Here's a hypothetical example, showing what a typical trade-in experience is like for you, the customer. Let's follow Carl the Customer as he trades in his old Epiphone Les Paul guitar and Fender Blues Junior amp.
Like most customers, Carl the pretend Customer called the shop ahead of time and asked our friendly associate, Matt, if we do trades. The pretend dialog went something like this:
Carl the Customer: "Hey, I am interested in one of those Marshall DSL40 amps. Do you guys have one in stock?"
Matt: "Yes, we've actually got two in stock. Have you played through one yet?"
Carl: "No, but I'd like to come check one out. Also, do you guys take trades? I have an old Epiphone Les Paul and a Fender Blues Junior amp that I want to put toward it."
Matt: "Absolutely! Bring those in and we'll evaluate them when you get here."
Carl: "What would you give me for them? I've only had them for a few years, and I hardly ever play them. They're still in brand new condition."
Matt: "I can't give you a value until we get a chance to check them out, but if you give me the exact model of Les Paul and which version of the Blues Junior you have, I'll do some research before you get here on what they might be worth..."
At this point, Carl the Customer packs up his guitar and amp and brings them to the shop, knowing that Matt is already on the case, ready to hook Carl up with a killer new amp.
You might be thinking, An Epiphone Les Paul and a Fender Blues Junior amp are pretty common, why doesn't Matt know what they're worth? Why wouldn't he give a quote over the phone? Actually, Matt knows all about Les Pauls and Fender amps. Matt also knows two other things:
1.) There are dozens of different Epiphone Les Paul models, with used values ranging from $80 to $800. There are also three different generations of Blues Junior amps, plus a few special editions. Matt doesn't want to give a quote over the phone for the wrong models. Even if Carl tells Matt what he has, Matt wants to err on the side of caution. We don't like to set the wrong expectations before a customer arrives.
2.) Condition matters a lot with used gear. Carl mentioned that he rarely plays this gear, and that it's basically brand new. But, sadly, almost everyone makes that claim over the phone. It's not that Matt doesn't believe Carl or that he thinks Carl is intentionally trying to be misleading. But too often, what customers are really describing when they talk about gear they don't use is what they remember about its condition the last time they used it (which may have been several months ago), not what condition it is currently in. Again, Matt is trying to be careful when he sets Carl's expectations.
Carl the Customer brings in his Epiphone Les Paul guitar and Fender Blues Junior amp. Matt helps Carl set up his gear in a corner of the shop and asks Carl to plug in and demo his gear, while he simultaneously gets the Marshall ready to go. [We have customers demo their own gear for two reasons: a) on more complex items, it's helpful to have it set up correctly the first time by the original owner, and b) Matt will ask some questions about what Carl doesn't like in his Blues Junior that he hopes to find in the Marshall. This makes sure that the amp Carl leaves with, if not the Marshall, is the right amp for him.]
While playing through Carl's gear, it's noted that, while a little dusty/dirty from sitting around, it generally is in pretty good cosmetic shape. Matt notices the usual pick scratches and a ding on the side of the guitar, that it desperately needs new strings (Carl hasn't played it much, and thus, hasn't changed strings in over a year), and that the intonation is off. In summary, the Blues Junior checks out, the Les Paul needs a setup, both need cleaned.
Carl and Matt check out a few amps along with the Marshall DSL40 Carl originally came to see, but he settles on the DSL40. Now...time to make a trade!!!
Matt shows Carl a few online examples of what we use to gauge the resale value of used gear. This establishes a pretty accurate range of current values.
They agree on a fair value for trade, factoring in the work it will take to make Carl's gear ready to sell. Carl goes home with the amp of his dreams, and Five Star Guitars now has a new Les Paul and Blues Junior that will soon be ready to find a new home.
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