Shopping “Stupid” Sales

By now, most of my readers know that I support several music-oriented sites, including CreekDontRise.com, SchoolOfTheRock.com, ClassicTrainSongs.com, and RiverboatMusic.com. You’ve also noticed that I have vendor links on many of my pages (especially the buyer’s guides like RiverboatMusic.com).

In the interest of full disclosure, I make a little money if you click on one of those links and buy something on that visit. The income never pays all of the expenses of operating my web pages, but it helps. In other words, if you learned about a product from one of my sites and decide later to buy it, you can support my site by making a point of coming back to my site and clicking through again. (Once you’ve clicked on a product, many other sites will show it, but if you don’t come back to my site, Facebook or whoever gets the income.)

So, with that out of the way, I want to explain a few things about a particular link: the “Stupid Deal Of The Day” and related offers on related sites.

I’ll point out that I have made almost zero money from that link, but I personally check it almost every day. (In fact, most people who click on that link once wind up getting on Musician’s Friend’s mailing list and never clicking through from my site again anyway, so it’s never been a real money-maker for me.)

Much of what I’m saying about the Musician’s Friend “Stupid Deal of the Day” also applies to the daily sales of Guitar Center, Woodwind and Brasswind, and Music 123, which are all part of the same company as Musician’s friend. Except that products are usually discounted more on Musician’s Friend than they are on the other sites. So I don’t bother shopping the daily specials on the other sites.

But I use the “Stupid Deal of the Day” link almost every day, just to see if something on my “needs” list is offered at a “no-brainer” price. I can do it without breaking my budget because:

  • I pay attention to the difference between the real sales and the pseudo-sales

  • I never buy anything I wasn’t shopping for anyway.

How Special is “Special”?
Many products offered on “Stupid Deals” most days have “MSRPs” (“list prices”) that nobody has ever spent on the product, so that the sale looks better than it is.

“House Brands” – Quite a few musical instrument and audio products are essentially “house brands,” ordered directly from Chinese factories and given brand names that sound convincing. Some of the products are actually pretty useful. For example, once when I was looking for a “beach banjo,” I got a very playable entry-level banjo for $100 on a “Stupid Deal.” Also, risking $50 on a house-brand headphone amplifier, speaker stand set, or some such is not exactly the kind of choice one lays awake nights worrying about. But if you can watch these sales for a few weeks (after first hiding your credit cards so you don’t jump on every little thing that’s “too good to be true”), you’ll see the same brand names, and maybe even the same products popping up again and again. If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice that several of those brands aren’t even available anywhere else (except from other vendors who are part of the same company or Amazon who – as often as not – actually ships them from the Musician’s Friend warehouse).

Does that mean they’re intrinsically bad products, or not worth buying or the like? Of course not. But it does mean that if you’re just casually interested in one of those products, you don’t necessarily have to spring for it the first time you see it on a “Stupid Sale.” This product or something like it will come up again in a few weeks.

Here’s a way to determine if a particular line of products is really a great deal, or just a run-of-the mill markdown of something they discount frequently anyway. If you don’t actually need the thing, check back in the evening. If it’s still there, that means the more experienced buyers recognize it as a typical value for that sort of product. Of course if you actually needed the thing, and it’s gone now, that’s a different story.

“Special Orders” – A few second-tier “name brands” also supply these vendors with “special offers” that seem to be exceptionally good values (especially if you are easily fooled by an inflated “list prices”). These are always Chinese built products, although they are made in the same factories as the other products by the same brand name, and generally to the same level of quality (or lack thereof, depending). Generally they compare well with other products made by the same companies for the general market. For example, today’s Stupid deal is a semi-hollow-body electric guitar with a “list price” of $915, a “regular price” of $549 and a “stupid price” of “$399.” That said, you’ll never find that particular model anywhere else period, much less for $915. Does that mean it’s a bad deal? No, if you’re looking for a semi-hollow-body electric guitar with that set of features, it’s a good deal. Maybe a very good deal. But you’re not saving $515, or anything like it.

The “short version” is “don’t jump on the first item that is something like what you’ve been looking for just because it’s cheap today.” Unless you need it right away and it will really fulfill your needs. Also be aware that ANY instrument that ships from China will require inspection and setup when you receive it, no matter how much you pay for it. So don’t buy ANY Chinese instrument in October and keep it in the box until Christmas, hint, hint.

However, if you’ve been looking for a semi-hollow-body electric guitar all along, and you like the feature set and can stand the color (it’s pretty obnoxious), it may be just what you need.

I just checked back and the guitar that was supposedly a “no brainer” deal twelve hours ago is still there. Guess I don’t have to feel bad about not snatching one up, huh?

Actual Killer Deals – The above caveats aside, occasionally, they’ll have an overstock or a major manufacturer is closing out some line, and the advertised discount really is a significant, once-in-a-decade discount on name-brand gear. These products really are a good deal, and they sell out very quickly.

Telling the Difference – If you are wondering whether a product is actually a good deal or not, copy the entire product name (or the brand name and product number) into Google and see if anyone sells it besides the vendors mentioned on this page. If it’s sold by multiple unaffiliated companies that also have brick-and-mortar-stores (say Elderly or Sweetwater), it’s probably a real brand (even if it is equivalent to “Black and Decker” home appliances). If Sweetwater and Elderly are selling the same product for much more, then you know it’s actually a good deal. That said, don’t buy it just because it’s a good deal. Only buy it if you knew you needed one before you saw it on sale.

Shopping Used – By the way, in some areas, many musical instruments and related products are available used in like-new condition for less than what you’d pay even on a “killer deal” new. There are products you literally DON’T want to buy used of course, and some that are almost impossible to come by on the used market. But while you’re keeping an eye on the online price of some item you want/need, be sure to check the used market in your area.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due – If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me a bunch of questions about a product they saw on one of my pages, then turned around and bought it through a cookie-driven ad link on Facebook or Weather.com, I’d probably be driving a way nicer car by now. By the same token, if the people at any other site or store have been helpful, you owe it to them to go back through their site and give them the business..

Hope this helps
In case you’re wondering about what I’ve been talking about, here’s the link:


Musician's Friend Stupid Deal of the Day

Don’t buy anything on your first visit! Or your tenth, unless it really is a no-brainer and it’s something you’ve been needing all along.

Be wise, strong, and helpful, and share your music however you can!

Paul

About Paul

Paul Race has been writing and playing all kinds of music since the 1960s, though he tends to favor acoustic and traditional songs. He has created resources like CreekDontRise.com, ClassicTrainSongs.com, and SchoolOfTheRock.com to help other musicians get a good start on their own journeys.

2 Comments

  1. Hey Paul,
    Thanks so much for the input about C Tenor saxes. (I own 3, The Buescher, a Lyon and Healey stencil a JW York & sons I’m fairly sure is a Buescher, despite strong suggestions on the web that it (may?) be a Conn. A friend once told me a good deed’s like tossing a pebble in a pond. You never know how far the ripples will travel, or where they’ll end up. Yours ended up here, and I’m glad they did. Doug Allyn

  2. Doug,

    Thanks for your note on my web page. If you send me photos of your stencils I can probably tell you who made them, assuming they are Conn, Martin, or Buescher. I’ve sent you an e-mail directly. Just hit reply and attach the photo to the message. Conn’s tone holes are usually rolled. Martin’s are usually beveled, Buescher are usually straight, but drawn. There are other indicators as well, like Buescher’s “knee-buster” bow guard, the Conn “Mercedes” wire guard over the low C key, etc. On Buescher’s better stencils, there is a “man-in-the-moon” brace, but that’s not universal as you can tell from my Selmer New York, shown here:

    http://www.schooloftherock.com/html/1920s_selmer_new_york_c_melody.html

    Best of luck,
    Paul

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