sounds like a set-up thing with wear and tear parts, and should imo fall under normal use. I've heard of guitars getting necks reset (Martin), or entire neck replacements (Fender) under warranty, but don't know if that was several decades ago when warranties were actually worth something.

Personally, I've never sent anything back for warranty because the international shipping would make it more expensive than "voiding" it and fixing locally. Sometimes the original retailer will pay for the shipping but depends on the brand or shop. I recently bought a uke new, and took a quick look at the warranty limitations, seemed pretty useless unless it was a major issue like the neck falling off or the bridge pulling and damaging the soundboard - even then, would they blame it on humidity?

But as for your question, the good luthiers in my area are way too expensive. The chain retailers don't always have the best repair techs, I had a bad experience and decided to learn the basic stuff myself. Most guitars, ukes and basses I've owned didn't come exactly like how I would like it and took some adjustment work. I've come across very few instruments that I just didn't like no matter how much I fiddled with it and those get sold. It's a matter of personal preference for setting up action, changing to strings that work better, maintenance stuff like cleaning, fixing sharp fret ends, body and fret polish. I buy nut and saddle blanks and spent an hour or two making a new one with hand tools. To get a professionally made custom saddle (which probably is no better than my own) would cost a full set up, new strings, new saddle time and could be more than what the entire uke cost in the first place. Buying online and buying in person isn't that much different for me since the retail shelf units has a similar chance of being set up badly.
 
I’ve never even seen a ukulele in a music store other than a house brand. Every one I own came from UU or an online outlet. I’m only a 2.5 hour drive from Mimi’s, but that’s quite a haul just to wander and wonder.
And I live in a 7 county metro area with nearly a 3 million population.
 
What did you need to do with the nut and how would that void the warranty? Seems like the warranties nowadays are worded so that everything and anything can basically void it, even if the owner didn't damage or alter the instrument. Doing something with the nut sounds like a set-up thing with wear and tear parts, and should imo fall under normal use. I've heard of guitars getting necks reset (Martin), or entire neck replacements (Fender) under warranty, but don't know if that was several decades ago when warranties were actually worth something.
The story is a bit crazy. Pops asked the choir that I directed to sing "America's Song" a song that he wrote. He asked if they would sing it in their live performances. He made the Wow and gave one to each of the kids in the choir to use during performance. When the choir went to Honolulu to perform, we asked Pops to perform with the kids at various venues. He agreed and we had a great time. At the end of our trip, we had a factory tour and he made a presentation to me of a KoAloha tenor. It was quick and he took it out of the case and we took pics and then we were off to the airport to fly home. I never tried it. I got home and found that there was no setup at all. How could this be? Pops' ukes play as smooth as butter.

I learned that Pops had chosen an ukulele to present to me but when it was time, they could not find it. They all looked all over but since it was just set aside and not marked, it was probably sold, so in a hurry, one of the KoAloha guys ran up to the video room which had all of these beautiful ukes on the wall to be used as a backdrop. He took one off the wall, put it in a case and Pops presented it. What I later found out was tat the ukes on that video display wall never go through final setup- they are there because they look beautiful. If to be sold, they then go for setup. Mine never did.

I spoke with Paul Okami and he told me that is what happened but if I took it to a local shop, they could easily set it up and save me the shipping. I took it two local music stores and in each said that they never had to set up an ukulele before and "it looks really expensive" and they did not want to touch it. After hearing that, I did not have much confidence in them. I contacted Paul again and he sent me a few nuts and saddles for me to take to a luthier. i took it to the one and only luthier in a 20 mile radius and he did not use any of them, but put a koa shim under the saddle.

I sent it back to KoAloha
IMG_3106.jpegIMG_3108.jpegIMG_3110 2.jpeg
 
I’ve purchased most of my ukuleles here on UU. I think it’s great that we have a community of wonderful people who can share their discoveries and personal preferences by exchanging ukuleles at fair and reasonable prices.
I expect that when I decide that any of the ukuleles that I’ve purchased here are not the best for me or that I have replaced them with a different brand of the same type of instrument that I prefer, I can return that ukulele to the marketplace and get back most of my investment.
That’s because everyone I’ve met here seems to care about their instruments and ukuleles in general. As a result the instruments bought and sold here are well taken care of and maintain their value.
If I should happen to get a little less than I paid, I consider that a rental fee for allowing me to enjoy and discover an instrument that I otherwise might never have had the opportunity to learn about.
 
If it's something like a nut or saddle adjustment and other basic setup jobs, I spent some time learning how to do them and buying some of the tools.

If there is a problem with a nut, I have a set of nut files, or can fill in the slots as per instructions here:


As for buying instruments, buying in person at a local store is much better than ordering online without trying.
For me it doesn't boil down just to the model, but the specific specimen as there are usually noticeable differences in stock setup in mass produced instruments. The ideal situation is trying an instrument in store to find that it plays exactly how I like it to (or has potential) and buying that very one off the shelf. The music store staff sometimes offers me to get an unopened one from the back and give me a strange look when I insist on taking the display model.

It's a shot in the dark to order online, and on some occasions the issues cannot always be completely fixed with a DIY setup…

I would love to try a uke in person in a store. Greater Boston is a pretty densely populated area with a good music school and decent music scene so you would think it would be easier to find a local store to try a ukulele in person, but I have not had much luck. Maybe they just are not as popular in New England?

I can find few common, inexpensive, low end, mass market ukes in stores around here, but no good local store for the midrange ukuleles (less than $1000). The only local store with I found with some good ukuleles is the Music Emporium in Lexington, but other than two Martins, everything is in the $1,2000-$5,000 range, which is out of my league.
 
It's not the first story I've heard about luthiers refusing to work on ukuleles. It's just bizarre to me considering guitars are virtually the same thing, use the same tools and very similar string geometry for set ups. Decent acoustic or classical guitars aren't cheap either, so it's extra strange the guy said it looked too expensive to work on. I mean it's strange they would think that, not that I don't believe you.
 
I've bought, sold and traded here on UU Marketplace, and found it to be a great resource. Because you are buying used, if you get the uke for what it is really worth, and find you don't like it, you can always resell or trade it and not be out too much, other than some time and shipping costs. You can also learn to do basic repairs yourself (replacing strings, replacing or adjusting nuts or bridges). The tools you need aren't expensive, and there are some great online tutorials (if you are handy). All that being said, it does help to find a luthier you can work with; local preferred, but shipping a high quality uke back and forth isn't the end of the world either. I'm lucky to have a couple in the Seattle area, and had to use them to re-fret an instrument and to track down and fix a buzz that I couldn't isolate.
 
Buy or sell here on UU? Who would do that? Ha, I bet half of my uke family (or more) came from other players here on UU! And probably almost the same number of my ukes have found their way to other UU players. Mostly all were great experiences both buying and selling, and I attribute that to the fact that we are all players on here and there's a kind of trust that sellers will disclose accurately what they are are selling. Mainly because any buyer is part of the ukulele family of musicians and also because we know we will be selling more ukes and want there to be no surprises when our buyer opens the box. A side benefit of dealing here on UU is all the new friends I've met along the way!
 
Ed,

I resonate with your post, and I might fit your model if I ever sold anything ;). While it is nothing like in HI, I do have a local shop with a decent selection and competent local luthiers that work on ukuleles. This is Southern California local, which is something like 30-40 miles. However, I have purchased all of my ukuleles without an in person audition in advance. I tend to do research berfore buying, so I am not just shooting in the dark, and I have returned a few after a brief period of playing. Most of my ukuleles were purchased new from HI, though I did have one very happy purchase here on the marketplace.

I think of my purchases as more of a search than buy to try. Perhaps that is just semantics, or I am trying to rationalize my ukulele expenditures, but I try to tell myself a story about how a new ukulele will fit in. I was and am curious about the differences between the sizes, different tone woods, and different makers. I believe it is easy to reject an instrument, but much more difficult to figure out if it is a keeper; that takes me some time--more like days and weeks rather than minutes and hours. So the process of buying used and reselling appeals in principle, and the UU marketplace seems to be a very good place to do that based on my very limited experience.
 
From the UK it's all a bit of a window onto another world here. Adding that, while I've probably had 100 ukuleles or so, they've ranged from free up to £260, with most in the £30-40 window when they appear somewhere unloved or unrecognised. I've just learnt to fettle from posts at Cosmos and here... and bought nuts and saddle blocks from China so have I have a few chunks of this and that around. All acquisition is just building knowledge? No sense in buying if it's not going to teach you anything from the experience etc - unless it's just bringing something back to life to pass on to someone, when hearing the thing set up as well as it can be is always a joy. Getting a squashed, twisted 1920 banjo ukulele neck to properly butt something with 100 years worth of playing stresses requires persistence but it isn't rocket science. I'm presently wondering whether to buy an SK-28 which has had a bad pick-up de-install. It might be a forever instrument, but equally I'd want to make sure it's cheap enough to sell on without loss after I've experienced it, if its not! I'm not looking at anything abroad now from ebay as the postage seems to have rocketed in comparision to a decade ago. I can look, but don't touch:rolleyes:.
 
(Eficella did explain the intent of the OP. This is just a different view of what the title meant to me.)

I do often "Buy to Try*" but don't return things just because "I don't like" them. If it has a fault making it unplayable, or has significantly lower build quality (defects) than implied in the listing, yes, it gets sent back. Otherwise, I own my decision.

*In the high-priced world (which I am not a part of) there could be an agreement of "buy to try" between you and the seller.
 
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(Eficella did explain the intent of the OP. This is just a different view of what the title meant to me.)

I do often "Buy to Try*" but don't return things just because "I don't like" them. If it has a fault making it unplayable, or has significantly lower build quality than implied in the listing, yes, it gets sent back. Otherwise, I own my decision.

*In the high-priced world (which I am not a part of) there could be an agreement of "buy to try" between you and the seller.
I appreciate the the post but I want to be clear on my intent. I never meant to imply returning to the person who I purchased from. I never have done that although I do offer that for everything I sell. If I did not prefer or like a purchase I would put it up for sale, as I think many do on marketplace.
 
I don't know if I'd say I've ever bought instruments just to try them out, but I've certainly bought and sold much more liberally than I do now. As Ploverwing says, an unfavourable currency exchange (oh, for the days when the Canadian dollar was worth 1.08 American!) and a huge jump in shipping costs have made it much less attractive to purchase from the U.S. My most recent purchase, a vintage Martin tenor, I bought for $1300 U.S.; with exchange, duty, shipping and brokerage charges, the landed price was almost $1900 U.S., or $2600 Canadian. It's way beyond my means to make that sort of purchase on a regular basis. When I do buy from the U.S. I ask if the seller will ship by USPS/Canada Post rather than UPS or FedEx with their greedy brokerage charges -- over $100 U.S. for the Martin. Here's an extreme, non-musical example of just how onerous cross-border shipping costs have become, and how some American sellers seem to have lost interest in shipping internationally. A few years ago I needed strike plates for the glass doors of a cabinet in my music room -- a standard hardware store item, but surprisingly hard to come by with nickel finish. After a little searching I found some that fit the bill for four or five dollars from a dealer in New England. Shipping cost? Forty-five dollars. I passed on that one.

Living in a small, relatively isolated community, I have no access to high quality instruments. The two music stores in the area sell only low- and mid-range Kala, Oscar Schmidt and similar ukes and stock a very narrow range of accessories. Vancouver is a two-hour car and ferry trip away, but even there the situation isn't much better. There are licensed dealers for Kamaka, aNueNue and a few other high-end brands, but there's a huge gap between what these stores list on their web sites and what they actually stock. One dealer does have a few Kamakas at the moment, so I'll certainly check those out on my next trip to the city. Fortunately, the most uke-friendly store sells Worth and Fremont strings, so I'm able to replenish my stock within a couple of days for a nominal mailing cost.

I also have to travel to the city to have any work done on my instruments, but that's a small price to pay for having access to a brilliant luthier who is generally backlogged for weeks but will slot me in whenever I come to town. I've certainly never had him or any other repair person demur when it came to a basic job like filing a nut, although he recommended I leave the installation of PegHed tuners to a violin maker. That entailed a much longer trip to drop the instrument off and another to pick it up. Again, that was a price I was happy to pay for quality workmanship. Mind you, if I'd happened to book the second trip a little later in the day and thus had to endure a five-hour wait on account of a ferry breakdown, I might feel differently.

And yes, we should all feel grateful for having UU as a place to buy and sell instruments. I've been a member of the Steel Guitar Forum for almost thirty years and was delighted to find that there was a comparable site for ukulele players. As Ed says, it's a very different experience buying and selling within a community of knowledgeable uke fans who treasure their instruments and have a realistic idea of their value.
 
As with others, the majority of my ukes have come from the UU marketplace. It's a great resource, and folks here have been wonderful to deal with.
 
Fortunately, the most uke-friendly store sells Worth and Fremont strings, so I'm able to replenish my stock within a couple of days for a nominal mailing cost.
Tapestry? They're my go to for "local" uke strings.
Mind you, if I'd happened to book the second trip a little later in the day and thus had to endure a five-hour wait on account of a ferry breakdown, I might feel differently.
Oh. The ferry drama. I feel. I used to "commute" bi-weekly to visit my Dad from the Mainland to Lantzville, and that was bad enough. Now, ferry travel is not possible without at least one reservation.

Ok enough thread hijacking! Back to the topic! Sorry, I just had to be here in solidarity.
 
I don't know if I'd say I've ever bought instruments just to try them out, but I've certainly bought and sold much more liberally than I do now. As Ploverwing says, an unfavourable currency exchange (oh, for the days when the Canadian dollar was worth 1.08 American!) and a huge jump in shipping costs have made it much less attractive to purchase from the U.S. My most recent purchase, a vintage Martin tenor, I bought for $1300 U.S.; with exchange, duty, shipping and brokerage charges, the landed price was almost $1900 U.S., or $2600 Canadian. It's way beyond my means to make that sort of purchase on a regular basis. When I do buy from the U.S. I ask if the seller will ship by USPS/Canada Post rather than UPS or FedEx with their greedy brokerage charges -- over $100 U.S. for the Martin. Here's an extreme, non-musical example of just how onerous cross-border shipping costs have become, and how some American sellers seem to have lost interest in shipping internationally. A few years ago I needed strike plates for the glass doors of a cabinet in my music room -- a standard hardware store item, but surprisingly hard to come by with nickel finish. After a little searching I found some that fit the bill for four or five dollars from a dealer in New England. Shipping cost? Forty-five dollars. I passed on that one.

Living in a small, relatively isolated community, I have no access to high quality instruments. The two music stores in the area sell only low- and mid-range Kala, Oscar Schmidt and similar ukes and stock a very narrow range of accessories. Vancouver is a two-hour car and ferry trip away, but even there the situation isn't much better. There are licensed dealers for Kamaka, aNueNue and a few other high-end brands, but there's a huge gap between what these stores list on their web sites and what they actually stock. One dealer does have a few Kamakas at the moment, so I'll certainly check those out on my next trip to the city. Fortunately, the most uke-friendly store sells Worth and Fremont strings, so I'm able to replenish my stock within a couple of days for a nominal mailing cost.

I also have to travel to the city to have any work done on my instruments, but that's a small price to pay for having access to a brilliant luthier who is generally backlogged for weeks but will slot me in whenever I come to town. I've certainly never had him or any other repair person demur when it came to a basic job like filing a nut, although he recommended I leave the installation of PegHed tuners to a violin maker. That entailed a much longer trip to drop the instrument off and another to pick it up. Again, that was a price I was happy to pay for quality workmanship. Mind you, if I'd happened to book the second trip a little later in the day and thus had to endure a five-hour wait on account of a ferry breakdown, I might feel differently.

And yes, we should all feel grateful for having UU as a place to buy and sell instruments. I've been a member of the Steel Guitar Forum for almost thirty years and was delighted to find that there was a comparable site for ukulele players. As Ed says, it's a very different experience buying and selling within a community of knowledgeable uke fans who treasure their instruments and have a realistic idea of their value.
I am blown away knowing how difficult it is outside of the USA. I knew it is difficult but I did not realize the extent. I did send a gift Harmony Wow to my grandson who lives in The Netherlands. it was a gift for him. He was 8-years old at the time and my daughter had to pay a $400 tax on a $500 value ukulele. And the postage was crazy also for a soprano ukulele.
 
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