[The following is the text of a handout written for prospective dealers of legally imported used Yamaha pianos. The author is Tom Donahue, who at the time of the writing, was an independent piano traveler who sold pianos in the Midwest and North Central U.S. offered by several distributors including Syckes Piano Imports.]
Seasoned for Destination
If you choose to believe that statement
I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale!
Consider this, my friends
As reported by
In his own words
You may know me as Tom, short for Thomas. And just like Thomas of Biblical fame, I have my doubts. You could even say that I am downright cynical! I have always doubted the spoken and printed word, not to mention “unimpeachable sources and unquestionable expertise”.
Today my cynical eye is turned toward the manufacturers of the products that we sell as “used”. Now, factory people can’t say, “Oh, those pianos are junk and will fall apart, although they would like to. After all, they are trying to sell the same product as if it will last beyond the next millennium. This puts them in a different position, and this is where my doubt begins. The manufacturer tells us the product we are selling was not designed for this climate, “Seasoned for Destination”, if you will.
I DOUBT IT
CHECK Yamaha’s website if you’re into surfing, and you will read this:
“Yamaha specifically season their pianos for the U.S. market. The tuning stability, finish and overall musical integrity are enhanced over the long life expected of a fine piano.”
First, I went to my trusty atlas and found that the northernmost point in Japan (more than 45 degrees North latitude) is about the same as Minneapolis. Their answer, “Yes, but the ocean keeps Japan warmer.” Ok. How about Portland, Oregon? Same!
But, I want to give them a fair chance to state their case. So, let’s look south. Their southernmost major island extends to about 31 degrees North latitude, roughly the same as Austin, Texas and Mobile, Alabama. There are small Japanese islands that extend almost to the 26th parallel; that would be equivalent to Miami, Florida. Do I buy their explanation?
I DOUBT IT
This was just a comparison of the United States and Japan; it does not take into account situations like the dampness of Europe or the dryness of Central Australia. If I was told that these pianos were designed to function on the Earth, but not the Moon, I would believe it. One-sixth the gravity would make for a slower return on the key and hammer! Japan is renowned for their technical advances but keeping an inventory for climate needs like “hot-dry, hot-humid, tropical, moderate, cold-wet, cold-dry” etc., etc., ad infinitum would be a monumental tasks. Do they do it?
I DOUBT IT
I still have many other doubts. What parts are different? When do they determine where the piano is going? What controls do they have so that a part doesn’t end up on the wrong piano? I could list a whole bunch of questions, but in the interest of brevity, offer an amusing anecdote instead:
It’s Monday morning and the worker in charge is taking the soundboard out of the drying kilns, and he drops one! It breaks into a hundred pieces, so he sweeps it up and takes the next board to be installed. Somewhere along the line, a piano going to Mexico City gets a soundboard for Detroit. If they don’t catch the mistake, the New Orleans piano gets the Anchorage board. And on and on!
Sound preposterous? To avoid this scenario, they could put a serial number on the board like Steinway does. Even Schulze Pollman puts a serial number on each board, and these are in the same price range as the Japanese product. But really, do they know or care what goes where?
I DOUBT IT
Gee, maybe it’s the maple that is different? Don’t they buy it from the U.S. or Canada “Maple Leaf?” I have never heard of the great maple and spruce forests of Japan!
If you’re confused by all the double-talk and gobbledygook as I am, let’s help each other. Go ahead, be brave, [and] ask a representative of one of these grandiose Japanese companies to clarify some of our questions. They should be happy to cooperate!
I DOUBT IT
P.S. Every time I hear a salesman say the phrase “Grey market” (even the spelling they use is incorrect; check Webster), I usually say, “I see your rep has been here recently.” Those fine gentlemen who represent Yamaha or Kawai can call it anything they want, but for the progressive dealer buying our product, it’s a “Green Market”. Will others catch on?
I DOUBT IT
Note form Wilton Syckes: Tom Donahue is an independent piano traveler, representing many fine piano lines to profit-minded dealers in the Midwest and North Central U.S. His years of experience and his knowledge of the world’s piano industry truly shine forth in his erudite comments above! The simple fact is that each and every Yamaha and Kawai piano that comes off the assembly line in Hamamatsu, Japan is built to the same exacting specifications. They are shipped in sequential serial number order to the company headquarters in the country from whence came the order. Let it be perfectly clear, all of these pianos are created equal! That holds true whether the piano is new or used. Why the truth is distorted by so many is a total mystery. It only confuses the buying public and casts doubt on the veracity of these two fine manufacturers of world class pianos.
Part 6: FAQS about Previously Owned Yamaha and Kawai Pianos, by Wilton Syckes
Part 7: Seasoned for Destination, by Tom Donahue
Part 8: Gray Market Yamaha Pianos – What is the Truth? By Craig Whitaker