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Annoying Twit

Guitar neck broke with simple fall in case

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On a guitar forum I frequent, a member reported a very distressing event. He bought an extremely expensive guitar, a Gibson ES-335. A few days after he bought it, he balanced the guitar (in its case) while getting into a car, and it fell over. This resulted in a clean break to the neck.

 

Before:

 

Image020.jpg

 

After:

 

Image027.jpg

 

Personally I think something is wrong if a supposed quality guitar breaks that easy after a minor fall. I'm also suspicious at the place where it broke, as it may be that the place of the break was a glued part of the neck, which has separated.

 

Do people here think that perhaps the guitar was either faulty, or that the design is insufficiently strong, and that a claim for a refund under the SOGA might be appropriate. I don't even dare to ask how much the guitar cost, but I'd guess well over a thousand pounds, and quite possibly even closer to two thousand pounds than one thousand.

 

On the guitar forum there are a number of people very knowledgeable about all aspects of guitars, so further expert opinion can be sought there. At present the owner is saying "that'll teach me", but I'm wondering if he's taking more personal responsibility than he should, hence this post. (Which was posted with the guitar owner's permission).

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I'd say not. If it had broken whilst being played, then there would be a clear case that there was a problem. But it was dropped, whether lightly or not is irrelevant and that is definitely down to accidental damage.

 

If he paid lots of money for it, maybe he can claim on his house insurance?

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Oh, and pass on my sympathy, I know I'd be heartbroken if something like that happened to my pride and joy. :-(

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Hmm...... But surely goods should be sufficiently durable for normal use. I can't find the reference now, but I thought I read somewhere that if goods break too easily, they wouldn't be considered sufficiently durable for their intended use.

 

Durability is part of what consumers should expect from goods:

 

They should be of satisfactory quality (meeting the standard a reasonable person would regard as satisfactory taking into account any description of the goods, the price and all other relevant circumstances. · The quality of the goods includes their state and condition and can be assessed on

a. fitness for purpose

b. appearance and finish

c. freedom from minor defects

d. safety

e. durability

Advice to retailers says that retailers are not responsible for faults that were not present at the time of sale, including accidental damage. http://www.amdea.org.uk/Forms/Retailer_Briefing_June_06.pdf But, I think personally there was a fault in that the part of the neck was not sufficiently strong. By design fault and/or manufacturing flaw. A guitar is expected to suffer minor knocks in use/transport etc. If a guitar has a major break after the first minor knock, when it was in its case, I'd say that it wasn't fit for purpose. And I'm sure I read something along those lines, in the general case, not concerning guitars. But I can't find it now.

 

The most expensive instrument I have myself cost £180. After reading about this event, I'm damn sure I'm never going to buy a guitar as expensive as the Gibson. I wouldn't be able to bear paying so much for something then it breaking.

 

Edit: Looking around further, a better way to express what I'm saying is....

 

I believe that a guitar where the neck snaps after a minor fall when the guitar was in a hard case to not meet the SOGA requirement of "reasonable quality".

Edited by Annoying Twit

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I understand what you are saying, but nevertheless, imagine that he does goes to the retailer and complains. "Oh, so sorry, how did it happen?" ""I dropped it".

 

If it went to court, the onus would be on the retailer to show that the guitar wasn't inherently faulty. All they'd have to say is: he dropped it. He says lightly, but we have no way of proving or disproving it, all we know is that he did drop it.

 

The guitar has broken at a point which is a fairly fragile part anyway, and you know as well as I do that sometimes, it just takes a knock the wrong way and something which was absolutely solid breaks. Sod's law. It doesn't mean this Gibson is faulty, it just means that maybe he was very unlucky. It could mean that the guitar had an inherent flaw, but by dropping it, he will never be able to prove it.

 

Let me give you another example: My son's laptop failed. Graphics card died. Well known issue with this brand and model, well documented, and laptop barely 1 yr old. Slamdunk? No. At some point, my lovely child must have spilled some liquid on the keyboard, nothing major and it never stopped the laptop from working. BUT the retailer would be able to say "ah, water damage, negligence, not our problem" and I wouldn't be able to prove otherwise.

 

As for ataying away from Gibsons because of that one incident, that's just plain daft. It is one of the most reputable brands and very well made, the odds is that it was one of them things and that you could buy another 20 Gibsons and never have more to worry about than replacing the odd fret. ;-)

Edited by Bookworm

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Sadly Bookworm is correct. Your friend has no chance whatsoever of any kind of claim.

 

The guitar design has been around since the late 1950's so he can hardly claim a manufacturing defect.

 

A friend of mine is a pretty good customer of Gibson with a collection of more than 30 of varying vintage and provenance and I know for fact that even at the peak of his career Gibson flatly refused to repair a similar break to his favourite LPJ (caused by a stand toppling).

 

As soon as they look they will notice it broke in a fall, a maple neck is almost unbreakable in normal use, if it's a perfectly clean break a good tech might cascamite it back but it's always ever a fixed guitar neck then.

 

That guitar looks like an a Fat neck dot in which case your friend has my sympathy.

 

(On the plus side that LPJ of my friends is still going strong 30 years later and was only retired from gigging because the insurance premium was too much so I guess it's just very bad luck that your friends should suffer a freak break so early).


You have the right to food money.

If you don't mind a little investigation, humiliation, and if you cross your fingers rehabilitation..............

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If the owner was to claim that it was faulty, then I guess he'd need expert evidence as to the nature of the fault in order to prove his case. I'd guess that a guitar builder who examined the snap would be able to diagnose the nature of the fault. Certainly if it were my guitar, I would be straight off to the guitar technician/builder with the best reputation I could find to get a written expert opinion. A snapped neck with absolutely no evidence of impact or other trauma would seem fairly strong evidence of a fault, and careful inspection of the snap itself by an expert could easily make this evidence very strong.

 

Even before this event, I've seen quite a few people saying that Gibson does not quality control its guitars as well as you would expect for the price. This neck snap, as you can probably guess, has certainly had a big impression on me.

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I'm also suspicious at the place where it broke, as it may be that the place of the break was a glued part of the neck, which has separated.

 

I don't even dare to ask how much the guitar cost, but I'd guess well over a thousand pounds, and quite possibly even closer to two thousand pounds than one thousand.

 

 

Sorry missed this bit.

 

The neck is maple stained to rosewood, the grain on the maple runs correctly to show this has split along the grain and not along a glued joint

 

This is a top quality guitar and both the epiphone and gibson versions have a single piece neck as you would expect.

 

The dot inlays on the neck tell me it's a dot version not the standard model.

That leaves two or three options.

 

The giveaways are the position of the gibson logo, the colour of the knobs and the easy one is the body colour (not easy from that pic).

 

It's a custom Gibson Fat dot so would cost probably in the region of £2.5k plus any mods he had.

 

But please listen to the tone of that guitar when he has it fixed before deciding to stick with cheap ones. ;-) He could have that 30 years and not have to do any more than change the strings and tune it.


You have the right to food money.

If you don't mind a little investigation, humiliation, and if you cross your fingers rehabilitation..............

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The guitar design has been around since the late 1950's so he can hardly claim a manufacturing defect.

 

Surely there could be a one-off manufacturing defect. But that a design flaw cannot be claimed.

 

As soon as they look they will notice it broke in a fall, a maple neck is almost unbreakable in normal use, if it's a perfectly clean break a good tech might cascamite it back but it's always ever a fixed guitar neck then.

 

Most ES335s have mahogany necks, including the Fat neck dot (I googled it). But that, like above, is a minor point.

 

(On the plus side that LPJ of my friends is still going strong 30 years later and was only retired from gigging because the insurance premium was too much so I guess it's just very bad luck that your friends should suffer a freak break so early).

 

I've edited out the bit where you mention that once they notice that it's a break due to a fall, they'll refuse to fix it. And that there was a similar case with a Gibson guitar. I can believe this to be the case, but wonder what would happen if a sufficiently prepared (including expert evidence) case was taken to small claims arguing the goods were not of sufficient quality.

 

If we analogise the problem into other areas, things wouldn't work the same. What if there was a car where the bumper snapped off if the driver lightly brushed the curb. There would be outrage at this problem, and something would get done. But with guitars .... no. I don't understand, and while what is being described to me (both here and on the guitar forum) shows that the "culture" is that the retailer is blameless even if the guitar neck snaps very easily, this still doesn't seem right to me, or legal. Part of what made me want to post here was to get the opinions of non-guitarists who might look at the situation with fresh eyes.

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I have a guitar, but I also stand strongly on consumer rights, as anyone who spends anytime on this forum knows. I have challenged retailers in situations when most people would have given up and still do. Please don't presume to tell me that I buy into the "blameless retailer culture" simply because I am telling you how things would stand legally, I thought you wanted advice? If all you wanted were people to agree with you, then sorry, not on this occasion.

 

The point I am trying to make which you seem to ignore is that it is irrelevant now whether the guitar had or didn't have an inherent fault. The fact the guy dropped it would be an absolute defence for the retailer, as they would be able to claim misuse or negligence.

 

Car bumpers are expected to occasionally hit the kerb, they're there to protect the main body of the car. Guitars are not supposed to get dropped. Your analogy doesn't work.

 

Now then. The retailer doesn't have to do a thing, as I explained. But has the guy actually tried to contact Gibson directly and explain the situation? It may be that this is a company which still has pride in their standards and which heavily relies on their reputation and that they would be willing to do something out of good will, it's got to be worth a try on such an expensive item.

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Just a thought, but....

 

Was the guitar purchased with the hard case?

 

The function of the case is to protect the guitar from transit damage such as this - and it has patently failed to do so.

 

So it could be argued that the case is not fit for purpose and the damage to the guitar is as a direct consequence of this failure...

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The point I am trying to make which you seem to ignore is that it is irrelevant now whether the guitar had or didn't have an inherent fault. The fact the guy dropped it would be an absolute defence for the retailer, as they would be able to claim misuse or negligence.

 

I'm not ignoring that at all. My point is that to be of reasonable quality and durabe, goods should be able to withstand the kind of knocks and bruises that they are likely to receive in normal use. It is reasonable to expect that a guitar wil recieve the occasional knock or light fall in its case.

 

I'm very sure I read of a case where someone did successfully obtain a refund for goods because the goods were insufficiently durable in this way. E.g. that it is normal that the goods will occasionally be dropped or otherwise knocked, and that the goods should be designed to withstand this. However, I've been singularly unsuccessful in finding that case. So it remains a "'I think', 'no, I think'" discussion. It would only be possible to solve this argument with a number of examples, and as of yet, we have none.

 

As an example of what I'm saying, consider these extreme cases. Imagine someone dropping a guitar from the tenth floor of a high rise building. Of course it would smash. Nobody would claim that being unable to withstand such treatment would mean that the guitar was not of reasonable quality, and reasonable people would not expect guitars to be dropped from a ten story window, and therefore guitar designers should not be expected to design guitars to withstand such treatment.

 

On the other hand, guitars used for their intended purpose, being used to play music, will occasionally have their necks lightly bumped against microphone stands, amps, other things on stage. This is normal and expected "mistreatment", and I'd say that guitar designers should take this into account. And a guitar whose neck snaps the first time it was lightly knocked against an object like this would be unfit for purpose. And arguments that the "purpose" of the instrument is playing and that light neck knocks are "misuse" would not, in my opinion, be valid. Because normal use of these instruments includes the occasional light knock. Such light knocks, even if not directly part of playing the guitar, are part of normal wear and tear. Falling from a ten story window isn't.

 

In the case at hand, we have a guitar in its hard case falling under its own weight for its own height, and smashing. This is entirely the sort of accident that will commonly occur with guitars. Particularly since it was cushioned by a hard case. And a guitar neck simply should not break clean across given this minor trauma. I believe that the neck had an inherent fault meaning that it was too weak to withstand even the occasional minor trauma due to normal wear and tear that a guitar receives in normal use. And that resistance to such normal wear and tear should have been designed in. Personally I suspect that normal ES335 necks will withstand that trauma easily, and that this guitar had a dodgy piece of wood. (I've confirmed that it's a one piece mahogany neck with no scarf joint). But without hearing the report of a properly skilled person, that's just a suspicion.

 

As mentioned above, you could argue that the hard case didn't perform its function of protecting the guitar. And that might be successful providing sufficient evidence can be provided that the guitar was in its hard case when it fell. However, unless the hard case was deliberately designed to smash the guitar neck with little robot hammers or something, even a poorly designed hard case should have prevented the neck (and guitar) being subjected to more than minor forces during a minor fall like that. Hence I do believe the guitar neck is the real faulty item. Of course, what is the real cause of a failure, and what is more likely to be successfully argued in SC court is not necessarily the same thing.

 

There have been some comments that the Gibson is a quality guitar and that I shouldn't turn away from Gibson because of this event. Proving that the instrument is inherently faulty to a court is one thing, but the evidence I've seen is enough to convince me that the neck was inherently faulty. I believe that had it not snapped in this fall, it would have snapped off in some other minor trauma. And all I get is people saying "thems the breaks". For a £2500 instrument. Personally my opinion right here right now is that I wouldn't touch a Gibson guitar with a bargepole. Already with Gibson you're paying a lot for the name, and I believe you can get better instruments for less money from less better known guitar builders. I've seen Ed Roman's claims that Gibson necks (specifically Les Pauls) are poorly designed and snap frequently, but Ed Roman is Ed Roman and by default I ignore anything he says. But now this .... it's enough evidence for me.

 

Edit: Oh, and there's a comment above saying that because it was a fall, the retailer could claim misuse. Yes, I'm sure the retailer would claim misuse. The important question is whether a court would accept misuse as a defense. I thought that I'd read of a case where the claim that the goods should withstand knocks received as part of "normal wear and tear" was successful. However, without being able to find that case, I more or less have to give up. If it were my guitar, I would obtain the opinion of a skilled lawyer with experience of cases such as these. Since it isn't my guitar, it's not practical for me to do so.

Edited by Annoying Twit

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Just a thought, but....

 

Was the guitar purchased with the hard case?

 

The function of the case is to protect the guitar from transit damage such as this - and it has patently failed to do so.

 

So it could be argued that the case is not fit for purpose and the damage to the guitar is as a direct consequence of this failure...

Also, is it the correct case for the guitar? Are all of the supports in the correct place?


Frederickson - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Lost - Claiming back from post office

Connaught Collections - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Lowell - CCA sent 11/4/07 - No agreement - returned to client

Moorcroft - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Red Castle - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Copy returned but no T&C's

Robinson Way - CCA Sent 16/5/07

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I'm not sure if the owner of the guitar is watching this thread. But he's just made a sizeable post discussing the case. He's a design engineer, and has looked at the case. The case does not have any support for the headstock, meaning that if dropped the inertia of the headstock will snap the neck at that point. He says it's quite common for the headstock to snap at that place, and that other guitars with snapped headstocks look the same as his. That certainly argues strongly against my theory that the individual guitar he bought had a particular fault in the wood of the neck. He says that if the hardcase had additional foam behind the headstock, then this may have prevented the break. But that this would have meant that the headstock (and tuners) would have been touching the foam, which would have meant that tuning stability while in the case would have been affected.

 

I presume that it's the correct case for the guitar, as otherwise he would have commented.

 

Edit:

 

Now then. The retailer doesn't have to do a thing, as I explained. But has the guy actually tried to contact Gibson directly and explain the situation? It may be that this is a company which still has pride in their standards and which heavily relies on their reputation and that they would be willing to do something out of good will, it's got to be worth a try on such an expensive item.

 

I missed this bit. I've asked on the guitar forum thread to see if he has done anything along these lines.

Edited by Annoying Twit

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If the person has household insurance, then perhaps he/she should put in a claim for accidental damage.


Frederickson - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Lost - Claiming back from post office

Connaught Collections - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Lowell - CCA sent 11/4/07 - No agreement - returned to client

Moorcroft - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - No Agreement - returned to client

Red Castle - CCA Sent 11/4/07 - Copy returned but no T&C's

Robinson Way - CCA Sent 16/5/07

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If the person has household insurance, then perhaps he/she should put in a claim for accidental damage.

 

I was planning on getting it insured, but since I only got the thing four days ago, I've not got round to getting it done yet.

Ouch! :( :( :(

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