‘Zenput Opportunity’: A Broken Mic Stand and a Fallout With Guitar Center

By Brian Harris


A couple of days ago, a friend messaged me saying she had an authentic  “Zenput moment.” What did that mean? I was intrigued!

My friend is a hobby musician and multi-instrumentalist. She has been a customer of Guitar Center for many years, but recently she had a very disappointing experience.

When you’re a musician, equipment breaks with wear-and-tear and electronics needs to be updated. Musicians tend to have a favorite brick-and-mortar destination for their musical needs. Just like someone who wants to buy a shirt or dress might want to try it on at first, a musician wants to hear the instrument or test the quality of the equipment before purchasing it.

For the sake of background, Guitar Center’s financial woes have been discussed at length, particularly in strategist Eric Garland’s analysis, “Guitar Center: A story about the end of big box retail.” Check out his article to learn more.

Back to my friend’s story: My friend told her father that she broke a microphone stand. Her father decided to surprise her and try to fix the stand instead of throwing it in the trash. He stopped at Guitar Center to try to buy a replacement part, but they didn’t have it. A friendly sales associate sold him the stand’s replacement arm instead. He came home and repaired the stand.

My friend happened to check her email that same day where she found a promotion advertising the store’s accessory sale. Her father could have bought a brand-new microphone stand for the same cost as the replacement arm. The sales associate had not mentioned the promotion to him. This made my friend angry since her dad had gone out of his way to do her a favor.

The next day, she stopped into Guitar Center with the receipt. The mic stand advertised in the email promotion had not yet been reduced, and the sales associate said he had no knowledge of the promotion because, “Corporate doesn’t communicate those emails with each individual store.” AHA! Her Zenput moment!

We don’t talk about the importance of communication at the store level because we think it’s cute. Failure to execute promotional rollouts is a real problem frustrating your employees, angering your customers, and ultimately losing business. What’s the point of emailing promotions when they aren’t listed correctly in your store, and your sales associates aren’t made aware of the promotions?

To be fair, Guitar Center did offer to honor the online promotion price if my friend dismantled the stand that had already been repaired and returned to the store with the replacement arm. It wasn’t worth her time, though, since the repair was already done and band practice was the next day.

It should also be noted that this wasn’t my friend’s first experience with poor customer service at Guitar Center. Her brother bought a keyboard there a few years ago, and had to return to the store with his receipt when they didn’t apply the right discount.

When a brick-and-mortar retail organization is struggling to survive, every transaction and every customer experience counts. A customer can’t be frustrated to the point where they think they’re going to have a better experience shopping in a different store or online.

With any luck, more brick-and-mortar retailers will have their “Zenput moment” before it’s too late!

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