Should You Trust A Piano Salesperson?

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This is LivingPianos.com. I’m Robert Estrin. Today I will answer a question I received from a viewer. Heinrich asks, “Is it true that you should never trust a person selling pianos?” There are so many implications to this question. I was taken aback by this. What kind of experiences has this man had? And if he’s had these experiences, how many others out there have had similar experiences? To answer this question, I want to talk about something personal.

We recently bought a restored Victorian building in the Waterloo Arts District in Cleveland.

The Waterloo Arts District in Cleveland is the new home of Living Pianos! The building is a magnificent structure that was built during the Civil War. It’s absolutely beautiful! Throughout the building there’s woodwork from old growth forest. You just don’t see that anymore. But nobody ever did anything with the floors. They looked old and tired. We came across a contractor who was recommended by my brother-in-law, who restores floors. It can be a hair-raising experience dealing with contractors. They tell you a bunch of stuff. You don’t know what to believe! They’re usually trying to sell you all kinds of things. You don’t know what you should do. But when you have a great salesperson, like we had, it makes all the difference. Johnny took us through and showed us everything we needed to understand. He educated us. More importantly, he listened to us.

There’s nothing worse than a salesperson who doesn’t listen to you.

We’ve all dealt with bad salespeople. You can talk until you’re blue in the face, but they’re obviously just trying to sell you something. They’re not solving your problem. Ultimately what a great salesperson does is listen to you so they understand your situation and can solve your problem.

Great salespeople are few and far between.

Are you more likely to meet a bad salesperson in the piano industry? I don’t believe there are worse salespeople in the piano industry compared to other industries. But great salespeople are quite rare. For example, years ago I had an opportunity to move to California, managing the tenth largest music store in the country. This was in Universal City. The store catered to the recording industry. I’ve always been very absorbed, some would say obsessed, with music technology. It was a natural fit for me. The reason I bring this up is that people would come in and they would ask for a specific item. They had it in their mind, they wanted this one item. And instead of just ringing it up, I’d ask about their studio. I’d ask about the other gear in their studio and what they were after with the item they came for. Sometimes I could steer them to a less expensive item that would solve their problem.

A great salesperson will listen to somebody to know what they’re trying to achieve and educate them so they can make the right decisions for themselves.

I’d like to think that there are people in the piano industry who are truly helping people. I know many people in the piano industry who have a passion for the piano and really care about the people and the music. But I want to hear from you! I want to know what your experiences have been. Are great salespeople more common in the piano industry? Or do you feel that the piano industry has more of the self-serving type? I hope it’s the former and not the latter! Let’s get a discussion going on this topic, because Heinrich really wants to know, and so do I. He brought up a really good point. I’m looking forward to the comments about this! Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Resource.

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Contact me if you are interested in private lessons. I have many resources for you! Robert@LivingPianos.com

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11 thoughts on “Should You Trust A Piano Salesperson?”

  1. No difference with other industry, you can find a great salesperson who care about your needs and listen to you, this is not a rare experience but a good salesperson in difficult economic times is more difficult to find.

    1. Many industries (like real estate and pianos) have been booming during the pandemic. So they are experiencing a seller’s market. Hopefully that encourages salespeople to be particularly helpful!

  2. A Beginner, I wanted a baby grand, so bought a used American Walnut 5’ 4” Hardman in good condition. I even crawled underneath in the store to check out the soundboard and asked the salesperson to play as I lounged below. There were several other Pianos in the store including two glossy and pristine Yamahas grands. I was on a tight budget and told the salesman so. I also didn’t want shiny. I had an old Baldwin spinet, which I donated but my go to person was my excellent Piano Tuner, who also tuned the instruments in the store, as the salesperson advised.

    It is up to us a buyers to ask the right questions. As in all things, there are good salespeople and occasionally just those who want the big sale.

    If I ever improve and can play competently, I will donate my Hardman and buy Living Piano. It’s all about trust.
    Thank you.

  3. I interviewed Henry Steinway for TV when he came into town for a personal appearance at a well known local piano store situated next to a prestigious music school and performance hall. That store had a good reputation over decades to warrant a visit from the Steinway patriarch, but sadly it is long gone as are two other piano stores in our city! So what’s left? Living Pianos sells pianos over the internet, as do others. Even places like Costco sell new pianos these days! The old adage ‘caveat emptor’ applies – let the buyer beware. Like buying a car, it pays to do some research and make sure you’re getting the best deal possible!

    1. Unlike years ago, research into pianos is just a click away from your computer or your phone. Things are way easier today than they were years ago!

  4. Dear Robert,

    I am 80 years old, and have bought only one piano in my lifetime.
    It was a Steinway Model S baby grand.
    At the time (1994) we were living in the Washington DC area,
    and I was working as a chemist at the Nat. Inst. of Standards and Technology (NIST).
    Steinway had a dealership in a mall in a DC suburb,
    and my wife and I stopped in one day, and a salesman came to us immediately.
    He was very friendly and non-pushy.
    On the floor they had every model of Steinway grand made
    from the Model D on down to the Model S,
    He encouraged me to go ahead and play them all, and I did.
    I played an excerpts from classical piano pieces on the Steinway
    Models D, B, A, O, M, and S.
    The particular Model S they had was really special
    and to me it sounded almost as good as the M and the O.
    This was in 1994 and the price tag on the piano was $34,000
    — a sum we could not afford.
    I told the salesman that, thanked him for letting me play all the pianos,
    and my wife and I turned to leave the store.
    As we got near the door, the salesman ran up to us and said,
    “Please call me in the morning and I’ll give you a price you can’t refuse,”
    and he handed me his card.
    I called him the next morning, and he said, “How does $17,000 sound?!”
    I said, “Please put a ‘sold’ sign on that Model S, and I’ll be down in an hour
    with a $5,000 down-payment.
    (I had just won the Edward Uhler Condon award at NIST for excellence in technical
    writing with an article I had published in a prestigious journal
    on the history of Analytical Chemistry, and it had a $5,000 prize attached to it.)
    Through Steinway, I financed the other $12,000 and paid it off in 5 months — I had
    a good job and could afford to do that.)
    I asked the salesman later how he was able to give me such a great deal,
    and he told me that the particular model S I bought had such a great and bright tone,
    that Steinway wanted it sold, because it sounded as good as the O’s and M’s
    that people were ordering the S instead of the much more expensive O’s and M’s.
    The piano was delivered the next day, and Steinway technicians set it up in our home.
    The next day a Steinway tuner came and tuned the piano
    (part of the deal was three free tunings by a Steinway tuner)
    and the tuner said that he would be back in three months to tune it again
    after the piano had had a chance to “settle in” to the particular conditions in our home.
    In 2001 there was a federal-government budget cut “across the boards”
    in all federal organizations, “head had to roll” to meet the reduced funding, and mine was one of them. I were given a three-month notice so I had time to locate another job.
    It was tough job market at the time, and after sending out 50 resumes,
    I was able to land only one job and it was at Los Alamos Nat. Lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
    Houses there cost four times what we could afford on my new much-reduced salary.
    So my wife and I moved to NM, and had to move into a tiny apartment,
    and so we couldn’t take the Steinway S with us, and we donated it to our church,
    which was in need of a new instrument because the Hammond B3 organ had just died,
    and the church could not afford the $5,000 it would cost to replace the tone generator.
    They have a very competent pianist who now plays it for every Sunday service.
    Time has gone by and in 2011 my first wife died, and the next year I re-married,
    and we moved to a tiny apartment in Albuquerque, NM.
    We only have room for an electronic piano (a Yamaha P-125 which has a realistic sound
    and and acceptable touch. We also have a JohannusONE electronic pipe organ
    which sounds like a real organ, and is ingeniously designed to achieve on one manual
    most of the possibilities of a real two-manual pipe organ.)
    Well enough of my ramblings, but I thought you might be interested in part of our story.
    Thank you very much. We really appreciate your videos, and as subscribers,
    we are notified of all of them and watch all of them, sometimes more than once.

    Sincerely,
    Charles (and Diane) Beck

  5. I am delighted that you will be moving to Cleveland. I go there every 2 years to listen to the International Piano Competition, and I also love that city. This year the competition is virtual on the internet and I will be following it. So, please let me know your new address for the next time I come ot Cleveland.

    1. We are in the Waterloo Arts District: 16013 Waterloo Rd., Cleveland, OH 44110.You are welcome to visit!
      We are a short walk to the beach, and 15 minutes from Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra!

  6. I have found that Piano sales people to often be more informed about the instruments they are selling that most other sales people. Generally very helpful explaining details about the Pianos I am looking at. However one very annoying trait that I have found to be almost universal in the piano store is the sales person’s inability to just leave you alone so you can enjoy playing for a little while. After all every piano and keyboard is different and there isn’t any way you can decide if you like the instrument in just a few minutes. Someone hanging about chatting with you, is quite a distraction. Perhaps this technique sells more product, but I find it quite annoying.

    1. Most people who walk into piano stores are very casual players and don’t play very much. It’s important for piano salespeople to know when someone who has a deeper background in piano wants to play the instruments more extensively. You want to be sure you are getting the right piano!

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