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Kurtmen Offline OP
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I need some help here:
An acquaintance wants to rebuild his Steinway piano and called me to get some input. To be honest, I don't feel comfortable advising him to restore the piano because the results are unpredictable, but this is not the point of this post.
I told this person that here in California, I have played pianos rebuilt by Dale Erwin and the pianos were good. My "friend" is on the east coast, so I told him that I have never played a rebuilt by Cunningham, but I like the general presence of the company knowing that the owner is visible to the public, involved in the business and they have a good reputation.
My "friend" called me today and told me that he will probably sell his Steinway ASIS. In the search, he found a piano restoration dealer, that according to the salesperson they have been in business for over 100 years family-owned. He was offered a 2006 Steinway Model A for $60,000 (original not restored)
The restoration company offered as part of the deal to buy the piano back in ten years for a full price no questions asked. (by the way, they showed him the piano in a video and sent him a recording which I found for lack of a better word...unconventional or useless)
So, with this policy practically the restoration dealer potentially can be buying pianos back every year for full price. In other words, my "friend" can use this piano for 10 years and return it once this piano is 25 years old and they will send him a check for $60,000

Is anybody familiar with this practice?


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Money back or store credit? I've never heard of money back. In order to offer money back the store would have to reserve $60k in cash at all times for 10 years, and that's just for that one piano. If true that is unheard of!


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Sounds like an extremely generous satisfaction guarantee! thumb

Of course, in 10 years 60k will be worth more like 50k, unless inflation is worse than the usual ~2% per year. Not to mention the “fact” that Steinways appreciate in value year after year. So the dealer’s risk diminishes over time. wink

I’m puzzled as to why you mention Dale Erwin, Cunningham, all the stuff about a 100 year old family company and bad videos. Are these oblique hints of some sort?


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Originally Posted by Retsacnal
So the dealer’s risk diminishes over time. wink
Hopefully the piano is returned in its original shape after 10 years. "No questions asked", after all 😅


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The offer described makes no sense to me. It would mean that, in effect, someone could rent a Steinway for ten years for free and their only cost would be any tuning or maintenance.

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Sounds like a really good sales-pitch to me. And, you'd have to wait 10 years to test the "buy-back" policy, unless the buy-back offer includes anytime from purchase date until the 10 year anniversary.

Maybe some other piano dealers here will chime in, but I've noticed they usually don't discuss their business trade secretes much here. smile

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Th OP is a piano dealer himself. If the restoration company has really been in business for over 100 years there should be info online - or through the grapevine - about them and their business practices. OR the OP could simply call the business himself - on behalf of his acquaintance - explain that he is helping his friend make a decision and ask the dealer to further explain the "deal" to him.


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This sounds like a confused version of the 'TRADE UP' Policy that many Dealers have with Steinways.
Full value trade up of your Steinway, if you trade up to a better model.


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
The offer described makes no sense to me. It would mean that, in effect, someone could rent a Steinway for ten years for free and their only cost would be any tuning or maintenance.


I had the same thought, and wondered if there was any way to rationalize or justify it. For example, if perhaps the shop was financing the purchase, then they'd at least earn interest for the duration (a sort of quasi lease). And the piano will have some residual value along the way (even as it depreciates). Or -- since the post is sort of awkward and ambiguous -- if the "As is" sale is actually a trade in credit towards the purchase, on which the rebuilder will earn more profit, so still ideally come out ahead in the aggregate on both pianos.

Anyway, I'm just spitballing because it sounds pretty odd.


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I agree that it sounds quite odd, to the point of being suspicious. If something sounds too good to be true, it often is.

What kind of purchase contract would the buyer receive? Would all of this be spelled out? What are the "catches" -- i.e., in what contexts would the "buy back" promise be voided?


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Perhaps the dealer is planning to exit the business before the end of 10 years, and can make offers like this to close the deal.


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Originally Posted by Rickster
Sounds like a really good sales-pitch to me. And, you'd have to wait 10 years to test the "buy-back" policy, unless the buy-back offer includes anytime from purchase date until the 10 year anniversary.

At first pass I thought it meant exactly at the 10 year date too, but the post is oddly worded, resulting in some ambiguity. Farther down it says "buying pianos back every year," so I infer (perhaps incorrectly) that the purchaser could return it at any time for up to ten years.


Originally Posted by Rickster
Maybe some other piano dealers here will chime in, but I've noticed they usually don't discuss their business trade secretes much here. smile

This is a bit ironic, isn't it? A dealer has come to the peanut gallery for help!

If there's any substance to the post, I'm guessing that a potential buyer has claimed that someone on the East Coast is essentially offering this ten year money back guarantee.

This could probably have been as simple as "has anyone heard of a long-established east coast rebuilder offering a ten-year money back guarantee?"


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Originally Posted by Carey
If the restoration company has really been in business for over 100 years there should be info online - or through the grapevine - about them and their business practices.

Exactly! A 100 year old, family owned, rebuilder should be well known. It shouldn't be hard to find a company that fits such a profile (if one exists).


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Originally Posted by brdwyguy
This sounds like a confused version of the 'TRADE UP' Policy that many Dealers have with Steinways.
Full value trade up of your Steinway, if you trade up to a better model.


I thought about this too. In theory, it's the same: if this were a "trade up" policy, then the dealer would be prepared to give $60k credit towards a different piano. But the reality with a "trade up" policy is that the dealer's cost for the credit is lower than the credit, and the buyer may be paying too much for both the first and second pianos. And with "trade up" the buyer is locked in to the seller, with limited choices, whereas with this "full return" the buyer theoretically walks away with their cash.


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In theory if the dealer can pay taxes in pianos, that could work. Cash, pianos, what's the difference?


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Originally Posted by twocats
Perhaps the dealer is planning to exit the business before the end of 10 years, and can make offers like this to close the deal.

grin ha

I wondered about this too! "Sure, if you want your money back, come find me in Miami!" wink


(On a serious note...)


There's a drive in theater about 45 minutes out in the country from us. We like going once in a while, but have actually gone a lot during the pandemic because it's been nice to get out and see some movies from the "safety" of our car. Sadly, the man who owned it passed away over the Winter, so his family sold out. To the chagrin of the new operators (who bought the equipment and took over the land lease), when they reopened in the Spring they discovered that the previous owner had sold a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of "Groupon" type deals, and oodles of people were expecting to see movies for which he wouldn't receive any revenue! There was some back-and-forth with people online about figuring out a compromise (limit the number per night, or slower days of the week, etc), but people weren't being flexible, so the new operators ultimately just drew a line in the sand and said they wouldn't take any more. They were closed like most businesses at the beginning of the pandemic, and then closed as normal for the winter, so there was a lot of pent up demand. Apparently the "Groupon" deals were sold during the shut down to generate revenue.

The previous guy died, and his family probably wasn't even aware of the presold deals, so I don't think there was any intention of cheating anyone, but the place is a shoestring operation, and it's not viable if the operator can't pay the rent and employee wages.

Anyway, I'm oversimplifying, but there were a lot of upset people! Some folks said that the customers could get their money back from the Groupon-like company, but they didn't want their money--they wanted the too-good-to-be-true deals on tickets and snacks.



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Kurtmen Offline OP
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Thank you for your replies. Let me clarify, I recommended Cuningham because I don't know any rebuilders on the east coast and I don't think will be a mistake to do so. Here in California relative near is Dale Erwin I know his work is good.
I know the name of the rebuilder and I don't know if PW will delete the thread if I post the name, so I am just trying to be careful. As a dealer for me this is unheard of this is why I am asking if someone is familiar with this practice.
The rebuilder is very visible online (a lot of online advertising, google ads, and blah, blad, blah)

Last edited by Kurtmen; 11/19/21 04:26 PM.

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Originally Posted by brdwyguy
This sounds like a confused version of the 'TRADE UP' Policy that many Dealers have with Steinways.
Full value trade up of your Steinway, if you trade up to a better model.

Yes, my Yamaha dealer has this 100% trade in/trade up policy on pianos purchased from them. I got the exact purchase price for my GB1K when I bought the C3. I got the full purchase price as trade in for my C3 when I bought my Estonia. That’s exactly one of the reasons I bought 3 pianos from them. I’m fairly certain I wouldn’t be able to get cash back for a 10 year old piano, even if it was a Steinway.

Last edited by j&j; 11/19/21 04:33 PM.

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Hmmm, Kurtmen, if there was a hint about the identity of the restorer/dealer in the last line of your post, then the website for that dealer has a very clear trade in/trade up policy but says nothing about a money back guarantee. Are you sure your friend understood what was being offered? That there was no miscommunication?

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Thank you Sgisela. He said that it will be in writing. I am a piano dealer and this sounds too good to be true. Probably he did not understand.


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