MICHAEL - THIS IS VERY HELPFUL
PLEASE COULD YOU RE-POST IT ON THE NEW FORUM @ chinaguitarsceptic.com
SO THAT IT SURVIVES THE PHASING OUT OF THIS OLD FORUM
So, you are eager to buy your first Chibson but you have a ton of questions. There are definitely things you need to be aware of, from "is it legal" to "what can I expect for $250".
Is it legal to buy/own a Chibson?
(Disclaimer - I'm not a lawyer, so this is based on my research)
In most countries it is legal to purchase and own a counterfeit item, with the exception of France and Italy. But it's best to check the laws of your country before ordering.
In terms of the United States, it is legal to import one counterfeit guitar every 30 days, provided you carry it into the country on your person. If you are having the guitar shipped to you, it can be subject to confiscation if it violates trademark. This does happen from time to time, and while most sellers will refund your money in these cases, there is no guarantee you will get your money back. You can request your Chibson be made with your own name and logo - which will minimize the risk of confiscation. Some sellers will do this for free, while others will charge a nominal fee.
If your guitar does get confiscated, you will get a letter from US Customs letting you know and offering you a chance to appeal the confiscation. You will also get nasty letter from Gibson's lawyers demanding that you provide them with the names and addresses of the person who sent you the guitar. I would suggest you invoke your right to remain silent, but as I said, I'm not a lawyer.
To avoid the possibility of Customs inspection, sellers will often use an incorrect zip code or other tricks to route the guitar through ports of entry that tend to be less risky. This can cause delivery delays.
Can I sell my Chibson to someone else?
The short answer is "no". It is against the law in pretty much every country to manufacture or <u>distribute</u> counterfeit goods. If you sell your guitar, or technically even give it to a friend, you are guilty of distribution.
Be aware also that ordering a lot of guitars in a short period of time could put you at risk of getting flagged by Customs and accused of intent to distribute counterfeit goods. So I would strongly recommend you order guitars individually and space your orders well apart. Bulk ordering is just not a good idea, even if you do intend to keep them for yourself. It's one thing to know that you just wanted 25 cool guitars for yourself, but another to have to prove that in a court of law.
How do I choose a seller?
You really have to do your homework. Not all of these sellers are created equal, and most are middlemen getting guitars from a handful of factories. Check feedback on here and on the AliExpress website.
Once you have narrowed your choices to a couple of sellers, establish communication with them. Look for sellers who speak decent English and who respond well to your emails or messages. Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions.
Communicating during the build.
Keep in mind that Asia is a different culture, and (unlike Japan) you will be dealing with people who have never been outside of the country for the most part. So they are used to their way of doing things, which is completely different from how things work in the Western culture.
If an issue does arise, it is essential that you keep all communication with them calm and polite. If you get angry with them in your email, or come off as very demanding, they will tend to go silent on you. It's how they deal with conflict in China, they just turn their back on you and tune you out - which can be understandably frustrating. Keep in mind that you will have a better chance of working with them if they consider you a friend and have some sympathy for you.
If you send them a barrage of email while they are doing your build, asking for continuous photos and updates, you also risk having them tune you out.
Be patient and polite at all times, and you have a better chance at working with them to resolve an issue.
Ordering a Chibson, what can go wrong?
Keep in mind that your expectations need to be realistic. You are ordering a cheap copy of a guitar from China, not a $2,000 guitar from your local guitar shop. If you are expecting Gibson quality for $250, you will be sadly disappointed. With Chibsons, you have to find the charm in them for what they are.
Common issues are uneven frets, poor quality nuts, poor electronics and other hardware and minor blemishes on the finish. Some of these guitars are exceptionally well done, but many will have small issues. Almost all of them will require work to make them good - which is why we suggest you consider them a "project guitar" and not something that you expect to play out of the box.
In many cases, there will be slight color variations from what you order and so forth.
To minimize the risk of being disappointed, ask the seller to send you photos of the guitar with your name in the photo (so they don't just use stock photos.) Indicate that you won't sign for delivery and will return the guitar if you don't get photos to sign off on before the guitar ships. Most sellers are more than happy to snap a photo or two to make a sale.
(And please note, some of these sellers use photos on AliExpress of the real guitars, so be aware of that when choosing a seller. Make sure you get photos of the guitar they are intending to ship to you before you sign off on the order.)
It is also not unusual to run into production delays with many sellers, particularly if you are having a custom order done. Many of these guitars will ship within 10 days, but sometimes an order can stretch into weeks or even months.
One piece necks and ebony boards.
Many of us will ask for an ebony fretboard on the guitar, which is normally a $20 upgrade. Most of the time the fretboard will be ebony, but the occasional unscrupulous seller will stain a rosewood board to look like ebony.
In terms of one piece necks, most Asian sellers interpret that to mean "no scarf joint" and the neck will have a heel joint when it arrives. If you want a true one piece neck, you really need to be specific with them about not wanting a scarf or a heel joint, but the entire neck should be one piece of wood. There is always an upgrade fee for a one piece neck, since it requires the use of more material to produce. Again, usually somewhere in the range of $20 or so.
(If you do have a scarf or heel joint, it won't affect the structural integrity of your guitar. In fact, these joints can actually make the necks stronger than a one piece neck - so the advantage of a one piece neck is purely cosmetic.)
Many of these will arrive with pickups stamped "Epiphone", but there is debate about whether they are real or not. Many times the pickups won't be potted and be microphonic. Many of these guitars have mini pots and all of their electronics will be of dubious quality. Most of us will chose to completely rewire these guitars with quality parts.
Most of these guitars are structurally sound, but most will require a setup. The fretwork has gotten a bit better over time, so in some cases it will be as simple as replacing the nut, adjusting the truss rod and bridge height and you will be good to go.
In many cases, however, to get a good action with no buzz it will require leveling the frets. If you can do this yourself, it's not a big deal. But if you have to pay someone to do it for you, you can expect to pay anywhere from $80 to $150, depending on where you live. So keep this in mind of you are on a tight budget.
The bridges on these guitars are normally not very good quality. While they will work, you will normally get a lot of rattle from them (TOM bridges in particular.)
Tuners are generally decent on many of these guitars, but on some they will slip and will need to be replaced with better quality. But wait until you get the guitar before you order these, since there is a decent chance the tuners it comes with are going to hold tune, especially with a good nut.
When it's all said and done, it's not unusual to invest about $200 in parts (tuners, nut, bridge, pots & caps) to get these guitar into shape, plus up to an additional $250 if you have to pay someone to do the work for you. And this doesn't include the cost of pickups, which can be $75 for a pair of pickups from GFS, or as much as $200 for brand name pickups. So consider this when you are looking at the cost of the guitars.
What can go horribly wrong?
We've seen guitars arrive with damage to the body and broken necks. In these cases, most sellers have been willing to offer a discount, or to send out a replacement body/neck without hardware so you can swap over the hardware from the damaged guitar. In some cases, sellers have been reluctant to make things right if the guitar arrives damaged, resulting in the need to go through the AliExpress dispute process to get a refund. This can involve shipping the damaged guitar back to the seller (by a method that has them sign for it) at your own cost. This can cost upward of $250 or more, depending on where you live. If AliExpress asks you to do this, you will also get a refund for your shipping cost once the dispute is settled.
With this in mind, most sellers would prefer to send a body and neck, since it's cheaper for them than paying the return shipping.
If you are going through the dispute process, there are various deadlines you have to meet and steps involved. You will need to pay close attention to all of this.
In rare cases, the guitar you ordered will be completely different from the guitar they ship. It's not common, but it does happen.
The biggest issues normally are color variation, or a quilted top when you were expecting a flame top - and again these things are not common but not unheard of either.
It's best to open and carefully inspect your guitar before acknowledging on AliExpress that you have received it. Immediately open a claim if there is an issue, and work with the seller to resolve the problem.
Can I customize the guitar?
Yes - many builders are happy to do custom work for you, from logos to unusual body shapes. In many cases, their custom work has been amazing. But it also seems the risk of something going wrong proportionally increases as you go in the direction of customization - as opposed to their off the shelf guitars. Make sure you send them drawings and photos of what you want. Again, because of the communication issues it's easy for things to get lost in translation. And even with photos, sometimes things will be a little off such as your custom logo or specific color.
But having your dream guitar built at an affordable price is one of the big benefits to working with these sellers.
In the end, think of it as a bit of an adventure. I always like to treat ordering a Chibson the same way I would playing a game of roulette at the casino. If you win, you are going to get a great guitar at a super affordable price. If you lose, you are going to be out a few dollars. So please obey the #1 rule of gambling - never wager more than you can afford to lose.
(Disclaimer - CGS and myself do not advocate the purchasing of guitars that infringe on trademark, and strongly recommend having your Chibson made with your own custom name and logo at the very least. It would also be great if you could have them do a custom headstock shape as well, since that is also a trademark normally. This thread is for information purposes only, as a way of assisting first time buyers of Chinese guitars. Nothing in this thread is meant to infer that we support the violation of trademark rights.)
[Last edited Oct 21, 2014 12:02:39]
The two most important things to remember in life: "The only time it's acceptable to work with amateurs is if you are making porn." "If you want to work with clowns, join a circus."