I swear this is all true. It all happened in one visit. I bought a keyboard from a friend of mine to do some composing on, and started getting a few gigs on it. I figured I'd need at least a gig bag, a case would be better. I figure I'd give GC a chance, even though the store is like 20 miles from my house. I find it and walk in. First off I can't tell who works there; the sales staff looks just like the customers. That's no problem but there's nothing to distinguish them: no badge, name tag, t-shirt, feathered beanie, nothing. Okay, I figure they'll recognize a new customer and approach me. Fresh fish, ready to gorge on any bait they put out there. Ha. First clam. The folks behind the counter glance up, frown, and go back to their paperwork. I wander around for five minutes and not a single person says hello or can I help you or even hiyadoon. That's their greeting: a frown and then use the invisible ray gun on me. I finally find the keyboard room; it's deserted but for two guys sitting in a chair shooting the breeze. I give them a nod; they glance over and then ignore me. Okay. I turn away and see case that looks perfect, but it's behind some other gear. I reach for it and just as I put my hand on the handle, I hear a stern voice call out, "Hey put that down!" Ha. Second clam. I turn around and the two guys are laughing at my startled look. I ask them what's going on, I'm just checking out this case and one guy says, "That's my case and it's not for sale. I did a demo of new gear an hour ago." Turns out it's the factory rep and the keyboard department manager. They laugh some more while the manager says that the cases are on the other side of the store. How's that for persuasive sales technique? I put the case down on the floor and walk out of the room while the two guys continue their breeze-shooting. This is how they treat new customers? On my way to the keyboard room I see a woman who's a dish. Charm for days. She comes from around the counter so I know she works there. The Dish gives me a smile, asks if I need any help. I decide to see how her department, guitar accessories, works. I tell her I'm looking for a guitar stand (I was at the time). She shows me a couple, then says, "If you need any help I'm right here." The Dish gets a coupla points. I wind my way past the bass guitar rack and see some high-end gear. Since I'm a bassist too, I decide to see how the bass department holds up. I stare at one bass (a Warwick Thumb; Benj knows how good these axes are--Jack Bruce and Paul McCartney both have one; I think Robert Trujillo had one for a minuet too) for about three minutes before a guy approaches me and asks if I want help. I tell him I'm interested in this bass and I'd like to try it out. Ha. Third clam. He says sure but he's never liked them because they sound too woody. That'll sell a bass every time--diss the product before the customer can even say what he's looking for. I ask if I could try it out and he hooks me up. I play for about 30 seconds and love it but don't let on. He stands there, silent, keeping the carpet from floating up in the air. I finally hand it back and thank him (no response from him). I finally make it back to the cases and see Joe No-Gig-Tonight Neckbone working the counter. He doesn't greet me either, but he does greet the two teenage chickies who follow me in. Every sentence they utter is a great witticism or deep thought to him and he's as gracious as a prince. They don't buy anything, just giggle, ask some questions, and split. I've been in the room for about five minutes, maybe more, and no one has approached me. Joe Neckbone finally walks up and asks if I need help. By this time I find a gig bag and express interest. He mumbles some monosyllables in response, until I ask the price. Then he springs to life. Ha. Clam number four. "$40, man." I swear, Dale Carnegie must be bound and gagged in the store room. They musta bought up all the available copies of his "How to Win Friends & Influence People" and burned them in the boiler. Anyway, my budget is $50 for a bag and $100 for a case, but I try and lower the price (as a matter of principle): "I'll give you $30." "No, that's as low as I can go. I could give you $35 on a used case or a blemished case, but that one's brand new." I cock an eyebrow: "Oh really?" Then I put the bag on the counter, unzip the pocket, and pull out a sales slip. The case was a return from two weeks hence and the zipper stuck closing it up. The stitching was single-stitch--cheap. I leave the slip and the bag on the counter and break without saying goodbye but not before giving him some stink face for his limp attempt at oily talk. Joe Wish-I-Had-A Gig Neckbone just stands there staring at me while keeping the carpet from rolling up. I've had it and am heading for the door. But I'm cool. The Dish is talking to some customers but interrupts herself to say, "Thanks for coming in," and I favor her with a nod. She was the only pleasant part of my visit. I hop in the battleship, pull out of the parking lot, and vow never to return. Last chapter: I head downtown to a store I've been patronizing since they opened in the 1970s; I was one of their first customers. The owner recognizes me as I walk in and greets me, asking me how can he help. I tell him I need a gig bag and he says, "New or used?" " I ask what he's got and he grabs a perfectly new-looking bag off a shelf and says it's mine for $15 because part of the lining inside is ripped but he assures me it's fine. Gives me a 6' cable out of the bargain bucket. No extra charge. The only way I'm ever going into a Guitar Center store anywhere ever again is if the place is on fire and I'm helping pull people out.