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Joined: Feb 2014
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I tune and teach piano and had a call for someone wanting both. Right off after listening to voice mails from this person something felt wrong in my gut feeling. Person was demanding. They kept calling and I gave excuses I was too booked but they persisted. So, I bit the bullet and went out. A cheap spinet in bad shape. As I was about to tune I noticed a crack in the plate and stopped. I told her the situation and I believe she already knew. I also believe I was being set up. Goodbye and good luck. There was also the smell of natural gas in the house, which I told her.

I've tuned for some churches in rough neighborhoods, but one church call in possibly the worst drug infested neighborhood was crazy. As I drove up, the church was fenced off with barb wire and I had no idea how to get in. This was pre cell phone era for me so couldn't call the church. Waiting a couple seconds thinking what to do I see one guy trying to climb a wall apparently strung out on drugs and what appeared to be lots of dealers or worse start coming toward my car. No thanks. I'm out of here.

Also got called to tune at an address in a bad spot. The week I was supposed to go out, there was a street murder there about every other day. Got a bad feeling and unbooked. I'm sorry.

On the flip side. My GPS took me to a new client home with no house number on it. Knocked on door and said I'm the piano tuner. Go in to nice Yamaha grand and get ready for tuning. When about to start, I remember it's supposed to be a Steinway. Turns out it was the wrong house, but the guy wanted me to tune it anyway! It was his girlfriends piano. He called her and she said go ahead as it wasn't tuned in years. I came back after tuning at the place I was suppost to be at.
Crummy GPS made me money that day.



Last edited by joggerjazz; 05/08/19 08:02 AM.
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Back in my 20s, I became extremely good at handling problem people. The problem was, I became too good. I developed a reputation and attracted them. It reached a point that I would get a feeling of dread every time the phone rang. I was depressed all the time and I became indifferent to keeping up my files. I was living life shut down.

The less good I became with problem people, the better my life became. I started finding myself surrounded by good people.


Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.morethanpianos.com
(semi-retired)

"The object in life is not to be on the side of the majority, but to escape finding oneself in the ranks of the insane." -Marcus Aurelius
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I had a very difficult client about 2 years ago and i felt uptight as soon as i arrived to his house, hard to put my finger on it but something about his demeanor wasn't right.

The piano was a " great priceless old family heirloom" which had been "restored" some years previously, The case had been sanded and refinished to look good but the inside was a very much neglected 100 year old birdcage action.

Reluctantly i began to work on it and raised the pitch as much as i thought was safe, thankfully no broken strings etc, the piano actually sounded ok after i was done with it.

The client came to inspect my work and began pounding a few random bass notes and then pounded a few random notes in the high treble, I suddenly realized this guy was not a musician of any level and could not play at all. At this point i also realized he a was wearing a hearing aid, which may have had some bearing on things.

"that doesn't sound right" he insisted after banging a high note repeatedly, I looked at it and of course the strings had lots of false beats , worn hammers etc etc. I tried to explain what he could reasonably expect from such an old instrument, but no he wasn't having any of it.

I was about to resign and walk out when he took out his wallet and paid me my fee. I took it and left, been there 3 hours and deserved it.

Never will i go back to his house and as others have said its good to have a chat with new clients beforehand.

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I found this thread interesting. As a nurse never went into home health, I heard horror stories. After taking care of patients I can only imagine what some people walk into, it is scary to walk into a home when you no nothing about the person.

I have a great relationship with the tuner. I bought a new YUS 5 about 4 years ago and the piano store contracted with a tuner and recommended him. He also refurbishes pianos. I recommended him to my friend and she is extremely happy with her refurbished U3. He has been in the business 30 + years. I book him out a year in advance. Every December I book for the following year and text him a week prior to remind him of my appointment. I have the piano tuned every 2 months and take that day off of work as a me day. He comes between 8 - 9 a.m then I have my day free. I always tip him $20. He only cancelled one time because he was sick. I ask for the first appointment and always get it. He has been tuning for me the 4 years I had my acoustic piano. I hope he does not retire for a long time.


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If I don't like a client or the piano, I suffer though it, and simply tag the file "don't tune again". When the client calls me for another tuning, I see the file and make an excuse and recommend a different tech.

Last week, a past client wanted an appointment that week. Though I was booked, I fit him in. The client went on saying he wanted a tuner who would stay till he was satisfied, as he used to be a concert pianist. Red Flag. On arriving home, I looked at the file. A Young Chang 161 that I tuned 3 years ago. My notes said he was tuning it himself, and it was strangely out of tune. He was very picky and the tuning took a long time. After reading that I texted him and declined the job. It was going to be the 5th tuning of the day, and I would have been tired and in no mood for a picky, eccentric client.



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Originally Posted by michaelopolis

The piano was a " great priceless old family heirloom" which had been "restored" some years previously, The case had been sanded and refinished to look good but the inside was a very much neglected 100 year old birdcage action.

Reluctantly i began to work on it ...



Perhaps my approach could help...
I always present my work to first-time customers as "an inspection and diagnostic" visit that can become work on the piano if the customer chooses. They may call for a tuning or fixing a sticky key or a "funny noise" or whatever, and I give them an idea over the phone of what usual charges for routine services are. But I always tell people that I "look forward to meeting you and your piano" and make clear that I don't know for sure what I will find when I get there. My first visit will start with an inspection and diagnostic report. At that point they can choose to have the piano tuned, sticky note fixed or whatever. If they don't want to do any work, they are just obligated for the inspection and diagnostic. ("Estimates" are free but inspection and diagnostic is based on a skilled person coming to their home and providing valuable information that they can then choose me or someone else to perform -- or not have anything done at all.)

So, in your case, I would have looked over the piano (as previously agreed over the phone) and then (as kindly as possible) informed the client that the exterior had been nicely restored but the interior was completely worn and neglected.
I would provide the price for my services and then asked whether they would like to "proceed" or "think about it and you'll only owe for my diagnostic visit".

Even where it seems that it will obviously be "just a tuning", I present it by saying something like, "I'll schedule time to do the tuning and if we proceed with work there will be no charge for my inspection and diagnosis. But if I find additional work that is more than you wish to proceed with, you'll only need to pay for the diagnostic which will be $XX.xx."

This approach has worked to keep me in charge even in the face of the unknown.


Keith Akins, RPT
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Following up, to clarify...
Once I learn when the piano was last serviced, I always give people an idea of the kinds of service and associated prices of work that may be likely be encountered in a neglected piano situation. I go on to ask if those kinds of figures "are something you can consider at this time or would you rather call me back later on?"

So, when I enter a customer's home for the first time, they have already been educated as to some of the kinds of work that may be necessary, what the price-range for those services might be and have stated that they are able to consider having that level of work done if the inspection verifies that it is appropriate.

(Whether what I have said over the phone "sticks" or has "gone in one ear and out the other" may vary from one customer to the next. But I am able to refer back to "what I explained over the phone" when I am there with them.)


Keith Akins, RPT
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Hardly anyone is accurate when telling me the last time their piano was tuned. Time gets away, and they remember it being 18 months, when it was actually 5 years - or....they are embarrassed, not realizing we deal with neglected pianos all day long..and it's no big deal...or they deliberately miss-represent the last tuning date, thinking they will get a lower quoted price. For these reasons, I don't bother asking the last tuning date. If it's the first time I've ever seen the piano, it will certainly be a pitch raise and I approach it accordingly.



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Another thing to consider is the condition of the driveway.

Even though the clients may be wonderful people, the driveway can be a deal breaker.

When I arrive, if the driveway is very long, unpaved with deep ruts, maybe even soft muddy clay, I really wonder if I should attempt it.

If my car's exhaust system gets torn off, is the client going to reimburse me?
No car = no income.

If I get stuck in a rut and I need to be towed out, is the client going to reimburse me for the missed appointments because of time lost?

Do I want to spend the rest of the day with my shoes and pants bottoms caked in mud walking from the car to the house?

Before attempting it, call the client first to make sure they're actually home.


Last edited by daniokeeper; 05/10/19 08:35 AM.

Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.morethanpianos.com
(semi-retired)

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On being ushered into a room containing a square piano, I stopped and reminded the client that I had stipulated that I did not service square pianos (long story). She insisted that it was a spinet in rather strident terms, so on my way out I informed her that I didn't tune that sort of "spinet".


David L. Jenson
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Originally Posted by daniokeeper
Another thing to consider is the condition of the driveway.

Even though the clients may be wonderful people, the driveway can be a deal breaker.

When I arrive, if the driveway is very long, unpaved with deep ruts, maybe even soft muddy clay, I really wonder if I should attempt it.

If my car's exhaust system gets torn off, is the client going to reimburse me?
No car = no income.

If I get stuck in a rut and I need to be towed out, is the client going to reimburse me for the missed appointments because of time lost?

Do I want to spend the rest of the day with my shoes and pants bottoms caked in mud walking from the car to the house?

Before attempting it, call the client first to make sure they're actually home.



If I lived in the snow belt, I'd have a 4 wheel drive - Subaru worked really well for me in Chicago. We have our share of dirt roads here, so I drive an SUV with 8" of ground clearance. I had a prius, nice little car, but not great on bumpy dirt roads.....



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