Buying a Piano Online, A Case Study

The story you are about to read is true.  Though the names and locations have been changed to protect the unfortunate, the horrific events to follow did indeed occur as described. 

 For the sake of our story, allow me to introduce Mr. Jason Price.  A successful small-business owner, Mr. Price was well-known throughout Louisville.  The success of his business and his love for music led him to purchase a beautiful baby grand piano for his wife a number of years ago.  Their beloved instrument served its family well until a sudden fire destroyed their home and their piano with it.

 After the fire, Jason Price visited Gist Piano Center and arranged for us to appraise his unfortunate instrument and to provide a statement of replacement value to his insurance company.  We provided Mr. Price with the documents he needed for his insurance claim and with the appropriate replacement price for his lost piano. 

 Reluctant to pay such a large claim, the insurance company battled with Mr. Price at every turn.  Finally, they agreed on a settlement (a significantly lower sum than the piano’s retail value) and Mr. Price set out to find a new family instrument.

 Mr. Price – trying to replace his beautiful piano without having to add personal funds to the insurance settlement – decided to purchase his new baby grand player piano from an online retailer.  Claiming to be a piano store that was “going out of business” (Their exact explanation was that a guitar store had purchased them and wanted to clear out of the piano business.), the retailer sold Mr. Price his new piano at a “substantial discount.”

 Tragedy turned into catastrophe for the Price family, however, as their new piano arrived several days later.  Mr. Price awoke early in the morning to find a semi truck with a fully-assembled baby grand piano inside.  The driver, who has never moved pianos before, had none of the necessary equipment to disassemble the piano, bring it into Mr. Price’s house, and set it up again.  Mr. Price’s piano had arrived, but he had no way to move it inside.

 Unaware that he would have to make any delivery arrangements on his own, Mr. Price frantically tried to contact his online retailer who, sadly, was unavailable at such an early hour.  Distraught, and aware that the piano was suffering from every minute of exposure to the cold, dry air, Mr. Price realized that  he would have to find a way to get the piano inside his house on his own… and quickly.

 Finally, at 8:30am, Jason Price called my cell phone and asked for help.

 During our conversation, I discovered that his “substantial discount” was not much of a discount at all.  Had Mr. Price discussed his situation with Gist Piano Center, we could have worked with his insurance company to get him a new piano (with little or no “out-of-pocket” costs) with full warranty coverage and delivery.  We would even have given him a 10-year FULL-trade guarantee that he could use towards his next piano – should he ever decide to upgrade.   …but, most importantly, we would have built a solid, lifetime relationship with him and his family that would protect them from any unnecessary catastrophes like the one he now faces.

 In the end, I helped Mr. Price.  We offered to receive his piano at our store, look it over for damage, and deliver it to him for our normal delivery fee.  We did everything we could for the Price family – hoping to save them from further tragedy.

 However… should their piano have travel damage from its improper packaging, “cold checking” damage to the finish from the weather, or soundboard cracks from the dry air, Mr. Price will quickly find himself in yet another conflict with his insurance company.   …and I doubt they will want to replace his piano a second time…

 The moral here is clear.  Most companies who sell pianos online aren’t reputable.  In many cases, the money you “save” is money you’d gladly spend for the proper technical and delivery services that good pianos need.   Don’t end up in a Price Tragedy.  Build a relationship with your local music store and let us help you experience the joy of owning a piano without the unnecessary risks.

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About James Harding

From the farmlands of Iowa, James joined the Gist staff in May of 2009. James began studying classical, jazz and piano improv from 4yrs old until he graduated from Le’Ecole De La Musica at age 18. In college, he majored in voice and music ministry. Then, in 2001, James took a job managing Simon’s Music. When West Music purchased Simon’s in 2004, James became their Certified Steinway Piano Specialist. Today, in addition to his leadership responsibilities at Gist Piano Center, James travels across the United States giving seminars on music education and piano technology and he writes the monthly "Tech Beat" column for Music Inc. Magazine.

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