You’ve met them too.  The ‘salespeople’ in most of the shops in Denmark Street.  The primary qualification for these positions seems to be a loathing of potential customers and a deep-seated reluctance to know anything about what’s being sold.

Over many years, I’ve been pitched so much rubbish, invariably delivered in an overheated and impatient ‘look, pond life, you’re lucky I’m wasting my time talking to you. I know what you want and I’m right, ok, just get out of my hair so I can get back to showing off my latest riff to the passing trade’.

Outright wrong descriptions of materials and components leavened with an overdose of misinformed prejudice are commonplace.  I remember a lengthy diatribe from one such ‘gentleman’, delivered staccato between between bursts of fast widdlywiddly, about why humbuckers had single coils and were better.  Or another, in an acoustic specialist’s, completely misinformed rehearsal of soundhole pickups.

I don’t doubt that the pay is derisory, but that’s no reason to abuse or wilfully mislead customers, and anyway the job has its perks. You can learn more than these people know in five minutes on the web, so why do they do it?  I guess they’re just bored, bitter and take pleasure in misleading the less knowledgeable with a sneer.  It wasn’t always this way – the old Top Gear shop, now occupied by Rockers, used to indulge me for hours as a schoolkid/student.  When I started earning, I paid them back in spades, buying many fine instruments from them.

And now the cowboys are moving in on ‘vintage’ gear, you have to watch the merchandise as well as the staff.  There’s some very interesting reading if you Google ‘fake vintage music ground’.  The same company, having now Phoenixed itself out of various liabilities, owns most of the shops on the street, which is a pretty good indication of what you should expect.  And it’s being prosecuted for allegedly fencing stolen gear – lots of it.

There are two exceptions – Vintage & Rare, which is straight and carries decent but stupidly expensive gear, though it is downright reluctant to actually sell anything worthwhile; and Angel Music, where Andy has some nice mid-range stiff and is also pretty straight.

Go to any guitar shop almost anywhere else and you will have an excellent chance of meeting knowledgeable, attentive shop staff who will guide you skilfully towards a good purchase (if always just over your budget!).  But avoid Denmark Street unless you’re desperate.

Ps has anyone ever seen the guys in Ivor Mairants even clock, let alone serve, a customer?  It’s a mystery how that place pays the rent while the the staff seem to run it as their private practice room!

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