I'm beyond frustrated with my technician

Posted by: Pianolance

I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 12:58 AM

Almost three years ago this drama started and I have tried to give the tech involved every benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to make things right, but I have finally reached the end of my rope. Let me start from the beginning.

We had a small house fire and my piano had some significant smoke damage. The whole piano was covered with a greasy black film. The fire wasn't in the same room as the piano, and in fact was on the other side of the house, but the smoke damage was significant all over the house. Fearing things like corroding strings and contaminated felts I petitioned the insurance company for a rebuild. They were very quick to respond and asked me to pick a piano technician to do the work. I found someone on the PTG website who among other things listed one of his skills as fire damage repair. Since he was the only one who listed this on his PTG profile I picked him.

He came to my house, did an inspection of the piano and agreed that it needed some significant work including all felts replaced and every part cleaned, new hammers, etc. He basically said it needed an entire rebuild on the inside, new strings, pins, everything.

I was excited since my piano, which played very well, was beginning to show some signs of its advancing age. A Knabe 5'2" circa 1927. A beautiful instrument that still played at a very high level, but was ageing gracefully.

The technician submitted a bid that included an brand new WNG composite action, back action, new hammers, etc, etc, etc.

Fast forward a few months and the piano tech sold his home and was getting ready to move. My piano was still in his shop and he wanted to get it out as it would be several months before his new shop was ready. He rushed to get it to a place where he could get it back into my home.

When it got to my house I noticed several problems, and my tech came many times to continue work on the piano. The dampers were a disaster, the action felt like I was playing a truck, the work looks sloppy, the damper heads are apparently in the wrong order, the action, when properly aligned the way it was originally several of the treble hammers hit the bottom of the plate and not the strings, in order to get them to hit the strings the action has to be inserted slightly askew. He has lost some screws, the right guide block that's under the right cheek block, etc,etc. It's inferior work.

Today I got another tech to come to look at it. His statement was that it was about 75% done and much of what is done needs to be undone in order to be redone correctly. His estimate to fix it is $3500.

I made the mistake of paying for this job up front (never again) but the insurance company made the check out to the piano tech in full so I just passed it along assuming he would do a good job.

Where I stand at this point is that I'm out over $8000 for piano work that isn't finished. Every time I call the tech now he hurries me off the phone and says he'll get back to me and that he's "covered up" with work right now. My response is that he needs to move my piano up to the front of the line of any work he has, but I'm really afraid that he can't do the job right and that it's beyond him. I have totally lost confidence in his ability to finish the job and quite frankly he's pretty much given up trying to make me a happy customer.

Do you have any suggestions. My insurance company is no help and the only thing I can think is that I'm going to have to take this guy to court and get my money back or at least get enough money back to have someone else redo and finish the job right.

So sorry for the lengthy post, but if anything is going to happen I'm going to have to make it happen because he's not motivated. I'm wondering if I offer to have another tech finish the job if he will be relieved, but he will definitely have to pay the bill as I have NO money to put into this. AAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!
Posted by: beethoven986

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 01:38 AM

The PTG is a fantastic organization, but as you have learned, hiring a RPT does not guarantee a home run. If you can document what you've said here, including photos, and any written conversations you've had, contract, etc. you can notify the PTG home office. Taken at face value, it can be argued that what you've described violates the guild members' code of ethics, and may be grounds for disciplinary action. You could also sue, or both. I'd be p*ssed if this happened to me. Anyway, if you decide to hire another tech, Jeff Cappelli (Chicago) does a lot of fire restoration work.
Posted by: Mark Cerisano, RPT

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 07:23 AM

Document all phone calls and what transpired. Take photographs. Get the inspection and estimate from the second tech in writing. Send a registered letter that you want the work repaired right, or $3500 for the repairs, or you will take him to court. Consult with a lawyer just to be sure. I've done this before and won everytime. When you're right, you're right. That's what the court system is for. It will take a while though. Good luck.
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 09:39 AM


Originally Posted By: Pianolance
I made the mistake of paying for this job up front (never again) but the insurance company made the check out to the piano tech in full so I just passed it along assuming he would do a good job.
Where I stand at this point is that I'm out over $8000 for piano work that isn't finished.


This part is not clear. If the insurance company paid out the claim then I am struggling to understand how this has cost you any money besides the usual insurance premiums for coverage.

Also if the insurance company has paid the bid in full and the work is substandard then you are in the middle of a conflict which should be between the actuary and the repairman.

I am surprised that the actuary chose to fix a seventy five year old instrument rather than write it off.

The repairs you have described amount to a lot of funds; much more than an instrument of that age and type would be worth.
Posted by: Pianolance

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 09:56 AM

Originally Posted By: Silverwood Pianos

This part is not clear. If the insurance company paid out the claim then I am struggling to understand how this has cost you any money besides the usual insurance premiums for coverage.

Also if the insurance company has paid the bid in full and the work is substandard then you are in the middle of a conflict which should be between the actuary and the repairman.

I am surprised that the actuary chose to fix a seventy five year old instrument rather than write it off.

The repairs you have described amount to a lot of funds; much more than an instrument of that age and type would be worth.


Good question Dan. I'm not out per say as in out of pocket, however, the money issued by the insurance company was to be used to repair or replace the piano. I know that the repairs on this piano probably exceeded the actual value of the piano once repaired and I could have opted to replace it at the time, however, I love the piano, and more importantly my wife loves the piano, and what could I have gotten for $8,770 including tax that approached the musical potential of a freshly rebuilt vintage Knabe piano.

I talked to the insurance company and they don't want anything more to do with the claim at this point. As far as they are concerned, they paid the claim and it's done. This isn't a conflict between the "actuary" and the repairman. They are not going to follow up in any way, or at least I haven't been successful in getting them to do anything so far.

At this point I don't have the $8770 (that was paid out to the rebuilder) or a functional piano, so I am out.
Posted by: Silverwood Pianos

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 10:07 AM


I see how the process went, thanks for the clarification. The actuary paid out the cost of the claim and allowed you to pick the repairman, so yes they have effectually removed themselves after fulfilling their obligation to insure.

Bad luck for sure and I presume this was not your regular maintenance technician.

Along with the new quotation for correction you have now, I would recommend getting two more of the same; preferably technicians who do not know each other well, work together, or are members of the same group the initial technician is.

Independent source assessments for the same issue are what you require to prop up your claim.
Posted by: Emmery

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 12:52 PM

All the previous suggestions are on the money. Get lots of documentation, recordings (if legal in your area) separate assesments from unaffiliated techs (both personal and organizational) as Dan mentions. If litigation is the only recourse bear in mind it is not much really about justice or who is right anymore. As a lawyer had pointed out to me recently, "its about who has the most beleivable story on that particular day with that particular judge".
Posted by: jayr

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 01:05 PM

Pianolance: I am so sorry for your frustration. I had a friend who had her piano in a fire. Her Insurance company paid for her piano, and I purchased it from her. I have now finished that piano and am ready to sell it. It took me 3 years working on it part time as I had other obligations, but I believe it is in good working condition.
My thought is that I would like to take a look at it and see it there is anything I could do to help you get your piano back to its original condition.I make no promises, but I would like to take a look at it.
I live in the Nashville area (Springfield), and cover all of the counties surrounding Robertson Co.
Contact me if you so choose. My phone number is on the website, or you can find me by Google.

Jay's Piano Tuning Service

www.jays-piano-tuning.com
Posted by: miscrms

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 03:41 PM

You may want to investigate what the small claims limit is in your area. If you can file your claim through the small claims court you should be able to make the process a lot easier, and avoid a lot of extra legal expenses etc. You still want to document everything and build as solid a case as possible so its not just a matter of your opinion vs. the techs. Getting two independent estimates and then clearly communicating through registered mail that the work either needs to be completed to your satisfaction (and consistent with the original agreement) or the tech needs to pay for the work to be finished by someone else seems like great advice. Make sure to put a finite time line on it, maybe 30 or 45 days from receipt? Then you have a definite "go" date to file your claim if it has not been resolved and there should be some added sense of urgency on the part of the tech to do something one way or the other.

Best of luck,
Rob
Posted by: Pianolance

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 04:06 PM

UPDATE: I got some good news today. I talked to the president of the PTG for the Nashville area and he was very concerned that one of "their" techs would leave a job incomplete and with shoddy workmanship. He promised me that he would do what it takes to make the job right even if he had to make it a project piano for Guild meetings, or if he had to do the work himself. He was very positive that he could get the job completed with no additional cost from me. I really liked his "can do" attitude and have renewed hope that it will get done without pursuing a legal route, which I definitely did NOT want to do, but would have as a last resort. He asked me to give him about a week so he could make some phone calls, including to the original tech, and see what arrangements could be made, at which time he will call me back and let me know what he has come up with.

Thank you Beethoven986 for that suggestion. It just might do the trick. Also a big thanks to jayr for offering to come look at it and give me a hand. I'd love to meet you sometime for a cup of coffee. My faith is being restored in the piano technical trade.
Posted by: Brooke2949

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 04:13 PM

Totally understand your frustration! Even tuning can be a problem but... well, Good Luck.
Brooke
Posted by: miscrms

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 02/28/13 08:26 PM

Sounds like great news, good luck!
Rob
Posted by: Jbyron

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 03/01/13 10:02 AM

I know this is after-the-fact but references are always a good idea. Visit the shop first and talk to some clients to see it they are satisfied with the work. Check out some of the finished pianos. You want a rebuilder for this kind of work not a parts changer.
Posted by: Ed McMorrow, RPT

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 03/01/13 11:28 AM

Pianolance;
Many years ago when I was a young RPT-our chapter had a member who did some things like your tech did to you. Several of our chapter monthly programs were "Fix the piano ______ messed up".

It is wonderful the Nashville PTG chapter is considering rectifying your problem. What you need to be aware of is once they or anyone else works on your piano the liability for the problem technicians work-is clouded from there on.

I wish you good luck. It is never a good idea to fully pay in advance for work unless you know and have seen similar work and payment conditions honored in the past by the Tech in question. I know this is a catch22 and my own policy is to require advance full payment for pianos when the finished market value is lower or equal to the value of the work.
Posted by: Pianolance

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 03/01/13 12:34 PM

Live and learn I guess, but I will never pay in full until the job is done. As far as references, it's always a good idea, but I had so much going on in the house at that time I was glad to just get it out of the house and check that off of my 1,000,000 item to do list. Little did I realize just how important checking references is. So, next time I have a fire and the piano suffers smoke damage, I will go about it a different way tiki Thanks to all who are being supportive, I really appreciate it.
Posted by: Ed Foote

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 03/01/13 12:54 PM

[quote=Ed McMorrow, RPT]Pianolance;
It is wonderful the Nashville PTG chapter is considering rectifying your problem. What you need to be aware of is once they or anyone else works on your piano the liability for the problem technicians work-is clouded from there on.
/quote]

Umm, I don't know that the Nashville chapter of the PTG is going to try to rectify anything, here. If this is to be a legal issue, that has to be resolved before I, personally, or any of the other techs here that I can think of, would be interested in even touching the piano. If an instrument is as botched up as this one has been described, it would be folly, imho, to allow the responsibility to be spread out over a number of techs. The owner needs to have one person take responsibility, somewhere, somehow. Might need a lawyer for that, though.
Regards
Posted by: plns

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 03/01/13 03:21 PM

The small claims limit in Tennessee is $15,000 or more depending on where you live and some other factors.

I would sue the guy for the full amount you paid him and let him explain to the judge why it should be less.
Who knows what other nuggets other techs will come across that this guy did or didn't do. Then after you win
the case let the PTG head work on it.

Another problem with insurance money and this holds true in the contractor world too, is it is looked at by both parties
as free money which is incorrect. I even heard comments to that effect in this thread. It is a cash asset owned by the policy holder to make right that which the policy covered. It's not free money.
Posted by: Roger Ransom

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 03/01/13 08:03 PM

Maybe you should call a DIYer.

Sorry, the devil made me say that.
Posted by: Nash. Piano Rescue

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 03/01/13 09:42 PM

There seems to be lots of talk on here about small claims court but no one mentioned the BBB. Nothing works faster and in your favor as the consumer as a cost free complaint to them. The repairman will be on the ball in a heartbeat to either compensate you or pay to have that work done by someone else to your satisfaction.

It will not matter if the person is accredited or not because once the complaint is filed there will be a business profile created and that will immediately be put on Google.

J Christie
Nashville Piano Rescue
www.NashvillePianoRescue.com
since 1918
Nashville,Murfreesboro
TN
Posted by: Olek

Re: I'm beyond frustrated with my technician - 03/02/13 02:51 PM

That BBB thing looks appealing but I did not find any "accredited" piano technician in California (just testing)

The law is different anywhere but here you can be pursued for "badmouthing " (on a public forum) even if what you state is true It all depends of the way you state things, in the end, but the "truth" is only causing the pursuit to fail in 1% of the cases.

The law it refer is about press laws , dating 1881 (!) .

Excellent if the professional organisation is trying to arrange things.

I'd say that if the original tech lacked experience or organisation , his job can be repaired, or done better without changing everything from scratch (sometime, not always, unfortunately)

The "resale value" of an old piano is always difficult to proove to insurance companies, but they have no special knowledge in pianos, and can understand that the reslae value does not allow you to obtain a good quality instrument of the same size.

This argument I have used sometime, and it allowed for repairs (after a fire or water damage) while they would have preferred to give some money (not enough to buy a good piano)

Sorry for the slightly OT