I work at Guitar Center and can only give you my point of view.
There are two types of people that work at Guitar Center.
1) Those that attempt to have a career (the people you should buy from)
2) Those that want to collect a paycheck (the people you should stay away from)
People with good reputations and loyal customers have careers.
I manage the Pro Audio/Keyboard Department at the Plano, TX store. When I took it over almost two years ago, it was a joke. The best preamp we had at the time was a Eureka. I'm not saying that it's a bad preamp. But, at the time, that was the best we had. We could have used more variety. This embarrassed me (our lack of selection). I quickly worked my way into management, so I could have power and feedback. I started ordering better preamps and compressors (SSL, UA, Chandler, Empirical Labs etc) to put in our racks. My goal was to educate our salespeople on "what's good", as well as give our customers some better gear to choose from. Once a week, before we open the doors, I spend thirty minutes with my Pro Audio crew. I educate them as much as I can on what makes high end gear "high end". I also tell them that if they don't know the answer to a question, ask me. If I don't know, I will ask someone else. If I catch them lying to sell a product, I will chew their ass out. I tell them to sell the right thing the first time. If they do that, profit won't matter. If you sell people the right thing the first time ALWAYS, customers will come pouring in.
My philosophy has always been to help people with their problems and sell what they need. I don't really attach the fact that I work for a major corporation. I'm blunt with customers and they respect me for it. If I feel that a customer doesn't know what they're talking about, I do try to steer them in an ethical way. The biggest reason why I try to steer them: I try to minimize the chance that they will return what they buy by selling them the right thing.
Now time for me to complain about stupid customers. I know most of you on this board are very knowledgable with Pro Audio, but you may not realize how clueless some customers are. Time for me to share my side.
People who buy things and return them are a waste of my time. Do your research or else let me help you. Those are the worst customers. They don't let me qualify them into the right thing. Defining the right thing is easy. You take it home. You love it. You keep it. Then you come back and buy everything else from me because I was honest with you and really do care that you get joy out of the gear that I sell you. I don't care about profit centers. I'll make my money. I'm the top salesman at my store because I get "it". I make my customers happy and sell them good stuff. You'll never see me pushing certain products because I am a GS and know better.
I do not like customers that feel that they are entitled to things. If you're cool to me and carry on a conversation with me, you'll probably get a discount. My regulars always get a hookup. You alway give me your money, so I always give you a price break. It's a trade off.
Here's my favorite conversation
(customer walks up to counter, puts Behringer mixer on the counter and asks)
CUSTOMER: What can you do for me on this Xenyx?
ME: Well, why do you want a Behringer?
C: These are awesome and cheap
M: Have you considered any other possibilities for a mixer? We have other brands that I would be willing to show you.
C: Oh yeah, I know these are good
M: How many mixers have you actually used?
C: Um. ... . . um . . . . I just like that it's cheap
M: Cool (rolls eyes). So the price tag says $109.99. Did you need some cables to go with that? I would definately suggest our extended warranty since you're insisting to go with a Behringer.
C: No thanks on the warranty. It's not going to breakfuuck . So how much are you going to give this to me for?
C: That's not good enough, I know you can do better
(Now I cover up my name badge and say)
M: What's my name?
M: I said, what's my name?
C: I don't know
M: So you don't know what my name is, yet you want me to take money off this mixer?
C: Uh, um yeah....
M: I could take money off this, but I'm on comission and like making money. I'm not going to take any money out of my pocket because you feel entitled to a discount. You probably don't even know, or respect, how I make my money. That's not really any of my concern. But, as it stands now, you cannot even say my first name. I don't know you, you don't care to learn anything about me. You don't care that I'm trying to get you into better gear that will last you and long time and bring you a lot of joy.
(The customer gets pissed off and leaves)
If love pulling that on jerk customers. A lot of times they get pissed off and leave. But I will always go out of my way to remind them that I am human and they should not feel that they're entitled to anything until they recognize that I'm not just some idiot salesman and I genuinely care about getting them into good gear. Meanwhile my customers with taste and open minds get hooked up all the time. I love to shoot the shit with customers. I'm not pushy. I make my customers comfortable and then they eventually tell me what they want without me ever having to ask.
My favorite story was when a customer returned an MBox 2 saying "I couldn't get this. It's over my head. Do you have any programs that are easier?" The salesperson responds "Well, sir all programs are going to have a learning curve". Then the customer responds "What's a learning curve?" . . . . . . . .
What a lot of people on this board don't realize is that for every one gearslut that walks into Guitar Center, the other 200 customers don't have that much gear knowledge. Because I'm employed for the company, I cannot comment on the intelligence of some of our employees, but I think you can draw your own conclusios. But at my store, I screen hardcore for my department. I ask gear-related questions in interviews. If they cannot tell me about the gear, I won't hire them. I don't care how well they can sell. They need to respect the gear that they sell.
BTW, if you guys ever need something from Guitar Center, and you're not happy with your local GC, PM me on this site. I can get you anything we sell without you having to set foot in the store. You can call my store and ask for Kevin. I care about good gear. I like getting my customers into good gear. I'll give any fellow GS the pro hookup. I'm sorry you guys have had such bad experiences with GC. You'll never get that kind of treatment in my neck of the woods. I realize that I'm shamelessly promoting myself, but I like cool gear and love to see others with cool gear. I also feel that there are many at GC that are like me and care. It's unfortunate that a lot of you got bad service. As a representative of the company I apoligize. Much respect guys/gals. I love some of the stories in this thread.