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June 7, 2005

Filed under: random»personal»finances

I Am Waiting To Buy A Bass

Note the phrasing, if you will. That title does not read "I am buying a bass," or "I have bought a bass," or even the classic musician's lament, "I'm thinking about buying a bass." No, contained in that title is an expression of delayed expectations. It is a title that says I might buy an instrument in the future, once certain conditions are met.

See this bass?

Nice, isn't it? That's a Rickenbacker 4003, Jetglo, vintage neck pickup not shown. Through a good distortion channel, it sounds like the Wrath of God descending in one massive power chord. Clean, it has a piano-like chime that enunciates every note with clarity, without losing the low thunder. The Rick's best special feature, however, is called Rick-O-Sound, a stereo output jack that lets the pickups be routed through separate effects chains--like playing two instruments at once. For a looping solo artist-slash-lunatic like me, it's a perfect machine.

That's the idea, at least. And if the local shop where I'd placed my order for this bass, 3 months ago, had come through, I'd probably be boring you with experimental symphonies and signal diagrams. Unfortunately, it's now 9 months since the order date, and there is no Rickenbacker to be found. So as soon as I pay my taxes and my tuition next week, I'll be going down to the guitar shop to get my deposit back, and I'll be ordering from MusiciansFriend.com instead.

I didn't want to do that. I wanted to support the local shop, the same way I want to support local musicians and local everything else. Musician's Friend isn't a Wal-Mart in terms employee abuse, but they're still a big multinational corporation. As far as I'm concerned, that makes them the Man, and I prefer to spend my Rock dollars fighting the Man. On the other hand, the Man will sell me a Bass, and the shop in Centreville (one of the only Rickenbacker dealers around, especially since Guitar Center isn't qualified any more) won't.

Isn't that the problem with the age of Internet commerce? Thomas Friedman can go on about his "flat earth," but what it means to the average consumer is that there's a more boring retail experience. There's no brilliance--no clerks with clever recommendations or expert help--but there's also less incompetence, when the recommendations and the help aren't so clever or expert at all. I don't enjoy shopping through a browser as much as I do in person--with books and instruments there's a tactile side to the purchase that can really add to your confidence, and considering the amount I'm spending on the Rick, that's a nice option to have. Too bad the local music shop won't cooperate.

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