The iconic guitar company Gibson faces seemingly endless troubles, which include an easily enraged micromanaging CEO and a product line perceived as shoddy and overpriced. Based on what we’ve heard lately, it is not a great employer or maker of guitars.
A few weeks ago, after hearing a steady trickle of rumors about mismanagement at Gibson, we asked for contributions from you, the Gibson employees and/ or customers. We got quite a few. They do not paint a rosy picture of this company. Based upon our tipsters, Gibson faces two main problems: their employees hate them (particularly CEO Henry Juszkiewicz), and their customers think they’re crap.
The first sign that something might be wrong with the way Gibson is run is that not one but two of our tipsters said that their experiences at Gibson were so bad that they are planning to write a book about them. One woman who had traveled from the UK in order to interview for a job at Gibson earlier this year sent us a brief excerpt about the Gibson hiring process, complete with a cameo by the CEO himself:
I just got a glimpse [of] what felt like the world’s most baffling hiring process. ‘The psychometric test takes approximately three hours to complete. If you have any questions in this process or problems with the testing, please let me know,’ said the email when it plopped into my inbox yesterday. I promptly responded: ‘I don’t really have three hours spare to take tests before tomorrow. Also, please can I have a job description because you haven’t actually sent me anything about the role, and I’d really rather know exactly what you expect before I succumb to being tested for THREE WHOLE HOURS.’ Or something to that effect. It wasn’t quite as stroppy. But seriously, I had other admin to attend to, like answering my Tinder messages.
Anyway, what happened was, HR invited me to meet with three different people in the company in one day (all of whom would explain more), and in the time between these meetings she suggested I take these tests at their headquarters. I hadn’t really planned to spend the majority of a day in a corporate cellblock ...
I’ll admit, I forgot about the test when the CEO stepped into the gigantic conference room, if only because he was even more baffling. It was all I could do to sustain eye contact. The silver-haired, seventy-ish-year-old man looked as though he was having some sort of epileptic fit in front of me as he blathered on and on and on about his history in and before he started with the company. His eyes were rolling around the room, landing everywhere but on me. I wasn’t entirely sure he was sober.
‘So, do you have a social media strategy already?’ I asked him.
‘Oh yes,’ he said, sitting back and smiling knowingly.
‘I’d like to know what it is.’
‘I bet you would,’ he smirked.
‘Well, it would help,’ I replied, trying to meet his eyes, and failing.
‘I’m sure it would,’ he answered.
‘Well... what do you want to be, as a brand, that you think you’re not already?’
‘Even more awesome. We’re already awesome. We just want to be more awesome.’
As he spoke, the words I read on Glassdoor.com rushed back to me: ‘Run, don’t walk away from even considering working here. The CEO is HORRIBLE - mean, nasty, uber-controlling. If anyone in the company dares to have a different idea than his, you can pretty much guarantee that they will be fired - on the spot.’
She has not taken the job.
And from another person who’s experienced the hiring process:
I saw your latest post on Jun 9 about Gibson and laughed my ass off. I worked for Henry in 2012 and shared much the same experiences that others have detailed. I lasted about 9 months before I had to bail and that was longer than about 20 other guys that year. After you join, co-workers admit that “you are the class of 2012/2013/2014/2015 etc.” and that you are basically toast. Great way to treat people. Move them and their family to Nashville and then trash them. I found a way to stay in Nashville and actually like it here now. However, I would never want to relive the sequence of events I lived through.
We also heard from quite a few of Gibson’s customers. Some, of course, would be more accurately described as former customers. Echoing comments that can be found across the internet, they did not seem to be fans of the company’s current value proposition.
I’m a long time Gibson player and collector. Last year I went into a Sam Ash store to buy either a Les Paul Standard or a Traditional. The sales guy who knows me well told me to open the control cavity first. He knows I like to change pickups and sometimes capacitors to get variations in tone. This is very common among guitar players. When I opened up the control cavity, instead of seeing metal potentiometers and capacitors, I saw a plastic circuit board that the pickups plug into. The sales person told me that they have been turning away customer after customer that wants to change out pickups because the parts to do so aren’t available. Ebay is littered with the new pickup and circuit boards because folks are pulling them out and replacing the guts with what used to come standard in every Les Paul. So, if someone buys a new Les Paul and they would like to change out the pickups, they now have to replace everything which adds an entire new layer to the cost of a pickup replacement.
Thanks to the CEO of Gibson the secondary used market is exploding as the market for new Gibson’s is declining. Gibson has always been the largest manufacturer of highly sought after “boutique guitars”. I was dumfounded when Gibson decided to celebrate Les Paul’s 100th birthday with a lame marketing gimmick of buy a Les Paul and enter a contest to reimbursed. For the purchase price. They could have taken the opportunity to do something special to commemorate the event. The bottom line for me is this: I’m done buying new Gibson Guitars. In my opinion the company has become very exploitative of their customer base and is experimenting and destroying perfection. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The world is full of great used pre bad decision Gibson.
I have been playing guitar for 20 years. The current Gibson lineup and overall status is a complete laughing stock. WAY too expensive, horrible quality control and I would never support them because the CEO is a total jackass. The new auto tuning system sounds like a good idea but a lot of people don’t want it yet its forced – they should make it an option if you want it...
It’s sad that a once iconic brand is run by such a terrible CEO. He is ruining the company.
I used to work at a guitar store in Richmond, VA. It was a mom and pop shop that grew to be one of the top selling Taylor retailers in the country. All the while staying in a town home duplex. There isn’t a lot of space, but the guitars never stayed on the wall very long. We sold Martin, Taylor, Fender, Huss & Dalton (custom acoustics from Stanton, VA) and for a short period, Gibson. The shop stopped carrying Gibson for the exact reason you have written here. The quality was crap and working with them was a nightmare. Even after we stopped carrying Gibson, we would have people bring them in, brand new, to be setup. The tuners on the $1,000+ models were as cheap as the Chinese knockoffs. The necks were incredibly off and difficult to keep straight. The frets needed a level & dress from day 1.
I have an early 90’s SG. I would never buy another gibson, I’d rather buy a knock off and modify it to my liking (which I have) than spend $4,000-5,000 on a robot made les paul. They are worth maybe $400 at most. If ever a company should disband itself since it sunk into the gutter in the late 70’s it’s Gibson. Over-rated hack company. Try playing one in the store, the frets look like they were put in by chimps, the QA team must drink on the job. Their quality has been a joke since 1975, don’t they get it?
Henry Juszkiewicz, call your office (if there’s anyone left).