RETURN POLICIES AND OTHER UNSOLVED MYSTERIES
By Chuck and Brenda Surack
Owners, Sweetwater Sound
One of our loyal customers recently sent us a page from another music retailer's catalog which is sent to musicians all over the country. He had circled their return policy and sent a note expressing incredulity over the specific wording. "Can you believe they actually put this in print?" he asked. The policy in question reads as follows:
OUR (COMPETITOR'S) GUARANTEE
The boss hates fine print, so here it is: All sales are final. No refunds on delivered merchandise. Please take your time and be certain that the items you wish to purchase are the items you wish to keep...
This is a real quote from a real catalog - honestly, we don't think we could have made something like this up. While Sweetwater customers rest easy knowing that they can always return any equipment that doesn't exactly fit their needs, there are a great many retailers who have return policies (or actually, non-return policies) similar to the one above. In essence, what they're saying is you'd better read the catalog carefully, because you're stuck with whatever you decide to buy. Obviously they believe that the average musician, being clairvoyant, can select their equipment based on some photos and a paragraph or two of text.
There are other retailers who do accept returns, but can hit you with the classic "restocking fee," which can be up to 20% of your purchase. Imagine buying a $2,000 keyboard, finding it doesn't give you the sound you're after, then having to pay $400 to return it! Amazing, isn't it?
Look, we're not out to ridicule other dealers' return policies. We figure our customers are savvy enough to decide how fair such policies might be without us having to point to a particular retailer and make fun of them. However, we do feel it is absolutely vital that we advise all musicians to be perfectly clear about return policies before ordering any gear, whether they are buying from a local dealer or from one of the larger national companies.
Here at Sweetwater, we have a pretty simple policy: If you're not happy, we're not happy and we'll do whatever it takes to make it right. We pioneered the concept of the customer satisfaction guarantee, and ten years later we still have the strongest guarantee in the business. While we're not about to accept an item that shipped out three months ago and gets returned to us so beat up that we know it's been on the road, we do try to be fair with everyone. Let's say you bought an item 33 days ago, gave it a thorough workout and found it just didn't do the job for you. If you can return it to us in the original shipping container without any scratches, dents or dings along with all manuals and blank warranty cards, we won't hassle you - we'll exchange the item for something that will do the job, give you credit towards a future purchase or issue you a refund. We only ask that you be fair with us and try to evaluate equipment as quickly as possible and please, don't rack mount an item unless you know you're going to keep it (those metal screws can really do a lot of cosmetic damage). If you're not happy, just call your sales engineer and we'll take care of you. It's really that simple.
Because our sales engineers are all musicians as well as studio owners themselves and not just order-takers, they make certain that in just about every instance, the equipment delivered to your door is exactly the equipment you need to do the job. That's the reason we actually have so few returns: These people know the equipment we sell, will evaluate your needs, then recommend the item that will be perfect for your application.
We want all our customers to have a blast using the equipment they buy from us. After all, making music can be hard work, but it's also one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable. Having to worry that you might get stuck with the wrong gear is a problem you just don't need. We think when you compare music retailers' return policies, you'll see Sweetwater is the clear industry leader.
Regular readers of this column know there's always something going on around Sweetwater. Our growth has been tremendous over this past year and since we're now completely out of room, we've begun construction on a new warehouse that's actually going to be larger than our entire existing three-story building. We'll eventually be building a brand new recording studio, as well (designed by industry legend Russ Berger). Some of you may not be aware of the fact that Sweetwater got its start in the business as a full service recording facility back in 1979, but it's always been an integral part of our company, not simply as a revenue source, but just as importantly as a place where we're constantly using and evaluating all the many products we sell.
Knowing that we're going to be building this new state-of-the-art recording facility we decided to install a brand new Euphonix CS2000 automated mixing console, which combines the very best of two worlds: analog audio mixing under total digital control. As you probably know, the console is the very heart of any studio and the Euphonix unit is the most sophisticated mixer we've ever seen. Not only is it ultra-clean, but it's also user-configurable, meaning that an engineer can literally redesign the signal path from the ground up via it's digital interface. Just about every knob, switch and slider can be assigned a function as needed. One knob may be a low pass filter during one session and an effects send for another. It has so many features that we couldn't possibly list them all here. We think it's going to be a great addition to our new studio, as well as a super valuable tool that will allow us to evaluate every piece of new gear in a real world situation.
We'll have more to tell you about our expansion plans as they occur. But for now, we want to take just a brief moment to thank each and every one of our customers for their support during what has been another record-breaking year. Have a wonderful holiday season and a most prosperous new year!
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