Thursday, August 15, 2013

Online Retailer Review: Strings and Beyond

I've been working hard behind the scenes to set up some awesome content for this blog. You will not be disappointed I guarantee it.

Before we get into some Q&A's, concert reviews, etc. I do want to take some time to recognize a company that reminds us all what an independent shop can do for the economy. Without getting into all sorts of business-school theory, let me say this: when customers are happy and feel like their business is valued, they come back. Again and again.

As a Canadian consumer, I often find my American friends and family are paying way less for certain items than I am, and other products aren't offered for sale here in Canada at all. This is where my quest for more affordable guitar strings began. I got tired of going to music stores here in the Toronto area and paying $8-$12 for a pack of strings that American guitarists were paying $4-$7 for.

I stumbled across a small ad in a guitar magazine for an online-based retailer called Strings and Beyond.



What caught my attention was the FREE SHIPPING FOR ORDERS OF $35 AND OVER. I figured they meant to the United States, like all other companies usually do. But right there in some not-so-fine print, I see it: TO U.S. & CANADA. O happy day.
 I figured, "what have I got to lose?" I browsed their website and picked out a couple of my favorites and some new strings I've been wanting to try. Then I found my holy grail: Tone's Finger Ease...in a spray can. For my American readers, this may not seem like a big deal, but to my Canadian guitarists, we know that Finger Ease is not available for sale in Canada. At $4.95 a can, I could not pass up the opportunity to stock up. So I did. I submitted my order, and within 24 hours, I got an e-mail that notified me that my order had been shipped. No hassles, no worries, no gimmicks. Just an order that was $45 or so, and free delivery to Canada. I got my strings and Finger Ease, along with the picks I ordered (great prices by the way!) about 6 days later and I was thrilled! Yes, I admit, waiting 6 whole days was difficult, but with the prices they offer, I couldn't say no.

Here is what separated Strings and Beyond from other retailers however. Upon opening the box, not only was I pleasantly surprised with the care that was taken in packaging my order, but I also found a little bag with "Strings and Beyond" picks - free of charge, and a hand-written note: "Thank you for your purchase", along with some nice words about it being my first order and how much it is appreciated. What a nice, personal touch in such a detached digital age. I figured that it was my first order, so they went all out, but either way, I felt like I was a rock star ordering from a custom shop. I felt special. Shopping online. Imagine that.

When it came time to order again, I had the exact same experience. Quick shipping, great prices, little personal additions of picks, and yet another hand-written note, along with a FREE pack of strings because I had referred the Strings and Beyond website to 5 e-mail contacts. (Note: How it works is you e-mail 5 of your friends saying "hey, try Strings and Beyond" and CC Strings and Beyond, then just mention it next time you order, and they send you a free pack of strings.) There are a lot of "free" gimmicks on the internet that never work. This one does and it's a nice "thank you" from a company. They don't have to do it, it probably doesn't cost them a whole lot, but it makes customers HAPPY. That's an economics lesson that many businesses could learn from.

I've ordered from Strings and Beyond twice so far and won't hesitate to do it again. They have a true respect for building relationships with their customers, even in this faceless internet shopping age. They are proof that a good company is a good company whether it's an old fashioned brick and mortar shop, or an online retailer. E-mails I sent asking about products were replied to quickly and in a friendly manner. I feel like someone over at Strings and Beyond knows me - and whether they or do or not is somewhat irrelevant: as a customer, I feel like they do, and that makes me more likely to want to shop there. There's that economics lesson again. :)

Do yourselves a favor and try ordering from Strings and Beyond. I was so impressed with the service I got that I haven't been able to stop mentioning them to all of my guitarist/bassist friends. I thought I'd review them here for all of cyberspace to read about too, and so my friends will stop rolling their eyes at me. They're currently having a 15% off sale on all accessories, and there are always deals that are brand-specific such as buy 2 get 1 free, etc.