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Fender Custom Shop Experiences—15 Years Apart

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by unionjack515, May 10, 2019.

  1. unionjack515

    unionjack515 Senior Stratmaster

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    First, pardon my long-windedness—it’s a story and the context is important I think!

    I’ve been on a run of non-Fender (and non-Strat) guitars lately. I’ve been filling out the collection recently with various shapes, wood combinations and pickup confirgurations. My first electric was a Strat Plus...that’s going on 25 years ago now. It has aged nicely and is a wonderful sounding and playing instrument. It’s still the first guitar I pick up and play. So at heart I’ll always consider myself a “Strat guy.”

    I’ve been thinking about adding a custom-built S to the lineup and, oddly, I ran through Tom Anderson, Suhr, DeTemple, amongst other “boutique” builders before it dawned on me that it had been about 15 years since my last experience with the Fender Custom Shop (and their distribution channel) and that for what I was looking for, they might be an option.

    15 years ago I had an itch for a custom bass. Nothing too crazy, just a flame top, a different color finish, a unique body wood combination (which they were currrently using on a different model) and a custom inlay. I remember calling around and going to the website to find out how I started the process. It led me to a Guitar Center about 40 miles away from my house. I walked in, headed for the bass department and explained to the salesman that I wanted to inquire with Fender Custom Shop about a build. He handed me a checklist, told me to fill it in and bring it back. I did so, waited a week or two, and then he called to bring me back to the shop to review their feedback. Nearly every “custom” item I wanted was marked “no.” Ha. What a bad taste that left in my mouth. No explanation, just “no.”

    Fast forward to yesterday and my Strat search. I pulled up the Custom Shop website to find that they’ve incorporated a “menu” (similar to the checklist I suppose, but with options to choose from instead of a blank box to write in...big difference), and a refreshed distribution channel—no more Guitar Center! GREAT! Despite the fact that Fender were the ones saying no (I hope so at least!), I chalked up my negative past experience to the salesperson at Guitar Center (though they only had one or two guys in the store that had been “certified” with Custom Shop). Perhaps he thought I was too young and not serious (I was about 23 at the time?) or perhaps he was just crappy at his job. Either way.

    My nearest Custom Shop dealer this time around was Chicago Music Exchange. I’ve dealt with them quite a bit...new/used purchases of guitars and amps, repairs, special equipment rentals, custom orders of other brands, etc. And I’ve only worked with two guys. I get the feeling that most any employee can do anything there, but obviously, everyone has their specialties and better relationships with certain vendors. One of my contacts had a great relationship with Collings and the other worked closely with Nash and (come to find out) Fender. I rang up my guy, told him what I was thinking and he...surprise...started to ask me questions. He told me that Custom Shop sometimes gets a bad rap for being overpriced compared to builders but based on what I wanted, it might be at least an option to consider. Nice start, I like the honesty. He directed me to the Design Guide PDF on Fender’s website while we were on the phone, and we walked through it together. I told him I wasn’t looking for an art piece and that most of my desired options fell very much within “normal” spec for Fender, just couldn’t get them all on a current production model. More importantly, we both knew that I didn’t place enough value on the Master Built concept to expand my budget quite that far. Ended up completing the PDF later that day and submitting it through him. I was so excited to see all of the options I wanted to combine, and he’s got enough experience with them to have a good idea the quote will be returned within budget.

    So, moral of the story. 15 years ago, I had a different set of expectations, I was a different player, and a different consumer. Needless to say, I was disappointed in my experience—BUT could it have been me? Sure. Could it have been Guitar Center? Yep. Could it have been the particular salesperson at Guitar Center? Absolutely. Could it have been Custom Shop’s approach? Of course. I think the most likely answer is that it was some combination of all those things! And the good news is, seemingly all of those things have changed for the better and I think I’m well on the way to ordering a Custom Shop instrument. Kudos to Matt at CME for being a great advocate for his store and the Fender brand, and kudos to the Fender brand themselves for making great improvements to their process and for making great decisions about their distribution chain! (And kudos to me for being a more educated buyer!)

    Whew. Time for a nap, sorry!!!
     
  2. Mr C

    Mr C Senior Stratmaster

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    seriously consider buying used. Custom shop guitars are always available and their resale value seems to be poor versus run of the mill american fenders (as a % of their new price). Not sure how it is in the states but around here in NZ you can buy a used late 2000's custom shop time machine strat for about the same price as a used AV62.
     
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  3. Bera

    Bera Strat-Talker

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    I have a CS strat (1964 specs more or less) that is simply the best guitar I’ve ever played! :)
     
  4. nutball73

    nutball73 Senior Stratmaster

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    What happens if the response is still "no" to your choices? ;)
     
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  5. unionjack515

    unionjack515 Senior Stratmaster

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    Ha, that would be hilarious. But you’re right, perhaps I should temper my expectations for now!!
     
  6. unionjack515

    unionjack515 Senior Stratmaster

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    Well...yeah I have bought a lot of my guitars used because of the value. Same way I buy cars. But I’m wanting to take advantage of the fact that I’ll have the ability to spec one exactly how I’d like it. Zero likelihood of finding a used one that meets that requirement. If I was being open-minded about this guitar, then yes I’d definitely be looking at used CS or, quite honestly, just doing a partscaster. That was a consideration of mine as well, and it’s still on the table. Not concerned with resale...the guitars I’ve accumulated should be a great heirloom collection.
     
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  7. Mr C

    Mr C Senior Stratmaster

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    If your not bothered about resale PM Ron (Kirn) and get to build you one.

    I get the emotional attachment to the idea of getting a genuine fender custom though that you’ve specced yourself...
     
  8. usul1978

    usul1978 Guitar bricolo Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Something tells me that's not on the table :whistling:
     
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  9. unionjack515

    unionjack515 Senior Stratmaster

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    We won’t get into that on this thread...ha.
     
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  10. Jeepocaster

    Jeepocaster Strat-O-Master

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    He doesn’t build, does he? I was under the impression he buys and assembles them.
     
  11. unionjack515

    unionjack515 Senior Stratmaster

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    Not sure about bodies but he sources at least some necks. But that’s neither here nor there ;)
     
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  12. Nate D

    Nate D Most Honored Senior Member

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    I've got a few CS guitars and they're great, but I bought either production runs from the shop or used. All are great guitars.

    I'm really interested to see what your experience is from the PDF selections. I'm sure it'll be rad!!! Keep us posted :)
     
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  13. Mr Dunlop

    Mr Dunlop Senior Stratmaster

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    Didn't you have a couple Kirns you bought new then put up for sale not to long ago?
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2019
  14. unionjack515

    unionjack515 Senior Stratmaster

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    Yep, that’s me.;)
     
  15. Mr Dunlop

    Mr Dunlop Senior Stratmaster

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    Yah I thought so:)

    I just checked out your PDF looks like they offer alot of options.
    Are they able to do the stainless steel frets ?
     
  16. unionjack515

    unionjack515 Senior Stratmaster

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    They offer a ton of options, for sure. Stainless frets isn’t an option on a team built...I’m guessing on a master built it wouldn’t be a problem.
     
  17. Mr Dunlop

    Mr Dunlop Senior Stratmaster

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    I saw the question mark next to stainless and was wondering what the outcome was.
     
  18. fretter

    fretter Strat-Talker

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    The most amazing thing about the Fender custom shop website is that I can design a Precision bass with the features that I want, and it costs no more than a regular MIA. If I ever got one, it wouldn't be anything fancy, just a recreation of the Precision bass I used to have, which was very similar to the '83 Precision Elite 1, like the player in this video has:

    [​IMG]
     
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  19. Bera

    Bera Strat-Talker

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    Aren´t you talking about Fender MOD shop?
     
  20. fretter

    fretter Strat-Talker

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    Probably o_O
     
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