My first telecaster was a Squier Classic Vibe in butterscotch blonde. Being mainly an acoustic player I wasn’t sure if my interest in electric guitar would last, so I didn’t want to spend too much. The classic vibe series has a great reputation for quality and value so I decided to go for it. I found one in a local shop for a good deal and couldn’t have been more excited. The guys at the shop told me I could come back anytime and they’d adjust it as needed. I really liked the guitar but right away discovered it had intonation issues. Knowing almost nothing about how to fix it I took it back to the shop to see what they could do. (Unrelated to the story, but they seemed a little annoyed that I took them up on their offer and the owner reacted as if he was doing a me a personal favor or something...)
As he was looking it over on the bench I brought up the intonation issue. I said I knew it was a cheaper guitar but shouldn’t there be a way to get the intonation right? His response really surprised me. He told me: “you should lower your expectations”.
Now I didn’t know much back then, so I didn’t have much to say in response, but his answer didn’t sit well with me. What’s the point of a guitar that can’t play in tune? And it’s not like it was some cheap 50 dollar toy instrument from Walmart. These things were supposed to be great quality!
Well, as I came to learn in the following months and years, it wasn’t the guitar that was the problem, it was him. He didn’t bother to explain the inherent challenges with vintage style tele saddles and how to deal with them. He didn’t try to sell me on a proper set up. He didn’t tell me about compensated saddles or compensated nuts, or the advantages of a heavier string gauges and wound third strings. And it’s not like I was paying him for an education, but I would have gladly paid for new strings, new saddles, etc, if it would have fixed the problem.
I came away from that experience frustrated but determined to prove him wrong. I dug into online forums, articles, and videos in search of how to improve the guitar and quickly gained an education in DIY guitar tech work. I learned how to adjust the truss rod. I made my own compensated saddles (after destroying the stock saddles in my first attempt), carved my own bone nut, and eventually with the coaching of a friend (thank you Greg) I even learned how to level and crown my frets.
Looking back I’m glad that guy gave me bad service. Not only did it motivate me into what has become a fulfilling hobby(obsession) and a fun side business. But he also gave me a great idea for a brand slogan:
“Raise your expectations”