Frequently Asked Questions

To be perfectly blunt, I'm fairly illiterate when it comes to a computer. I get some professional help, but I can't really type well -- and I know this is hard for you to hear -- but I don't want to get into it. I want to enjoy making guitars in my spare time.

I've asked people to call me if they're in the US; you can speak to me for ten minutes for 50 cents to $1.00 using most of those prefix numbers. I can go through what 10 emails would do in that period of time. Often I can inform you of possibilities you wouldn't even have thought of yourself.

So if you're serious about business, give me a call from noon to six, west coast time. I know a great deal of you are on your boss' clock, you're bored at work and want to be emailing me for fun; but the other side of it: it takes me a great deal of time to pull it up and respond.

MY ONLY EXCEPTION is if people are from out of the country or have a special circumstance. I can't tell you how many emails I don't answer and how many emails I get saying "I'm sorry for emailing you; I know you can't type well and answer BUT...." Please call me. We're talking about musical instruments worth hundreds of dollars. Fifty cents to $1.00 is nothing to spend on a good telephone call.

The Internet is a great vehicle for offering my instruments at wholesale to people. Usually, manufacturers get about 1/3 of list price when they are marketed through the typical channels. I think you'd rather pay a third of list price and deal with the Internet.

Do you have pictures of all the guitars advertised on the website? Will you email me shots of the ones I'm interested in?

We don't do pictures.
I keep emailing you images, but I don't get feedback from you. Are they getting to you?

I don't know how to open those files, but you can easily mail it to me at the store.

Do you have a print catalog you can send me?

We're saving trees and using electrons. Everything is online. And note that it is best to call me if you're in the country because the inventory you see is only a fraction of what we have. And there are many permutations and variations available on what we have.

Where are you located and what are your hours?

We're Subway Guitars, 1800 Cedar Street Berkeley, California 94703. We're formally open from noon til six, Pacific Time, Monday thru Saturday. (Its hard to catch up with Fatdog on Thursdays....)

Do you ship worldwide?

Yes. But its generally quite expensive using United Parcel Service (UPS) -- $100 to $200 per guitar. I try to use U.S. Parcel Post for international orders, but certain countries have constraining size limitations on the package that prevent certain guitars going out via parcel post.

Can you repair my guitar even if I don't live in the Bay Area? If yes, how can we work that out?

Absolutely! Shipping a guitar in the US is generally between $25 and $30, each way. Alot of customers send their instruments in for repairs.

Also note that our repair fees are exceptionally reasonable because the repair technicians receive the FULL labor fee. Most stores jack the price up 200% to 300% for the store's cut. This is something I don't believe in and this was one of the founding issues and the backbone of Subway Guitars. The repair department is somewhat of a cooperative of half a dozen technicians.

If you call, talk to Dave. And be sure to insure your package; insurance is very cheap and every now and then more damage can happen in transit. And by the way: bicycle boxes, cut down, are excellent for shipping guitars.

Can you order guitars and parts for me if you don't have them in stock?

Yes. Whatever it costs us to get the merchandise in the door, that is the wholesale value of the instrument (usually that is 1/2 of the list price). If you make a deposit as a commitment, we will order it for you and add a 25% commision to our wholesale price.

What is the typical time frame for receipt of merchandise?

We usually ship the stuff that is in stock within a day or two of receiving your payment. (We hold personal checks until they clear the bank.) We usually give about a 3 to 4 week time estimate on the stuff we manufacture. That completion time frame also depends on our schedule. Lots of times its less than 3 to 4 weeks; sometimes it can be more. For instance, last week we made 23 instruments for people. Now that was BUSY.

Can I buy your stuff with a credit card?

Yes. And I hope it's the last alternative. There are a number of reasons I don't like credit cards:

(1) The companies are fucking piranhas, charging a percentage processing fee, each way (once when you buy it, and once again if you return it).

(2) For 33 years we didn't take credit cards in the store. I feel that I'm doing the local musicians a favor because, quite honestly, most of them dig themselves into a hole of debt where they end up paying alot more for the guitar than I charge. These card companies make obscene interest on the musicians and the musical instruments. These are tools of creativity and I feel they shouldn't be subjected to this dynamic of finance.

(3) For every sale, the musician gets to try the instrument for two weeks. You cannot tell if you love an instrument until you've had it for awhile, jammed with it with your band or recorded with it. We have a policy of "two weeks to experience ecstacy" or a full cash refund is yours.

There is a card server fee of up to 5% -- each way the transaction happens. We call this a "handling charge" but the deal is really this: I'm not going to pay these credit card companies a bunch of money to let you try out a guitar only to have it returned. I don't mind eating the fee one-way if you keep the instrument; this is the cost of doing business. Also, most of you will note that our prices are exceptionally low. We try to manufacture or sell you the instrument at the lowest possible amount. These piranha card-server fees can cut into our profit on a sale when someone is just trying an instrument out.

What's the physical condition of the used instruments you sell?

This is a good question. Alot of the instruments we have are 20 to 60 years old. Some of them have been around the block. The condition of the finish is not a paramount concern to us. We feel that the value of it as a musical instrument is more important. So.

We guarantee that the instruments play VERY WELL. We have an expert staff of techs who adjust each one. As a manufacturer, I buy huge quantities of high-quality tuning machines and bridges; we almost always upgrade the instrument so that it stays in tune and it plays in tune (intonation). On the acoustics, they're all repaired as far as cracks, seam separations, braces; nothing will go out needing a repair in the physical realm like this.

One of the house specialties is the guitar I love: the solid wood acoustic guitar. I will reset the neck on any of them and do the fretwork necessary to make them sound, and play, as good as possible. On a typical $250 old Harmony acoustic, for instance, we will put on Schaller tuning machines, reset the neck and add a good pin bridge with a compensated saddle. This puts the guitar in its best condition, as far as I'm concerned. If the 40-year-old finish is a little nicked or has some pick scratches on it, I don't care. And the same goes for the electrics.

Of course, the new guitars are NEW. The stuff we manufacture is in the best possible condtion we can make it. Most of the parts we use are new/old stock and are 20 to 30 years old. They've have some shop wear, just being shipped and kicked and stored over that period of time, but you're lucky that the stuff has never been sold and that its of the vintage it is.

Can you make a custom guitar to my particular specifications?

Usually. For this its best to call and talk to Fatdog, or one of the techs that will build it. We will source the parts for you at 25% above our wholesale cost if we don't have them. If somebody wants some Dunkmore Semen pickups or Chandler pickguard or a Warmoth neck or body, we'll get them at a very good price.

Can you make your instruments left-handed? Which ones?

We can make many of the instruments left-handed, but you must speak to Fatdog about this. As far as strats, teles and basses, no problem. Some les pauls and hollow bodies, no problem. Big fat jazz guitars with a cutaway -- that's a problem. I have put left-handed cutaways in instruments in the past, but its not cheap. And on acoustics, we're always converting them to left-handed, and its not expensive (from $40).

Still no answer to your question?
Give Fatdog a call.

Subway Guitars
1800 Cedar Street
Berkeley, California 94703

Telephone: (510) 841-4106
noon til six, Monday thru Saturday
Pacific Time