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Ed Jones

Dealer Tricks of the Trade

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I was trying violins at a leading dealer and eventually took away a G B Morassi on approval, but before I left the room a guy came in with a Fagnola costing 4 times as much and said "just try this for comparison"  The Morassi sounded a lot better!

A week later I returned the Morassi and waited behind  a guy who was taking out a violin on approval. He remarked " It sounds a lot better than the Fagnola"

I recounted this to another dealer who remarked that it was an old dealer trick.  The violin shop in question is no longer trading, but has anyone else come across dodgy practices?

Edited by Ed Jones
correct grammar

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I’m not sure that’s a dodgy practice. You were trying a violin worth X( or selling for X)  and they suddenly show you an instrument that costs more. If you like the more expensive instrument, then you are incentivized to try and buy that one instead, and if you don’t like the more expensive instrument it reinforces that the one you have chosen is a good buy. The violin shop is happy because they sell a violin either way. 

I don’t have a problem with that, I don’t think it’s dishonest in the slightest, unless there’s something in your story that I missed.

It’s analogous to trying to sell the automatic transmission, air condition model with racing stripes instead of the base model. 

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A major orchestra patron, intending to present it with a Strad, arranged to have several of them, from different houses, submitted for a direct comparison. Managing to get a quick look at the competitors' fiddles the day before the trial, a firm left un-named (to avoid further inflaming the little noisy ones who regard doing this as "name dropping") took the one they had brought back to the shop and switched the fittings on it to a set unlike the others that made it visually recognisible from the back of the hall.

The next day at the trial, a representative of that shop was on hand, whispering praises of it in the patron's ear every time his firm's candidate was played and finding subtle faults in the others.

It worked. Theirs "won."

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I believe I'm with Philip, I wouldn't call it "dodgy", just salesmanship. I've felt its been used on me many times. One of my first purchases  "beat out" a couple expensive Italians. I ended up with a good viola though.

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In any arena, there are good and bad dealers. There are also good and bad clients - it's interesting how nobody ever discusses some of the shady things non-professionals get up to (that topic might make a fascinating thread).

I'm not sure I'd consider having an expensive dud around for comparison purposes is a trick; it's valid to compare the sound of instruments at different price levels, even though most people  will tell you that sound isn't the primary concern when pricing a collectible instrument.

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I also agree with Phillip. What better way to show a conservatory-bound player (or solid intermediate player) that there are great tonal qualities to a good intermediate instrument that makes them feel comfortable spending at a $xxxx.00 price point and saving the $xxxxx.00 for a later time.

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4 hours ago, martin swan said:

We get that a lot - it's pretty counter-productive.

 

Martin I’m very sorry you’re not closer.

I would visit often. Knowledgeable people in the trade are common, but knowledgeable people who don’t take advantage of customer ignorance are not.

And as it turns out, I’m looking for another hangout.

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Admittedly, the instruments I deal in are all "student grade" maybe from about $500 to $10,000 on occasion, where provenance is not particularly an issue. But what we tell a potential purchaser is that, within a range, more money will not automatically get you something that you'll like better. It will only get you more things to choose from, and there is no guarantee that you'll like the most expensive one best. 

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On 9/13/2019 at 8:17 AM, Ed Jones said:

I was trying violins at a leading dealer and eventually took away a G B Morassi on approval, but before I left the room a guy came in with a Fagnola costing 4 times as much and said "just try this for comparison"  The Morassi sounded a lot better!

A week later I returned the Morassi and waited behind  a guy who was taking out a violin on approval. He remarked " It sounds a lot better than the Fagnola"

I recounted this to another dealer who remarked that it was an old dealer trick.  The violin shop in question is no longer trading, but has anyone else come across dodgy practices?

I find this a bit "used car salesman" ...

Personally I would offer a client a selection of violins within their approximate budget, and definitely not offer anything significantly more expensive, however fantastic or hellish it sounded. But like Jacob, I would be embarrassed to have a poor sounding violin in our stock, and would steer well clear of Fagnolas for that very reason. 

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5 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Martin I’m very sorry you’re not closer.

I would visit often. Knowledgeable people in the trade are common, but knowledgeable people who don’t take advantage of customer ignorance are not.

And as it turns out, I’m looking for another hangout.

Philip, you'd be welcome to hang out here for an hour or two, and then we'll see how it goes from there. :)

I am not very close to Texas, but a little closer than Martin. ;)

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35 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Philip, you'd be welcome to hang out here for an hour or two, and then we'll see how it goes from there. :)

I am not very close to Texas, but a little closer than Martin. ;)

Do you have beer?

and a cello?

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

Do you have beer?

and a cello?

It’s worth going to Ann Arbor for the beer. The people aren’t bad either. ;) 

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On September 13, 31 Heisei at 4:17 PM, Ed Jones said:

I was trying violins at a leading dealer and eventually took away a G B Morassi on approval, but before I left the room a guy came in with a Fagnola costing 4 times as much and said "just try this for comparison"  The Morassi sounded a lot better!

A week later I returned the Morassi and waited behind  a guy who was taking out a violin on approval. He remarked " It sounds a lot better than the Fagnola"

I recounted this to another dealer who remarked that it was an old dealer trick.  The violin shop in question is no longer trading, but has anyone else come across dodgy practices?

Dodgy sales practices are more about what lawyers call misrepresentation. 

 Fagnolas seem to be much appreciated instruments in Japan, happy a dealer who has one in stock. 

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3 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Dodgy sales practices are more about what lawyers call misrepresentation. 

 Fagnolas seem to be much appreciated instruments in Japan, happy a dealer who has one in stock. 

And the copies that Chaki-san makes/sells can make dealers sad if they have one in stock!

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On 9/13/2019 at 3:17 AM, Ed Jones said:

I was trying violins at a leading dealer and eventually took away a G B Morassi on approval, but before I left the room a guy came in with a Fagnola costing 4 times as much and said "just try this for comparison"  The Morassi sounded a lot better!

A week later I returned the Morassi and waited behind  a guy who was taking out a violin on approval. He remarked " It sounds a lot better than the Fagnola"

I recounted this to another dealer who remarked that it was an old dealer trick.  The violin shop in question is no longer trading, but has anyone else come across dodgy practices?

From your story, it sounds like what you’re suggesting is that the shop used their Fagnola (which was more expensive but sounded bad) to make you more comfortable with your Morassi. And because the other person in line said the violin they tried was also better than that Fagnola, it must be the case that it’s a common strategy at the shop and in the field. 

It’s not so easy to know exactly what the shop was doing and if they really intended to throw the Fagnola under the bus to make a sale. It is possible, but as others suggested, that doesn’t necessarily mean there was foul play. If they were clear about the pricing and weren’t trying to upsell, that might be a positive. I hear a lot more complaints from customers that have been to shops where the salesmen tried to push them into buying instruments they never wanted to consider.

It’s also possible that the shop was eager to move the Fagnola, so they were getting it out in all their appointments to draw attention to it; perhaps you weren’t looking in that price range, but maybe a friend or teacher would be. It seems odd to me that a shop would intentionally pan a more expensive instrument like that. It only makes them look bad if the more expensive instruments sound bad—that implies either bad setup work or bad choices in acquisitions. I think I would probably steer clear of a shop if I thought their expensive instruments were lousy.

I’m not saying your suspicions are unfounded, just that there are other ways to read into it. Ultimately, it only matters if you (and/or the parties whom you trust to give unbiased opinions) like the way the violin performs. 

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I find all of this most encouraging.  Apparently everyone agrees that professional dealers can learn tricks.  Who'd have believed it?  [Disappears in a flash of unidirectional Unruh radiation.]  :ph34r:  :lol:

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5 hours ago, duane88 said:

And the copies that Chaki-san makes/sells can make dealers sad if they have one in stock!

If you are talking about the Fagnola copies someone makes here in Japan, they are at least damm good. Don't think the old Chaki-San males instruments.

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