Okay, so, I mentioned in passing that after deciding to get the kids a real piano that I thought I’d had the situation taken care of, and then there was a little snafu. But I didn’t tell you the whole sordid tale.
And CLEARLY, you need the whole story. Because my life is JUST THAT FASCINATING.
To recap: The kids started taking piano lessons a year ago, and all we had here for them to practice on was a small keyboard. This keyboard not only lacks some of the keys they needed, it doesn’t have hammer-action (weighted) keys, and so according to the piano teacher, forcing my children to use this inferior instrument was tantamount to child abuse. The only thing that would’ve been worse was a piece of cardboard with the keys drawn on it, apparently. And so after some soul-searching I set out to buy the children a Decent Instrument.
The piano teacher and I had many discussions about what constitutes a Decent Instrument. He prefers a real piano for his students, whenever possible, but a high-quality electronic piano will pass muster with him as well. We talked about it and I did a quick pro/con list.
PROs of a real piano: Can often be gotten for free! Can other times be gotten for cheap! Always has the right number of keys, with hammer action! Generally comes with a bench in which you can hide the sheet music that is normally strewn all over the place!
CONs of a real piano: Weighs a million billion tons! Might give my cute husband a hernia! Needs to be tuned regularly, which costs many dollars! Takes up a lot of space! Is sensitive to the weather! Likes sappy movies!
PROs of an electronic piano: Small! Lightweight! Cute and cuddly! Easy to get upstairs! Never needs tuning! Impervious to the humidity!
CONs of an electronic piano: Costs many many dollars! Stand and bench sold separately! A billion varieties are available, from number of keys to how those keys work (hammer action, touch-sensitive, pressure active, SCHIZOAFFECTIVE)! Much harder to find used! Less serious-looking!
Otto and I discussed it, and we decided It Was Time to find an electronic piano.
(The needing-to-get-it-upstairs thing remains the real deal-breaker for me, in terms of considering an actual conventional piano over electronic. Well, that and the yearly tuning. Even if you get the piano for free, you end up paying for it OVER AND OVER with the tuning. No thanks.)
So I started the search. And I visited countless websites and compared reviews and read descriptions and then I threw myself off of the nearest overpass because I PLAYED CELLO, MAN, and I played the cello the school handed me, and there was none of this “cross-reference sixteen different models before making a decision” nonsense. SHEESH.
In the end, though, I find a very nice online music store where they sell what is called B-Stock at a reduced rate. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I did see that they had a $1200 keyboard for about $580, so I called them up to ask about it.
Big Music Store Rep: Hello, and thank you for calling Big Music Store. How may I help you?
Me: Yes, hi there, I had a few questions about one of your items.
BMSR: Okay, I can help you with that. Can you give me the item number?
Me: Sure! *I give him the item number* Okay, so, I don’t understand what B-Stock means. Could you explain that?
BMSR: Oh, yes, I see, sure. Well, B-Stock is anything that’s an open box, ma’am. It’s a return or a demo that we can no longer sell at full price, but which has been thoroughly inspected and is still under full warranty. Basically you’re getting a price reduction because the box isn’t in great shape.
Me: Oh. I see. And, um, this keyboard here… is this a good one?
BMSR: Oh yes ma’am, that’s a phenomenal price on that Korg. You won’t do better than that anywhere.
Me: And the shipping is free? And the warranty is the same as on a brand new one?
BMSR: Yep, we’ll ship it to you for free and the warranty is full and intact, so if there’s any problems—but there won’t be! it’s been inspected!—we’ll handle that for you.
Me: Just one more question.
BMSR: Sure thing.
Me: Will this keyboard make my kids’ piano teacher stop hassling me? Because that is pretty much what I’m looking for in a piano.
BMSR: *laughing* Yes ma’am, I do believe it will.
Me: Great, I’ll take it.
So he processed my order (even faking me out on the price at one point—saying something like “Oh, I’m so sorry, the price has changed… instead of $580 it’s now showing up at… $550!”—and helping me find a bench and just generally being swell) and I did the victory dance. Free shipping! No tax! Big discount! I WIN AT SHOPPING!
And because I have a great big fat mouth, I told the kids I bought them a piano. They were so excited to see it when they got home from Daddy’s.
But then we got back from our trip and the keyboard was here. The “good as new” B-Stock keyboard, shipped in a box that appeared to be made of confetti and packing tape. We found two keys that stuck, right away, and then a third one upon closer investigation. I. Was. Livid.
I even had the piano teacher come take a look. “Can it be fixed?” I asked him.
“Nah,” he said. “This is broken. Where’d you GET this, anyway? The INTERNET? Oh, come on now. Go to the local store, tell them you know me, buy the Yamaha I told you about. Stop messing around.”
I sighed loudly and thanked him for looking at it for me.
I called up my pal at Big Music Store again, asking for him by name so that I could talk to the same guy.
BMSR: Big Music Store, how may I help you?
Me: Hi, BMSR, this is Mir again, remember me? The B-Stock Korg?
BMSR: Oh yeah! The piano teacher on your case about your kids! Right! How’d it work out?
Me: Well, it really didn’t. This keyboard is damaged. I thought B-Stock was full inspected and “good as new?”
BMSR: Oh dear. I’m sorry. Yes, it is. I mean, it’s supposed to be. But things happen sometimes. Well let’s find you something else, and of course we’ll take that one back at no charge, I apologize.
Me: I would like this one. I mean, a WORKING one of these.
BMSR: Yes, heh, well, I don’t have any other B-Stock on that, and I can’t give you a new one for that price, though I could knock $100 off a new one, if you’d like….
Me: Uh, no. Out of my price range, I’m afraid.
BMSR: Okay, well, let’s find you something else!
He then proceeded to try to sell me three different keyboards in my price range that didn’t have weighted keys. And so I ended up having him process the return and hung up the phone still completely pianoless.
As a bonus, the defective keyboard was so heavy that it took both me and Otto to take it to FedEx, but it was so BIG that I got to ride there in the passenger seat pushed all the way up to the dashboard, to accommodate the box in the back. (In unrelated news, it turns out that no matter how many times you whack your chin on the dashboard, it doesn’t make a dent. Thankfully.)
That was a major disappointment and pain in the butt, though I did get (all of) my money back, at least. Ugh. But I’d forgotten something.
“Mama! Did our new piano come? Is it there? We’ll be home in a few days!”
Oh. CRAP. I’d told the kids, and they thought they were coming home to a new piano.
So I did what any big-mouthed, completely-stepped-in-it mother would do.
I went to the local music store and bought the damn Yamaha the piano teacher kept telling me to buy. With a stand and tax (hey, at least I had the cheap bench from the original order) it was a lesser instrument for quite a bit more money, but at least it WORKED. And could be repaired locally, under warranty, if anything happens to it.
As Otto and I rode home from the music store, I rested my chin on the dashboard (again!) and he patted my knee. “You did the right thing,” he said. “And it’s a one-time expense. Try not to think about what it cost.”
We brought it home and set it up. I tested it out a little, and it feels just like a regular piano. Sounds good, too. We were all ready for the children’s return.
They were delighted. Chickadee sat down to practice the very first day they were back, and although she usually gives it a full two minutes whether she feels like it or not, that day I heard the piece she’s working on float down the stairs for a solid half hour, and my distress over such a large purchase started to melt away. I really DID do the right thing, and now the kids are going to become real musicians. Hooray!
That night at dinner I complimented Chickadee on practicing with such diligence, for so long. “That’s how you get really good,” I added, “giving it some real time and playing your piece over and over. Great job.”
Monkey snorted. “Did you know that you can record on the new piano, Mama? She played it once and recorded it, and then just hit ‘play’ over and over. She wasn’t practicing.”
Chickadee protested with the outcry of the TOTALLY BUSTED, while Otto and I exchanged looks. I sighed.
“Hey kids? I forgot to tell you something about the piano.” They both waited, attentively, during what I hoped was a meaningful pause. “Because the one I bought online went back, and I got this one here in town, it’s a VERY SIMPLE MATTER to take this one back to the store if you don’t choose to practice regularly. I’m just letting you know.”
Suddenly they both became very interested in their salad. And the extra money I spent on the second-choice keyboard started to feel less like an unexpected expense and more like leverage. Delightful, useful leverage.
Hot cross buns, anyone?