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It's interesting to hear about folks who will or won't buy guitars online. My nearest large music store is manned by a couple of twenty-somethings who are rather supercillious and don't play acoustic...I just go there to play various instruments, wouldn't buy anything other than bridge pins from them ...It's fun to shop prices online, but I'd certainly patronize a good mom and pop store for an additional fifty or seventy-five bucks or so on a guitar if I could find one...It'd be nice to find music store folks with personality and playing talent who listen when you tell them what you want. My experience in many music stores is that I'm either ignored or hustled (you're from Cape Cod? well that's an additional 5$ off!...actually heard that one). I'm sure guitar shop workers must suffer through a lot of boring, showoffy folks as well...remember the "No Stairway to Heaven" sign in Wayne's guitar shop?

Although it is one of life's great little thrills to arrive home and find delivery of a long tall rectangular cardboard box, I'd like nothing more to be within an hour's drive of a great store with attentive, talented, knowledgable personel who occasionally would call me with an offer of an exceptional new or used guitar, who could take care of electronic problems quickly and reasonably, who could manage thirty seconds pleasant chat when doing business. Until then, I'm stuck with the internet.

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There are many opinions being expressed here which supports that choice of establishment for purchasing guitars is a very personal thing. One thing that has been touched upon is set-up. Some stores (internet and brick and morter) pride themselves on set up. Brick and Morter may have a slight edge as many of them (not all by any means) will provide a custom set up. In addition, some will provide adjustments as the guitar acclimates to its new environment. I have experienced and talked to others who have witnessed changes in neck set after being played and stored in the new environment after leaving the store.
One of the things that most service oriented shops cringe at is the customer who walks in the door with a fresh purchase from the internet or a big-box store that has "issues". They don't turn these "customers" away. After all they probably have all had negative experience getting their "issue" taken care of on the internet or the big-box store.
Unfortunately, "cheap" and "custom service" are oxymorons.
I've had reasonably good luck buying both ways; on the other hand, having to endure sales people in a music store can sometimes make Internet purchasing seem worthwhile. In general, I prefer to deal with local stores when possible; that is, when I can find what I'm looking for at a reasonable price. I'll even pay a little higher price to deal with a local store I'm comfortable with. If I'm not sure what I want I'll absolutely deal locally.

On the other hand, no brick and mortar store can match the selection of a big online retailer, so if you're looking for something you can't find locally, Internet might be the way to go. Also, depending on where you live, you might save quite a bit on sales tax - in many US states there's no sales tax unless the retailer operates physically in the state. Since prices usually end up being identical (the larger stores match online prices), and shipping is usually free, not paying sales tax would save me $255 on a $3000 guitar.
You must live in NYC, that's a hellacious sales tax. I bought one very reasonably priced online guitar, and to my surprise the online seller charged 5% sales tax, though my state does not seem to pursue online taxes. I didn't mind paying, but I was curious why some get away with not collecting. I guess that's a major issue these days, states missing that revenue. Just saw a $17,000 guitar in a catalog, at 8% tax, that alone is the price of a very decent guitar. Half-seriously, should we petition our lawmakers to exempt artistic components such as musical instruments in the same way that textbooks and educational films are exempt in most states?
Actually I live in Phoenix, and that 8.5% sales tax includes state, county, and city components. Sales taxes vary from city to city in this area, and neighboring Scottsdale is actually slightly higher. As I understand it, the rule in most states is that if the seller has a business presence in the state where the purchaser resides, they must remit sales tax to that state - otherwise not. BTW, that $17,000 guitar would cost me $1,445 in sales tax alone, if I bought it at a local store. I tend to agree with your idea about exempting musical instruments from sales taxes, but any petitions would have to be on a state-by-state basis and I think it would be a tough sell just about anywhere.
Here in Canada we have 2 taxes. The Provincial Sales Tax (PST) @ 8% and we also have a National GST tax I like to refer to as the Gouge & Screw Tax @ 5%. The 5% is charged on everything and you get a rebate every quarter depending on your income (around $90 - 100). If you are a business owner and collect the GST for the government you get back all your GST on business related purchases. The PST varies from province to province and not all items are taxable (groceries, books and educational materials etc.). Churches are exempt too.Now the government has decided to put the two taxes together as a Harmonized Sales Tax (HST) which would mean all things taxed at the higher rate...so 13% in Ontario. It's enough to drive a guy to move to the US!

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