After our last article on TTM Guitars, our email box has been flooded. To familiarize yourselves with TTM Guitars and owner Lance Benedict, we went into brief detail about the history and the issues and problems of the company during 2008-2010 of customers ordering guitars and not receiving them, a contest giveaway that never materialized, and transactions on eBay that never were completed. Benedict ended up filing for Chapter Seven Bankruptcy Protection soon thereafter.
We went to the US Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California’s website to research Benedict’s Chapter 7 filing. These records are public. You can read that here:
Upon reading the filing, Benedict claimed he had no money to pay off his creditors. One thing that caught our eye was he had a car business before TTM Guitars. John Zamora was suing the Benedicts for a Porsche that he had paid them $92,000 which he wanted to return it as he didn’t like it. From there, things got real dicey and you can read about it here:
Needless to say, Zamora won’t be seeing any of his 92K back as it was discharged in his bankruptcy.
What does that have to do with the present? Fast forward to 2019, and as we’ve reported in previous stories about Benedict and TTM, let’s discuss franchises!
That’s right people, TTM Guitars is now offering “Franchises” of its guitar line to people who are interested in protected territories across the country:
By California definition of franchises:
In 1970, the California Legislature enacted one of the first franchise disclosure laws in the country. The Franchise Investment Law requires franchisors to register with the Department before offering and selling franchises in California.
The Franchise Investment Law also requires that registration disclosure documents and final franchise agreements be provided to prospective franchisees at least fourteen days before the sale of a franchise. The purpose of the pre-sale disclosure is to provide, fully and truthfully, material information about the franchisor and its franchise offering to the prospective franchisee, prior to the prospective franchisee making a purchase decision.
The California Department of Business Oversight requires anybody offering franchises to register with them. As of this writing, TTM Guitars nor Lance Benedict is registered to offer franchises in the State of California. We contacted the Washington State Department of Financial Institutions and they also have no record of Lance Benedict or TTM Guitars filing for a franchise.
Now, let’s meet John Fitch. John contacted us after reading our previous articles on TTM and told us he worked for Benedict before the winter NAMM 2019 show and was never paid:
I answered an ad Lance put on Craigslist looking for a luthier. We then briefly spoke on the phone where Lance gave me the shop contact info and agreed to pay me for as long as Pat (the manager at the shop) needed me. He said they had just fired an employee, and he needed someone to help assemble some guitars to show at their booth at NAMM. I showed up at the shop the following morning and then spent the rest of the week wiring pickups and attempting to assemble guitars.
At the time I arrived, there were 8 other employees. Our main focus was to get 12 guitars completed so they could be taken to NAMM. What I walked in to were 12 guitar bodies and necks in various stages of completion
My assigned duties were to install and wire in the pickups and install all the body hardware. Once I had completed those 12 guitars I was then asked to cut and install frets in all the fretboards. That is when the first “miscalculations” were discovered. It was not until this point a neck was finally mated with a body and it was discovered the necks were now too narrow for the neck pocket There were also a lot of irregularities in the sides of the necks that occurred during sanding. The fingerboards would no longer fit on the necks. To make matters worse, the neon colored paint they had been using on some of the guitars were proving to be a problem. Any slight bump to the body would dent the finish, and then the paint would chip off.
Basically, errors had been made in calculations in cutting the necks and bodies on the CNC machine. For several months, the guys in the shop had been making bodies and necks (so they could say the guitars were made in the USA). However, no one bothered to actually make a prototype to check for playability and sound quality. They were going off the finished specs of the guitars from when they were made in China. They never took in to account that the necks and bodies would need to be sanded after they were cut on the CNC. As a result, after sanding and painting nothing fit together. And this error was not discovered until I tried to do the final assembly the day before NAMM. Lance instructed us to assemble the guitars anyway. That these guitars would only be put on display at NAMM and would not be made available for the public to actually play at the booth.
. Although the bodies and necks are cut in California, all the pickups and hardware are leftover remnants from when the guitars were made in China. There are shopping bags full of pieces/parts sitting on the shelves in the Grass Valley shop.
John is claimed to be owed for 44 hours of work at the agreed rate of $15 an hour as promised by Benedict which comes out to $660. In the photos above, you can see John has tried contacting Benedict several times regarding the money he’s owed. As of this writing, John hasn’t been paid for his work six months ago.
We contacted the State of California Labor Standards Enforcement Bureau and they told us any employee owed back wages, including 1099’s are encouraged to file a wage claim with their office. The link is at the end of this article.
John also raised a good point of how can a “guitar” company not make a prototype, take months to find they were off their calculations and tell the public how they sound when none are stringed up and can’t be played?
Here’s the story of Jan Sonnen. He was promised an endorsement deal from TTM and he received emails, excuses, and legal threats:
Any legitimate business would never ask one of its customers to remove negative feedback before issuing a refund. This is the same tactic Benedict used in other cases such as Gert Nijboer who did receive a full refund after we featured him in our last article on TTM Guitars.
George Wilson’s story is similar to others except he got a refund after a year:
My story with TTM Guitars starts with me going through CANCER treatment last year and being let go from my job.
My wife being the caring person she is said that I could custom order a personal guitar for myself. So I first ordered a Troubadour bass with a Devastator style headstock, his response was he can build anything I want. Then after a couple of months is when I changed my mind full knowing that nothing was in production currently. I changed to order to a Devastator Six string custom. He was like no problem at that time I did pay for the instrument in full. This was back in April of 18 that I made a complete payment upfront. A few months have pasted they were just opening their shop in northern California and I asked for it to have a flamed maple top neck and the headstock was advised that those upgrades would cost me another 300 dollars and he invoiced me, and I paid in full. Now we fast forward to September and I reached out again and told Lance seeing how I been waiting so long for the production delays can I make one last change to a seven string he said that was no problem. So now we will fast forward till the first ship date we were promised. April 15 the day came and gone. I reached out to lance for at least a photo of my neck or even the wood the neck would be made out of. He said that he was not able to produce even a photo of a blank piece of wood. Then he did a live video where he stated that if we wanted a refund no problem.
I did eventually get my refund but took to much time and effort to get my money back
George got the usual emails about a “Board of Directors”, “Payroll” Department and the infamous threats of legal action for asking for his money back:
George did get his refund back after over a year of legal threats from a Board of Directors that doesn’t exist.
As of this writing, Jan received his refund tonight from TTM Guitars thanks in part to our coverage. The story continues.
We have reached out to the California Attorney Generals Office, CA Department of Oversight, The United States Postal Inspection Service, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Riverside County Sheriffs Office and they said if you’ve ordered a guitar from TTM Guitars through the internet using PayPal and never received it to contact them even if you’re outside of the United States. If you’ve worked for TTM Guitars or someone who hasn’t paid you your wages, please click on the File A Wage Complaint below.
Riverside County Sheriffs Office 951-776-1099