Yes, I screwed up (ie. fucked up). I was changing out pickup rings on a customer's guitar and ended up putting a HUGE scratch in the polished nickel humbucker cover. This is a total rookie move, but things happen - it's all in how you handle it.
These pickups have slotted adjustment screws, which are notorious for don't-loose-focus-or-you-will-slip-and-scratch-something. Just ask anyone who has installed Waverly tuners. If your mind wanders for a second, the screwdriver slips off of the screw and you just put a scratch in the guitar. It happens almost immediately followed by cursing and barrage of self-depreciating outbursts.
After settling down, I made a phone call to the customer and told them that I needed to replace the cover as I had just put a huge gouge in it. The pickup happened to be a Lollar Imperial, so I removed the pickup from the guitar, boxed it up and shipped it across the country to have them install a new cover. A week later, the pickup came back with a fresh new shiny cover. (Note that if I replaced the cover myself, it would have voided the pickup's warranty. Also note that the guitar Gods further punished me as this guitar was a hollowbody with 4-conductor switching options - why couldn't I have scratched a guitar with a control cavity? Because you needed to learn a lesson Kevin).
This time I used my Stewmac screwdriver kit with this wonderful slotted screwdriver that captures the screw. I did not use it the first time as I was leaving a metallic halo on the new maple pickup rings, but I was just using too much pressure. This screwdriver set is worth the price for this bit alone! Guitar builders using Waverly's take note.
I'm extremely transparent with my clients and often explain things in far too much detail, but I pride myself in this transparency. It's hard to admit when you make a mistake, but I've found that completely owning up is the only way to go. That and make sure you don't repeat the same mistakes. I asked Lollar to return the scratched cover so I could have a little don't-fuck-this-up-again momento. When things go wrong (and they always will to a certain degree), they are huge learning opportunities that you need to take advantage of.
Some takeaway thoughts:
- Experience is gained by making new mistakes, not repeating them.
- Your gut reaction is to protect your ego. Fight this urge and stay objective.
- Come clean when something is your fault. You would be surprised how disarming honesty can be to people.
- Being a professional means that you don't make excuses.