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#117286 - 02/12/02 08:55 PM Re: King of the Hill
Jim L. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 37
Loc: Maryland
I'm not one usually to stir the pot on this forum, but let me see if I have this straight:

1. Piano manufacturer sets up a local monopoly by allowing only one dealership of a given brand in a particular metropolitan area.

2. Piano manufacturer reinforces that local monopoly by forbidding all dealers of its piano from quoting prices on the phone.

3. Joe Consumer has no way of knowing whether he is getting a good deal on the manufacturer's piano unless he drives he drives to Timbuktu 3 hours away to another "authorized" dealership or is fortunate enough to use this forum or know someone in the piano business (which is no guarantee because of all of the incentives that dealers give to technicians, teachers, etc.).

4. Dealership complains when Joe, deprived of the opportunity to garner meaningful information, obtains the identical piano from a cross-town competitor for less $ than the local monopoly dealer is asking, and cross-town competitor buys the piano from a third dealer and resells it to Joe Consumer.

Excuse me if I don't shed a tear for the "authorized" dealer, but it seems to me that he is simply being deprived of the benefit of a system otherwise tilted in his favor and against Joe Consumer. That hardly qualifies as a tragedy; rather, the dealer simply is being subjected to -- horrors -- competition.

That being said, there is a better way for the dealer to protect his franchise and his business: offer value for the $. The value could be in wonderful preparation, in standing behind a product, in low-pressure salesmanship, or in extraordinarily low overhead that allows the dealer to sell for less.

As for warranties, the key question is what the warranty says. Some warranties are nontransferable. This, of course, hurts a manufacturer competitively in a sense because it will make it slightly more difficult for Joe Consumer to sell the piano when the 5 year-old prodigy gives up the piano after 4 weeks and instead spends time chasing frogs in the local creek. So the manufacturer, as many do, make the warranties transferable, which of course means that they are enforceable against the manufacturer unless something else in the warranty precludes that. Unfortunately for the dealer (who otherwise benefits from the transferability of the warranty), that also makes it easier for the grey market to flourish.

Thus, dealers, the name of the game is value, value, value. Offer it, and they will come, because then you have a legitimate competitive advantage. But don't go crying because your price is sufficiently inflated that it pays another dealer to pay a third dealer for a piano (for a profit, to be sure), ship it, and then sell it to a consumer for significantly less than the "authorized" dealer.

Will this help to reach 10 pages?

Jim L.

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#117287 - 02/12/02 09:19 PM Re: King of the Hill
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
Yikes. Maybe 11. Jodi

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#117288 - 02/12/02 09:20 PM Re: King of the Hill
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
Oh, and LOFL.

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#117289 - 02/12/02 10:28 PM Re: King of the Hill
lb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 1731
Loc: Indiana
Jim L

Your theory in the long run benefits neither the consumer the dealer nor the manufacturer. They will all lose.

I have spent my life in manufacturing and have seen this idiological theory applied to labor relations. It has shut down more companies and put more people out of work than it has benefited.

lb

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#117290 - 02/12/02 10:39 PM Re: King of the Hill
Brad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 254
Loc: Lexington, KY
lb,

With all due respect, you need to support your argument. Why won't what Jim L. suggests work?

The retailers benefit from a local monopoly. Please explain to me how this benefits the customers.

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#117291 - 02/12/02 10:47 PM Re: King of the Hill
SteveY Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/01
Posts: 1820
Loc: NJ
A question for the dealers here:
Aren't there requirements for becoming an authorized dealer? Is there a "fee"? Are there inventory requirements such as maintaining a certain dollar amount of inventory? Or a certain number of units? Is there training involved? How about required advertising? It seems to me that the dealer selling grey market goods reaps all the benefit without any of the cost or responsibility. Perhaps one should simply open a "Piano Store" without becoming an authorized dealer of anything and simply sell grey market product.

For Jim L: Doesn't a manufacturer have the right to influence how their products are sold to the public? Doesn't this right extend to placing restrictions on it's dealers? Don't these restrictions help build a product's resale value? I see the downside of the territorial issues. But there's got be a happy medium here, right?
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PianoWorld disclaimer: musician, producer, arranger, author, clinician, consultant, PS2 aficionado, secret agent...

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#117292 - 02/12/02 11:05 PM Re: King of the Hill
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
 Quote:
Originally posted by Jim L.:

Excuse me if I don't shed a tear for the "authorized" dealer, but it seems to me that he is simply being deprived of the benefit of a system otherwise tilted in his favor and against Joe Consumer. That hardly qualifies as a tragedy; rather, the dealer simply is being subjected to -- horrors -- competition.

That being said, there is a better way for the dealer to protect his franchise and his business: offer value for the $. The value could be in wonderful preparation, in standing behind a product, in low-pressure salesmanship, or in extraordinarily low overhead that allows the dealer to sell for less.

Thus, dealers, the name of the game is value, value, value. Offer it, and they will come, because then you have a legitimate competitive advantage. But don't go crying because your price is sufficiently inflated that it pays another dealer to pay a third dealer for a piano (for a profit, to be sure), ship it, and then sell it to a consumer for significantly less than the "authorized" dealer.
Jim L.[/b]



Jim, don't take any of this as an attack. I like you. But your post shows a complete misunderstanding of how business - not just the piano business, but business period - works. And you it's a bit misleading because you fail to mention that one of the things you do is find pianos for people for a fee, using this very method on occasion. It is useful to the reader to know that as they read your opinion.

Surely you are aware that the piano business is not the only business that follows this method of doing business. When was the last time you drove by a new car dealership and saw a sign outside that just said "New Cars - All Brands"? When was the last time you went into an appliance store that offered all brands? Or a furniture store? Or clothing? Electronics? What do [/b] you find where every conceiveable brand made can be found in the same store? Soft drinks? Food? What else?

My point is this: far from the cynical view you have painted of "monopolies" or "greedy dealers" or having the system "tilted against the consumer as the reason why manufacturers limit distribution, the real reason is basic business. Practically every item made is sold through limited distribution. And while there are many reasons this has been proven over and over to be the only way the system can work, the biggest reason is the exact opposite of what you seem to believe. Instead of serving to somehow "limit" the consumer, it protects him by protecting the business as a whole.

Let me explain. Let's follow your advice to its ultimate conclusion. Every dealer in the country can order any brand he wants. No problems. There are no checks and balances built in to determine who is a legitimate dealer, so anyone who wants to call up and say they are in the piano business can order whatever they want. That means that now, you won't have to rely on those awful "authorized dealers" any longer, Jim. You can just call up any manufacturer and order it direct. All's well in the piano world, right?

No. The piano business is going to die. For a short period of time, manufacturers see a jump in sales volume. But they know it is going to be shortlived. You see, the first thing that's going to happen is they are going to begin losing their established dealers. You know, the ones who have mortgaged their homes, hung themselves out on a limb financially in an effort to make a living selling their products. Once these guys begin to see there is no profit in their products anymore, they are going to quit risking their money ordering them.

The entire process hinges on profit. Not obscene profit like you seem to think we make, just a decent profit. The manufacturer isn't building pianos out of some desire to support the arts. He is building pianos to make money. Dealers don't go to work every day out of a benevolent desire to promote the arts. They go to work for the same reason you do - to get paid.

Now if you're selling a commodity, that's one thing. But no one has to have a piano. We *want* pianos, and there's a big difference. Now that consumers can buy any brand they want in any store they go into, if you think the vast majority of them will buy from the guy who isn't pushy, who tries to compete by offering them the best service, etc. you are sadly mistaken. They will buy from the guy who quotes them the lowest price. Face it - isn't that your beef anyway, that the current system doesn't allow the consumer to get the lowest price? Well, now that all the brands are in all the stores, that's exactly what you'll get. Dirt cheap.

The first thing dealers will do to try to compete is stop servicing pianos. Next, they'll start cutting out any extras. Next, they'll take their marbles and go do something else. Eventually, you'll have one dealer in town who stayed on top. He now has not only a monopoly on brands, he has a monopoly on outlets. And now *he* dictates to the manufacturers what he wants, and what he will do. And do you really think he will continue to be as competitive as he used to be once all his competition has gone on to other things? Of course not. Do you really think he will continue to stock every brand? Of course not. He will stock what he wants to stock. And the result will be the end of the "boom" for the manufacturers.

Now, in an effort to survive, they will send their sales reps out trying to find someone to carry their brands, but there won't be anyone. So manufacturers will begin to drop out of the business as well. Eventually there will be one dealer in a town, maybe two in bigger markets, and two or three piano manufacturers.

Once the dealer network is shot, and the monopoly you were so incensed about has shifted to this new form of monopoly, and most of the manufacturers are out of business, you will begin to notice other things as well. With only one or two piano makers left, and only one or two piano dealers per town left, marketing the idea of owning a piano will drop drastically. And fewer people will think about wanting one.

This scenario has played out already many times over in the past. Fisher Stereo systems used to be the top of the line. They limited distribution, and built high quality products. They had a dealer network who promoted their products, explained the benefits of owning them, provided service to their customers for them, the works. Then Fisher got greedy. They went mass market. Any department store, furniture store, you name it, could become a Fisher stereo dealer. Today, you'll find Fisher stereos in the budget section of big box electronics stores. Cheap, poor quality. I could give you example after example like this where a manufacturer decided to try just what you suggest.

Look at any big item you care to mention, and you'll find that if there's any quality to the product at all, distribution is limited. Ford doesn't sell cars to the Chevy dealer. Fridgidaire doesn't sell refrigerators to the Hotpoint dealer. And they don't for a very good reason. They have the good sense to understand that if you don't establish a solid dealer network, you risk finding yourself dead in the water. And the quickest way to end up without a dealer network is to stop supporting a dealer network. The consumer wins for a short time, but in the long run you ruin the industry, and you really *do* end up with a monopoly - one that dictates to the manufacturers, who has no incentive to compete any longer, no incentive to provide good service, and an extremely short list of choices. And every time someone cheats the system, one consumer wins, but the network that keeps the whole thing running is weakened. Do it enough, and you kill the goose.

The beginning stages of this can be seen by paying attention to what's happening with digital pianos. If it keeps going the way it is heading, in a few years there will only be two companies making them in any real quantities, and only two dealers selling them. Already, they dictate to the manufacturers. I've already quit carrying any, and many dealers I know are following suit. The profit motive is gone. Before long they will be nothing more than something you find on a shelf at Circuit City or some place like that, with no salesman who can show you the features, or to help you comparison shop, no service department, no after the sale service of any kind. It will be like you've bought a toaster oven.

Is this really what you want to see happen to the piano industry? If you want to have product variety, good dealers, good service, and quality products, you need to hope and pray that nothing else happens to weaken the profit motive of the dealer network. Because once we all quit, your only choice will be a GH-1 in ebony polish. But never fear, it will be sold in every store in town, even maybe the local Texaco dealer.

Here's a real life example that involves me. In the 80s I owned a chain of piano stores in Tennessee. I began selling grandfather clocks when no one in town carried them. I showed them to their best advantage, had salespeople who were trained in how they were made, how they worked, etc. And we soon became one of the largest grandfather clock retailers in the United states. We averaged 30 clocks per week, per store. A couple of dealer friends of mine got into the clock business as well, and between the three of us the manufacturer had to double their factory. They were so thrilled that they sent their sales reps out all over the country to visit piano stores, with letters I wrote for them to convince the piano dealer that clock sales fit well with the piano business.

But they got greedy. All the furniture stores in town saw how many we were selling, and in spite of the dealer agreement I had with them, the manufacturer violated it. They began selling them to anyone and everyone who would place an order. After nearly 5 years of pace setting sales, in one year they flooded my market with clock dealers. I could no longer make any money on them, so I quit selling them. Once I quit marketing them, the other dealers found their sales dropping, so they lost interest. In one more year, clock sales in that town went to no more than a couple of dozen clocks per year, and today no one in town sells clocks. The manufacturer had to lay off nearly half their workers, and shut down a large part of their facility. Today, you hardly ever see anyone anywhere selling grandfather clocks. But I'll bet that no matter where you lived, in the early 80s you saw a whole lot of grandfather clocks for sale in your town.

Sorry for the long post, but this is just plain business sense. And to quote you, excuse me for not shedding a tear for those who don't get it, and think they are improving things for the consumer by promoting the very thing that could kill it.
_________________________
Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless

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#117293 - 02/13/02 12:04 AM Re: King of the Hill
Derick Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/03/02
Posts: 3290
Loc: New York
Larry & Jim,

Perhaps I'm looking at this too simplistically, but it seems to me that a significant number of problems both of you discuss could be eliminated if the 'sticker price' was exactly what every customer paid for the piano.

Comments?

Derick
_________________________
Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

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#117294 - 02/13/02 01:05 AM Re: King of the Hill
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
wow. an explosion unleashed. sorry, guys, but i am on the road for work and no way can i respond in detail to everything that has been said since my little post of a mere 24 hours ago.

this thread is now bringing out the subterranean theme of this board, which is how a customer's best interests and a dealer's best interests are not always the same. i can't really get into larry's long and detailed post, but i'll try to address some of the other questions that were raised.

first of all, i bought this piano from such a long distance and from an unauthorized dealer after shopping for a year and a half all over the u.s. and canada. i bought it after playing new and used grotrians from authorized dealers. i bought it after corresponding with the grotrian factory and talking on the phone with the u.s. distributor. i bought it after hiring an independent tech to inspect it, and after receiving the very best of advice from some knowledgeable people on this board, some of whom had also played this piano, some of whom are dealers and know of my dealer.

i bought it because i fell in love with it, far and beyond and above any other piano i had played, new or used, grotrian or not. it was the piano with my heart and name on it. i didn't care about authorized or unauthorized, i only cared if it was in new condition, if the dealer was someone i could trust, and if i could find a way to swing paying for it.

i did my homework. i decided that for all intents and purposes, it was a used piano, and i treated the purchase as if it was a used piano. grotrian does not transfer its warranties if the pianos are sold used before their five year warranty is up. but grotrian is not known for making lemons, and i had it on good authority that i could trust this dealer to honor his ten year warranty, in the event that something did happen.

i also did the math. if i were to have bought this piano used from a private seller, i would still have paid quite a bit more. this was a great deal, but i didn't buy it because it was a great deal. i bought it because i loved it. the fact that it was a great deal just meant that owning it was possible. you could have shown me a better deal on a bosie and i wouldn't have touched it. i wouldn't have taken a bosie for free.

the problem the piano has now is simply due to shipping. i had it inspected both before and after shipping. traveling for seven days (crated) by truck and rail shook loose a few bolts and my tech didn't catch this (i'm now shopping for a new tech). i'm lucky that the dealer's tech wants to come out here in march. but the downbearing is fine, the rim is fine, the soundboard is fine, everything is sound on it. it just needs a good regulation and voicing, and the best person to do that is the person who originally prepped it for sale, who knows exactly what i bought, and who can return the piano to that condition.

i think it is great that the dealer is willing to do this to make sure i am happy.

i bought a new/used, or a used/new piano. nobody here would be slamming this purchase if i had bought it from a private seller. what beethoven did, any one of us could do, and we would not be breaking any laws--they went to germany, bought the piano for the german price (which is considerably less than what it goes for here) and then shipped it back to the u.s. and resold it.

would it be a problem with any of the authorized dealers if i did this myself?--i could fly to germany and buy the piano from a german dealer and have it shipped here. they can't stop me from doing that. people do it to buy mercedes benzes all the time.

there is no authorized grotrian dealer in new york city. amazing, but true. so, beethoven's is filling a need and a niche.

i sorry to hear they lost the estonia dealership. faust harrison already had estonia pianos last year, btw, they just didn't have them in their new york showroom. they got into estonia because of one of their young sales reps, a julliard grad who turned the dealership on to the piano as an alternative for young and starving artists.
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#117295 - 02/13/02 01:37 AM Re: King of the Hill
lb Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 1731
Loc: Indiana
Brad

With all due respect, there is no way I could have explained it as well as Larry.

It was late and I was tired, and I knew that Larry would respond. \:D \:D \:D

lb

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#117296 - 02/13/02 01:41 AM Re: King of the Hill
Norbert Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 13975
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
LARRY:...call that a PhD dissertation in economics or....

.............. ECON 101 ??

Very well said...another.. 'MASTER POST'!

Here's my short version of " THE CREATION"...

Most of us can [at least] 'sympathize' where Jim and others come from. He's a good guy..
and so is everybody else!

We may all endorse 'reasonable'profit...for OURSELVES.....
[ what the hell is that anyway?]......

..but deep down in our 'gut'.. we really DO HATE anybody making a ...god..$$ on "ON OUR BACK...and EXPENSE"......coupled by a burning desire [dating back to at least Neandertal man!] to virtually kill and maim anybody daring to extoll even one penny over the absolute,basic
minimum limit allowed![ Which is zero..]

Anybody here ever gets that feeling??
[I do...whenever I talk to MY OWN suppliers!!
P.S. Am direct Neandertal descent...]

Can we blame anybody that,at least, there are strong "contributing factors" today [as they always have been]which seem to foster a general feeling of being 'ripped off',taken, anywhere you go,whatever you buy,and - seemingly - from whomever you buy?[except Larry and me!!]

The Europeans, having recently switched to the EURO now have a new "national sport":

COMPARING PRICES of tomatoes, tooth paste and chewing gum,etc between Portugal, France, Germany Luxemburg and Greece!

5 cents difference keeps the papers full with comparisons and makes "fascinating reading" over there for millions....i.e don't go to Italy....parmesan cheese is 3 cents more there....

Next,throw in the internet.. and you do have the COMPLETE ILLUSION of man stomping all over the universe as he orders all of his necessities,commodities,goods and sevices to his front door...for virtually....NOTHING!

So God created....THE [PIANO] RETAILER!!

At least someone now...can thwart this insane
onslaught of "high expectation-low prices"
into the opposite spectrum, bringing dispair and misery to this world of ours and be -
once and for all - blamed for the incredible economic mess,high prices,poor service and- utter confusion for every consumer these days... allowing for no less than at least 20 manufacturers to compete side by side to drive every serious piano shopper up the proverbial wall..to this cherished Forum..
..or whatever other refuge out there, may be found!

At least,if the piano manufacturers and piano sellers of this world could all work
together in secret cahouts with each other..

....WE MAY HAVE ACTUALLY PULLED IT OFF!!

Anybody's got three[hundred]- way calling?

Norbert Marten
www.heritagepianos.com

[ February 13, 2002: Message edited by: Norbert ]
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#117297 - 02/13/02 09:21 AM Re: King of the Hill
Brad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 254
Loc: Lexington, KY
Well, I've read Larry's magnum opus. He convinces me that the dealer monopoly provides real benefits to the dealers.

The only benefit to the customers is that the dealers stay in business.

A paino is just another consumer good. The analogy to cars is a helpful one. When you went car shopping ten or fifteen years ago, you were largely on your own. It was hard to find out what the "invoice" price was (the dealers tried to keep it a secret) and it was difficult to locate specific models of cars with specific options, colors, trims, since these were seemingly distributed at random.

Today, thanks to the internet, you can find out the invoice price of the car and check most manufacturer's nationwide inventory on the internet.

It is now easier to negotiate to get a lower price and easier to find the exact car in the exact time line and color you want.

Piano retailing is still stuck in the middle ages. I think it would benefit the customer if more information were available. Perhaps a new method of piano retailing will be necessary (Sam Walton, Costco, where are you?). Of course, the dealers will scoff, because this challenges their way of living.

In an effort to keep this thread going forever, this brings to mind another related topic: the piano consumers on this board are too deferential to the piano retailers on this board. I enjoy the contributions of this element, but there is a fair amount of self-serving promotion. Not long ago, Steve Cohen was roundly beat up by this element for plugging the Prambergers. But lately, I'm hearing lots about the wonders of Charles Walter and Estonia in the exact same vein.

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#117298 - 02/13/02 11:43 AM Re: King of the Hill
shantinik Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/23/01
Posts: 4271
Loc: Olympia, WA
I guess that, as a consumer, if there is one fundamental place I disagree with Larry, it is this: too many buyers have been treated in an unethical (and might I add, disgusting!) manner by so-called "authorized" dealers (present company excepted!). After we've met one or two of these, unless we are willing to spend the time and money Pique did to find the perfect piano, and/or have memorized "the Book" (most buyers have never heard of it), or frequent this board (how many folks are we, 1,100?), we will seek the product we want at the lowest price, period! Why should I believe Slimeball Piano Store is actually going to stand behind their warranty in 9 years, if they seemed untrustworthy in the first hour after my arrival? And why would I believe (without any experience to the contrary) that the manufacturer will treat me any better than Slimeball Authorized Dealer? After all, aren't they both out just to take my money?

Poor service and unethical practices cause the consumer to assume they will continue to receive poor services and be subjected to unethical practice. So we are left with nothing but price and our own hands and ears to go on.

And, Larry, if a good manufacturer loses a distribution network they can do what Fisher did, true. But they also have the option of setting up their own manufacturer-controlled stores. Or they can maintain both at the same time, which ensures "quality control". Works for McDonald's.

(hmm. Better rethink the analogy!)
:p

[ February 13, 2002: Message edited by: shantinik ]

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#117299 - 02/13/02 11:45 AM Re: King of the Hill
SR Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/12/01
Posts: 718
Loc: Los Angeles
I don't quite agree with the Car and piano business analogies. Nearly everyone needs a car and nearly nobody needs a piano. Pianos are a niche luxury item. I live in a very large city and can go to at least 15 Chevy dealers to shop price. I can only go one place to buy a new Steinway.

I think an interesting question is why do Piano makers not protect their dealer network and their prices by setting a realistic "Retail Price" and sticking to it ?
Microsoft for example sets a price and thats it. Windows XP upgrade is the same price in any store. Bargains only appear if XP vers 2 appears, but vers 2 price will be regulated.
Any dealer who discounts and is caught discounting is out.

Cars and pianos both have a "suggested" retail price. Nobody in their right mind pays it. New model cars in high demand often sell for sticker plus markup. I don't think pianos ever do. If I don't like the price on the new Corvette I can hit many other Chevy dealers. I can fly to Fresno or Vegas or San Diego to get a discount and drive home perhaps saving hundreds or thousands of dollars. Now I certainly can go to the San Diego Steinway dealer but it'll cost alot more than $20 in gas to get it home to LA. I will also lose the service from the San Diego shop if anything goes wrong. Steinway store in LA is not going to care much if my new "L" develops a problem, but the Corvette can go to any dealer for warrenty service on its own power or behind a $40 tow truck. I can't take the piano in for a service.

Why can't piano be priced closer to the real world value ? Piano Factory in Burbank was once asking $22,500 for the 6'4" Estonia on special sale. Piano Factory in Costa Mesa was asking $18,990 as the regular price. What gives here ? No wonder piano shoppers are looking for price deals. I bought a new piano at a 46% discount. WHY ? If the piano is worth what I paid why do some people only get 30% off or 10 or nothing ? Maybe I got taken and everybody else gets 55% off. I've never bought a new car for 46% off.


If the piano idustry wants succes and survival in the era of digital and electronic competition they better get realistic. Wether you are Yamaha or Pearl River or Bosendorfer it doesn't matter.

Steve
_________________________
www.mozartforum.com

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#117300 - 02/13/02 11:52 AM Re: King of the Hill
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14037
Loc: Louisiana
As some of you know, my son is a drummer. The most visited forum on the net for drummers is the one at Drumcenter - Indianapolis. There used to be a lot of participation on the board by various manufacturers - Ludwig, dw, Pearl - but the members of the forum turned up the flames on the manufacturer's reps. Now no manufacturer's reps post on that board. The members may have won their respective battles, but they most definitely lost the information war.

Of course, Steve C can speak for himself. To put some of the above statements in context, I believe the beef at the time was that Mr. Cohen was promoting his product to the exclusion of all others.

To address the issue of whether to buy a particular piano from a particular dealer, I'll trot out just a bit of my personal thought process:

1. I would not feel comfortable purchasing a new piano from an unauthorized dealer.

2. I like to buy from somebody no more than 3 hours drive away. I like to do business with someone I can look across a desk at, if necessary.

3. I found that salesmen and prices have a proportionate relationship. The more salesman, usually the higher the price. It is harder to find an acceptable piano (and impossible for some brands) at a RPT owned shop, but prices generally tend to be lower and service tends to be better.

4. Just because there is an authorized dealer for a line in my hometown, does not preclude me from talking to other dealers of the same make. If comfortable with the hometown person, I would give them the last shot at my business and because of proximity, would pay a bit higher price, all other things being equal.
Pianos are not cars. A new car may not have a problem. Even the best of new pianos always require some sort of tweaking once in the home. I prefer to have the tweaker a little closer to the tweakee.

Just a thought. \:\)
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#117301 - 02/13/02 11:54 AM Re: King of the Hill
fmelliott Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/01
Posts: 894
Loc: Virginia
Some folks think it is necessary to have lots of experience to post. Here is one place I do know what I am talking about. I restore antique furniture. High quality tools, like precision made table saws, are used. Compound miter saws and the like are mandatory. Recently major manufacturers began trashing their dealer networks so they could sell in Home Depot, Lowes, and other chain outlets. Briefly tools were everywhere. Then, when only a few of us needed things, the chains stopped carrying the more expensive tools. They dropped lines. Delta nearly went out of business. Most of the dealers closed up shop for lack of business. Service is almost impossible to get. Parts are a nightmare. I used to drive 2 miles to the dealer for parts. Now I have to deal with out of town people and delivery services. Frequently I don't know how to put in the parts. I am not an electrician. Dealers perform a service that people need!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Piano prices are available in rough form from Larry Fine's book. I was able to feel very comfortable in my recent negotiations buying a piano for my church with that information. I didn't have to deal because I knew the dealer was being fair. I also winnowed out a couple of price gouging dealers with Larry's information. Things in the piano business are better than they seem to soem of us.

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#117302 - 02/13/02 12:10 PM Re: King of the Hill
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
jolly,
my situation is a bit unusual. if i bought locally from an honest dealer, my choices were yamaha or baldwin. if i bought locally from any dealer, my choices were baldwin, yamaha, and a bunch of crap.

three hours from my house is scrubland and forest, not pianos. six hours from my house is high desert and mountains, not pianos. nine hours from my house... i shopped that market three times hoping to find something, but did not.

basically, my only choice was to go long distance. since when you purchase a piano long distance, even from an authorized dealer, you are basically giving up service, authorized or unauthorized really means very little to me.

i feel extremely fortunate that even though my dealer is both long distance, and unauthorized, i can get the kind of service someone expects when they live in the same city. i have to wait awhile, but hey, the best techs in new york are booked up weeks ahead anyway, so that may not be much different either.

i can tell you that if it turns out that beethoven does not deliver on their guarantees, this board will be among the first to hear about it. but so far, everything has been on the up and up.

the bottom line is that customers should do what is in their own best interest, in accord with their own individual circumstances and tastes. just because i live out in the wilderness does not mean i should be doomed to owning a piano that annoys my ears, simply for the sake of satisfying somebody else's idea of what good business ethics are.

i know there are dealers here who would also have treated me well from long distance had i been able to get to their showrooms to try their pianos. i was limited, unfortunately, to where i was being sent anyway on business.

norbert, someday still i will come visit you in vancouver. please make sure that bakery will be open that day!
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#117303 - 02/13/02 12:27 PM Re: King of the Hill
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
i also have to add, to add to beethoven's credit, that they sent me my piano WITHOUT PAYMENT. that's right, they trusted me to pay them when i got the money, and shipped it first (we were concerned about the onset of severe winter possibly harming the piano in shipment, and i couldn't buy it until my home refinance went through).

then, when i got screwed over by my mortgage brokers (who were playing games with interest rates) and didn't have the money, my dealer patiently waited until i got the matter sorted out, and trusted me to pay them. this was not long after 9/11, and i know they were desperate for the money, but they patiently waited and trusted me. i think that has to be rare in any business, among any type of person, and i have to give them credit for that. those are the kinds of people i want to do business with.

i realize people will make their own choices in the authorized v. unauthorized debate. but i cannot sit by and watch beethoven's get slammed when they have treated me so well.
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#117304 - 02/13/02 12:40 PM Re: King of the Hill
Norbert Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 13975
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
I think everybody here has good thoughts and
none of the issues are really all black and white.

Everybody also has different circumstances,
like Penny, so decisions are made differently within that context!

We piano dealers,are [rightfully] accused of many evils and there is a whole lot of them I would never dream to have even coffee with.

On the other hand,it's also a tremendous competition among all brands and dealers -
if you'd take a machine gun and and shoot in a circle - you'd always get somebody 'right'!
[That's why I feel every day like an Afgahn
veteran!]

Which....does make customers to be "King"!

ABSOLUTE KING, that is!!!!!

ON THE HILL!!

Congratulations to all the 'Kings' out there
[....and to a record thread as well!]

P.S. Tomorrow..we all will kiss and make up!

Norbert Marten
www.heritagepianos.com
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#117305 - 02/13/02 01:12 PM Re: King of the Hill
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
You know what is so awesome about this thread at the moment? - people are disagreeing, but nobody is getting nasty. Amazing. Those nice guy pills sure are something. Great posts, Larry , Pique. et al. \:\) Jodi

[ February 13, 2002: Message edited by: jodi ]

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#117306 - 02/13/02 02:57 PM Re: King of the Hill
Steve Miller Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 3288
Loc: Yorba Linda, CA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Brad:
Well, I've read Larry's magnum opus. He convinces me that the dealer monopoly provides real benefits to the dealers.

The only benefit to the customers is that the dealers stay in business.
[/b]

Please take no offense Brad, at my using your post as an outline for my reply. You are stating much the same thing as others areand I mean nothing personal by quoting from your post.

 Quote:

A piano is just another consumer good.
[/b]

For me a piano is not just another consumer good, not at all. They are a major purchase for most of us, a highly personal choice, a purchase decision that involves art as much as reason. Pianos are not toasters, and I believe a search for Toaster Forum on the internet will help to point out some of the difference. Pianos are special.

 Quote:

Piano retailing is still stuck in the middle ages. I think it would benefit the customer if more information were available.
[/b]

I propose that this information is indeed available for one who cares to ferret it out. Not wholesale prices perhaps, but certainly an overview of what might be a fair price to pay for a particular piano. This forum provides such information on a regular basis, as does PianoQuest, etc. E-bay is not a bad barometer for the value for used pianos of various sorts.

I further propose that the sort of information provided on this forum and others (tone, action, general satisfaction/dissatisfaction with particular brands and models) is more valuable than things like wholesale cost. Wholesale cost is only one of a myriad of things that go in to pricing of pianos. The secondary considerations are perhaps as important or even more important than the precise percentage of dealer markup.

Note I said "fair price". I do not personaly believe that it is in my best interest to grind every last nickel out of every transaction. A fair price is what I seek out - fair to me, and fair to the guy who sells it to me. I find that by doing so I have established a personal network of dealers of various sorts with whom I can deal on an ongoing basis. There are those who consduct their business solely on price and many are quite successful. I however, prefer to establish ongoing business relationships.

 Quote:
Perhaps a new method of piano retailing will be necessary (Sam Walton, Costco, where are you?). Of course, the dealers will scoff, because this challenges their way of living.
[/b]

The very idea of this new type of piano merchandising terrifies me. I pray it will never catch on. One only needs to go to WalMart to see what happens when this sort of marketing becomes the norm. Once the competition goes away, the quality stocked drops like a rock. There is a lot of stock, but the quality is universally mediocre, the service non existent, the selection homogenous and boring. The price becomes the only measure of value. There is a flip side to this, and 'lest anyone think I am in favor of paying whatever to the authorized agent for the privelege of dealing with him, let me hold their feet to the fire a bit.

Yes, I am willing to pay more to buy from a dealer who does the right stuff. For pianos in particular, this "right stuff" would include treating me fairly, presenting his goods in such a way (prepped and tuned for a start) that I can compare them, establishing a reputation in town for after sale service and an honesty in dealing in general. Right stuff would also include doing what it takes to become the authorized agent for their represented brands.

Just because you open the doors as the authorized agent however, does not mean that you automatically deserve my business. Authorized agency is paperwork and fees, the right thing to do but far from the end-all if you are to get my business. If your pianos are marked up to cover value-added services that you will provide, I am happy to pay. If however, your markup includes all of the hype and none of the service, chances are good that I will buy elsewhere.

 Quote:

In an effort to keep this thread going forever, this brings to mind another related topic: the piano consumers on this board are too deferential to the piano retailers on this board. I enjoy the contributions of this element, but there is a fair amount of self-serving promotion. Not long ago, Steve Cohen was roundly beat up by this element for plugging the Prambergers. But lately, I'm hearing lots about the wonders of Charles Walter and Estonia in the exact same vein.[/b]


A fine line between promotion and dissemination of knowlege.

I believe that the dealers who contribute to this board do an excellent job of identifying which is which, and are in a unique position to provide us with information you just can not get anywhere else. I have also seen where the dealers themselves will get after one of their own when the topic strays too far toward sales hype and away from personal belief in the product. I believe this is good.

Let me use Larry for an example, only because his is the only store I have actually visited among those represented on this board. Larry sells a number of different brands, from different countries, different price points, different customer types. Larry plays them, sees them every day, works on them (himself in some cases), listens to customers who either love them or are disappointed in one way or another after the sale. It is no wonder that he has formed definite opinions, and being as Larry is far from shy and retiring, ;\) he states his opinions with conviction and clarity.

Do these opinions have anything to do with which brands he represents and which brands he does not? Of course - but not necessarily because he is always out there promoting. I believe that Larry's decision to stock certain lines has as much or more to do with pianos he finds personally satisfying at the price point than it does with profit. Surely Larry could become the local Yamaha dealer if he chose to do so, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

So I value his opinions - even those I disagree with - and I disagree with a lot of them. I feel the same way about the other dealers who contribute to this forum. These guys don't have to be here, there are far more efficient ways to promote pianos than to contribute (at length!) to forums like this one. They are here because they like what they do. Steve Cohen posted a beautiful essay some months back on just how much you have to love pianos to stay in the business, Norbert and others post with enthusiasm about pianos they do not represent.

So I wonder why there are no Steinway dealers who contribute? It could make for a lively exchange...
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#117307 - 02/13/02 03:32 PM Re: King of the Hill
Brad Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/27/01
Posts: 254
Loc: Lexington, KY
Steve Miller:

No offense taken. I concur with Norbert (whose internet "persona" I do like a lot) these comments are all good natured.

I'll only comment on the "consumer nature" of the piano.

I do not think the amount of money an item costs is solely determinative. Pianos, even upper end ones, cost no more than a nice Volvo (for comparrision's sake). Yet the car is certainly a consumer item. If I bought a $50,000 car, I'd want access to information to compare the different models and to negotiate a good price.

But more to the point, I would guess that 90% (or more) of the piano trade consists of pianos between $3,000 and $6,000. These are generally mass manufactured items of Japanese, Korean, or Chinese origin. These are truly consumer items.

This level of consumer (as I said, probably 90% of all piano purchasers) is poorly served by dealer monopolies and limited access to information. The average consumer is bewildered by the piano market place.

Most people just want a nice piano at a good price. Since $3,000 to $6,000 is a lot of money for most people, they also want to make an informed decision and get a good price. The present market is not taking care of them.


Is this 11 pages yet?

How 'bout this for provocation: We've certainly shown those "Pianist Corner" types what a long flame thread really is . . .

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#117308 - 02/13/02 04:10 PM Re: King of the Hill
Larry Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/01
Posts: 9217
Loc: Deep in Cherokee Country
I don't want anyone to get the impression that I am somehow faulting an individual for taking advantage of a good deal. It isn't the consumer's responsibility to police the industry. You *do* need to understand how it works and the risks you may be taking, but as long as your eyes are open and you know all the facts, if the deal is there and you're comfortable with it, take it. Knocking people who do so is not the intent of my posts. Everyone says they want information, so that's what you're getting. I'm laying the blame at the feet of the dealers who engage in this, not the consumer who takes advantage of it. As a consumer though, don't you think you are better armed *with* this information than you would be without it?

Second, someone mentioned that even though car dealers are sold through dealerships using limited distribution, there were dozens of Chevy dealers in town and one piano dealer. It all has to do with demand. Every family in town (for the most part) will buy a car. What percent of the town will buy a piano - 15%? 10%? 3%? There are markets in the US where there is more than one authorized dealer for a particular brand of piano. It is all tied to population. There has to be enough population to support another dealership, it doesn't matter whether you're talking about cars, refrigerators, or pianos. To find out, go try to get a Chevy dealership. Even though it seems to you there are a dealers all over town, you'll find out quickly that there are no more dealerships available, and won't be until the area grows enough to justify another one. So the number of dealerships relate directly to the potential market available to support it. Which is part of the entire purpose of limited distribution.

Lastly, regarding the "promoting" of brands here. There is a difference in saying "such and such brand is an excellent piano, but so is X,Y,and Z" when all 4 brands are competitive brands to attempting to position one brand as competitive with everything out there. When I have praised a brand such as the Walter which I sell, you will also find cases where I have praised the Petrof, which I don't sell. That is also the case when you see most of the other dealers here praise a brand. But you will not see me nor in my opinion any of the other dealers here try to make the claim that the Webers which I do sell are somehow supposed to compete with a Steinway, which was the case before.

I just wanted to make sure everyone knew where I stood, and that there was no intent to offend anyone.
_________________________
Life isn't measured by the breaths you take. Life is measured by the things that left you breathless

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#117309 - 02/13/02 04:13 PM Re: King of the Hill
shantinik Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/23/01
Posts: 4271
Loc: Olympia, WA
 Quote:
But more to the point, I would guess that 90% (or more) of the piano trade consists of pianos between $3,000 and $6,000. These are generally mass manufactured items of Japanese, Korean, or Chinese origin. These are truly consumer items.
[/QB]


And this gets us back to the very beginning of this thread. Yamaha is King because their products are predictable, and, I'm told, their servicing is excellent. Yamahas are not competing (for the most part) with Steinways, or even Petrofs, but with Bergmans and Samicks.

But this is why they are going to get screwed. Once the Chinese product becomes predictable, mass-marketed, well-serviced, and 33% cheaper than Yamahas, Yamaha will either have to lower their prices 33% (as they did with oboes), or reformulate the product line (unlikely). If they stand still, they will go the way of Baldwin (which was, in fact, cannibalized by Yamaha in the mid-market.)

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#117310 - 02/13/02 04:36 PM Re: King of the Hill
Brendan Offline


Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5229
Loc: McAllen, TX
 Quote:
Originally posted by Brad:
Steve Miller:

How 'bout this for provocation: We've certainly shown those "Pianist Corner" types what a long flame thread really is . . .[/b]


Well...

You guys can argue actual statistics and facts, thus giving you more flexibility in debate. We can merely argue our take on how the music should sound, which isn't an exact science by any means.

Nonetheless:

_________________________
http://www.BrendanKinsella.com

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#117311 - 02/13/02 05:16 PM Re: King of the Hill
jodi Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 6959
Loc: The Evergreen State (WA)
Brendan, Brendan - you should come over to "this side" more often. Surely you have opinions on what pianos you like the best after playing so many! Jodi (a groupie wannabe) ;\)

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#117312 - 02/13/02 05:28 PM Re: King of the Hill
Penny Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 2943
Loc: San Juan Capistrano, CA
Regarding the comment about converting to a a Walmart or Costco strategy, please allow me to say that these are two completely different business models. Both have the goal of low prices but get there differently. While Walmart has tens of thousands of products and brands in its stores and seeks to muscle out the lowest price, Costco has a team of shoppers which winnows the product offering down to 3-4,000 products and then seeks to muscle out the lowest price. That's it. You go into a Costco and as huge as it is, it only has 4,000 products/brands. That is because the shoppers have already determined the top brand or two of any product. Sometimes they add a "Kirkland Signature" generic brand. It's like they do the shopping for you. Now some people may hate that, but most like it.

I can totally see this working with the lower end pianos, especially if they had the consistancy of Yamaha. In fact, this weekend, I did see a piano show at Costco. They had a YC, a Yamaha and a Bergman. None was close to anything I would consider buying, but they wereN'T targeting me, the pianofile.

Now, for those of us who want to seek out that rare, so-called hand-crafted piano, the Costco approach would never work. But there's no reason it wouldn't work for the Yamahas and Kawais of the world. As long as Costco-style service came with it, MOST of those buyers would be just fine.

Of course, I've just eliminated the bread-and-butter of most of the dealers out there. I know that. (Of course, Larry, the champion of selling six-pack Bechsteins would be OK!)But while I see Larry's point, Brad is right that piano dealerships are out of step with today. It's an archaic way of doing business and is already under pressure, from the internet especially, to change.

And as far as the manufacturers going into business for themselves, that has happened in the retail business all over the place. Gap is not only a retailer, it is also a manufacturer. That's the whole idea behind manufacturers' outlet malls. The stores are "factory-owned." Maybe we should have a few piano outlet malls. Many people here would probably happily make the drive.

penny

[ February 13, 2002: Message edited by: Penny ]

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#117313 - 02/13/02 05:49 PM Re: King of the Hill
Derick Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/03/02
Posts: 3290
Loc: New York
Interesting... But I do wonder if Costco pianos would drive high-end dealers out of business. I'm kind of thinking that if Costco did sell affordable, decent, pianos, more people would own pianos. This would lead to greater "piano consciousness" among the general public. Which would ultimately lead to increased sales of high-end pianos.

I'm going to Costco tonight. If I see Larry or Norbert hanging around in disguises, I'll know a Costcodorfer is not far from production. ;\)

Derick
_________________________
Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats.

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#117314 - 02/13/02 06:09 PM Re: King of the Hill
Jolly Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/20/01
Posts: 14037
Loc: Louisiana
I believe the pianos sold at Costco represent a local dealer who has "obtained" space in the Costco store. I don't know if the agreement is a flat rate for space or a percentage of whatis sold, but service is still provided by the local dealer, not Costco.

As for the concept of WalMart and pianos...

Any of you ever meet Mr. Sam? Common as an old shoe - until he started to talk business instead of the weather or fishing. Did you know that in order to sell WalMart a line of goods, you had to fly into corporate HQ and demonstrate to the old gentleman and his buyers why he should carry your wares. And then negotiate price?

WalMart still skins their vendors pretty good. I believe if the guys from Yamaha flew into Bentonville, it would be a round of negotiations that would be fun to watch! \:\)
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Over 1,000,000 posts where pianists discuss everything. And nothing.

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#117315 - 02/13/02 07:47 PM Re: King of the Hill
ChemicalGrl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/03/01
Posts: 643
Loc: Durham, North Carolina
Regarding pianos at Costco:

Last summer, there was a Travelling Piano Show at the local Costco. (I think that's what it was.) The featured pianos were mostly, if not all, Young Changs. There were grand pianos, player pianos, digital pianos, uprights, etc. It seemed odd to see all these pianos, lined up close to the entrance. I didn't pay too much attention to the price tags as I know on my measly budget there was no way I could think of affording a piano at this point in time.

It reminded me of the time I saw a group of pianos in the local mall (dealer I think was based in Chapel Hill, NC); it kind of had the same feel to it.
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Lyn F.

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