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#234007 03/21/08 10:38 AM
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Originally posted by PhysicsTeacher:
Interesting discussion! Focused mostly on the letter of the law and totally ignoring the practicality of follow through. Let's see, a $10K piano at most with a 20% restocking fee...that amounts to about $2K in my. The cost of taking this issue to court - across state lines - in hopes of getting a judgment and then trying to collect it...unimaginable.

What I find fascinating is that in 7 pages of postings the facts were never really given until the last couple of posts. He can't get the piano. That says a lot. He doesn't have this particular piano in stock (don't know what make and model it is to make it so rare) so he can't deliver it. It seems to me this could have been handled very easily, "Mr. Customer, I can't get the piano you want for a long time. It may be 62 years before I can get it. Do you still want it or do you want to apply your payment towards another piano?"
Good point. Having rights and being right is something completely different than being able to afford justice and get relief. There are whole classes of businesses that rely on consumers not being able to do anything about being taken. That is why reputation is so important and why BBB and internet forums can be sources of information on reputation (and provide leverage with problems). Prevention is still the best medicine.

As to your surprise about PSS not being able to get pianos they advertise, that is not so strange given that they are simply not authorized dealers for many of the brands that they scroll down the screen during their tip-off, folksy, 'trust me, our sullied reputation is just jealousy from traditional retailers' video on the site.

#234008 03/21/08 10:41 AM
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Maybe I am mis-reading the thread, but I thoght Terry was going to refund Enzo in full.

I agree with all who say Terry is NOT required to do so, but is doing so because it is the right thing to do.

Often I have been in situations where it is best NOT to excercize my rights, but to do the right thing.

It seems to me,l that is the kind of decision TW has made here.

Even my hat is off to him on this one.


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Jasons Music
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Family Owned and Operated Since 1937.

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My postings, unless stated otherwise, are my personal opinions, not those of my clients.
#234009 03/21/08 10:57 AM
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Steve,
Yup, you got it right. Terry made a business decision and did what he considered to be the right thing not the legal thing. Enzo is free to purchase another piano - elsewhere and Terry saves or enhances his reutation. And while it is unlikely that many above still speculating will purchase a piano from Terry - I would.


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#234010 03/21/08 11:01 AM
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Agreed.

Oh, and as to the point about internet business as opposed to local? Internet businesses now have an excellent customer service record. My contention is that is because they still have to compete with local B&M stores.

So what happens when, as you state, there are much fewer B&M stores? How do you think service will fare then? You'll be seeing a lot more 'restocking' fees and the like.

Where will the incubators for new retail businesses be?


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#234011 03/21/08 11:17 AM
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Originally posted by mikhailoh:
Agreed.

Oh, and as to the point about internet business as opposed to local? Internet businesses now have an excellent customer service record. My contention is that is because they still have to compete with local B&M stores.

So what happens when, as you state, there are much fewer B&M stores? How do you think service will fare then? You'll be seeing a lot more 'restocking' fees and the like.

Where will the incubators for new retail businesses be?
Interesting thought. It's hard to say for sure what the reason is for the good customer service with online businesses. I tend to think the real reason is competition from other online businesses.

For example, the online book retailers (and CD retailers) have excellent customer service. But there's hardly a real B&M bookstore left. Twenty-five years ago, there were tons of them all over NYC. Now, you can count them all on one hand (a couple of them are clients of mine, and I love them dearly, but reality is reality...and they know it, too).

You could look at other industries, too. Most of the big players in the large-store online markets are also operators of large-store B&M shops, so it becomes a bit blurry. But I think competition is easier in online businesses, and competition is what causes people to work harder, price more aggressively, and improve customer service. Seems pretty clear to me.....

Incubators? There's tons of them. And I bet half the VC funds released last year went into Internet businesses, probably more than half.

#234012 03/21/08 11:22 AM
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Originally posted by Monica K.:
This makes a lot of sense, but I would offer the amendment that the customer should ALSO be given the choice of getting his/her money back. Otherwise what's to keep Terry or any other internet dealer from engaging in a lucrative bait and switch scheme? (e.g., selling Steinway Ms for $20K; then saying after 6 months that he can't deliver that piano but would be glad to ship the customer an Ellenburg instead).
Good catch! I didn't think about bait and switch tactics. This also points out that having a relationship with a dealer, especially on big ticket items although the relationship doesn't always equate to a good deal. I concede that this is difficult to do via long distance business transactions. Each of use has to decide how much we are willing to pay - an additional 40%, 50%, 100% - for this relationship. To some it is very important. To others it is not. I do almost all of my transactions over the internet. Why? Because I literally hate salesmen. They are good enough people, but they inherently have a conflict of interest - feeding family vs protecting the customer. I trust my ability to research big ticket items and I trust my ability to make decisions on my own.

Internet sales make the merits of the product stand on their own. The prices are posted so one can compare immediately. Since there are no high pressure sales people involved, sellers are forced to put their best price forward. But I am hijacking the thread here.

It also points out just how difficult it is to create a contract that covers every basis. It points out that consumers must do their homework up front and look out for themselves i.e. "Yeah Joe, I am looking for the new Supertunes titanium piano with the Electroperfect digital player installed. Ya got one?...No! Well can ya get one?...Yeah, great how long am I looking at?...What! 6-8 months! What? They're made by hand in the New Guinea jungle. Hmmmm, well I really want one so I guess I can wait 6-8 months. But suppose it doesn't get here in 6-8 months, then what? That's the way the ball bounces? Maybe 62 years? Well Joe, I don't think I can live with 62 years, but I am willing to live with 6-8 months. Well Joe, that isn't right. You need to have some skin in this game also. So I'll tell you what I am willing to do. I will give you 7 months to deliver, you do think you can deliver in 7 months right? Yeah, you said it has never taken over 7 months before so 7 months should be good right?... Sure in most cases.... Good! Well I'll give you 7 months to deliver to my door. And if you can't deliver in 7 months, then will you agree to upgrade me, for the same price, to the StratoAccoustic 747 that you said you have in your warehouse?...Yes, I know the StratoAccoustic costs megabucks more, but if you are sure you can deliver in 7 months then no big deal right? Yes-Great! Email me a contract with all of these details in it and I will send it back to you with a check for 50%. You need it all? Sorry! I just can't do that Joe, that would put me at a big disadvantage in this transaction. I got screwed once on a home improvement project in which the contractor demanded 100% up front. I am not willing to put myself in that kind of jeopardy again.... Come-on Joe, I'm giving you $5K of my money with nothing to show for it, we need to split the risk here....Yes I know that's your policy and I am not going to go tell anyone otherwise.... I am just saying that if you want to sell me that piano, you are going to have to accept 50% down. And you do want to sell me that piano, don't you? [silence, the next person who speaks loses]... I understand, Joe, but you need to understand that minimizing risk is important to me. I am willing to go to my local dealer and spend 50% more just because I can't live with the risk you are suggesting. You don't want that to happen do you? [Silence] You will do it, great! As long as I don't tell anybody else, especially on PW? Ok, I can live with that. I look forward to receiving your contract."

You get the idea. It is all about negotiating and looking out for yourself. We sometimes get so excited at buying a house, car, boat, airplane, piano, [insert your big ticket item here], that we fail to look out for ourselves. This puts us at a big disadvantage with salespeople. We put our best interest in the hands of others ad we expect a No-Fault contract that protects us from everything. Big mistake! If you don't believe it just ask the variable rate mortgage homeowners.

I am not blaming Terry or anyone here. I am just saying we need to look out for numero uno. Each business owner has the freedom to set business policies as they see fit. This doesn't make them bad people or the enemy, it makes them business owners. As consumers, we have the right to reject their policies and refuse to do business with them. This doesn't make us cheap or unreasonable, it makes us savvy consumers.

I hope this issue gets resolved quickly because I happen to think Terry has got a great business model and is filling a need in this industry. If he will plug up a few holes in his policies to make them a little more consumer friendly, then he should be good to go. It sound like he is doing well and I wish him all the best. I will be calling him when I decide to buy that StratoAccoustic 747 I've been eying.


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#234013 03/21/08 11:34 AM
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This is all very interesting dialogue indeed. Let's also consider a few other facts. Terry has acknowledged in this thread that his business is in decline year over year. Other manufacturers haven't seen the merits in an internet business model yet. No one has established that many pianos are sold on the internet. Finally no one has shown an anology to pianos that sells over the internet.

So the internet may be well be the future of pianos but it still a future possibility versus a present reality.

#234014 03/21/08 11:40 AM
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I think before long when consumers can get the touchy feely aspect out of there mind B&M stores will still exist..its one thing to buy CDs and books online..its tough to decide a sofa..sure you can measure..look at pictures..most people still want to see it in person..first! just my 2 cents smile

#234015 03/21/08 11:43 AM
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Pretty much everybody's business has been in decline during the same period. It is a predominant theme of this board that the piano industry itself is (and has been for years) in serious decline. I think this is a function of reduced demand, and flows from major changes in our culture (as is often discussed here).

In such a circumstance, a more centralized retail source, serving a much broader market, with a low-overhead model and slim margins, sourcing products from overseas manufacturers, is probably the *only* viable option, and likely the way of the future. One just has to "get it right", whatever that will turn out to mean. Clearly, there are some excellent success stories in other industries that can provide some guidance.

#234016 03/21/08 11:43 AM
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I might add that there are a number of (sometimes hidden) costs as well: Contributing to the long-term decline & cultural impoverishment of your own neighborhood/community when not supporting your local community and economy by buying from a local dealer.
laugh laugh laugh Can you pronounce hypocrisy?

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I think we are going to see increasing home bias on the part of consumers in the near future, particularly in food. It is my hope that this carries over into pianos and other things.
I'm with you, Mik. Each time I read of another food atrocity, I turn over more dirt to plant more. But there are limits on what is possible....papayas from Sandusky, mangos from Zanesville, bananas from Akron, pianos from Youngstown?

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Going through 6 pages we've learned a lot about the "cost" of saving money when buying a piano on the internet......:
Couldn't bite your tongue any longer father? laugh This is an objective list of points....but....at the risk of of sounding like a broken record, what we have learned has to do with potential pitfalls of buying a piano sight unseen from PSS. The Internet provides many different types of piano-buying opportunities, many of which do not preclude inspection of the piano. Also, I think it needs to be said that Enzo's experience is probably not the norm.

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Much can be learned by this situation..in the fact that Piano World is a force to be recognized in the realm of pianos ..better than the BBB..
That may or may not be true. But do you really think any of the hard-core vigilante posse who have reprised their roles here would buy even a 99-cent keycover with free shipping from TW? This is more about breaking wind than breaking a business.

PSS attracts customers on the basis of price. There are no pianos to play, no player-mechanisms to check out for functionality, no cabinetry and cases to inspect. If potential customers decide they can score big savings the PSS way, their zeal to accomplish that mission will outweigh their attention to fine print and other details. Reading comprehension is hardly on the upswing in the US anyway; there are ample examples of this day after day here when members post with total disregard for information already contained in the same thread or advise other members where and how to shop after those members have just announced their piano purchases.

Does Terry appeal to a certain kind of customer? I think so. Does he target or prey on that type of customer? I don't think so, at least no more than advertisers on late night TV, short-term unaccredited career-training schools, the injury-disability legal firms, the Ronco and Time-Life Publications type companies that specialize in fine-print hidden shipping charges.

Does Terry appeal only to that type of customer? I don't think so. Some of his buyers are experienced shoppers who have seen the dark side of piano retail...who have had first-hand experience with the least savory selling practices of brick and mortar dealers. Some very logical, thoughtful and educated consumers understand the trade-off and are willing to accept it. Some of them are members here.

Overnight I received a very long PM from a knowledgeable member here who wanted to fill me in on such things as the connection between Wilcomm and PSS. This member is not part of the posse and while his intentions were good, there was nothing in the PM that I did not already know. The most serious charge was that GIC had sued Terry. Well, GIC has sued Petrof too. Would you buy a Petrof?

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think the best thing we all can do at this point is to wait for word from Terry and Bruno that things have been resolved satisfactorily (or not).
Ken, I had made the comment earlier that this thread was the Charlie Chaplin fight scene in City Lights without the referee. Now you've filled that void! laugh thumb


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#234017 03/21/08 02:28 PM
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I'd say the PSS-internet model has certainly a future.

Think of Amazon and how many people said some years ago that it would never fly; and when they started selling items other than bokks and dvds (say, home appliances) they said it would never work etc.

In my eyes, it works if one is transparent, honest and client-oriented enough to *win the natural distrust of the customer for a remote purchase*.

Before the Internet there were (and still are) the big catalogue seller, say Land's End & Co. The issues are the same, internet is just another medium (more practical, I'd say) of ordering.
They work when they get the trust of the client that if something goes wrong they will get things put right without much stress and many questions, Mark J. makes an impressive case of his experience, which is also mine.

But amazon gives you your money back and no questions asked even if they have already sent the parcel and it has gone lost; they accept even the occasional dishonesty for the sake of the peace of mind of the generality of potential customer.

You cannot do that with pianos, but what you can do is persuade people that you are not going to fail them and win their natural propensity to distrust you; you do that also (and perhaps more importantly) by going the extra mile when required, irrespective of legal aspects. The costs of your excellent service in the short term reward you in the long term, this is what I do as a customer.


"The man that hath no music in himself / Nor is not mov'd with concord of sweet sounds / Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils." (W.Shakespeare)

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#234018 03/21/08 02:47 PM
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Innominato/J. Mark:

One barrier is the play before you pay concept consumers seem to have. This could probably be somewhat overcome at the low end, but then Tier 1 and 2 piano retailers would have more trouble existing on just higher margin but very small volume sales of expensive pianos.

The other is the manufacturer fear of losing a distribution channel without having an alternative. It is either urban myth or fact that families drive by a piano store enough times that they eventually stop in. The closing of stores may help them re-look at this. Big box retailers don't seem to be jumping in w/ the exception of the Costco special events. I suspect big box stores see their real estate as too valuable for big slow movers.

No one has the answer yet. Regional centers is often talked about and is naturally happening as the rural stores close. No one ever mentioned furniture stores eek as a possible alternative.

Incremental change is probably what we will witness with continued downsizing/closing, more college sales and big tent affairs, smart retailers focusing and upgrading their store/mission and some amount of internet traffic.

It will be interesting to see two years from now what the debates are about on PW.

#234019 03/21/08 03:39 PM
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I think, at least in smaller markets, we are already seeing a move to "regional" centers. When I was a youngster, there were half a dozen local piano dealers here. We're talking about a population base at that time of 100,000 or so in the 2 towns that are considered one "metro area." Now, there is only one even though the local population is now around 250,000. Want a Steinway? You have to drive 120 or so miles. Want pretty much anything besides Yamaha, Baldwin, or Nordiska? You have to drive (or fly) 300-350 miles to DFW or Austin.


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#234020 03/21/08 06:15 PM
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Relatively few people want a $30K plus piano. Those who do won't mind flying to New York to find the perfect one (a la Grand Obsession). The fact is that Americans are getting very very, to a fault very, cheap. Our expectations are good quality for a reasonable price. This is exactly why you see the far east pianos and not the big names in the big box stores. You can hate or like the big box stores but they are not stupid and they understand American buying patterns and what will move. This is new grounds for them, but you can assure they are not jumping into it blindly.

I foresee there will always be a demand for top of the line high quality stuff whether it be a piano, a car, or a yacht. But there is not enough demand to have an expensive store front in every city. I can only imagine the number of pianos that must be sold each month just to keep the doors open and the lights on in an even modest sized store.

Voila, the internet solves a lot of those problems. No expensive store front, immediate access to customers world wide, and the ability to offer products at a lower price. We are in the infancy of this model for big ticket items so customers are not quite used to it yet. But just like ATMs I predict consumers will become comfortable with the model and even embrace it. PSS seems to be on the bleeding edge of this and I think it shows some entrepreneurship.

Let's see, compare the number of <$3K DPs being sold through a relatively small number of retailers over the internet vs the number of $30K plus pianos being sold in the multitude of store fronts across the nation and you'll be able to understand the supply and demand problems the store front retailers have.

When they are gone, many consumers will turn to distribution channels like PSS to meet their piano needs.


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#234021 03/21/08 08:43 PM
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Originally posted by mikhailoh:
I think we are going to see increasing home bias on the part of consumers in the near future, particularly in food. It is my hope that this carries over into pianos and other things.

If you don't support local business you won't have any local businesses.
Maybe we should only buy pianos that have minimal miles from point of manufacture as well? Would that be Steinway, M&H, and Charles Walter only? Would Schimmel then open a factory in North Carolina?

What's the carbon footprint on my Vogel??? It better not be my five-year-old trying to walk on it...

Maybe Terry was just waiting for gas prices to drop in order to ship out that piano. wink


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#234022 03/22/08 12:57 AM
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Hello Friends and Fans!

I want to start by thanking everyone who tried to add some balance to the usual conflated conjecture by some of my fans here. I appreciate everyones input. I especially appreciate Mark, Vince, and others who have had actual experience with me and my company adding input as well.

Just to respond to some of the questions about our policies let me give you the reasoning behind them. What I am about to say I have documentation by third parties to back up. Like the BBB case that I referred to earlier, the following can be verified by third parties. So those detractors that are sure to post after this and try to challenge the veracity of this post can be easily be proven wrong by a simple fax, or email if one is inclined to verify.

Cancelation Terms
This was put in place over a year ago because manufacturing reps, dealers, and idustry people would place an order online to track the movement in their distribution line of the model. Once the information these people were digging for were discovered a charge back on the card was issued. One or two times this is no big deal. But multiple times in a concentrated time can leave a mark.

Therefore this policy was put in place for protection against any nefarious activities that our fans might feel compelled to engage in. Naturally they have the benefit now of screaming how unfair this policy is, and why it should be another reason why not to shop with us. However, just like with Enzo, if we have legitimate customers who has purchased and for reasons beyond either their control, or ours we can release them from this obligation. It is not our intention to do anything but offer the best value on the best products in our industry.

Turn around time
Now that we do not run our own trucks anymore, this is an area in which we have no control over. This is a factor that any potential shopper of ours needs to consider. Enzo ellected to stay with his order simply because while it was uncomfortable to have to wait, after shopping with several dealers I am told we are considerably less. In this particular case there were a few factors that added to the delay. It was a larger size piano, it was special wood finish, it had a player system with it. All of these factors contributed to the turn around time of this special order.

100% Satisfaction Guarantee
Last year a dealer in Chicago had a client come in that had been shopping our site. The client couldn't understand why the exact same make and model was 50% higher from the dealer. When the client told the dealer about our price, he naturally went to justfying their price, and slandering us. The client then responded that if they didn't like the piano they could return it for a 100% refund. The dealer then told the client to order the piano from us. When they got the piano if he could come and verify that it was indeed the same make, model, and size he would give them an upgrade to the next model, give them 3 months free lessons, and threw in other incentives as well for the same price we were offering. So the client bought the piano, received the piano, and in 4 day's called to schedule to have the piano picked up for a refund. The only way we found out is the wife who disapproved of this deal that her husband made told our mover.

We decided then that if a customer is wanting a piano, then it stands to reason that a FREE exchange of equal value or more should be acceptable. If a client receives a piano, and for any reason is not happy. We are committed to exchanging the piano for another model until they are happy. Our goal is for the customers satisfaction, while trying to protect ourselves.

Costco offers a more liberal policy in this area. I have said that before here. However this is not Suzuki's choice, as many people are renting pianos for free, but this is the cost of selling pianos through Costco.com for Suzuki. What we offer is better pricing then Costco in the same models, and much wider selection. Costco.com only sells the Suzuki model pianos. We also have piano professionals helping clients when they call in, and not clerks. With all of that being said, Costco's 100% satisfaction guarantee is much more liberal than ours. Unfortunately I don't have their pockets to absorb potential games my fans, or others might want to play.

Overall Goal
When we started this method of selling pianos back in 2001 our goal was to have a method that would offer the best price, on the best pianos, to the largest demographic that we could offer.

Our business has had to evolve with the changes in our industry, changes in our economy, and changes with our clients needs. I believe we offer a very viable alternative for buying a piano. Not everyone is willing to purchase a piano site unseen, or wait for delivery. For those clients we have developed a new service in the last few months as well. This new service cost more, but it does give the client the opportunity to kick the tires and have imediate delivery.

This industry is full of some very wonderful people. I have had the honor of making a lot of great friends in this business. But like any highly competitive industry sometimes the worst in people come out as well. In the last year and a half we have experienced harassment that has been pretty ugly. What used to be just hardball politics and heavy handed power plays, has evolved into personal attacks, threats, and pretty ugly stuff.

I would ask that those here on the forum who are not in the industry, but seem to be drawn to the drama of a public mob chasing after someone to consider the things unknown before joining in. Things offered or said in a Private Message, or in a public post by an anonymous member should give reason for pause. I heard a preacher say once that a rumor makes it half way around the world before the truth's able to get it's boots on.

Have a Blessed Easter Everyone!!

#234023 03/22/08 07:21 AM
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Terry,
Thanks for the closing explanations. It took an additional page of postings or so before every one realized the issue was already over. The bottom line is you did the right thing with Enzo. I thought you dealt with the sharks quite well also. You know, of coarse, they'll be back again as soon as there is blood in the water. Enjoy your Holiday also.


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Terry, I am glad this worked out for you and Enzo, and it seems to me you did the right things.

I did pose one question that has gone unanswered yet.

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Originally posted by mikhailoh:
I have another question - forgive me if it has already been answered.

I see on the PSS website where it says 6-12 weeks to get the piano, and they can't beat local delivery times.

A few lines above it it also touts PSS as having the 'Fastest delivery time in the industry'.

I'm sure there is some explanation for these seemingly contradictory statements, I'm just not sure quite what it could be. Costco states on their website I can order a Suzuki grand online and have it in 4-6 weeks, adding two more weeks for a player system. Their smaller digitals are 7-10 days. So it can't be the online piano industry.
Can you shed some light on the 'Fastest in the industry'?


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#234025 03/22/08 08:40 AM
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Terry, I am glad this worked out for you and Enzo, and it seems to me you did the right things.

I did pose one question that has gone unanswered yet.

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Originally posted by mikhailoh:
I have another question - forgive me if it has already been answered.

I see on the PSS website where it says 6-12 weeks to get the piano, and they can't beat local delivery times.

A few lines above it it also touts PSS as having the 'Fastest delivery time in the industry'.

I'm sure there is some explanation for these seemingly contradictory statements, I'm just not sure quite what it could be. Costco states on their website I can order a Suzuki grand online and have it in 4-6 weeks, adding two more weeks for a player system. Their smaller digitals are 7-10 days. So it can't be the online piano industry.
Can you shed some light on the 'Fastest in the industry'?


Michael

====

He is so solemn, detached and uninvolved he makes Mr. Spock look like Hunter S. Thompson at closing time.'
#234026 03/22/08 08:41 AM
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 4,288
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4000 Post Club Member
Joined: Jul 2004
Posts: 4,288
Dang double posts...


Michael

====

He is so solemn, detached and uninvolved he makes Mr. Spock look like Hunter S. Thompson at closing time.'
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