[The following is from a handout published by Craig Whitaker which was used as a handout to prospective customers of Syckes Piano Imports.]
Gray Market Yamaha Pianos – What is the Truth?
A 10-point summary and analysis of published views of
Mr. Bill Brandon, Yamaha National Service Manager,
Mr. Wilton Syckes, Syckes Piano Imports, Inc.
By: Mr. Craig Whitaker, owner of Craig’s Pianos
1.) Mr. Brandon – a Gray Market piano (GMP) is one originally manufactured for sale in Japan.
Mr. Syckes – Pre-owned Yamaha pianos, purchased on the open market in Japan and other countries, cannot in any sense of the word, be categorized as “gray market”. Imported, pre-owned Yamaha pianos are not “gray market” (goods).
Mr. Whitaker – If black-market merchandise is sold illegally, then white market (if this term even exists) merchandise is sold legally. The definition of gray market, applied to Mr. Brandon’s [reference] to pre-owned imported Yamaha pianos, is an attempt to cast doubt and suspicion on the legal buying and selling [of] used Yamaha s on the open world market.
2.) Mr. Brandon – Yamaha Corporation of America (Yamaha U.S.) is not responsible for any service support problems on GMPs.
Mr. Whitaker – If one were to experience a service related problem with an imported, used, German-made Steinway, the Steinway makers in New York, also not responsible for service support on this instrument, nevertheless would offer whatever help or advice they could – if for no other reason than to maintain their reputation for building the world’s finest piano.
3.) Mr. Brandon – there is no Yamaha warranty on GMPs
Mr. Whitaker – to my knowledge, the warranty on a new Yamaha piano is not transferable to any subsequent owner. There is no warranty on a used Yamaha anyway. The point is moot!
4.) Mr. Brandon – GMP’s were made for use in Japan where that country’s environment is more humid than the average American home.
Mr. Whitaker – Japan’s climate is not much different from that found in the U.S.
“…the weather (in Japan) is most temperate, with four seasons. Winters are cool and sunny in the south, cold and sunny around Tokyo (which occasionally has snow) and very cold around Hokkaido, which is covered in snow for up to four months a year. Summer, between June and September ranges from warm to very hot, while spring and autumn are generally mild throughout the country.” (Source: www,worldtravelguide.com)
Centrally located Tokyo is found between the 35th and 40th parallel, as is Los Angeles and the state of Tennessee. Japan’s entire land mass could be situated easily within the northern and southern borders of the U.S. Any Yamaha piano built for Japan’s climate would find the climate in the U.S. very familiar and friendly. This notwithstanding, the use of central (humidified) heat and air conditioning found in most U.S. homes, along with the optional use of in-piano humidity control systems, eliminates any concern about latent adverse effects on pianos arising from differences (if any) in climates between the two countries.
5.) Mr. Brandon – GMPs may (emphasis mine) develop serious problems, such as loose tuning pins, cracked soundboards and bridges, warping and misalignment of parts, glue joints failures, sluggish response and sticking keys.
Mr. Syckes – “While this litany of ‘problems’ is scary…the bad part of it is the admission that (Yamaha-Japan) is in the business of producing pianos that may possibly “fall apart” and that a large number of pianos built by Japan will not hold up anywhere except in their own backyard.”
Mr. Whitaker – Of course, we know that Yamaha is not in the business of producing pianos that may possibly “fall apart”. However, these problems will occur in any piano that is located in an environment having extremes in relative humanity. Pre-owned imported Yamahas are no more or no less immune to these problems than any other piano.
6.) Mr. Brandon – Yamaha U.S. receives numerous calls from customers and piano technicians reporting serious problems with GMPs.
Mr. Syckes – “Since 1984 I have been involved with the importation of thousands of used pianos from Japan….”
Mr. Whitaker – At present, I only sell A-grade pre-owned Yamaha pianos. I have encountered very few of the above mentioned problems.
7.) Mr. Brandon – Yamaha makes different models of pianos for different world markets. There are models of Yamaha pianos sold in Japan that Yamaha U.S. has no parts information on and for which they cannot order parts from Japan.
Mr. Syckes – “I know of no single part in any Yamaha piano that cannot be replaced without a hassle.”
Mr. Whitaker – Parts are not a problem. I have two or three piano parts suppliers that regularly stock Yamaha parts.
8.) Mr. Brandon – If it is determined that your used piano was not made for the North American market, Yamaha U.S. will decline taking a parts order.
Mr. Syckes “If Yamaha ignores legitimate requests for replacement parts, technicians should patronize (parts supply houses) for all their needs.”
9.) Mr. Brandon – Yamaha U.S. wants to provide the nest service and parts support for pianos made for and sold in the U.S. through its authorized dealer network.
Mr. Syckes – “All is well and good, but how about all those fine Yamaha pianos residing in this country that were originally sold in other countries all around the world? Is it true that Yamaha U.S. will actually turn their back on each and every piano not sold by a U.S. dealer just for the sake of standing on ceremony?”
10.)Mr. Brandon – Based on Yamaha U.S.’s experience with pianos not seasoned for the North American market, we strongly discourage the purchase of GMPs.
Mr. Whitaker – Yamaha U.S. would prefer that you purchase a new piano from one of their dealers! Pre-owned Yamaha pianos now compete with new Yamahas for the same buyer. Yamaha dealers are losing too many new piano sales to other legitimate piano dealers who sell pre-owned, imported Yamaha 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