Buyer Beware

 Update 3/11/2010: Apparently blogging is good for something other than just me shouting into the ethereal void of the interwebs. An employee from Music123 found this blog and took it upon himself to personally rectify the situation. I can confirm, having just viewed my adjusted credit card statement, that the problem has been fully resolved. So, a big thanks to Skaught Parry for taking the time to address this issue personally. As for Music123, well, they've taken fine care of me in response to this issue, and I feel confident enough to buy from them again.

You may have noticed that I haven't been blogging for a while. Or, maybe you haven't because you've been busy reading other, more interesting blogs. But I wanted to take a break from my usual armchair philosophy b.s. and vent something that has been bugging me greatly.

See, I just wrote a check for $1,023.40. And I am really, really not happy about writing this check.

I'm a guitarist. Back in July, I found this amazing USA Washburn, which I would link to but unfortunately it is no longer in production. Mine looks like this:

Yes, it's awesome. And it was expensive. But, the online store from which I purchased this beauty informed me that the high price was no problemo, with this enticing advertisment:

You can read the details here, but the important thing is this: this card promises zero interest financing on purchases of $199 or more, with no finance charges if it's paid off in a year. This is actually a great thing if you can use it. I've bought three Carvin guitars with the Carvin credit card, and financed all them. It's a lot easier to make small payments at your convenience over a year than dump one lump sum of cash on an extravagant purchase.

So, after buying this guitar, I set up the online payment system. Just like with my Carvins, I dutifully paid each monthly minimum payment. It never occurred to me to wonder why I was making monthly payments at all, but by that point I'd forgotten the original ad. Then I noticed, about five months in, that my balance hadn't gone down... like, at all. I should have scrutinized the statements instead of just making the payments and going on with my life, but I'd never had any issues with Carvin, so I didn't think anything of it.

Well, lo and behold, I was being assessed monthly finance charges at a rate of 23%. Needless to say I canceled my plans to have an awesome day, and immediately booked a couple hours of being totally fucking pissed off. I contacted customer "service" at HSBC, and here's what they told me:

Please be informed that your purchase dated 07/27/2009 qualified for a regular revolving plan and it requires a minimum payment each month. Finance charges on this plan will be assessed using the Average Daily Balance method during any billing period in which the previously billed balance was not paid in full by the due date. Since, we did not receive the full payment by due date, finance charges were assessed on your account. 
After reviewing your account, we regret that we are unable to complete your request without additional information. Please refer to your copy of the original sales slip. If your sales slip specifies that the purchase was to be placed on a promotional credit plan, please forward a copy of the sales slip. If you are unable to locate your original sales slip, you may contact the merchant for a copy.
Basically, they told me that my purchase didn't qualify, for some unspecified reason, as a "promotional purchase" despite the fact that it was well over $199.00. I contacted Music123 about the issue, and they told me to contact the bank. Circle jerk.

I eventually wrote an angry letter detailing the situation to the staff at Music123 and told them I would never, ever buy anything from them again and that I would strongly encourage my fellow musician buddies to do the same. This was their reply:
I was more than a little appalled to read about your experience with our store credit card. This will require the attention of someone further up the chain than those of us who correspond directly with customers. It would seem that we did an inadequate job of properly explaining the financing promotion as I am certain HSBC would not renege on a contractual obligation. Whatever the reason, we will get to the bottom of it and make sure that it does not happen to any of our other valued customers.
That was the last I heard from them. I've now had no choice but to transfer the remaining balance to my regular Visa to avoid getting ass raped by a 23% interest rate. I'll still be in debt though, and it doesn't make me feel any better knowing that I've pissed away at least a couple hundred bucks in finance charges.

I had one of those moments where I thought, Is this just me? Am I in the wrong here? Because it seems like they're using fine-print bullshit to pull a bait and switch. And you know, looking back at the original ad, that's exactly what I think.

Be careful with store credit cards folks. And stay the hell away from HSBC (they also finance Best Buy's card) and Music123. I should also mention that Music123 did not require a signature on delivery, so they basically left a $2,000 guitar sitting on my porch. Classy.


  1. Hey Mike,
    I work for Music 123. I would first like to extend my apologies. We believe in being the worlds best music retailer and have let you down. Let me make it up to you. Please contact me at my email skaughtparry[at] You will be happy you did. Thanks Mike! I hope to hear from you soon.



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