Morally Corrupt modern makers

September 25, 2011 at 05:27 PM ·

Has anyone run into crooked-theif modern makers? I ask becasue my teacher got ripped off for 800 dollars, and I cam considering putting a hefty deposit down on a modern, and I do not wish to be stolen from? Does anyne have any experience with this?  

Replies (33)

September 25, 2011 at 07:00 PM ·

I've yet to meet a morally corrupt modern maker, but for $800 you can't expect a Strad!! (Wink)

September 25, 2011 at 08:43 PM ·

$800? I don't know anybody who makes a decent violin for that $8,000, let alone $800.. and I'd hope that there aren't any modern makers out there with the gall to charge $80,000 for their instruments.

September 25, 2011 at 09:31 PM ·

beeing ripped off for 800 $ doesn't necessarily means that that was exactly the price, right?

I have no bad trading experiences with luthiers yet. But I met some with who I don't want to trade or just very carefully. For dealing with violins you need some experience and self-confidence.

Good violin makers will give you informations and long time to test instruments and decide. I think the best are as interested in your opinion as they are in selling, so giving you their instruments for your opinion is not a bad deal for them.

In the range of school instruments some strange things ("rip offs") happen all the time. Dealers cheat on unexperienced parents or even worse on grandparents. And they cheat on unexperienced players sometimes too. How your teacher could be "ripped off" is not really understandable for me. But thats maybe also nothing for a public forum isn't it!?

Another "dark side" of the violin making business is the difference in quality of work if you go there as a experienced player or as a student. A student gets his work (rehair, some fixing.. whatever) done by the assistants of the violin maker. They can be good, but mostly they are worse than their master of course. The problem is that the price is often the same.

September 25, 2011 at 10:30 PM ·

In this instance, as I understand it, the $800 was a refundable deposit on a violin which was commissioned, and the commission was canceled. About 8 months has elapsed, and the maker has stopped communicating.

Another awkward situation I ran across recently was one where the individual who had commissioned an instrument decided not to purchase it after trying it. They had been given that option. Upon contacting the maker, they were told the money had been spent, and it would take a while to come up with it. They were also told that the instrument would need to be hand delivered back to the maker on the opposite coast of the US, and couldn't be shipped!

Beyond that, makers will have various policies on how cancelled commissions are handled. Some will refund money, but only after the instrument has been sold to someone else. Well, how is one supposed to be able to verify that the instrument is still sitting unsold at the maker's? Take the maker's word for it? Or if someone checks and one is sitting there, how do they know that it's the same instrument? Seems like a refund could be dragged out for years that way.

Others will have a contract which requires the person to go ahead with the purchase, and after they have owned it for a set period of time, the maker will sell it for them.

I would think that makers would go through hell and high water to avoid these kinds of  negative marks on their reputations, but apparently not all of them do.

I don't think I've ever taken longer than a week to get a refund check out, and I don't take kindly to the makers who drag our business down.

September 26, 2011 at 12:21 AM ·

Simon wrote, "Another 'dark side' of the violin making business is the difference in quality of work if you go there as a experienced player or as a student. A student gets his work (rehair, some fixing.. whatever) done by the assistants of the violin maker."

How should the apprentices learn?  Don't teaching hospitals function the same way?  Won't the master check the work of the apprentice before the instrument is returned to the client?

September 26, 2011 at 01:47 AM ·

$14,760,000,000,000 stolen from the American people by international bankers is moral corruption. $800 lost on a violin build is a small claims case.

September 26, 2011 at 04:24 AM ·

  $800 lost on a violin build is a small claims case.

Take the case to Judge Judy ! I shall enjoy watching the maker squirming, shaking his head, and saying "It was a gift, y'ronner". He had better not stand with his hands in his pockets.


September 26, 2011 at 09:23 AM ·

@ Paul: You are right and I also appreciate luthiers who train several assistants. As I said the assistants are not that bad mostly. But I am not sure that the master looks over everything they do necessarily!

For me it is not a problem when a cheap student bow gets a mediocre rehair from a assistant, but it is a problem if the price is the same. That was my point.

September 28, 2011 at 01:42 AM ·

Hello Mr. Burgess,


Sounds like the case you know of is the very one I am talking about. Guys, I am not talking about a 800.00 violin, but a 800.00 deposit. And the maker is a very well known maker in the London area. It upsets me because my teacher is a huge player who gives his all for us, and he deserves better.  On top of that right now he has a badly injured shoulder and can only take a fraction of the gigs he wants to take. 

The whole thing upsets me greatly, and makes me think twice about putting down a deposit.

September 28, 2011 at 02:46 AM ·

Damn. That kind of person gives makers a bad name. I haven't heard of anything like that happening directly from a maker before, though I've heard bad stories about dealers.

September 28, 2011 at 06:25 AM ·

And the maker is a very well known maker in the London area. 

Surely that's not London, UK. I thought makers over here were as pure as the driven snow. Presumably that's Minnesota or somewhere else. London UK would be outside Judge Judy's jurisdiction. 

September 28, 2011 at 11:32 AM ·

 op's post seems to be full of anger and emotion and not enough details, not that i care to know since it will put people in public on both ends.

david wrote "In this instance, as I understand it, the $800 was a refundable deposit on a violin which was commissioned, and the commission was canceled."

i think a policy like that, without better details, such as having the deposit pro-rated as work progresses, asks for trouble.  what is it,,,that anytime a prospective buyer decides to stop the commission, the entire 800 dollars get returned?   meanwhile, time, effort, materials from the maker end get no compensation at all?

now, that is a bargain!

what is preventing me to drop 1000 big bucks to each of the top makers, getting them busy busting their chops, and then make a tour and try out all the violins and then decide, sorry, don't like any, give me my money back?  ridiculous.




September 28, 2011 at 12:09 PM ·

"what is it,,,that anytime a prospective buyer decides to stop the commission, the entire 800 dollars get returned?"

That's what I do. My deposit is much larger (closer to 20%), but it's completely refundable at any time for any reason, including if the completed instrument doesn't meet expectations. If a maker has buyers waiting, what have they risked, except maybe some shipping costs? Actually, it can be nice for a maker to end up with an instrument for inventory, or to offer to other people in line, who may be getting impatient. I lose some business that way, when people get tired of waiting, or purchase something else in the interim. I lose even more because many people won't even consider waiting two years or whatever in the first place. Can't blame 'em.

Mr. Platen, yes, I know your teacher, the person who this happened to. Great player, and well-known. Not the brightest move on the part of the maker, and I'll bring this up if (when) I run into the maker.

I'll point out though that your teacher has had much more successful interactions with a large number other makers, so he could be be a good source of information on who to trust. You actually have quite an advantage that way, compared to people who need to stab in the dark.

September 28, 2011 at 12:28 PM ·

 well, david's exceptional so his practice may or may not apply to others.  essentially, as i have previously stated, if this is done on a handshake, and that a total refund is expected any time for any reason, it is not a good business practice because to have it run smoothly one expects the best of behavior and intention from both parties all the time.  some, like david, can make it work.  now we are witnessing a case, involving a "huge" player, that does not,  which does not surprise me.  and it is precisely this kind of fuzziness that consequently scares away other prospective clients.  circumstances can change and promises break.

perhaps more clients will stick to a pro-rated deposit return policy, knowing that it is more realistic, than under the slogan of total return any time, realizing that it is simply too good to be true across the board.  that is holding op back from making his own commitment.

is it customary to have a written contract for commissioning?

September 28, 2011 at 01:13 PM ·

 My experience is aligned with Mr. Burgess on this one (very SMALL experience in my case) except the terms are that if I decide not to accept my new instrument the charge will be a bottle of a fine vintage wine from a local winery (year and label specified).  As David as said, the maker will be out nothing; someone else will have less long to wait for an instrument, and I would have no qualms discussing what I said/didn't say to the maker in the first place.  (I'm not expecting to pay the forfeit, by the way).

In any case, I would be upset if a contract, verbal or otherwise, were broken between me and some person I had trusted.  I'm glad not to know details, in the hope this is/will have become a unique occurrence with this maker.

September 28, 2011 at 01:24 PM ·

Actually Al, there are makers that will build you an instrument with no deposit at all.  The good makers know that they will sell their instruments, so they are not so concerned about wasting their time.  If you don't buy, someone else will.  When you commission an instrument, you are basically securing a place in line to try out one of their upcoming instruments. 

One thing I was very pleasantly surprised by, when I was violin hunting, I was able to get some prominent makers to ship me instruments at their cost with no deposit.  I guess after talking to them for 15-20 minutes on the phone, they could tell that I was a serious buyer, and were willing to accept the risk and expense of shipping instruments for me to try.  I am talking about instruments that were $15K and up, and they were willing to ship 2-3 at a time for me to try.  Many shops will do the same.  From their perspective, it is the cost of doing business.


September 28, 2011 at 01:45 PM ·

 I must be lucky, because no violin or bowmaker ever asked me for a deposit up-front. The makers must have believed I was serious, and in some instances they had something in writing or an email from me as proof of bona fides.

It would be a different matter if a player were to ask a maker to depart from his/her normal line of activity. If the request was for something outlandish, an inlaid instrument or a very eccentric design requiring the maker to tool up specially, it would be quite in order for a deposit to be non-refundable, because the final product might be difficult or even impossible to sell.

As has been posted, we don't know the full story in this instance. But I still yearn to see a fiddle maker on Judge Judy - a novelty, I'm sure.

September 28, 2011 at 01:53 PM ·

 well, smiley's exceptional so his practice may or may not apply to others, either:)

it is indeed gratifying to read about dealings among solid, decent people.  but there is still a vast ocean of characters out there, from both ends, that are of concern.  if a judgement call turns sour, there needs to be something in place for clearer resolution.

i still find it mind boggling that some makers will make a new violin with no deposit, thus free back out.   i must have very low self esteem! :)

September 28, 2011 at 03:05 PM ·

A few years back I visited a violin shop I had never visited before and half an hour later walked out with a 20,000 dollar violin for a trial. No papers signed , just name and phone nr taken down.   But the owner and i  knew a lot of the same people including my teachers, talked a lot  did some serious playing. Same at another shop that I now visit quite often and bought some instruments from. Recently they are writing things down but not always.

All the big shops I know take your credit card number and ask you to sign for the instruments on trial plus for the period you can have it for. Know of instances where instruments or bows were out for very long times, sometimes many years. 

The other way around happens too with repairs; some places take forever to get the work done.

Not getting their instruments or bows back within a reasonable time must be one of the biggest headaches for shops or makers.

September 28, 2011 at 04:04 PM ·

Call me naive, but I dream of a world where people are trustworthy.  Where you can bank on a handshake.  Where people would rather take a personal loss, than do something that would screw someone else.  That is how I live my life, and it is refreshing that there are violin makers out there that live by the same philosophy.  Unfortunately, all it takes is a few bad apples to spoil the lot.

I have been involved in a couple of law suits recently, where I was on the losing end.  Greedy people and dishonest attorneys are definitely out there.  But I am trying not to allow that affect me.  For now, I still have confidence in the human race.


September 28, 2011 at 04:24 PM ·

 Rick Perry's right!

If you take a refundable deposit and the spend it to finance the costs for new customers, that's a Ponzi scheme!

October 24, 2011 at 08:57 AM ·

 I have lost too many deposits over the years, so now I refrain or try to get all details in writing.  Ultimately, a deal is only as good as the handshake that goes with it.  Worse than losing a deposit is losing the quality of the violin.  My violin was newly purchased and had a very good tone and projection.  But as the years have gone by, the build quality, tone, projection, playability have definitely deteriorated.  As I have been away from the luthier's country since purchase, I have been forced to resort to local luthiers to replace bridges, posts, and repair open seams. The seams open up annually.  I contacted the maker and asked him if he would give it some repairs and TLC, and his reply was no way. He takes no responsibility for the failure of the construction, and said he would not even open the the box if I shipped it to him.  Once burned, twice shy. I had no idea the risks I was taking by buying new.  So, in future, should I ever consider a new modern again, the reputation of the maker will be more important to me than the violin.  

October 24, 2011 at 10:53 AM ·

i don't see why people can't be named.

1- it would benefit others (us)

2- if the maker cared enough (and knew of the post), s/he might give their side of the story

October 24, 2011 at 11:27 AM ·

 a person who does not wish to post online is then at a disadvantage.  you know, some folks have to work right, haha? 

October 24, 2011 at 12:11 PM ·

no one said that anyone should be badmouthed but a fair assessment of services provided (whether lacking or acceptable/escellent)  would be beneficial to the consumer and  eventually to the trade. additionally, people have the right to review products, post sale services and cite the brand name and so on. why not with violins?  i don't understand your "haha".

October 24, 2011 at 12:15 PM ·

 i am not sure who is to decide if is to be the place for sorting out things like that.  i put down haha, because i was laughing, not at you.  

in fact the haha illustrates a point, that on an online forum, things can be misconstrued easily.

"no one said that anyone should be badmouthed"

that is beyond the point.  what if a person is angry at a maker but decides to go all out to bad mouth the maker, to blow it out of proportion, through viral media.  who is to stop that if the maker does not wish to defend himself online?

October 24, 2011 at 01:09 PM ·

places like are exactly where things like that can be spoken about. this is where regular players and  savvy makers hang out to help, to benefit in whatever way they can, etc etc. my understanding is there are maybe 2 other similar sites (maestronet and a canadian website).

if regular players can't have their say here and review instruments then there is no where else. when i go to ..i read reviews on cameras as well as cinematography ..when i go to read review on architects as well as architecture...etc. when we go to piano sites, we read comparisons between bossendorfer, steinways, pleyels..etc. things get heated, ridiculous and people can get dramatic and sometimes out of line. there are measures in place for that. we have a guardian angel here.  true that violin making is a smaller operation and more personable than a factory or impersonal supplier, but the principle is still pretty much the same. as for guidelines, well rudeness is rudeness ..and other dispositions might not be clear cut but eventually they surface to light and the site editor/monitor/owner has the right to act and judge accordingly (as happened  with people trying to sell instruments that were not as claimed)....but please don't say that  political correctness is reason enough to castrate a directed critical review.

October 24, 2011 at 03:34 PM ·

 well, you have made some good points.  in general, we tend to more generous giving praises here to those who have been helpful and holding back a bit when making complaints about individuals. why are we so unfair to ourselves and others in that respect?   internet is changing that, perhaps.  for better or worse depending on where you stand.

but i feel that you have not really responded to my concern about those who do not participate on the internet.  they have a voice, just not heard in this medium. 


October 24, 2011 at 07:46 PM ·

Grab a rope, find a tree, and hang 'em all, I say! Even if they're honest, something about 'em ain't quite right! You can tell just by lookin' at em. Probably a bunch o' bicycle seat sniffers. ;-)

October 24, 2011 at 09:59 PM ·

 i will group makers into 3 groups:

1. good guys doing good work staying out of trouble by keeping their customers happy, more or less.

2. mad scientist type that are decent folks but may not be that "smart" pr-wise.  they function on a diff wavelength.  may not be the most worldly folks you expect them to be.

3. those who put their smarts into making fake violins so that the future generations are forever confused.  so they are making a living, but to me it is a low form of existence.   yeah, i will join david  with ropes and trees:)

October 24, 2011 at 10:07 PM ·

 You were in a mischievous mood last night, David.

October 24, 2011 at 11:32 PM ·

I get that way sometimes, but I warned you about makers, didn't I?

October 25, 2011 at 05:02 AM ·

 For some unaccountable reason all my deals with makers have been good ones. Not one cowboy. Every ball a coconut, every egg a bird. Must count my blessings. Where did I put my abacus ??

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