Do I cut my losses? (Unsatisfactory customized ukuleles)

Do I proceed to pay the balance of $330 dollars to complete my purchase of the other 2 ukuleles?


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Freya Vie

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I made a terrible mistake of ordering 4 (different types) of ukuleles from a luthier based in the Southeast Asia. I ordered based on the photos and videos of the sound sample in the Instagram. I have placed 50% deposit on all of them and have only collected 2 of the ukuleles.

I am disappointed because I didn't think it was worth the money I paid. Also, I came to realization that the uke sound in the videos were being amplified. It was also upsetting when I found the luthier to be misleading on 2 occasions during the process of 2 of the ukes.

So now, I am not looking forward to the other 2 ukuleles which I have paid $330 for. However, I am unsure of which decision to make. I needed to post this here to seek your kind advice, if any.



Ukulele #1 — Mahogany sopranino ($188)
- no issues with this one except the sound is soft

Ukulele #2 — Mango concert ($521)
  • uke is heavy
  • the neck is heavy
  • the finishing and quality is not great
  • the sound is soft too and doesn't sound like a mango
  • all my other ukuleles sound much greater than this one, even the "factory-made ones"

Ukulele #3 is a tamarind wood concert ($456) and ukulele #4 is a mango sopranissimo ($205).



Do I pay the balance of the $330 to complete the purchase of the other 2 ukuleles? — Considering I already paid a deposit of $330.

or

Do I cut my losses at $330 and avoid collecting the other 2 ukuleles which might turn out equally disappointing as well?
 
Others with greater experience purchasing bespoke instruments may respond differently but I wouldn't pay another dime for any item for which the quality and workmanship of already received items was egregiously misrepresented. It’s the epitome of throwing good money after bad. :)

EDIT: I feel more strongly about the 2 concerts than about the other two because, for the combined cost, you could have bought a Timms on eBay for which the quality and craftsmanship is superb (and possibly had a full $100.00 left over).
Also: (1) Kauai luthier Brad Donaldson also recently sold one of his great custom built concert ukes on UUF marketplace for an even lesser price. (2) A resale of an also- superb Pete Howlett custom concert uke is currently listed at UUF Marketplace for $800.00.
 
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Others with greater experience purchasing bespoke instruments may respond differently but I wouldn't pay another dime for any item for which the quality and workmanship of already received items was egregiously misrepresented. It’s the epitome of throwing good money after bad. :)
"Throwing good money after bad".. Wow, thank you. That definitely put things in perspective for me.
 
have you contacted the luthier to see if he would return the deposits? Let him know that you are unhappy with the first two not meeting expectations. Worth a try?

But I agree that throwing more money into it should not be done. No one need four bad ukuleles.
 
have you contacted the luthier to see if he would return the deposits? Let him know that you are unhappy with the first two not meeting expectations. Worth a try?

But I agree that throwing more money into it should not be done. No one need four bad ukuleles.
It was already indicated in the terms & conditions. They will not entertain return of deposit or refunds.

Additionally, I decided not to engage further with the luthier. When I questioned him about the misleading occasions previously, he responded me with excuses instead. I guess I wasn't firm enough too.

You're absolutely right, on top of the money wasted, no one deserves 4 bad ukuleles 😰
 
If I was you, I would complete the purchase. The other side of the story might be that the luthier was being honest and his/her ukes are not for you. After you have the ukes for some time, revisit (ukes can change). If you still don't like them post an honest reason for selling them (you don't like them) and recover the cost. I am thinking financially the two should be about the same .
 
Please name the luthier, it's important that we know who not to do deal with. I've had a number of custom ukes and bass ukes made by Bruce Wei Arts in Vietnam and he's done very good work. One recent one, the voice was soft and realized it was because the top was thicker and I asked for a glossy finish. When I told him, he said he would pay for all shipping and replace the top with a thinner one at no cost. I ordered another and told him to make the top thinner and satin finish, it came out great. I decided to auction the soft voice to my uke group and ordered a mahogany from Bruce, thinner top and satin finish.
 
Please name the luthier, it's important that we know who not to do deal with. I've had a number of custom ukes and bass ukes made by Bruce Wei Arts in Vietnam and he's done very good work. One recent one, the voice was soft and realized it was because the top was thicker and I asked for a glossy finish. When I told him, he said he would pay for all shipping and replace the top with a thinner one at no cost. I ordered another and told him to make the top thinner and satin finish, it came out great. I decided to auction the soft voice to my uke group and ordered a mahogany from Bruce, thinner top and satin finish.
Please don’t. Your actions has direct impact on someone’s livelihood. Give direct feedback.
 
I know of a top quality builder whose name was dragged into muck by someone not happy and that fundamentally changed how he went about things much to the detriment of those who like his ukes. A lot of orders for luthiers come from gossip between friends and if the luthier is as bad as you say, it will catch up with him. If this is a period in his life where his ukes are bad he might gain from your direct feedback.
 
Please don’t. Your action has direct impact on someone’s livelihood. Give direct feedback.

When we are talking about the playing qualities of an instrument, that is so personal. I have had experiences over the years with ukuleles from some well known luthiers who are very highly regarded. These are people who are regularly raved about in the ukulele community. There were some instruments that I did not like at all. Perhaps I was expecting too much (the holy grail of ukuleles?) or the instrument did not fit my style of playing. I ended up selling some of these ukes to people who loved them. The instrument was not right for me, but was perfect for another player.

I would not bad mouth any of these luthiers or detail my experiences here on UU as it was not a case of dishonesty or shady business practices, but just my taste. Since every instrument and piece of wood is different, it is hard to know if it representative of that builder. Even the best builders are not 100% consistent and some instruments are better than others or fit our tastes better.
 
If I was you, I would complete the purchase. The other side of the story might be that the luthier was being honest and his/her ukes are not for you. After you have the ukes for some time, revisit (ukes can change). If you still don't like them post an honest reason for selling them (you don't like them) and recover the cost. I am thinking financially the two should be about the same .
Good points. I usually try to look at both sides of an argument. Thinking back on the original question, I suppose it depends on the arrangement was with the builder. I am sure that this is money that they are expecting for work they completed. We all make mistakes and have probably had some buyers remorse with some ukes. Considering the luthier's perspective, perhaps the honest approach would be to take your lumps since the maker did what was expected. It is possible that in time the instruments may open up a bit or grow on you. If not you sell them and chalk it up as a learning experience.
 
is your postage all inclusive? I'd be wondering whether you feel they will be worth anything more than that 50% figure for selling on. The second concert also may not be as 'bad' as the first now you've aired your views and they have a chance to put some more effort in! i.e. you can check things like weight before they are sent.
 
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