A friend of mine referred me to a thread on The Gear Page forum about Faustine closing its doors. Then I went to the Faustine Amp web site, and lo and behold, the site is gone and in its place is a heartfelt letter from Tim, Faustine’s founder. I really feel for Tim, having come close to bankruptcy 10 years ago, so I’m familiar with the pain and anguish he must be feeling.
What is clear is that there are lots of unhappy people who have lost their deposits. Some are rather nasty about their anger, and perhaps understandably so, but as others pointed out, the $550 deposit was discretionary for most people, so yeah, it’s a pisser, but it’s probably best to move on. I call experiences like this a “learning tax.” Got that term from a former business partner when we were ripped off of over three grand in a bogus server purchase. You get angry, you call the FBI for wire fraud, but in the end, there’s not much you can do about it. No, I’m not apologizing for Tim, but I’ve been in this situation, having given my hard-earned money to someone; only to lose it due to fraud. And I’m not saying that Tim was intentionally fraudulent either; a bad businessman perhaps, but not necessarily fraudulent. That’ll be up to the courts to determine, considering lots of people are trying to get their money back from their credit card companies.
But I think there’s an over-arching issue here from which we as boutique gear lovers can all learn. There was a LOT of hype built up over the Faustine Phantom attenuator, and several well-respected professionals personally endorsed the product. As a result, a lot of people pulled out their wallets and dropped $450-$550 on their down-payment; knowing full well that they’d have to wait – a long time, and in some cases over a year.
Obviously, wait time wasn’t an issue, but a good lesson to take away from this would be putting a down payment on any gear; especially on gear from a small shop; not necessarily that the proprietors are dishonest, but at least for me, I have to call into question why you’d need a down-payment in the first place. Experience tells me that when there’s a down-payment involved AND a super-long wait time, it’s clear that the company has cash-flow issues. What appears to have ended up happening with Faustine is that Tim had to “rob Peter to pay Paul” as he indicates in his letter:
“I continued taking new orders and attempted to maintain a tight control on my cash-flow so that production could continue while I searched for new funding to get Faustine back on track.”
Tim’s cash flow issues aside, here are some things to consider when getting gear:
- Personally, I’d avoid ever having to pay a down-payment unless it was absolutely clear what its purpose is; and more importantly, only if there weren’t any issues surrounding the down-payment. There was lots of discussion on the boards about the requirement of a a down-payment for the Phantom. That would be a red flag for me.
- If you’re willing to wait, then wait. I waited 6 months for my Timmy, but Paul Cochrane didn’t require a down payment, and once it was done, I had the option of not getting it. So for me, there was very little risk.
- I’ve said this many times: Don’t buy into the hype! Do your research, play the gear if you can, and if you can’t, talk to as many owners of that gear as possible. The Timmy was highly hyped, but while I didn’t have the opportunity to play it before I got it, I did have an up close look and listen to it being used by a professional guitarist at a concert. After that, I knew I had to have it, and I haven’t looked back.
In closing, I do feel for Tim, though I’m not apologizing for his actions in any way. At best he was naive in how he ran his business; at worst, he knew full well what he was doing when taking people’s money. Either way he’ll have to answer for it. But personally, he’s a really nice guy, and I have been in his position, starting a company that was completely funded by myself. It was just more work than I could handle. I wish him well as a person. I’ve played his amps, and they’re very nice. Never cared too much for the Phantom, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t build a quality product. He in way over his head.