Susan dreamed of owning a Steinway piano. She didn’t know exactly how much one cost, but she was sure it was something she would never be able to afford. A serious car accident had left Susan paralyzed from the neck down and unable to play, but she still longed to have the piano in her home so others could play it. She also wanted to leave a Steinway piano to her niece when she passed on.
One of the medical therapists who came to Susan’s home to work with her told her he had a “historic” upright Steinway from the turn of the century that was ready for a new home. The price tag was $17,000. When Sarah saw the piano, she was instantly smitten. With a shiny mahogany exterior and the name “Steinway” printed across it, it looked like everything she had ever wanted. Sarah bought it.
The Steinway was striking in her home and it seemed her story would have a happy ending. Within six months of purchasing the piano though, it wouldn’t play. Susan tried to reach the person she had bought the piano from, but he had left town.
After years of frustration, Susan called Steinway & Sons of Madison and asked them to send someone out to look at it. When the technician arrived, what he saw was, in owner Ben Garber’s words, “a 110-year-old boat anchor.” The keys were frozen and the piano could not be played. There was major damage to the soundboard, and it became instantly clear that the inside of the piano had not been adequately maintained or repaired. And the shiny exterior Sarah had loved so much? That was from auto paint the previous owner had sprayed on it.
Ben and his team were distressed. “We really wished she had called us in the first place to look at that piano,” Ben said, “We could’ve saved her a lot of money.” And the worst part? For the price Susan paid, Ben could’ve helped her find a new upright Steinway.
At that point though, there was nothing left to do but move forward. Susan was willing to put money into the piano—the right way this time—to get it working again. Ben and his team replaced all of the internal moving parts of the piano. They put in a new action and repaired the soundboard. By the time they were done, the piano truly sang.
Despite the turbulence encountered along the way, the story did have a happy ending. Susan was able to enjoy music in her home and she was able to leave a beautiful Steinway—both in appearance and sound—to her niece.
Avoid being taken advantage of the way Susan was by having one of our trained technicians look at a piano before you purchase it to give you an honest assessment of its value. We have even heard of cases in this area where replacement parts of pianos were falsely represented as being Steinway. Have someone who understands pianos on your side so this doesn’t happen to you.
If you have a restoration or repair project—or just need to complete some routine maintenance, we can help with that also. Read more about how in the Services section.