On November 25th, I purchased a 4/4 cello for my son from Mendini Music, an online company. They guaranteed arrival on December 2nd, and sure enough, it arrived. Beautiful instrument, hard case, soft case, a shload of nice accessories, and it cost far, far less than if I had purchased locally. The only thing was that the shipped it with the bridge flat, tied to the fingerboard with a red raffia ribbon. Included were instructions to set the bridge.
Mind, this is standard operating procedure, but 1) I am not a cellist and did not want to hurt this lovely instrument trying to set the bridge and tune it myself and 2) my son doesn't know he's getting it, I wanted it to be a surprise on Christmas morning, set and ready to go. So my options were pretty much to take it to a pro to get the bridge set and the instrument properly tuned. I took the instrument in to Richard's Music on Central Ave. in Toledo on Saturday, December 3rd.
Shelly filled out the work order, explaining that since they were busy, it could take up to two weeks to get the work done on the instrument, but she expected it would take just a week, and that the cost would be $100. I told her that I was fine with that, but needed to know immediately if there were any problems with the cello, because I only had until the 15th to return the instrument for an exchange if something had become damaged in shipping, and I needed it ASAP because the instrument was my son's only Christmas gift.
She assured me it would be finished in time, wrote "Approx. 1 - 2 weeks, MUST have BEFORE Christmas" on the work order, and took the instrument to the back
On December 12th, eight days after dropping the instrument off, I called Richard's to inquire after the status. I was told they had worked on it, but it wasn't done yet because the bridge needed to be modified. I asked if they had inspected the instrument for damage, because my last day for return or exchange was the 15th. The woman who answered assured me that the cello was fine, it had been inspected, was in great shape and that the holdup was that they were filing the bridge, which was precision work.
I called again in the 15th. Same spiel. On the 17th, I called again and explained that I was getting very nervous and upset because my son's cello was not only not done, I wasn't getting satisfactory communication either. I asked for her to please check on the instrument and tell me when it would be done. She assured me that the technician - Jose - was working on it and that it would be done soon.
On December 19th, I called again and inquired again. I was told that Jose was still working on it, I needed to be patient because setting a cello bridge was precision work and required a lot of time. At this point, alarm bells went off in my head and I asked her to describe EXACTLY what had been done to the instrument. She said that the bridge feet were being filed to ensure they made proper contact with the face of the instrument, and promised to call as soon as the work was completed.
On December 21st, I called again to inquire about the status of the cello. I asked when it would be finished, as Christmas is fast approaching, and she told me that she couldn't tell me exactly when but it would be on time. She got huffy when I noted that I had been told "up to two weeks, but most likely a week", and that it had been over two weeks at this point and I considered it to now be late.
I was, quite honestly, in a screaming panic by this point. I spent an entire week's paycheck on a full-sized instrument and nice accesories for my son so he'd have a huge surprise on Christmas morning, and these people were essentially holding the cello hostage. At this point, I decided I would be retrieving the instrument, giving it to him as is, and taking it elsewhere for tuning after Christmas. I called Rettig Music on Airport Hwy. and spoke to Shane.
My first question was "How long does it take to set a bridge and tune a cello?" Shane informed me that it took ten minutes, fifteen if I wanted a full inspection or if the soundpost needed an adjustment. He was appalled when I told him that I had taken the instrument to Richard's three weeks ago and it still wasn't done, and advised me to retrieve my instrument immediately - not only does it not take three weeks to do, even if the bridge required serious mdoifications, it shouldn't cost $100 and a brand new cello shouldn't require any bridge modifications at all because the bridge is fitted before the instrument ever leaves the luthier's. By this time, I was in an uncontrollable rage and asked my husband to call Richard's and inform them that we would be picking up the cello today (12/22) as soon as they opened at 9AM.
Richard's told my husband that we couldn't have the instrument back because they had already started work on it and it was their policy not to return instruments they had started until they were completed.
We showed up at 9AM this morning anyway and demanded the cello be returned to us immediately. They refused, claiming it wasn't finished and wouldn't be until this afternoon or tomorrow, it had already been started. We stood firm and demanded that the instrument be returned immediately.
The woman at the counter sighed and huffed and finally stomped back up to the front, snapping that if we'd just be patient, it would be done by tomorrow. "The work order only says it has to be done by Christmas! We didn't know it was urgent!"
We pointed out that it said "1 - 2 weeks", "BEFORE Christmas", and that I had called FIVE TIMES asking after it, so it should have been pretty obvious that it was urgent. She said "Christmas isn't until Sunday, and we've already worked on it. You'll have to pay for the work we've already done!"
We opened the case right there. Does it surprise anyone here to learn that the instrument had not even been removed from the case for inspection? The bridge was right where it was three weeks ago, tied to the underside of the widest part of the fingerboard with red raffia ribbon. The molded styrofoam insert between the tailpiece and the face, designed to keep the tailpiece from collapsing and damaging the face was still in place - the only way to remove this is to either break it off in pieces or unstring the instrument and remove it, which would break the edges surrounding the tailpiece. It hadn't been touched at all. The velcro around the neck was still in the same figure 8 that I had left it in three weeks prior (it's too long to close it in a single loop).
They never touched it, but they wanted money??
She copped attitude when we closed the case and my husband said we'd take our business to someone honest.
My intention was to take the instrument to Rettig Music tomorrow. As it turned out, it wasn't necessary - visiting friends, who happen to be musicians themselves, set the bridge, tuned the cello and double-checked the soundpost in under ten minutes and at no charge this afternoon. They tell me that this is a very common situation, that Richard's was angry that I hadn't purchased the cello and accessories from them, and decided that they would make me wait to punish me for not spending enough money in their store. Both Rettig and Mendini confirm that they've heard similar stories.
So, if you're in the area or have come across these people online and you're looking to rent or purchase an instrument or purchase sheet music, accessories or music themed clothing and gifts AVOID RICHARD'S MUSIC. They will lie to you, try to hold your instrument hostage and throw attitude when you go to reclaim what is rightfully yours.
Tell your friends, and save them the headache.