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Fired My First Client

  • 1.  Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 14 days ago
    I fired my first client yesterday.

    Well, not actually, but I basically told him I preferred not to work on his piano.

    Here's the story: I was called to look at a spinet that the client got for free; supposedly this was a Hardman Peck but I saw no designation anywhere. Many hammers weren't returning properly, and the piano was out-of-tune.

    When I got there, I found that the mechanism was quite a bit different from other spinets I'd worked on, and my first impression was: this is bizarre. Not only are the wire lifters hooked to wooden levers linked to the keys at the top-- that have to be removed to remove the action-- but also there are nuts on the bottom of the lifters that have to be unscrewed. It made no sense. Does the action all lift out with the lifters in one piece, as some spinet actions do? Apparently not. Would the whole assembly have to come out, keys and all? That made no sense, either. OK, so I decided to work on just one problem key, take a hammer out, test it, and see if it needs to be re-pinned. But, I can't get the hammer out: getting the flange screw out (and back in) was hard enough. I suppose I could've take several hammers out and gotten enough room but fighting the screws with such tight space didn't seem worth it.

    I fixed some of the hammers by cheating: I bent the bridle wires back far enough so that the weight of the whippens would pull the hammers back. But, that didn't work on all the hammers (one can only pull the wires back so far.) The springs were all in place, etc. My guess was that re-pinning was the solution.

    I did a quick tune and then told the client that I didn't think he should invest any more in the piano. My opinion is that this particularly spinet mechanism is a nightmare. I charged less than a tuning cost for three hours of work; I felt badly taking anything. I didn't even charge for travel although this was an hour away.

    This piano made no sense and was a poor investment, even for free. I don't think the client liked my opinion but I felt I'd be misleading him by telling him that with a few hundred dollars worth of work, it'd be good for some time. The truth is that this isn't a piano that can go the distance, and I want him and his young family to have something that's worth it. There are plenty of decent pianos out there for free, or low-cost; no need to settle for a lemon.

    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 14 days ago
    Just for the info...sounds like a Hardman Mini Piano...Eavestaff.

    Deb





  • 3.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 14 days ago
    when are parents of piano students or anyone wishing to play piano going to realize they need to invest in a piano and that they are doing themselves, their families, piano teachers and technicians a dis-service by taking a free piano or a yard sale special into their home ? you did the right thing here in turning down doing more work on it.
    one thing that a pso will guarantee is failure . A few weeks ago a lady called me to tune a piano she wanted her daughter to take lessons. she told me she "scored" the piano meaning she found it on the sidewalk in front of a house cleanup. I was too busy at the time to book a tuning and what bothered me the most she lived in a small community of $700,000 homes.

    ------------------------------
    James Kelly
    Owner- Fur Elise Piano Service
    Pawleys Island SC
    843-325-4357
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 14 days ago
    Often I run into pianos that are beyond repair. Diplomatically I tell the customer the piano is not worth repairing or tuning, and walk away. I not charge for a service call.  This way the customer cannot claim I charged them to repair the piano, but that I didn't do a good job, insisting I come back and do it again. 

    Wim





  • 5.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 14 days ago
    I saw  a "free piano" like that a few years back, a Baldwin Howard spinet. Real fast, i spotted the 1/3 of hammer felts, unglued. When I told them how much installing new hammers would cost, they were stunned. The household that had given these folk the piano sure solved their "how do we get rid of the piano" problem. These folks had taken on that problem for that household.

    ------------------------------
    William Ballard RPT
    WBPS
    Saxtons River VT
    802-869-9107

    "Our lives contain a thousand springs
    and dies if one be gone
    Strange that a harp of a thousand strings
    should keep in tune so long."
    ...........Dr. Watts, "The Continental Harmony,1774
    +++++++++++++++++++++
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 12 days ago
    Don, what you may have been looking at was a small piano designed specifically for a cruise ship long ago.  I ran across one of these in the 1980's and asked my older colleagues about it.  They are the ones who informed me about the cruise ship small pianos.  They were designed to NOT come apart because of all the tossing and turning of the ocean waves.

    --
    Patsi Franklin RPT





  • 7.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 12 days ago
    Just want to point out that there are a lot of really, really BAD grands out there as well. It's can be a worse problem with the spinets, because at least spinet owners have low expectations. But when people get free or cheap grands, they only think "but it's a GRAND piano!"

    ------------------------------
    Scott Cole, RPT
    rvpianotuner.com
    Talent, OR
    (541-601-9033
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Posted 14 days ago
    James K. wrote:  "....she lived in a small community of $700,000 homes."

    Yeah, and that's after you walked past the $80K Lexus SUV in the driveway, the leather golf bag with the titanium clubs, the $3K carbon fibre road bike, etc., etc.

    I really do not understand the disconnect that some people with money have between taking piano lessons and doing it on a decent piano. I see this countless times. I keep the address of the county landfill with me on all appointments - and don't hesitate to give it out.

    ------------------------------
    Terry Farrell
    Farrell Piano Service, Inc.
    Brandon, Florida
    terry@farrellpiano.com
    813-684-3505
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 14 days ago
    Don,

    You did a good thing. Of course since you (like me) live in New England which tends to house MANY very thrifty people who cannot pass up a good (free) deal, it's a thing we deal with regularly.  I hope they gave you a good cup of coffee...😊

    Pwg

    ------------------------------
    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    603-686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago
    In the past year roughly 70% of my new clients got their pianos for free and they paid too much! Most of them are for children just beginning lessons. At this stage in my career, I am willing to tune a spinet but I make it clear that any repairs beyond the very minimal adjustments will cost more than the piano is worth and to start looking for something better for their child to learn on. I am willing to help them find a better piano which ends up not only being better for them, but me also.

    It irks me that more piano teachers don’t bother to find out what type/quality piano their students are using. I spend much time trying to educate my clients, especially those who are collecting income from teaching.


    Regards,
    ~ jeannie

    Jeannie Grassi
    PTG Registered Piano Technician
    Bainbridge Island, WA
    206-842-3721
    grassipianos@gmail.com




  • 11.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 14 days ago
    And that's $700,000 homes in South Carolina, not Southern California, LOL!

    ------------------------------
    Benjamin Sanchez, RPT
    Piano Technician / Artisan
    (256) 947-9999
    www.professional-piano-services.com
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 13 days ago
    I solved that problem last year. I do not tune vertical pianos...OK, maybe a few for established customers...but that's no more than 5 or 6. Generally people who can only afford a free piano can't afford to move it let alone give it the reconditioning it needs. They are setting up their kids for failure by not having an adequate keyboard to play on. Many times, I'll recommend a digital keyboard for the students to learn where the notes are, then if they show promise to upgrade to a real piano.

    Years ago, I went to tune this one spinet for a bargan-hunter. the fronts of the keys were severely chipped into sharp spikes. I told him how to sand the overhang. I heard that his daughter quit soon afterwards. Talk about setting someone up for failure.

    But as everyone knows/hopes, pianos last forever. Cars are crushed but pianos are immortal.

    ------------------------------
    Regards,

    Jon Page
    mailto:jonpage@comcast.net
    http://www.pianocapecod.com
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 13 days ago
    it is not that unusual to find the worst pianos in the most expensive homes as well as some of the most neglected and out of tune pianos. i try to screen as much as i can so that i can prepare the caller for what may well be an expensive visit or visits . when i hear the piano was free or it was their childhood piano its often red flag time. i work closely with a great teacher who can always place a piano into a good home but i will always try to see the piano before it is moved . her students are serious about learning piano and their families have to buy in to the idea by making sure they practice, taking them to their lessons, attending their recitals. as a result many of her students stay with her and some now have gone on to study music at college. still it is a real challenge because the parents often never follow up with regular tunings or work but at least the pianos we have placed give students a decent instrument.

    i am still amazed when i hear piano lessons are too expensive , its too far to take my kids to their lessons , i want a good piano for $300, how come the tuning does not include repairs, grand pianos cost too much (when student clearly is ready for one) , the piano is in the bedroom, we only have room for a spinet, benches are too expensive. i had a local vet searching for a good piano and found a yamaha studio that had never been played and close to new at $2k it was a steal. response : more than i want to spend ....

    ------------------------------
    James Kelly
    Owner- Fur Elise Piano Service
    Pawleys Island SC
    843-325-4357
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago
    You do not tune vertices?  You wouldn't last long in this area; I would say grands are MAYBE 10% of my work.  But then I live in a pretty rural area, in spite of there being some colleges around here-come to think of it, I believe most of their practice pianos are verticals.  OTOH, I now mostly specialize in caring for pneumatic player pianos, so I see LOTS of older verticals!
    David Dewey





  • 15.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 13 days ago
    <I solved that problem last year. I do not tune vertical pianos.

    Ditto. No vertical tuning at all, and certainly no spinets. I refer all these calls to a local tuner who is starting his business, without charging him a referral fee.

    I will refurbish and get a very few high end uprights to sound real nice for a very few clients. They commission me to find, restore and voice the instrument, but only those few dedicated and excellent clients, and only tuning as a post delivery tuning. I find a tuner who I think will do a nice job for them, on a regular basis, and then that's it.

    ------------------------------
    Jim Ialeggio
    grandpianosolutions.com
    Shirley, MA
    978 425-9026
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Posted 11 days ago
    It's so encouraging to hear others with prejudice against verticals. I say that I'll tune under protest. Having said that, the owner has the smidgeon of an idea that my attention to their piano is a privilege. If small, I'll tell them that the sound cannot be as resonant as I'd like, and then they accept that and are grateful for what I can do rather than complaining that it doesn't sound like a Steinway.

    However in that context I've come across a few uprights as we call them which are a real pleasure to have brought to life. One, not tuned for 25 years and at least a semitone down or worse, after 4 hours pitch raising really made one wonder whether Steinways were that superior. Another instrument was going to be given away but by the time I'd done some magic and challenging work, the owner decided to keep and treasure it. When the person sees you doing a 4 hour battle with an instrument, they tend to be appreciative and understanding of what one's doing as well as the importance of keeping an instrument maintained. 

    Some new uprights have been a real pleasure too, a Bosendorfer comes to mind with a grand tone, a Kemble - the historic last one to come out of the factory, a Steinberg as well as a small Yamaha which was extraordinarily well behaved.

    Best wishes

    David P

    --
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    David Pinnegar, B.Sc., A.R.C.S.
    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    +44 1342 850594





  • 17.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago

    I'm there man.  No more spinets. Ask a ton of questions and ask for video's of it with them playing each note (octaves, preferred).

     

    I too have a former student working on building his business and refer him whole heartidly to these people.

     

    Good luck to you newby's! I know understand my mentor telling me he stopped tuning uprights at all 30 years ago. He had so much business he didn't need it.  Those of you who know me know who I studied with.  While studying with him, I said to self, "yes I want a job just like this!"  Now, I do!

    Paul

     

     






  • 18.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago

    Ha!  When we lived on Whidbey Island in Washington State, I got a call to come tune their piano.  As I entered their driveway, I was taken back by a absolutely beautiful Japanese garden for about ¼ mile going over lovely bridges and gorgeous foliage!  Oh Boy!  This is going to be great! Steinway B or better in great shape.

     

    I was so sad to find the piano to tune was a little spinet by their indoor Olympic sized pool in a 10,000 square foot log "cabin" they called it!!

     

    OMG!!!

    Microsoft big wig! Not Bill, but huge upper end guy.  His nice piano was in Bellevue, WA with another tech who got to work with the beautiful Steinway B!

     

    I did not keep them on the call list. So pissed!

     

    Paul






  • 19.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 13 days ago
    Someone has to take care of uprights! This is what we have in my area. A good half of the pianos I service are uprights.

    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Posted 12 days ago
    I'll take the spinets! They are a big part of my business. I decided a while back that either I had to quit tuning spinets or "make my peace" with them. I went with the later and haven't regretted it. I charge extra to tune them if they need a pitch correction, and usually people are happy to pay it since they have no illusions about what they have or got it free and figure even with paying a lot for a tuning they're coming out ahead. I try to make sure that they have reasonable expectations of what it will sound like.
    They're comfortable to sit at and with the right technique easy to tune. They're easy for young students to play, assuming they're regulated pretty well. Lost motion is usually a breeze to take care of, which takes care of most regulation issues. I make sure I lube up the bearing points with CLP, use CA glue many times on the bass section (and other sections sometimes) and use a jerking motion with the tuning lever to get them up to pitch. I'm usually able to take one that's 100+ cents flat up to pitch and pretty stable in 90 minutes or so, without any strings breaking.

    ------------------------------
    "That Tuning Guy"
    Scott Kerns
    www.thattuningguy.com
    PianoMeter, TuneLab & OnlyPure user
    ------------------------------



  • 21.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 13 days ago
    Yes, I don't turn them away, but I do warn them in advance (after hearing the story and listening to it over the phone) that it is going to be north of $200 just to come and check it out and if it is in fact tunable it's going to be probably 2-4 hours at $xxx.oo per hour. If they're willing, I'll do it, and get paid for it.

    Pwg

    ------------------------------
    Peter Grey
    Stratham NH
    603-686-2395
    pianodoctor57@gmail.com
    ------------------------------



  • 22.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Posted 12 days ago
    Oh, the other thing is, after tuning for 26 years now, many of the spinets I open up have my card in it. Many of these pianos make the rounds so I see them again. They're usually not far off pitch and an easy tuning.

    ------------------------------
    "That Tuning Guy"
    Scott Kerns
    www.thattuningguy.com
    PianoMeter, TuneLab & OnlyPure user
    ------------------------------



  • 23.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 12 days ago
    Agree that spinets are OK. But this particular spinet seemed to me to be so poorly designed that it would've frustrated me to work on it, even if I were getting paid by the hour. I have to draw the line somewhere. And, I'm busy enough that I don't need the aggravation.

    Either I do the work and the customer is happy and stuck with a sub-par piano that's a nightmare to work on, or I basically tell the customer to cut your loses and get a piano that sounds better and can be maintained properly.

    I offered to look at other pianos with him for my usual minimal charge, and without tacking on travel expense (so that's basically two hours of my time and gas I'd be giving for free, for each trip.) I'm trying to do the right thing but I doubt I'll hear anything more from him. That's OK.




    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
    ------------------------------



  • 24.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 12 days ago

    That's why it's sooooo very important to ask a lot of questions when they call.  I went blindly to a new person with a 1908 Apollo 4'10" grand a few years ago.  I gave up and told them to junk it (politely). 2 years later, they called me again to come over!  Go save yourself and ask questions!  Refuse the first visit if you know it's going to be a bomb, ....or needs one!

     

    I have a few customers with spinets that are saveable, but being a CAUT, I don't need new clients with junk. I'm not snooty, but taking time away from work or adding to my week, it better be a decent piano.

     

    Paul






  • 25.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 12 days ago
    Interesting. This piano had 88 keys; I'd say it was typical spinet size. If it was designed not to come apart ... they succeeded! And if they designed it so that techs wouldn't want to work on it, they succeeded in that, too. Makes sense for ocean cruises.

    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
    ------------------------------



  • 26.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 12 days ago
    Don

    I forgot to chime in earlier. Is this a Weaver piano, by chance?

    If it is, what I recall is that the hammers and wippens actually sit on top of the levers that push the wippens up. I think if you remove the action bolts that attach the action to the plate, grab the hammer rail, and the action lifts out, leaving the levers in the piano, attached to the keys. I think even the dampers stay behind. 

    Try that.

    Wim





  • 27.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 12 days ago

    Wim,

    No, that's not the configuration.

    Believe me, I tried to figure out if there was some trick to get the action out. It sure looked like not only did the wires on top of the levers have to be removed from the levers (using pliers since they were in tight) but also the nuts on the bottom of the wires had to be unscrewed. I would've had to purchase or fashion a socket long enough to reach the nuts, unless I unscrewed each by hand (been there, done that: a real process.)

    As I thought of this at home, I considered that it's possible that you unhook the wires from the levers on top the keys, remove the keys, stabilize the wires so they aren't all over the place, then take the action out. The wires come up through notches in the keys (yes, really.) Maybe I'd be tempted to have another look at this (gratis, just to satisfy my curiosity) but the client is incommunicado, which is probably a good thing.

    I should've taken some photos.





    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
    ------------------------------



  • 28.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 12 days ago
    Hi all,

    As I wrote back when this thread began. This is a Hardman mini piano. It most likely says Eavestaff on the lower plate. They are extremely narrow front to back. This is accomplished with the wire lifters passing up through the keys rather than at the tail end. You can lift the L of the lifter out of the key, rotate it 90 degrees and let it drop through the key. Once done with that, Remove all keys, secure lifters to action and remove the action. Yes, it is a pain.

    Deb





  • 29.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 12 days ago
    Debra,
    Yes, that sounds exactly right. Thank you.

    ------------------------------
    Don Dalton
    Chester VT
    ------------------------------



  • 30.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Posted 11 days ago
    I have worked on a few of these Hardman Peck mini pianos / Eavstaff. The leather nuts at the bottom of the stickers were in bad shape and was the cause of the regulation problems in my experience. Replacing them fixed most of the symptoms.

    ------------------------------
    Tim Michaels
    pianotechtim@gmail.com
    ------------------------------



  • 31.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 11 days ago
    I tuned an Acrosonic yesterday for a long-time client. (Her father was a tuner proceeding me and she gave me a few of his old tools). It only reinforced why I don't want to tune these. This was one of the few I accept, I refer verticals to other tuners. There's plenty of grands around. Life is better on the horizontal.

    ------------------------------
    Regards,

    Jon Page
    mailto:jonpage@comcast.net
    http://www.pianocapecod.com
    ------------------------------



  • 32.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Member
    Posted 11 days ago
    Hi Tim,

    Used for regulating lost motion...if they are bad and going to be replaced you can just carefully clip them off with a pair of diagonals.

    Deb

    --
    5 Tarr's Lane WEST
    Rockport, MA  01966
    978-546-8428





  • 33.  RE: Fired My First Client

    Posted 10 days ago
    Yes. That's what I did. Clipped them and put new ones on. Had to size the new leather nuts by drilling a larger hole in them before screwing on to the stickers.

    ------------------------------
    Tim Michaels
    pianotechtim@gmail.com
    ------------------------------