I'm looking to buy my first quality mandolin (~$2-3k), and I have a question that you all should be able to answer for me, particularly those of you that have bought and sold many mandolins (and I know that many of you are actually in the business of selling fine instruments).
I don't know exactly what I want because I haven't really played very many mandolins in this price range. I've come close to buying online several times without actually playing them, but I just can't do it! I don't want to make the mistake of buying a mandolin I'm not super happy with.
So, I'm taking the advice many of you have given and I actually want to get out there and try some different brands and models before I jump into a purchase. My question for all of you is "What is the etiquette of mandolin shopping and playing"? For a guitar (I own several), I can just walk into the nearest big dealer and play what I want and walk out when I'm done playing (or buy if I find what I want). Nobody really cares, they just move on to the next customer, and for me, there is no commitment or guilt in the process.
But with mandolins (and of course, nicer boutique guitars as well), many dealers have small shops and a lot show instruments by appointment only. I'm a polite guy who was raised to respect peoples' time and effort, and I have been known to feel guilty about not buying something that someone has taken the effort to show me. I'm also a super savvy shopper who likes to think about a purchase of this magnitude before I buy and rarely make an on-the-spot purchase. So, how do you "shop around" for a mandolin and play as many as you can without unnecessarily taking up the time of hard-working dealers and not feeling guilty if you don't buy from someone after they've scheduled an appointment to meet with you? I might be driving hours to visit one shop or another, some in different states, and I don't want to feel undue pressure to buy if I'm not 100% satisfied.
Also, if you've got a $3k price limit, do you refrain from trying out that $10K mandolin just to see what the difference is, or do you play it (carefully) and feel lucky?
I ask this because I've had a bad experience in the past. When I was in graduate school I was looking to buy a nice dreadnought guitar and was basically asked to leave a well-known midwestern acoustic instrument shop because the owner didn't think I looked like I could buy (he never asked me any questions and of course, I never went back or bought from him). I know, near a college campus he probably got lots of kids coming through just wanting to play a Collings or Borgeois guitar and didn't want his expensive instruments scratched up. But, I'm not going to spend that kind of money for an instrument without shopping around and playing a few.
I want to play and try out instruments, buy a mandolin if I find THE one, but not feel guilty about leaving if I don't. So, how do you shoppers and sellers feel about the matter?
Thanks in advance.