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I read the Amazon reviews of the Cecilio CCO 600 cello a few days back. They were rather frightening. Most customers reported that several cellos arrived with broken necks or similar and were returned until a suitable instrument was obtained. The shipment and return of a single cello has to be about $150, even with the parcel deals brokered by the big companies. It was not unusual to read that up to 6 attempts were needed to finalize the deal. And the some odd $800 cellos were likely to be a loss as well. If the shipment expenses are of the magnitude that I think, one wonders how large the profit per instrument must be to make the enterprise economically viable.
Multiply the situation across the spectrum of musical instruments given as gifts each year and there clearly must be a very large room of misfit toys.
I once ordered a brazilwood violin bow from Amazon.
They sent it in a large box, with absolutely no padding anywhere. Of course, it arrived with a broken tip, and I returned it for a refund.
After that experience, I learned the importance of only ordering a bow or instrument from a dedicated music store, or to visit a shop in person.
I took a tour of the Amazon fulfillment center in Delaware a couple years ago, back when they were offering tours. Everything at Amazon is based on doing things in the fastest, cheapest way possible, with no real human care. I let my Amazon prime membership lapse, and try to buy things elsewhere. I’ve been sad to see so many smaller store chains and mom and pops close, so Fiddlerman and the like need to be supported.
Except for my shoulder rest and strings, everything in my viola case was purchased in person at dedicated violin shops. It's true that the packing tends to get much better as price goes up, but I'm not willing to take risks with shipping.
Even gate-checking with airlines, which gets you much more careful handling than shipping, is too risky, and string players avoid it when traveling unless there is absolutely no other option.
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