Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Comps, vouchers etc for UK members

First off I want to say that this is in no way a complaint or criticism of this wonderful site or Ben. So I’m just throwing it out there.
When it comes to comps or the $10 voucher (I’ve had 2 of these never used) For me, I don’t know about other UK members, but we can’t really use them. If we buy anything in the store with it, the shipping swallows up any saving and it doesn’t work if anyone (not a gold pick) wants to just purchase a lesson. So we are kinda missing out on things that US members get in this way.
Comps it’s the same. If we were to enter and win a banjo, the shipping would be astronomical for us.
Any ideas/ thoughts?

Hi Jon, I hear what you say but Ben’s site isn’t the only site that gives prizes I can think of two right off the top of my head Banjo Hangout and and there are others. Like those other sites as overseas students we can’t expect the owners of those sites to pay for shipping, VAT and handling charges.

Ben has students all around the world and I think it is very generous of him to make available these prizes and allow us to participate. At least with Ben he is upfront with the draw and you see it on live stream. I have never seen a drawing take place on the Banjo Hangout but I was fortunate to receive a consolation prize from Geoff Hohwald one time when I was a rank beginner and as a result we became good friends

Over the years I have made hundreds of purchases from the US I accept the fact that there is a shipping cost and I expect to pay VAT. In the same way you pay to buy something online here in the UK you have to pay for it to be delivered and you have to pay the tax.

My main objection is with our Post Office in that they slap on a handling charge to recover the VAT and any import duty. This only came about recently when the PO was privatised. In recent years the US Postal Service has also put up it’s prices but that is outwith Ben’s control. The FREE shipping that Ben offers is restricted to certain parts of the US not all areas are covered.

If I was lucky enough to win a prize. I would be happy to pay the shipping etc. If I couldn’t afford to meet the costs I would be more than happy to let Ben choose another student to receive my prize.


I understand for sure, @Jono, and if I could afford to pay international shipping/VAT, I would. With the competitions, you’re not buying the prize so I could send it as a gift and save on the VAT. You would be responsible for shipping, though we can find international rates that are reasonable, especially for the values of many of the prizes.


I purchased a mandolin from the General Store and was going to pick it up at the April Camp, to avoid shipping, etc. Since the camp was cancelled, I asked Jake to ship it to Canada ( not too bad $85. US, - add exchange rate which is very bad for us now). The bigger cost to me was at Customs and Taxes at the Canadian border, another $240.00 added to my costs. On the brighter side, it should arrive tomorrow. Ahead of my original timing, and something to brighten up my isolation. By the way, it is snowing here today.


Yes, I understand and wasn’t suggesting Ben should pay for the shipping. I was just trying to put it out there whether there was any alternative for UK members eg, alternative prizes that were maybe cheaper to ship or import. Or just any ideas that people may have. I fully appreciate everything that Ben does and as I said at the beginning of my thread, I am not knocking Ben or the site in anyway.

Thanks @BanjoBen for suggesting a prize for a competition could be sent as a gift. That’s a great idea for us outside the US.
Thanks for all the input.
Stay safe everyone. :+1:


Hi Jon, I know your not knocking Ben or the site. And I am not knocking you either. You asked for our views on the topic and I gave mine. Like you I wish things were different.


What did you get @Mandolinda?

I feel your excitement! Please take pics and share your impressions of it with us here on the Forum.

I am happy that a new Mandolin found a new home - especially from @Jake and others at the store !


That’s OK Archie, I completely understand. Now we’ve had brexit Maybe this country may work out a better trade deal with the US in the future once this virus has passed who knows. Its our import tax/ Vat that does it. :+1:


Hi Jon

Do you live anywhere near Exeter ?

There is a Company in Exeter called Project Music, It seems they are a Gold Tone Dealership and claim to be able to supply the Gold Tone OB3 - That’s the Banjo that @BanjoBen @Jake & Robbie designed. Priced £1851 Ben retails at $1699 which is about £1429 so you can see there is a huge mark up in price.

I have also seen ads by Project Music for the GT mini 5 string banjo, that’s the one with the resonator back. But my understanding from my google searches there’s none available anywhere.

I am not currently looking to buy but if you are I thought this may interest you.


Hi Jon, I just realised that Project Music’s price may include VAT which would take it up to £1714.80 maybe a little extra for shipping etc.


@WillCoop. I started playing mandolin about 5 years ago and I bought a Fender FM-52E, an A style. It has been a good basic mandolin to learn on. Now, when I am playing with circle jams , I often have trouble hearing myself play, so was hoping to upgrade to something with a louder sound, without using amplifier. So Jake and I emailed back and forth quite a bit over the time span of a month. I asked about neck size of various mandolins, because I have some arthritis and my fingers have difficulty forming G chord formation. I also asked if an F style had better balance than A style. I stand when I play and the A style slides across my chest quite a bit. I also wanted a mandolin with a hard case not a gig bag, because I travel by air. I had quite a few moments of apprehension buying without a test run, it is a big investment for me ( I am retired on a pension, blah, blah) So I also listened to the videos that Ben offers, and looked closely at the mandolins, and picked one that I thought I liked the deep tones and overall sound, but of course Ben doesn’t miss a note like I do. The descriptions on the store page also sounded very close to what I was looking for. I was going to pick it up at Camp next week, and save myself some shipping charges, but It arrived by Fed Ex and I am very happy with my new Eastman MD515V. Now having fun adjusting to the size and shape. It is much lighter weight than my original mandolin, except the head tuner end. I was surprised how heavy that is balance wise. I bought a mando with a distressed finish, looks nice. But the sound is magical compared to my old mandolin. There is no comparison. I actually sound like I know what I am doing. Overall a good experience.
You also asked for a photo. I have no idea how to add a photo here.


You bought a MD-515. NICE! I know Eastman MD-515 and nearly bought one… Opting for a more rustic MD-315 as my first Mandolin instead.

As to how to post a pic… I think you click on the little icon that is on the lower right that looks like a desktop computer with an up arrow… Then navigate to your pic files…

I remember when I got mine… I was so happy!

@jake is soooo helpful and the BEST advisor… Personable and patience… realizing these purchases are not trivial for us! HE GETS IT - and earned my 100% trust.


I second the experience dealing with @Jake When i got a banjo, i called the store and left a message. Within a half hour, Jake called me. We talked for about 45 minutes, me trying to explain what i was looking for, and him translating it into actual banjo speak, lol. We had a few emails and such, and i am a very satisfied BBC customer.


Thanks for the info Archie, I will make a note. Moneys tight at the moment so no plans to buy at present but it’s good to know there’s a dealer nearby. :+1:


Hi Jon, If you live close by you could always do some window shopping once the lock down restrictions have been lifted.

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Not that I’m buying at mo, but just took a quick look on their Web page I don’t see the ob3 Archie? Can you send a link? I can at least window shop. :joy:


Here you go. Actually I meant if you lived near the shop you might care to stick your neck through the door for a butchers.


Hi @BanjoBen just as a matter of curiosity roughly how much would it cost to ship a banjo to the UK. Also how much to insure?

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Thanks Archie, no it’s about a 2 hour journey from me. I never get tired of looking at banjos though. :joy: :grin:


Me 2, Who knows once once al this COVID-19 scare is behind us I may just have enough money put away for a new banjo. :banjo::banjo::banjo:

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