I presented on European pianos at a meeting of the NYC chapter of the Piano Technicians Guild recently. Before my presentation, the manager of retail service at Steinway Hall in New York gave a presentation on changes in his department. Essentially, Steinway Hall is eliminating its complete retail service department, passing on all retail service to independent technicians. In itself this may not rank high on the World News Richter scale, but it is interesting as a further example of changes at Steinway with the installation of the “Europeans” – speaking of President Thomas Kurrer and his group.
Retail Service means tuning and repair calls coming from customers who call Steinway asking for service. It also means initial service calls on new pianos sold by Steinway Hall. I don’t know the details but I understand that this department was fairly active with something like 6 full time technicians.
This is absolutely NOT meant to imply that service standards have been lowered. There are a number of excellent technicians in NYC and just working for Steinway does not mean one is any better. It is more interesting in that it implies either a change of strategy or cost cutting with my guess being cost cutting. Somebody may have decided that any additional cost of having an in-house service department, whether it was $100,000 a year or $10, was too much and chose to just get rid of it.
I’ve worked in and managed a number of piano service departments, both for manufacturers and retail. Service can be a huge asset or annoying drain, depending on how it is managed.