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Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
#2343529 10/30/14 09:44 PM
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ernani Offline OP
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I have recently bought a Grand Piano, sight-unseen from Jim Laabs Music in Wisconsin. I had a very rewarding experience and currently own a great piano, we all love, despite of all the warnings against this method of buying a piano. In another post I have described why I ended up buying that way, and this one is a service to those who will consider buying from Jim Laabs.
I will start by saying that I have dealt directly with Jim Laabs himself over the phone and in emails, at all stages of the deal. Searching on the web for a grand piano I had an interest in a couple they had on their site (and on Ebay), one of which was a 1997 Petrof III (6'4") - the one I ended up buying.
Jim Laabs is clearly a controversial person, with few people out there that really do not like him. This comes to light even on the pages of this forum as well as other internet sites. In my case, I was not interested in going out to the movies with him, rather in buying a piano. I wanted to get a ggod piano at a good price and Jim Laabs provided the goods. My initial conversation with him left me wandering whether I will ever do business with him. He was short and pushy, but on the same time sounded very professional. I decided to continue. I asked for photos, and an hour later got a file with over 25 photos of every inch of the piano, including action from all possible views. The piano looked superb and it was time for negotiating the price: never an easy task, but Jim was game and we agreed on the price. I have asked for an artist bench to be included and my wish was granted (and while never discussing the details, the piano was delivered with a great looking new artist bench). Delivery was 390$ into the house Wisconsin to Massachusetts (stairs included)and of course, no sales tax. Price was far lower than anything else I have seen and any other such Petrof (or smaller) I have seen in the market (ebay and other online dealers included).

Here comes a twist: Jim charged me only 500$ deposit upfront and claimed I have the right, after the piano is delivered and put in place to check it (even bringing my own technician) and REFUSE it! The piano will be taken away by the movers and the 500$ refunded! I never had a chance to take him on his word, but I suspect it is for real.

The piano comes with 5 years warranty and couple of days after delivery I found out that the dumper on one of the notes gets stuck at times. I emailed Jim who called me and asked for the details of my own technician. He called him and sent him over to repair, paying his fees. Our technician was here today, took minutes to repair and another half hour to play the piano as he enjoyed it so. He checked it at the same time and declared it in superb condition.

Delivery: Jim Laabs uses his own contractors who do only his nationwide deliveries (I had some long chats with them). They were extremely courteous and professional. They were on-time and had to wait a couple of hours for help into the house - it was a complicated task into the house. No complaint whatsoever nor any sign of attitude. When help arrived, his guys ran the operation very smoothly and were sure to clean after them and put all furniture and rugs back to their place. They even succeeded looking genuinely surprised when I tipped them. A real pleasure!

We are extremely happy with the whole process and with our decision and are sure we got a great piano in a great price. Jim Laabs - honors due!

Last edited by ernani; 10/30/14 09:45 PM.
Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2344858 11/03/14 09:43 AM
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That sounds like a great experience. It is always good to hear stories like yours. Congratulations on your new piano!

Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2344881 11/03/14 10:38 AM
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Dear Ernani:

Congratulations on your "new" piano. There is no question in my mind that you've made an excellent choice. I owned that same size Petrof for some 17 yrs. Mine was made in '95. Although I replaced the action, installed new keytops and accidentals and spent several months and several thousands on a painstaking prep and regulation, I paid very little to buy the piano new.

We are planning a move into retirement digs so the piano had to go. It has an excellent new home with a talented young person in the Julliard secondary dept.

Everyone that played the piano adored it. With its unique, dark, mellow and rather sweet tone, wonderful sustain and Stanwood action, it was a truly ideal home piano. I should also mention that it was remarkably stable and held its tuning better than most pianos made state-side.

You have a fine piano, I'm sure.

Karl Watson,
Staten Island, NY

Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2344900 11/03/14 11:34 AM
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Dear Ernani,
Your name sounds very brazilian to me...
Well, I'm writing to reinforce your opinion about Jim.
I have also bought a wonderful piano from him, and he was very helpful in every step of the negotiation, including the delivery in the right time (before we had in mind).
The only difference is that I made a wonderful trip to USA to find my dreampiano, including going to Jim's shop in Wisconsin.
I definetely recommend anyone to play before buying, especially because the instruments sound so different from each other. But most of the dealers I met told me that they sell sight unseen very often. Anyways, I must say that the experience of finding the one that fits your desires the best is indescribable!
Best wishes, and congrats on your new instrument!!


Piano.Brazil
1987 Baldwin SD10, 2013 Mason&Hamlin BB, 2007 Euterpe/Bechstein 160, 1924 Hoepfner Upright
Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2344901 11/03/14 11:34 AM
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Everyone can't have the same buying experience. Some are not willing or able to travel. And local finds really depend on who are your local dealers and what they have to offer at the time you happen to be looking for a piano.

So, long distance, sight unseen buys must happen quite often even if it's not the usual route for someone here on Piano World. I'm happy for you!!! Because, what matters most is that you are happy. And it sure does sound like you are!!!

That right of refusal at the time of delivery with deposit returned is certainly a sign of the seller's confidence in the piano. It must have given you confidence in buying too.


1918 Mason & Hamlin BB
1906 Mason & Hamlin Es
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Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2344905 11/03/14 11:39 AM
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I'm sort of curious as to why Ernani took out the descriptions of the poor experiences in the local shops that drove him/her shop shop mail order. Was there pressure from PW?

Kurt


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Co-owner (by marriage) and part time customer service rep at an electronic musical equipment repair shop.
Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
KurtZ #2344915 11/03/14 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by KurtZ
I'm sort of curious as to why Ernani took out the descriptions of the poor experiences in the local shops that drove him/her shop shop mail order. Was there pressure from PW?

Kurt


Ernani started two threads- it's still there in the other one:
other thread


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Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2346337 11/06/14 01:04 PM
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Thanks so much for your comments.
kurtZ: I guess ajames above answered your question.

We love our piano!

Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2346368 11/06/14 02:14 PM
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Some people get married sight-unseen laugh

Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
Lyra #2346422 11/06/14 04:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Lyra
Some people get married sight-unseen laugh


... and what a surprise when they wake up in the morning!

Cheers!


BruceD
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Estonia 190
Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2374467 01/16/15 07:25 PM
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I contacted Jim Laabs after reading this post I did not know of them before hand, I have to say talking to Jim is fine, dealing with the company is fine,
but, not much better, I wanted to get information on a Used M&H, they were not willing to really talk to me or help me, they suggested another piano, it is fine, but not was I was asking for, I also wanted to get some information on a used Kawai, again, call Jim, Customer Service was not very helpful.

Any other Dealers I should look, at, that people of had good experiences with.

Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2374476 01/16/15 07:39 PM
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Glad you like your new piano. But for buyers who are reasonably fussy about the piano's tone and touch, this approach is something I'd advise against very strongly.

Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
Lyra #2374480 01/16/15 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Lyra
Some people get married sight-unseen laugh


Probably also not recommended for people who are sensitive about tone and touch.


Learner
Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2374484 01/16/15 07:58 PM
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It certainly can work. It's how I got my piano and I couldn't be happier.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"
Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
PhilipInChina #2374485 01/16/15 08:07 PM
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Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
It certainly can work. It's how I got my piano and I couldn't be happier.
And one could choose a dealer and a piano by rolling dice and it also might work. Does this mean this method should be recommended? In addition, one never knows if there was another piano at the same dealer or another dealer that one might like a lot more!

The only time I'd recommend buying without trying is when one's location prevents going to dealers because they are too far away, when buying new pianos that are known to be very consistent in tone and touch, or when the buyer is not fussy about tone and touch.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 01/16/15 08:14 PM.
Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
pianoloverus #2374812 01/17/15 07:49 PM
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
It certainly can work. It's how I got my piano and I couldn't be happier.
And one could choose a dealer and a piano by rolling dice and it also might work. Does this mean this method should be recommended? In addition, one never knows if there was another piano at the same dealer or another dealer that one might like a lot more!

The only time I'd recommend buying without trying is when one's location prevents going to dealers because they are too far away, when buying new pianos that are known to be very consistent in tone and touch, or when the buyer is not fussy about tone and touch.

Phillip's story--living in China and shopping in Europe--fits the description of when you'd recommend buying without trying.



Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see
~Mark Twain
Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
ernani #2374813 01/17/15 07:53 PM
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The piano marketplace being what it is, I think many people end up shopping long distance because they don't have what they're looking for near by.



Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see
~Mark Twain
Re: Jim Laabs Music - my experience buying a grand sight-unseen
Retsacnal #2374852 01/17/15 10:38 PM
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I spend only a few weeks a year, at present, in Europe. If I had had to spend a significant part of that time looking at pianos I would probably not have got one at all. So I paid a professional concert pianist to audition the short listed ones for me. She took a competent technician with her who rated them technically. Frankly either of them knew far better than I did what constituted a good piano.

I think the analogy of rolling dice is inappropriate. My dice were heavily weighted in my favour at any rate.

Originally Posted by Retsacnal
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by PhilipInChina
It certainly can work. It's how I got my piano and I couldn't be happier.
And one could choose a dealer and a piano by rolling dice and it also might work. Does this mean this method should be recommended? In addition, one never knows if there was another piano at the same dealer or another dealer that one might like a lot more!

The only time I'd recommend buying without trying is when one's location prevents going to dealers because they are too far away, when buying new pianos that are known to be very consistent in tone and touch, or when the buyer is not fussy about tone and touch.

Phillip's story--living in China and shopping in Europe--fits the description of when you'd recommend buying without trying.


Currently working towards "Twinkle twinkle little star"

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