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#1996603 - 12/08/12 09:22 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: master88er]
piano joy Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/28/11
Posts: 807
Loc: Florida
Originally Posted By: master88er
Disclosure:
I KNOW I am going to regret this post frown

The subject of this thread is probably the most oft repeated (read regurgitated) criticism of my shop that I hear/see. It is usually followed by much more vitriolic language than the OP posts here , but generally the complaints center around a perception that I didn't somehow live up to the expectations of the individual who graced my shop with their presence.

I have been in piano retail for over 40 years ( I know, I don't look that old - fat is a great preservative). I take great pride in the pianos on my floor, whether they are new or used and I personally service the majority of the instruments on our floor. I also personally select most of the pianos we have, not just order them over the phone, so I have a personal connection with most of these pianos. My shop does not keep lids or fallboards open on any pianos.

When a merchant opens a shop, it is often for various sub-reasons but always the hard-edge bottom line is to make a profit. For a piano dealer, the only way to make money is to sell pianos. Naturally, each one of us is entitled to have a different idea on how best to do that.

For me, besides the profit, my reward comes in working with a young person in finding a piano that inspires them to start studying or keep up their studies, or in finding that piano for a retiree that they have dreamed of having their entire life. To do that, it takes very personal time with the individual or family, experimenting with various brands and approaches to touch and tone.

Periodically, when working with a client, another will grace my store with their presence. It is my custom to offer coffee or tea to the second customer or suggest they return in 30 to 45 minutes, explaining that we work with one client at a time. Without going into detail, or repeating the names I have been called (for fear of being banned) this does irk a number of self-important individual who feel they should be entitled to walk into my shop and treat it in any fashion they wish, doing as they please. I disagree, and since I have put my money on the line by paying the rent and spending hundreds of thousands on inventory, in my realm I call the shots.

When a customer makes an appointment with me, my policy is to turn away walk-in clients while that customer is in the shop. The reality is that if someone takes the time to make an appointment to try pianos, they are serious and feel that they need quiet time with the instruments. They deserve to have that appointment and request honored. Again, many disagree vehemently with my approach. But it has sustained me for 40 years and while, admittedly, some are offended when I ask them to return later or another day, or insist on them controlling their children and letting staff open instruments, many customers appreciate the care we take with our pianos and the condition each and every instrument is in on our floor.

We have a recital hall as well, that seats 100. I love providing it to the community as a resource and love watching kids get dressed up in holiday regalia to play Fur Elise and eat sugar cookies. However, I only schedule recitals after store hours to avoid conflicts with shoppers. Once again, we have had people come in, even with the closed sign up, wanting to see pianos and are offended when we say we are closed for a private event and ask them to leave.

To me, I don't care if a client is spending $1,000 on a used Yamaha or $100,000 on a new Sauter - they are entitled to my undivided attention and undisturbed listening time to select an instrument. Personally, I love those little girls that have been taking lessons for 2 years that the OP refers to. They are open minded, not brand name prejudiced, and actually use their ears to judge pianos with. I KNOW, weird concept! grin

I have to admit that the OP's mentioning of the whopping $20k that he/she has to spend got under my skin. shocked It infers that this budget entitles him/her to some sort of extraordinary treatment on the part of the dealer in preference to the young girl looking at used uprights. Well KC, in fact, Valentina Lisitsa has played several times in my store and I can tell you for a fact that she would be appalled if my attention drifted from a young consumer on a console to wait on the guy who just pulled up in the Mercedes looking for the Steingraeber she just played on. After all, at one point, she WAS that little girl! whistle


This approach seems entirely reasonable to me.
It's true that *most* inexperienced piano shoppers would not realize it best to make an appt. AND it's equally true that "fat is nature's botox".
grin
_________________________
I don't care too much for money. For money can't buy me love.
-the Beatles




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#1996604 - 12/08/12 09:26 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: master88er]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19335
Loc: New York City
Originally Posted By: master88er
Disclosure:
I KNOW I am going to regret this post frown

The subject of this thread is probably the most oft repeated (read regurgitated) criticism of my shop that I hear/see. It is usually followed by much more vitriolic language than the OP posts here , but generally the complaints center around a perception that I didn't somehow live up to the expectations of the individual who graced my shop with their presence.

I have been in piano retail for over 40 years ( I know, I don't look that old - fat is a great preservative). I take great pride in the pianos on my floor, whether they are new or used and I personally service the majority of the instruments on our floor. I also personally select most of the pianos we have, not just order them over the phone, so I have a personal connection with most of these pianos. My shop does not keep lids or fallboards open on any pianos.

When a merchant opens a shop, it is often for various sub-reasons but always the hard-edge bottom line is to make a profit. For a piano dealer, the only way to make money is to sell pianos. Naturally, each one of us is entitled to have a different idea on how best to do that.

For me, besides the profit, my reward comes in working with a young person in finding a piano that inspires them to start studying or keep up their studies, or in finding that piano for a retiree that they have dreamed of having their entire life. To do that, it takes very personal time with the individual or family, experimenting with various brands and approaches to touch and tone.

Periodically, when working with a client, another will grace my store with their presence. It is my custom to offer coffee or tea to the second customer or suggest they return in 30 to 45 minutes, explaining that we work with one client at a time. Without going into detail, or repeating the names I have been called (for fear of being banned) this does irk a number of self-important individual who feel they should be entitled to walk into my shop and treat it in any fashion they wish, doing as they please. I disagree, and since I have put my money on the line by paying the rent and spending hundreds of thousands on inventory, in my realm I call the shots.

When a customer makes an appointment with me, my policy is to turn away walk-in clients while that customer is in the shop. The reality is that if someone takes the time to make an appointment to try pianos, they are serious and feel that they need quiet time with the instruments. They deserve to have that appointment and request honored. Again, many disagree vehemently with my approach. But it has sustained me for 40 years and while, admittedly, some are offended when I ask them to return later or another day, or insist on them controlling their children and letting staff open instruments, many customers appreciate the care we take with our pianos and the condition each and every instrument is in on our floor.

We have a recital hall as well, that seats 100. I love providing it to the community as a resource and love watching kids get dressed up in holiday regalia to play Fur Elise and eat sugar cookies. However, I only schedule recitals after store hours to avoid conflicts with shoppers. Once again, we have had people come in, even with the closed sign up, wanting to see pianos and are offended when we say we are closed for a private event and ask them to leave.

To me, I don't care if a client is spending $1,000 on a used Yamaha or $100,000 on a new Sauter - they are entitled to my undivided attention and undisturbed listening time to select an instrument. Personally, I love those little girls that have been taking lessons for 2 years that the OP refers to. They are open minded, not brand name prejudiced, and actually use their ears to judge pianos with. I KNOW, weird concept! grin

I have to admit that the OP's mentioning of the whopping $20k that he/she has to spend got under my skin. shocked It infers that this budget entitles him/her to some sort of extraordinary treatment on the part of the dealer in preference to the young girl looking at used uprights. Well KC, in fact, Valentina Lisitsa has played several times in my store and I can tell you for a fact that she would be appalled if my attention drifted from a young consumer on a console to wait on the guy who just pulled up in the Mercedes looking for the Steingraeber she just played on. After all, at one point, she WAS that little girl! whistle
I don't see anything wrong with your approach.

How long do you allow for those with appointments? If I came to your shop I wouldn't mind waiting around 30-45 minutes during which time I'd probably just look at the pianos which I find very enjoyable or look at some piano brochures. But if you allow more time than that for those with appointments, I'd hope you say something about this on your website so I knew your policy ahead of time.

I'd agree with you that it's impossible(or at least for me it is) to listen to a piano while someone else is playing especially if one is even close to buying that piano. I could never understand how people can start playing a piano in the same room when someone else is already playing. Maybe just playing a few notes softly at most. When I go to a piano store I more or less understand that I may have to wait although even in NYC I haven't had to do this very often. I'm often the only person in the store although I tend to go on late Sunday mornings which may be a relatively quiet time for most stores.

As far as I know the stores on Piano Row only hold concerts or other events after normal business hours(which seems to be the way you this also)and this seems the most reasonable thing to do. Otherwise, unless posted on the dealer's website that the store is closed for business I think a customer might feel they made the trip for no reason.

I certainly value input from a honest dealers or salespeople and often ask a million questions but I am also the type who also just likes to try out pianos by myself. How do you feel about that kind of customer?


Edited by pianoloverus (12/08/12 09:50 PM)

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#1996614 - 12/08/12 10:03 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: KillerCharlie]
Norbert Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/03/01
Posts: 14138
Loc: Surrey, B.C.
What master88 has pointed out has to do with simple courtesy and tact expected from the buying public. No more - no less.
Unfortunately, such is not often afforded these days to those who are sincere in doing a good job for their customers.
To explain what should never "need" explaining, is where it's often at today. It can be highly uncomfortable to sort things out - for all parties. We happen to have a Karate school besides the store which has occasionally required all possible human [and'unhuman'..] diplomacy to keep the wolves out. People such as waiting parents wandering around amusing themselves. Of course without as much as saying Hi or introducing themselves. And then there are always the washrooms or store parking lots. Piano stores after all, offer more than just pianos....
Luckily some folks haven't discovered yet how to accept free coffee when waiting - and then simply walk out...
Free coffe anybody by the way?
Norbert ha


Edited by Norbert (12/09/12 04:12 AM)
_________________________
www.heritagepianos.com
Greater Vancouver B.C. piano dealers for : C.Sauter, Estonia, Brodmann, Ritmuller
604-951-8642

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#1996638 - 12/08/12 11:10 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: KillerCharlie]
Chopinlover49 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/11
Posts: 639
Loc: NY and NC
I believe Master88er has a very positive approach. I would not be offended if I just wandered in and was told politely that someone had made an appointment and could I please come back later. Seems reasonable.
_________________________
2004 Mason-Hamlin polished ebony BB.
Trying harder and harder to improve my meager skills.

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#1996678 - 12/09/12 12:18 AM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: KillerCharlie]
Plowboy Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/26/08
Posts: 2307
Loc: SoCal
Quote:
When a customer makes an appointment with me, my policy is to turn away walk-in clients while that customer is in the shop.


Wow.

I've always been made to feel welcome at every store I've entered. What would be the incentive to return to one that had told me to get lost, even when asked as nicely as master88er must do?

One place, where I rented a studio once a week for practice, the manager insisted I try pianos, even the Seilers and Bechsteins that he knew I could not afford. He wouldn't let me leave. The shop was full of Yamahas, Kawais, W Hoffmanns, Bechsteins and Seilers. It was a playground I tell ya.

I purchased my first piano from him. Got a good deal, too.

master88er knows what works best for him, so more power to him and his method.
_________________________
Gary

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#1996683 - 12/09/12 12:32 AM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: Chopinlover49]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5261
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Chopinlover49
I believe Master88er has a very positive approach. I would not be offended if I just wandered in and was told politely that someone had made an appointment and could I please come back later. Seems reasonable.
Yup, I will agree that this seems reasonable. Same with lessons or composing or anything: You can't satisfy two (or more) customers at the same time...
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1996972 - 12/09/12 03:10 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: Plowboy]
tonedefreegan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/05/12
Posts: 45
Originally Posted By: Plowboy
Quote:
When a customer makes an appointment with me, my policy is to turn away walk-in clients while that customer is in the shop.


Wow.

I've always been made to feel welcome at every store I've entered. What would be the incentive to return to one that had told me to get lost, even when asked as nicely as master88er must do?



seconded, but double wow. I'd be royally p'ssd off if I'd made the effort to drive to store during opening hours - advertised without the crucial information "by appointment only", then told to take a hike. there is no way I'd ever go back.

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#1996979 - 12/09/12 03:31 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: KillerCharlie]
Jeff Clef Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/05/08
Posts: 4414
Loc: San Jose, CA
"...Periodically, when working with a client, another will grace my store with their presence. It is my custom to offer coffee or tea to the second customer or suggest they return in 30 to 45 minutes, explaining that we work with one client at a time... this does irk a number of self-important individual who feel they should be entitled to walk into my shop and treat it in any fashion they wish, doing as they please. I disagree... When a customer makes an appointment with me, my policy is to turn away walk-in clients while that customer is in the shop..."

I have only been to Russell's premises once, at an event, not as a shopper. I was snapped at on the way in the door, but not turned away; perhaps he is not as smooth as he believes. Still, I think he is realistic and reasonable in knowing how much he can handle properly. The best of us can only juggle so many balls in the air.

If a person shopping for such an important purchase cannot hold his horses for a few minutes so that he can be served with the attention the occasion deserves, I have to wonder about the outcome for him.

The vexation a busy shopper might have, after slugging it out with the Berkeley traffic (it is dreadful on a good day), only to be dismissed at the door--- perhaps brusquely--- is also understandable. I would not like to meet this person on the freeway, as he drives to a competitor's shop.
_________________________
Clef


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#1996980 - 12/09/12 03:39 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: Plowboy]
adamp88 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/24/09
Posts: 142
Loc: Omaha, NE
Originally Posted By: Plowboy
Quote:
When a customer makes an appointment with me, my policy is to turn away walk-in clients while that customer is in the shop.


Wow.

I've always been made to feel welcome at every store I've entered. What would be the incentive to return to one that had told me to get lost, even when asked as nicely as master88er must do?


I was once a walk-in to Mr. Kassman's store, and faced that exact circumstance - another customer had made an appointment when I'd decided to drop by on a whim, so Mr. Kassman politely explained the situation and asked me if I would be willing to come back in a half hour. I'll admit that I was not expecting that response when I walked in, but didn't find it particularly off-putting, just a little unusual.

I'll try not to turn this into a sales ad for Mr. Kassman, but I will say that when I did come back after a half hour, Mr. Kassman provided excellent, flexible and attentive service and made me feel quite welcome (full disclosure - I did end up buying a piano there). I can certainly understand others being a little taken aback being asked to come back later just after entering a store, and that may well lose some customers, but, while it is perhaps an atypical request, I don't find it to be unreasonably so considering the focus it allows him to give each customer.
_________________________
Adam Schulte-Bukowinski
Piano Technician
Associate Member, PTG

ASB Piano Service
Omaha, NE

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#1996985 - 12/09/12 03:48 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: Jeff Clef]
Nikolas Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5261
Loc: Europe
Originally Posted By: Jeff Clef
I have only been to Russell's premises once, at an event, not as a shopper. I was snapped at on the way in the door, but not turned away; perhaps he is not as smooth as he believes. Still, I think he is realistic and reasonable in knowing how much he can handle properly. The best of us can only juggle so many balls in the air.

If a person shopping for such an important purchase cannot hold his horses for a few minutes so that he can be served with the attention the occasion deserves, I have to wonder about the outcome for him.
Yes, but the thing is that as it appears the OP was trying to play the piano, rather than get the full attention of the salesperson, or at least this is the impression I got. He wasn't bothering the salesman with questions and the such, just trying to play the instrument.
_________________________
http://www.musica-ferrum.com

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#1996993 - 12/09/12 04:12 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: KillerCharlie]
pianoloverus Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 19335
Loc: New York City
I'm assuming that Russell gives the option to come back in a half hour or to wait in the store (but not trying out pianos until it is their turn). If I wasn't given the option of waiting in the store, I wouldn't be so happy. What if I had no particular place to go?

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#1996996 - 12/09/12 04:24 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: pianoloverus]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3574
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I'm assuming that Russell gives the option to come back in a half hour or to wait in the store (but not trying out pianos until it is their turn). If I wasn't given the option of waiting in the store, I wouldn't be so happy. What if I had no particular place to go?


Yes, being asked to physically leave the store would be quite strange and unacceptable to me. I'd be happy to stroll around quietly and look at things and read through brochures. I don't think there's an expectation of privacy for the other "appointed" customer. We aren't talking about missile launch codes.

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#1996997 - 12/09/12 04:25 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: pianoloverus]
master88er Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/15/07
Posts: 859
Loc: San Francisco Bay Area
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
I'm assuming that Russell gives the option to come back in a half hour or to wait in the store (but not trying out pianos until it is their turn). If I wasn't given the option of waiting in the store, I wouldn't be so happy. What if I had no particular place to go?


Originally Posted By: master88er


Periodically, when working with a client, another will grace my store with their presence. It is my custom to offer coffee or tea to the second customer or suggest they return in 30 to 45 minutes, explaining that we work with one client at a time.


and yes, customers who make appointments often do have an expectation of privacy and we honor that by asking walk-ins to make themselves comfortable in our waiting area. Most people do not like others lurking over them as they play.


Edited by master88er (12/09/12 04:28 PM)
_________________________
Russell I. Kassman
R.KASSMAN, Purveyor of Fine Pianos
Berkeley, CA

FORMER US Rep.for C.Bechstein

SF Area Dealer: Steingraeber•Grotrian•Sauter•Estonia•Kayserburg•Baldwin•Brodmann•Ritmüller
www.rkassman.com
russell@rkassman.com
510.558.0765

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#1997023 - 12/09/12 05:35 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: KillerCharlie]
tonedefreegan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/05/12
Posts: 45
The coffee and a relaxing wander around store (but not playing) would work for me. being asked to leave would not. in the current climate there are 10 piano stores who welcome all comers for every one who doesnt. for good or ill, that's the harsh fact. and far from it being a case off flippancy in the face of such an important purchase, if I've made the decision to spend $20,000 then I will be far more demanding in my expectations of good customer service. The perversity of human nature means that we care far less if asked to leave a store in which we'd only planned to spend $20. Factoring in the perversity of human nature is wise, if selling is your game smile

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#1997042 - 12/09/12 06:24 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: master88er]
ando Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/10
Posts: 3574
Loc: Melbourne, Australia
Originally Posted By: master88er


and yes, customers who make appointments often do have an expectation of privacy and we honor that by asking walk-ins to make themselves comfortable in our waiting area. Most people do not like others lurking over them as they play.


Well, I would most respectfully suggest that they need to get over themselves. And people don't "lurk over them as they play". Browsing in the background is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. It's what happens in almost any shopping situation when there are multiple customers and limited salespeople.

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#1997059 - 12/09/12 07:15 PM Re: Are piano stores trying to go out of business? [Re: KillerCharlie]
RickG1 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/09/10
Posts: 303
Loc: TX
I guess I have been lucky in the stores that we have dropped in. Rich, Alex and others were not busy and let us play as much as possible. Of course, we were not buying and would have gladly strolled around in silence if there was a serious customer.
_________________________
Mason-Hamlin "A"
Steinway "B"
Baldwin console

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