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Username: mikem13

Post Number: 6
Registered: 5-2005
Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 6:45 pm:   Edit Post

After everyone's very helpful advice I am deciding to go with the skylark. Now im just curious about the price. It says for a list price 4k for an skylark with skylark electronics. Is this similar to taylors setup in which the guitar is sold much lower than its list price or is the skylark gonna cost me 4k (before customization)? Heres my setup for my skylark:
Body- Mahogany core - Lacewood or Flame Maple top laminate- ash bottom laminate and maybe a pinstripe
Long Scale Neck- possibly some LEDs and maybe a tree of life inlay(?)
(Suggestions and opinions are welcomed)
Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 481
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 7:37 pm:   Edit Post

If you buy direct from the factory, that's the price. If you go through a dealer, you'll get a discount. You can get a stock one or you can still get custom options, choice of wood, etc., when going through a dealer. You'll still get to interact with the factory as it's being built. By the way, I didn't get a chance to check in on your original thread, but I'd vote for the Further. I like the sustain and appearance of a neck-thru. Also, at least for me personally, there is a lot of attraction to the cousin of Wolf, a guitar that made sounds on which I surfed the Universe and beyond on many occasions. Excepting the Dumbles and Two Rocks of this world, I think it is ultimately much easier to upgrade your amp in the future than to upgrade your Alembic. As for an amp, I played through a Fender Pro Reverb for many years and never complained. When I could afford it, I bought a Mesa Mark III which I've been playing for about 19 years now. Still no complaints. Good luck with whatever you ultimately get and welcome to the club.

Bill, the guitar one
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1845
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 7:42 pm:   Edit Post

You'll need to go through a dealer. Regarding discounts, there are two things to consider. First is the monthly special which changes each month. Depending on which options you choose, the monthly special can make a substantial difference in the total cost. Second is the dealer. Some dealers offer their own discounts off of retail; and there are a few whom members of this forum have praised for their good discounts and good service.
Senior Member
Username: bob

Post Number: 451
Registered: 11-2002
Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 10:42 pm:   Edit Post

Just to be clear, the monthly special applies whether you go through a dealer or not. But Alembic supports their dealers, so you will get a substantial discount by going through one - think on the order of 15%, give or take a little depending on the dealer and so forth.
Intermediate Member
Username: tom_z

Post Number: 142
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Tuesday, May 31, 2005 - 11:45 pm:   Edit Post


A good first step might be give Alembic a call and discuss the project with them. The folks at Alembic are amazing at assisting you in configuring a guitar to suit your needs and playing style.

Also, not sure if you are aware, custom inlays are not discountable through a dealer. Mother of pearl ovals are standard on both the Skylark and the Further. Alembic custom inlays are absolutely impeccable and worth the extra dollars for a personal touch.

I bought my Skylark through Bass Central and recommend them highly. Others here in the club have been very satisfied with Alembic's other dealers as well.

Senior Member
Username: kmh364

Post Number: 890
Registered: 9-2003
Posted on Wednesday, June 01, 2005 - 5:54 am:   Edit Post

Mike: All pearls of wisdom from my fellow Alembicians. Decide on your specs. and Alembic monthly special incentive(s), and shop it out with several Alembic dealers. While you won't get a deal on par with the mondo discounts you can get off of MSRP on mass-market stuff, there's no reason why you can't get 25%-30% off of MSRP or better on a new order. If you can find an in-stock instrument, you can do a little better still on price. I speak from experience as I have done so, and others I have referred have gotten similar savings.

Some of the best dealers, IMHO: - Steve Frank is the best! I cannot say enough good about him. Unfortunately, he's on a sabbatical until later this year

Bass Central - Beaver Felton and his manager Gard are tops to deal with. Good prices, excellent service, and a large inventory.

Bass Northwest - Good prices and good service. Nice people to deal with.

I'm sure there are others, but those are people I've dealt with, and have referred others to with good results.

Good luck on your quest.


Username: valvil

Post Number: 715
Registered: 7-2002
Posted on Thursday, June 02, 2005 - 11:19 am:   Edit Post

This is to address the eternal discount issue:
as of the beginning of the year dealers are not allowed to discount our instruments at the level they used to. Unfortunately too many customers were playing several dealers against each other in trying to get the best pricing. On one hand that's fine, it's normal to try and spend as little as possible, but you'd think one would limit oneself to no more than a couple of dealers; on the other hand Susan and I found ourselves quoting the same custom instruments (often with minor variations) to several dealers at once. For one, that took too much of our time, and dealers were not too pleased that they would have to compete not just against one other dealer but several. All this back and forth bargaining led to either margins that were too small for them or to loss of sales; this also led many of them to spend hours on quotes only to see their prospective customer go somewhere else for an extra 50$-100$ savings. In other words this was a very frustrating situation for them & for us.
If you think about it, why would a dealer want to carry our stuff if all they make is a few hundred dollars on a 5000$ instrument for example?
To address this issue, dealers are now limited to a maximum discount on our products, and there are penalties for dealers who break that policy. The days of discounts of 30% or more are gone.
A dealer can give you information on the maximum deal that they can offer.

Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1860
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Thursday, June 02, 2005 - 11:33 am:   Edit Post

Val; thanks for the clarification!
Username: jetbass79

Post Number: 42
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Friday, June 03, 2005 - 12:45 am:   Edit Post

Discounts are often taken for granted by everyone...there was a time in the M.I. universe where everyone paid retail and if you didn't like it, screw you. I don't think putting a cap on discounts is all that bad a thing for it does keep a level playing field for dealers and customers.

Mesa/Boogie charges retail for everything they sell with the exception of goods that shopworn or discontinued but still in retail stores, and people seem to be able to cope with it on a regular basis. I think every vendor should put a cap on what stores can discount simply because it preserves the integrity of the product, particularly if it is a truly nice piece of gear.

Buying something like an Alembic is much more complicated than buying most instruments. When you contact a dealer and talk to a person you are asking them more times than not to research something for you to find out if this/that can be done and how much it will cost.

When I ordered my Alembic (which is the only bass I have touched in the last month), the salesperson I dealt with did me a huge favor: he answered every question via email and we got everything figured out and then I called him and put in my deposit. He did it my way whereas the Alembic dealer I originally went to didn't want to help me.

A person who goes through all the work to quote you on a custom instrument only to be undercut by someone who only offers a lower price is not only bad business on the part of the undercutter but is bad ethics on the part of the customer. When you pay the price that someone offers you are paying for someone's efforts.

Moreover, if somebody's got the money for a tricked out Series II bass like I have seen on these pages, what reason do you really have to 'shop around' when you've got more than 10, 12, 15 etc. etc. thousands of dollars to spend on a custom instrument?

One can argue that some gear isn't worth the asking price (like a $5K Les Paul and that's just me) but as I have found in the last month there is no Alembic product on the planet that is not worth its selling price so it's a moot point.

That's one of the reasons I have left M.I. retail -- people taking salespeople for granted. There is nothing worse on the planet than being a knowledgeable salesperson only to have one's time wasted by a person on a fact finding mission to find their answers and then go to someone else who cherry picks the deal by dropping their pants $50. I implore the Darwin Police to come and take these kinds of "loser customers" away...
Intermediate Member
Username: zappahead

Post Number: 113
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Sunday, June 05, 2005 - 4:43 pm:   Edit Post

Im not too sure that I can fall in line with what basically amounts to "price fixing". Placing an arbitrary limit on discounts benefits the retailer and the company making the product, but there is obviously no benefit to the person buying the guitar. In the end they simply pay more than what in the past would have been the "best" deal if their only concern was the bottom line price.

Im not entirely sold on the notion that the retailer or salesperson has to spend that much time on a quote with the exception of only the most outrageous custom guitars and the purchasers of those instruments are more than likely not overly concerned with money and discounts. I can see how this was a big waste of Alembics time, they get nothing more out of working the same deal 10 times over and its more time consuming on their end then it is on the retailers end.

To me theres definetly nothing wrong with a buyer going around to shop for the best deal. Honestly I cant see how theres something nefarious about that. People do it with every other thing that is for sale so Im not sure why a guitar should be any different.

What a company who is undercutting is more than likely doing is simply trying to develop a relationship with a person who spends a lot of money on guitars. When a guy calls up looking to buy a guitar in the 3k to 15k+ range then you know he/she spends a lot of money on instruments and that you will want to foster an environment where they will come back. If it means taking a bit of a hit now and hopefully making it up later then thats a business decision better left up to the retailer.

The whole shell game of luthier to retailer discounts is why I went with a guitar maker who sells man to man for my latest guitar. I can see why Alembic is doing what they are doing, even if I dont agree with it, because the whole thing now with the Internet involved is out of control. Its so easy now to get 10 different offers for the same custom guitar and in the end it is almost a deterrent to the product.
Username: jetbass79

Post Number: 43
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Sunday, June 05, 2005 - 6:55 pm:   Edit Post

I would call what Mesa/Boogie does as price fixing but it does solve the problem of a lack of an even playing field for all parties involved. Putting a curb to extreme discounts on a product is a rightful thing to do because it does preserve the integrity of the product.

There is also the price of a salesperson's/retailer's time given that sometimes especially with Alembics there are permutations and combinations that have not been thought of or produced like my set neck balance K instrument. In fact, without the salesperson's assistance as well as the assistance of the company I would not have come to the conclusion of selecting the balance K point option because it had never been done before and therefore was not listed as an option on the website.

To me there is nothing wrong with shopping something around if it has a finite value associated with it like a Strat or a Les Paul Standard. But with custom instruments where you could choose something that was never produced before, once you have a salesperson/retailer working for you it makes no sense to jump ship and go to someone else because they will lower the price by a little just to get the deal even though they did no actual work. It's unethical to do so. The salesperson/retailer's time is part of the purchase price of something as complex as a custom instrument.
Senior Member
Username: dnburgess

Post Number: 416
Registered: 1-2003
Posted on Monday, June 06, 2005 - 3:20 am:   Edit Post

Correct me if I'm wrong Valentino, but as I understand it Alembic's new pricing policy is a "minimum advertised price" or MAP policy.

Alembic sets the minimum price that can be advertised, but a dealer can still negotiate a lower price with a customer. That way, the retailer network can't be decimated by a "rogue retailer" (as easily).

Valentino described a Unilateral Minimum Retail Price policy (UMRP) - which is not illegal providing it is imposed unilaterally by the manufacturer (i.e. there is no collusion or agreement between manufacturer and reseller).

There are many valid reasons why Alembic might want to maintain a broad retailer base. But to get retailer support the products must generate a return comensurate with the commitment required. It is a delicate balancing act between the interests of today's customer seeking the best price and the interests of tomorrow's customers who might prefer to buy locally or the manufacturer who doesn't want to be stuck with only the handful of dealers that can survive a price war.

Generally MAPs are regarded as a good way of trying to balance these interests.

David B.
Senior Member
Username: bsee

Post Number: 929
Registered: 3-2004
Posted on Tuesday, June 07, 2005 - 9:16 am:   Edit Post

Since I was intimately involved in these events at the end of last year, I wrote a lengthy reply to this thread describing what I went through in trying to select a dealer and place an order. To spare you all, I decided not to post it.

David, I am not sure if it really is a MAP as you describe it. From what I heard, it is more strict than that. When you're talking about custom instruments, there won't be a true advertised price, only the negotiated price between customer and dealer for the specific piece. If full pricing freedom remains for that situation, then a MAP probably wouldn't change much.

As much as I am a fan of the free market, I certainly won't criticize the new pricing policy. My crystal ball hasn't been working well enough lately for me to predict the outcome of this change. I am a big fan of a level playing field, so I hope this works out for Alembic, the dealers and the customers alike. If future purchase decisions are made based on dealer competence and service rather than price, the best dealers should prosper, and that's all to the good.
Senior Member
Username: bigredbass

Post Number: 421
Registered: 9-2002
Posted on Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - 8:57 am:   Edit Post

Random thoughts . . . .

I worked in photo retail for several years. MAP is a fact of life. Read the ads in SHUTTERBUG and you'll see the same camera is the same advertised price at the huge Photo District stores in NYC as it is at Porter's in Iowa. While frustrating to the consumer it does seem to maintain a dealer base broadly.

I worked in MI retail for several years. Did my best to be a thoughtful, ethical font of knowledge and customer service. I even used to take new guitars to clubs for players to try out onstage: They loved it. And promptly bought one from Musician's Friend, Rhythm City, etc. This sort of thing drove me a little crazy but proved to me one basic fact of life: Customers are rarely loyal. They'd even tell their friends I tried to steal 'em blind for a $50 difference (even less after they paid shipping), and get aggravated when I was less than thrilled to work their inevitable warranty claim on a piece I didn't even sell.

Music Retail has become like a lot of retail categories: More and more mom and pop retailers are going under in the face of the Internet and Guitar Center-like chains. The strategies the Industry takes seem to me to fall into three categories:

1) Previously 'specialtist' items become more and more mainstream. Schecter and Hamer, for instance, were once hot-rod guitar specialists, while they've now become more middle of the
road to broaden their busine$$. Certainly understandable, but how much cache can you give away before you're just another brand?

2) Some retailers specialize where the chains just can't afford to be: The Bass-Only stores, acoustic/archtops specialists, etc.

3) Some of the manufacturers have enough brand-identity (Mesa, Alembic, etc.) that they can still call their own shots. I remember when Mica pulled out of Guitar Center, a move that most manufacturers would have never done, to walk away from the money. These businesses still want to control their own destiny. It all comes down to how do you want to DO business?

Should anyone be able to shop around for the best deal? Absolutely. Should a manufacturer try for the best return possible? Absolutely. Should the seller stuck in the middle try to make his best return? Absolutely. Do any of these three parties try to scratch each other's back where the ultimate consumer sale is a win-win-win situation? Rarely.

This is for me why ALEMBIC is such a relief; call Gibson and see if you can talk to Henry about your Les Paul.

J o e y
Username: byoung

Post Number: 73
Registered: 12-2004
Posted on Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - 10:37 am:   Edit Post

Here's my 2 cents:

I understand why Alembic chose to implement a minimum discount.

Take a gander through this forum (concentrate on the Dreaming... for now, Factory to Customer, and Showcase topics), and notice the intense, diametric dissimilarity to anything like a cookie cutter. I cannot think of two instruments that I've seen that are exactly alike.

This means that there is very little process automation that occurs when an Alembic is built. This implies that there is a large amount of human labor involved, both in the planning and construction of an Alembic. This is intentional.

I like symbolism, so I'd say that you could interpret the Alembic logo to imply that the intent has been to apply human labor/artisanry/craftsmanship (the hand) to produce a distilled (pure) instrument. This, as opposed to automation and fixed designs (that would require a change to the logo-- the hand could become a robotic manipulator).

Anyhow, human labor is expensive.

It took a long time to finally decide on all the details for my new bass (six months!). This entailed many calls (and a visit) to Alembic. I spent hours on the phone with Susan and Valentino.

I spent hours on the phone with Beaver (and Gard and Grasshopper) at Bass Central. I even had sushi with Beaver.

I never intended to buy from him, I just wanted to get a price from him before calling the company I actually intended to buy from.

Then I realized how much time he was spending; he called me while he was on vacation. I couldn't, in good conscience, just walk away and leave him in the lurch.

I realize that makes me somewhat different than the average consumer, but I thought it might help as a background.

Since the process of deciding on options/pricing is so labor intensive, I can appreciate the fact that Alembic wants to preserve a margin for their dealers. I feel that this levels the playing field, since there'll be little difference in price between dealers-- they'll have to make it up on service, which is good for the customer.

Since we're on the subject, thanks to Susan, Valentino, Beaver and the Elves for helping me make my (first, but don't tell my wife!) dream bass come true.

Username: tubeperson

Post Number: 3
Registered: 5-2005
Posted on Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - 11:15 am:   Edit Post

I'd like to second the kind words spoken about Beaver Felton at Bass Central. I purchased a new Stanley bass that was in stock from them, and Beaver spent a fair amount of time helping me decide from the basses they had in stock. His time, as well as anyone's time extended as a service deserves fair compensation. Just put yourself in their shoes. You wouldn't consistently work for free, so why should your "axe" advisor.

I expect to make more acquisitions from Bass Central because of their service (I also buy used Alembics that come across my path. They all need a good home!)
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1887
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - 11:42 am:   Edit Post

Mike; I hope you don't mind that we've hijacked your thread. This thread has taken some turns that are interesting to say the least.

Joey said, "customers are rarely loyal". My guess is that as a generalization this is probably a reasonable conclusion. However, there seems to me to be a growing awareness of this issue as it affects our communities, macro and micro, and us as individuals. In the town where I live there are many people who frequent locally owned coffee shops, rather than Starbucks, simply because they are locally owned. This appears to be true for other locally owned businesses; and there is strong support for locally grown produce. Personally, I have tried to become more aware of the issue in my personal purchase decisions. For instance, when I can, I prefer to shop at a locally owned business rather than a large chain. I never shop at Walmart. And I respond to good service with loyalty. Another consideration that I think is important is a company's ethics. Do they pay their employees fairly, do their business decisions consider environmental impact, etc. So while I think Joey's observation is probably accurate generally, I do think that there are people who are loyal customers and for whom price is not the sole criteria in their purchase decisions.
Username: jetbass79

Post Number: 45
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - 12:59 pm:   Edit Post

I think the reason that customer loyalty is on the downswing in this country is because we are now seeing what I would call the Second Era of Big Business. In the 1800s Big Business was the steel and shipping business, but now it's the corporatization of service/retail businesses.
People go where they go because large corporations buy large volumes of goods and alledgedly pass the "savings" on to the customer so people are now just buying things based on price and availability. If Best Buy has such and such cheaper than Circuit City then someone will go there but if the transverse is the case then the opposite will happen.
I used to work at a Guitar Center where a Sam Ash was up the road and I will tell you people would go there come back and vice versa. They would play each store just to get a better deal and those people didn't care that they were taking away from our paychecks. That's the other problem with the corporatization of retail: the boys in their ivory towers don't care what you sell something for as long as the deal is not taken by the competition because a sale is a sale to them, even if the salesperson doesn't get anything for it, meaning selling the thing at cost. It was lame but this is what corporate America has done to American society. When it comes to smaller institutions of retail, however, people are generally loyal until those smaller institutions that drowned out of business by America, Inc.
Fortunately, for the most part, the boutique companies only cater to boutique institutions of retail. Because of this specialist role that boutique stores have, the retail giants cannot destroy them because they do not cater to the boutique market. Fortunately, for everyone's sake here, you won't find Alembic products at a Guitar Center -- the clientele they cater to both lack the money and imagination to buy such fine things when a $200 instrument is "good enough because I'm not professional." We could call the corporatization of M.I. the Wal- Martization of M.I. because in reality that's what it is. And it's sad, but as long as everyone thinks they're getting a great deal at the expense of the workers it will continue to be this way.
Intermediate Member
Username: jalevinemd

Post Number: 170
Registered: 12-2003
Posted on Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - 1:30 pm:   Edit Post


Be careful with your references to the clientele at the larger chain stores. As do many, I consider myself quite imaginative and have the money for my Alembics. I've also been very happy with my SG, Les Paul, Strat, PRS and Marshall Amps, purchased at Sam Ash and GC. I have made some close associates at these stores and they have bent over backwards to help me over the years. Loyalty can and does exist even at these larger retailers. I've said it before...Alembic is a wonderful company and it's clients obviously quite passionate. But we are not the guardians of the temple. The world exists beyond Santa Rosa. Let's not lose sight of that fact.


Senior Member
Username: lbpesq

Post Number: 488
Registered: 7-2004
Posted on Wednesday, June 08, 2005 - 3:54 pm:   Edit Post

Bradley (byoung):

Great story and good for you! I think when all is said and done you will find that your decision to stick with Beaver made economic sense too in that it resulted in a big deposit in your bank account of karma. (Are my California Hippie/Dippie roots showing?)

Bill, tgo
Username: jetbass79

Post Number: 46
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Thursday, June 09, 2005 - 1:49 am:   Edit Post

I will be the first to agree that it is in fact possible for the "good customer" or "great customer" to exist in the large chain retail context. I have had several of these types of customers who were awesome customers. However, there are more and more customers out there in the large chain context that only care about price. As was stated before, loyalty is rare though I find it personally gratifying to find loyal customers as I would like to think I am one myself.
Username: davehouck

Post Number: 1894
Registered: 5-2002
Posted on Thursday, June 09, 2005 - 6:19 am:   Edit Post

And of course the other side of that coin is that there are "good" and "great" sales people and then there are sales people who "only care about" commission. <g> This discussion isn't just about loyal customers; it's also about retailers who are worthy of customer loyalty.
Advanced Member
Username: gare

Post Number: 213
Registered: 11-2003
Posted on Thursday, June 09, 2005 - 6:58 am:   Edit Post

Interesting thread.
It's human nature to want to save a buck/get the lowest price on whatever. But as pointed out, what about after the sale ? Service etc..
It's a shame that the small stores are being squeezed out, I've always found the coolest things in the little places. The bigger chains also have their place, if there's a GC or SA down the street and you need a pick or had a cord go bad..what the heck. The thing that's always put me off to those places is finding a sales person who actually knows the products they're pushing.
Customer loyalty..that goes hand and hand with the seller. If you're treated fairly wouldn't you go back ?
The dealer I got my Alembic from, he was happy with the deal, I was happy with it. And they were nice people and easy to deal with. Since then I have been back and made several other purchases. Now if he had made his months pay off my bass..well, guess that would be the back scratching thing.
Johnathan and Joey bring up good points too.
We're actually lucky that we can get 'deals'..when was the last time you put gas in your car and negotiated the price ?
Heck, I frequent Walmart, Kmart, & dollar stores for the mundane things, paper towels, oil for the truck, cat food. Although I don't always agree with their policies, I have saved enough to upgrade some of my equipment. Hopefully soon I'll have a few extra $'s to
order the fretless I've been thinking about.
Well, I'm babbling, it's early, time for more caffeine.

Username: keith_h

Post Number: 86
Registered: 2-2005
Posted on Thursday, June 09, 2005 - 1:12 pm:   Edit Post

Well I have never really liked the idea of the Manufacturers Suggest Retail Price. It has no real correlation to the true retail price of an item and is of little use when comparing one manufacturers custom built item to another since you don't know the base cost involved. The only reason I see for it is to highten the impression of a great deal to the customer. I would much prefer that the items reflect the real retail price. This would have the benefit, in my case at least, of reducing buyers remorse (i.e. Did I really get the best deal?) and reduce the stress/pressure of haggling.

Since this is not the perfect world, (IMHO,) I did shop around when I bought my Orion and BB. I called three shops that had them in stock and discussed the best price they could give. I did not divulge the prices to the other dealers as I consider this to be confidential business information. Likewise I did not play one against the other by threatening to go to a different dealer. I feel I ended up with very good prices for both basses. I work this way based on the premise that the businesses have to be able to make a certain amount of money to survive. This will vary from dealer to dealer depending upon their local business costs. I also feel this is the fairest way to work in the event I don't purchase the item. In all cases I can say I gave them an honest chance to sell an item and the dealers time, while not profitable, was not wasted in a vain attempt to make a sale.

I work pretty much the same way with automobile purchases. The only difference is I start with a
price and work lower from there (I have also run the VIN and dealer costs so have an idea of the true dealer cost). In any event I do not share negotiated prices between dealers. Surprisingly I have found that the smaller, low volume dealers can quite frequently beat the big, high volume dealers........ But this is changing the subject so before I'm accused of hijacking, which is not good in these times, I say "Have a good evening". :-)


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