Hey! That's my guitar!
February 23, 2012 7:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm pretty sure I've found a guitar that was stolen from me at a music store franchise near me. They open in two hours. Any tips on how to handle this?

A couple of years ago, my house got broken into and all my stuff got stolen (see here). Among the items taken was a unique guitar.

I don't have a serial number on it; there really was no serial number, it was a one-of-a-kind guitar, built as a demo for a trade show, with a brand name that doesn't actually exist. It's listed in the police report under that brand name.

I was browsing the website of a national music store chain, and found a guitar with this brand name had just arrived at my local branch; the listing didn't have a picture, but it's pretty much got to be my guitar.

Right now my plan is to head down there when they open, and bring the police report with me. I'll look at the guitar to be sure it's the one, and take a couple of pictures of it with my phone. I'll talk to the manager, explain the situation politely, and ask how I can get my guitar back, and how the police can get the information on who sold it to them.

I've read a couple of stories in the paper lately about a string of robberies that have been happening that use the same methods as the burglars who got all my stuff; I'm hoping this provides a lead for the police. It's been a couple of years, so chances of getting any of my stuff back is minimal, but I can dream...

If anyone has any experience with this sort of thing, from either a police perspective, a store manager perspective, or any other, and can advise me on anything I'm missing, or anything I can do to make sure this goes well, please let me know. I've never tried to claim stolen property before, or report a lead on a robbery to the police, so I'm just kind of winging this here; any help would be very much appreciated.
posted by MrVisible to Law & Government (34 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Your plan that mention above sounds like the right plan to me.
Good luck. Keep you cool.
posted by Flood at 7:06 AM on February 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

After you talk to them (assuming they don't hand it to you right away), go back later and make sure they've taken it off display (and hell, that they still have it). Even though it's a national chain, I can imagine a shady franchise owner/manager trying to flip it right away before he loses it for no compensation.
posted by supercres at 7:08 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Agree with Flood. You are spot on with this plan.
Politeness and a willingness to work with everyone concerned will go a long way toward resolution.
posted by THAT William Mize at 7:09 AM on February 23, 2012

I'd also notify the Police, they should want to know that it may be recovered, and they might want to check it for any evidence, etc.
posted by fozzie33 at 7:14 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would recommend getting the police involved before just showing up in the store. A random store manager is probably not going to lend a lot of credence to someone just showing up and saying a guitar was stolen from them, even with a police report.
posted by jferg at 7:14 AM on February 23, 2012 [29 favorites]

I would contact the police dept where you made your report before going to the store; ask the cops how to proceed. My worry is that once you tip off the store -- whether they knowingly bought stolen goods or not -- they'll attempt to sell or get rid the guitar. I think your claim to the guitar would carry much more weight if you were accompanied by a police officer holding a copy of the police report, rather than just you.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 7:15 AM on February 23, 2012 [32 favorites]

Here is the story of how a local musician recently recovered his stolen bass from a shop. He discreetly verified that it was his bass, then called the police and waited for them to come and returned with them.

That might be what you want to do, only if you are very sure it's yours, rather than directly confront the shop owner about the stolen guitar by yourself. Assuming ignorance rather than malice, still, he or whomever might be part of the transaction may still become defensive, as someone will likely end up in the hole for the amount invested in it as it's changed hands - unless it's on consignment from the original thief, which is doubtful. Sure the music community can be pretty tight, but this could land his business in hot water if there are other stolen guitars, and you can take the chance that he'll work with you, or the chance that he's got something to protect there and will refuse to comply no matter how nice you are.
posted by peagood at 7:16 AM on February 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Yes you need to notify the police so that the store has a solid incentive/obligation to take the guitar off the shelf until this situation is resolved. That way they can't sell it out from under you.
posted by spicynuts at 7:17 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I would call the police right now and ask them what to do. I can't imagine going there without the police. Would the manager even have the authority to give it to you? Maybe at a boutique store, but probably not at a chain. Not to mention a chain is going to be extremely concerned if their reputation is going to be connected to buying hot guitars.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 7:18 AM on February 23, 2012

I'm usually the last person to advocate calling the police, but this is a case where it's actually their job. Ask the police what to do, then go to the store and verify the guitar is yours.
posted by Jon_Evil at 7:21 AM on February 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Yes, I'd involve the police beforehand, and have them with you when you bring your evidence to the music store -- music stores that buy used instruments probably encounter this sort of thing on a regular basis, like pawn shops, and won't be surprised or threatened by police presence. If the store is loose enough that they buy stolen stuff without checking anything, without the cops there you can't trust them to treat you with the proper respect either.
posted by AzraelBrown at 7:22 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

You don't have a serial number. Your only "proof" this is yours, is that the brand is a one-off and that no other guitar could have this brand. Hopefully you filed a photo in your police report, or the report includes a very good description of characteristics that could be reasonably though to be unique to your guitar, to make your claim a little more solid. Otherwise it's just you saying it.

And yes, show up with the police.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:23 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you didn't file a photo with a police report, you need to dig through your pictures and find a photo of you playing or holding or standing near this distinctive guitar. Maybe just this guitar on a table would help, but you with it would be best.

Nthing call the police now and have them accompany you to the store as soon as possible.
posted by bilabial at 7:28 AM on February 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

Do you have a bill of sale stating that it's your guitar?
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 7:33 AM on February 23, 2012

If you're making your case to the police, you have to be as direct and succinct as possible:
*This is one-of-a-kind. The name on it is not actually a brand name.
*I have the police report about its theft.
*It appeared in this store. There is no doubt it's mine.

Pictures of the guitar in your possession, and any proof that it's one-of-a-kind, would be helpful - even a printout of a google search for the guitar's name showing it say "Did you mean SOMETHING ELSE?"
posted by entropone at 7:36 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would recommend getting the police involved before just showing up in the store.

This for sure otherwise there is a good chance the guitar will disappear or be sold before you get it back.
posted by Mitheral at 7:43 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I get pictures of the guitar in the store before talking to the manager, and politely let the manager know about it, won't that keep the guitar from disappearing? I really want to verify that it's my guitar first, before going to the police, and then getting the police involved will take some time; the guitar might get legitimately sold if I don't let the manager know what's going on.
posted by MrVisible at 7:47 AM on February 23, 2012

I don't have a bill of sale at the moment, but I may be able to get a copy of the receipt from the local guitar store I bought it from; unfortunately, they don't open until well after the chain does.
posted by MrVisible at 7:47 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by spicynuts at 7:48 AM on February 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

"Hey do you have that BrandName guitar I saw on your website? Can I take a look at it? Yeah, that's perfect. Please hold it for me for an hour, I just need to go to the ATM."

Then go to the police and bring them with you when you go back to the store.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:57 AM on February 23, 2012 [12 favorites]

call the cops first.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:05 AM on February 23, 2012

No, don't call the cops first. Go to the store and verify that it's your guitar, as you planned, but don't talk to the manager. Then call the cops.
posted by BurntHombre at 8:08 AM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

If you are at the location stated in your profile, there is a Pawn Unit to contact, and its possible as a secondhand dealer that their acquisition of your guitar is a reportable item, especially if it's a chain. You really should verify it's yours first, contact them and ask what to do, and then act accordingly.
posted by peagood at 8:13 AM on February 23, 2012

I called the property crimes division of the local police department, explained the situation, and got transferred to voicemail. I left a message.
posted by MrVisible at 8:13 AM on February 23, 2012

Your plan plus few things here

1. Buy todays newspaper and take picture of the newspaper and your guitar with the store items/isle in the background.

2. Do take pictures of your old guitar if you have to show to the store manager.

good lucks
posted by daveg02 at 8:19 AM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Do not go to the store and talk to the manager. They (most likely) paid money for this guitar and that money is gone. If they can sell (or hide and claim to have sold the guitar) they might.

Sure, it would be wrong of them to do that. But money motivates people who would otherwise be honest. Showing up with the police is your best bet.
posted by bilabial at 9:01 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hopefully not a derail: Do you have any relationship at all with the shop owner? If I walked into my local used gear shop with a story like yours, they'd probably work with me pretty darn nicely because I'm a regular buyer / trader / dropper-inner. Just throwing that out there in case it's a possibility. Good luck!
posted by Infinity_8 at 9:06 AM on February 23, 2012

Definitely ask the store to hold it for you. It's a bit of trickery, but justified in the end.
posted by OrangeDrink at 10:07 AM on February 23, 2012

How bad do you want it back? I mean, depending on how much they have it listed for, it might be worth just buying it if you can't prove beyond doubt that it's yours.

Alternatively, you mentioned it was a one-off. Can the maker verify its authenticity at all?
posted by Thistledown at 10:22 AM on February 23, 2012

Possession of stolen property is a crime, even if its you with your own stolen property. Find an officer to report your suspicion of the crime to if you aren't hearing back from your voicemail. And yes, if you have a photo of you with it, that would be extremely helpful to the officer. But approach them first and let them work out if you should spend time looking for one.
posted by jwells at 10:49 AM on February 23, 2012

It was the wrong guitar.

The one I used to have was an f-hole, a beautiful dark wood with an ivory-colored pickguard and rosewood neck. This one was a pretty standard light wood dreadnought. The only other one I've ever seen with this brand.

So, I ended up buying a new electric instead.

Sorry to get everyone all excited, but it all worked out pretty well in the end.
posted by MrVisible at 10:52 AM on February 23, 2012 [14 favorites]

So, I ended up buying a new electric instead.

I love a happy ending!
posted by three blind mice at 11:33 AM on February 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Sorry it wasn't your guitar, but glad you found a new shiny thing!

If it's really that rare a brand, you could let this and other pawn owners know that you're interested in anything they get in that brand. You don't have to tell them you're looking for stolen property.
posted by nicebookrack at 8:25 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Something that might prove useful in the future would be setting up a Google Alert for the guitar brand name (possibly plus "guitar," if the brand is a name or word that's otherwise common outside of the context of guitars). That way, if another one with that brand turns up in any Internet-connected store or on Craigslist, you really will know it.
posted by limeonaire at 2:38 PM on February 26, 2012

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