Presales/preorders and why they don't work for me

I get asked this A LOT online and so I don't have to waste time and keep answering the same, or similar questions over and over again I thought it was time I just did a blog on the subject.

I started this business officially in 1997 making guitars and pedals for myself and friends. Then I made them for friends of friends, and then people I didn't know and as the internet opened my stuff up to too many people, I started to run into the "issue" of supply and demand.

I started this business to make stuff I love by hand. Not only do I think this is the best way to make something you love and that others may love, I want my kids to live in a world where things are still made by hand. The idea of "supply and demand" never occurred to me as something I would ever have to deal with. I thought I'd make stuff I liked, someone would dig it and they would buy it, then I'd make something else.

Once the internet opened up in the very late 90's I started getting emails and calls from people in other cities and countries wanting my stuff, or custom stuff. They wanted it not only because I was possibly the only one at the time they could find making what they wanted, but also because it was hand made by someone who wanted to make it. It wasn't even made in a factory by someone being paid to hand make something. It was being made by one human, in a workshop, by hand who was passionate about making it.

I started getting too many orders for the things I made. People started wanting my guitars and anyone who makes guitars completely by hand, or who understands the process will understand they take A LOT of time to complete. I was making everything myself including bodies, necks, pickups, vibratos, bridges, scratchplates, even knobs. It was very time consuming, and I probably didn't charge enough for them, which made more people want them.

People also wanted my pedals, which I was a little more open to having parts made by other people and assembling them myself. Parts like enclosures, PCB's and obviously components were all sourced custom made FOR me but not made BY me, except on some occasions when I made my own enclosures by hand.

With more people wanting stuff by about 1999/2000 I started taking "preorders" ....

Within a year or so I had a 5 year waiting list for guitars and a year waiting list for effects. I still wanted to make everything myself (I did get friends to help with some effects), by hand, here at my workshop which meant everything took real time. I made it VERY clear that I would put someone on a waiting list, not take any deposit or money, and contact them when they're time came up to see if they still wanted the item, at which point I'd make it or move onto the next person. I never took, and still never take any money for something that is not made and ready to ship, ever. 

The reasons for this is as I have experienced, once you have someones money, they rightly expect something in return, and even after being told it may take "insert time period here" some people expect more because they've paid for it.

The other reason is sometimes I stop making things or can't get parts or lose supply chains for making something and if I've taken someones money for an item I can no longer make, it gets messy. This latest C-19 fiasco has really bought that back to the fore.

So, with not wanting to change the way I do things, it became obvious pretty quickly waiting lists don't work for this type of manufacturing. I was contracted into making stuff for the next 5 years without any real time to develop new products and make stuff for people I wanted to make stuff for. It wasn't why I started making guitars or pedals (and everything else) in the first place.

Once the retail shop opened my life got much more complicated with running that as well and I basically stopped making guitars as the investment in time was just too great. While it was my first love and the reason this place existed, I couldn't get anything done and make guitars, especially with a waiting list which just added to the stress. I stopped taking orders at 5 years and stopped making guitars once most of those were made. No one had paid a deposit so no one was out of pocket, just a little disappointed I could no longer make them a guitar. 

I also stopped waiting lists on pedals as everything I was making was sold and people who were just finding out about me couldn't buy ANYTHING from me, even in my shop. This made no sense to me and was very frustrating.

With a couple of signature model pedals my profile kind of jumped considerably and I was inundated with people wanting my stuff. I was still making very limited quantities by hand and my pedals started selling out in seconds online when I'd announce them being there. Then I would get the wrath of disgruntled people who "missed out" which just made it more frustrating. People getting very upset saying "just make more" or "release 100 at a time" without spending any real time or energy understanding how or why I do things. 

I would also get people asking "can I preorder one" or "just do presales to fix all of this" ..... 

The thing I learnt with presales early on is it can be great IF you're the first, or second one there in line. Maybe even if you're the 50th one there, but when you're the 200th person there, and want to be on a waiting list and I say "OK, there's 199 people ahead of you and I make 20 of these a year so I'll contact you in 10 years when your order is ready" it's not so much fun. For anyone. 

I have also been offered LOTS (obscene amounts) of money for someone to not have to be treated like everyone else for some of my stuff. I have told them that no amount of money means they are more deserving of something I make than some kid in their bedroom waiting on my site to try and grab something special. 

Now this all causes a 2nd market for my stuff that I have also gone into too many times. Supply and demand is a part of rampant capitalism which unfortunately is the system I must live in. In short I would say that I make nearly everything I've ever made at some point when I get time so if you're happy to wait, I'll probably make it again for the original price, but that's a whole other essay. 

The bottom line is, for me, I only want to make things one way. That's by me, by hand, using components and parts sourced or made by me and that means there's very few of anything being made as all of this stuff is time intensive and expensive when done like I do it. I have no plans of doing things any differently. This is how I want things with my name on them to be done and I know it doesn't seem like it sometimes but NOT having presales and presorders is actually MUCH (MUCH) fairer for everyone to have access to my stuff as it's not first in (or wealthiest) first served. Every thing I make is available to anyone on my site or in my shop once it's done, not going to the next person on the list. 

I know it's frustrating trying to buy some of my stuff. I know it can be a pain having to keep an eye on my social media for what and when. I can honestly say in 23 years of running this business I have NEVER tried to sell something to someone that they didn't want, and at the same time, there are plenty of GREAT pedals, guitars, amps etc out there to explore and enjoy. I'm not trying to sell you my stuff. I've never "hyped" my own stuff up to sell it. I just make it and put it up for sale. If you want to buy it, great. If you don't, great. I'm constantly (as in all the time) honoured and grateful to the people I work with and who support this place by wanting stuff I make and I honestly believe that the way I currently make my stuff available is the fairest way for everybody. 

Thanks.
Tim.

Jun 25 2020 Written By: Tim Brennan