You have probably seen these ads in your local newspaper, through direct mail or on the Internet. "College Piano Sale! New and Used Pianos by Top Manufacturers at a Bargain!" And sure, the premise seems like a great idea. You buy a used piano from a college or university music program at a discount and the proceeds support the program. Everyone wins.
However, this is not actually the case in these so-called college piano sales. In reality, the university or college merely plays host to the sale as part of a lending program. Here’s how it actually works.
A piano retailer lends a college or university program several pianos for its music program. In exchange for lending them these pianos free of charge, the school agrees to let the retailer hold periodic sales billed as "College Piano Sales." At these sales, yes, some of the pianos for sale were in fact used by the university music program. The vast majority of the pianos, though, are from the retailer’s store stock and include both new and used pianos that were never used in the hosting college’s music program at all. Bait and switch? Sure looks like it.
When the buyers show up for the college piano sales, they are not actually shopping for what was advertised. The hosting school does not see any proceeds from the sale and consumers who think they are getting a real bargain while helping out their local university music program are really just padding the pockets of a piano retailer.
What you will find for sale at these college piano sales are new and used pianos from the piano retailers showroom along with one or two pianos used by the music program, though the retailer might not be upfront about which pianos were used by the program, which pianos are used period and which pianos are brand new. The bargain prices that seemed too good to be true from the advertisement are, in fact, too good to be true. Consumers, then, either buy a piano at a price they would pay in a showroom or they walk away, feeling duped by both the college and the piano retailer.
You have to wonder why college and university would participate in these piano sales programs knowing they could harm the program’s reputation when consumers find out the truth about the pianos. However, it does not seem these music programs feel much concern about the message it sends out to consumers. University officials maintain that the piano loan arrangement benefits their music programs. The college or university receives high-quality pianos at no cost on a regular basis in exchange for providing space for a piano sale.
The BBB, interviewed several universities about this. One head of the music department at a University quoted "It’s a good deal for the college." Seeming to be unconcerned that the were not receiving a quality piano for their money.
So before you head to your local college or university for piano sales that seem too good to be true, know the facts about these sales. You will not actually get what’s been advertised and may end up paying more for a piano than you would from a reputable retailer. Instead of heading to these piano sales, head to your local piano store instead so you know what you are buying.