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I am shopping for a new, high-end musical instrument. In the US anyways, pricing is opaque and must be negotiated, and dealers sometimes adopt aggressive sales tactics.

I am considering buying a particular instrument from a particular dealer. I loved it when I tried it in his shop, and internet research has established that it has a top-notch reputation and is considered an excellent value. Moreover, the business owner offered me an extremely good price (again, something that I determined independently through internet research -- I did not take the dealer's word on what a good price is).

So what's the problem? To make a long story short, the dealer's aggressive sales tactics have made me somewhat uncomfortable. Generally I have felt rushed whenever in his store. And on two occasions, he has urged me to buy immediately -- for reasons that seemed exaggerated.

On my last visit, he only had in stock a slightly nicer instrument than the one I had expressed interest in. I knew this going in, and I was anticipating simply asking questions and confirming for myself that I indeed wanted to buy the less expensive version (essentially the same, except in appearance). To my surprise, he made an extremely good offer that he told me was only good until I walked out the door. I felt ill at ease, and left without buying. That said, I am still considering doing business with him.

The dealer has been in the business for a very long time, and although his sales tactics have unnerved me a bit, I am still inclined to buy from him. Do his sales tactics indicate other underlying problems? How can I deal effectively with those tactics?

  • 51
    High pressure sales tactics should always give one pause, since it implies high prices. But if the quality and price are good, that can be overlooked. – RonJohn May 16 '17 at 15:53
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    Creating a sense of urgency is a standard sales technique. – Scott Simpson May 16 '17 at 17:36
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    An offer that is "only good for today" often means "I want to increase my bonus by booking this sale before the end of this accounting period, not at the start of the next one". Call the saleman's bluff - just ask "how much are you prepared to drop the price to book this sale today, not tomorrow" and suggest a figure like 50% (yes, I really do mean "half your best offer so far".) If he/she really really wants the deal NOW, you might get a nice surprise, even if he/she splits the difference and only offers you 25% off - and that has happened to me more than once. – alephzero May 16 '17 at 22:29
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    Don't be afraid to make your own counter-offer. I once had a salesman trying to sell me something for £8,000. I pulled a few faces, and said, "Well, so far as I can see, it's not worth more than £3,000 at the most". The reply was just two words - "OK, done". Maybe I should have offered £1,000 not £3,000! – alephzero May 16 '17 at 22:35
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    Some of the answers here seem to be more generalized, applying to more "commodity" items (e.g. cars, computers, etc). I'm assuming that in this case both the supply and demand are absurdly low... in which case some of the counter-pressure suggestions may not work so well. If the instrument (or a comparable one that you'd be satisfied with) is available elsewhere it should work, but if he's the only game in town or you don't like what the others are offering, your options may be more limited. Not saying to not push back, but be mindful of the market :) – Doktor J May 17 '17 at 21:56

10 Answers 10

87

In my experience when a salesperson says a particular deal is only good if you purchase right now, 100% of the time it is not true. Of course I can't guarantee that is universally the case, but if you leave and come back 5 minutes later, or tomorrow, or next week, it's extremely likely that they'll still take your money for the original price. (In fact, sometimes after you leave you get a call with even a lower price than the "excellent offer"...)

Most of the time when you are presented with high pressure sales accompanied by a "this price is only good right now" pitch, it ends up being because they don't want you to go search the competition and read reviews. In this case you have already done that and deemed the item to be worthwhile. Perhaps a better tactic for the salesperson would have been to try to convince you that others are interested in the item and if you wait it might be sold to someone else at that excellent price. Sales is an art, and it requires the salesperson to size you up and try to figure out your vulnerability and exploit it. This particular salesperson obviously misjudged you and/or you don't have an easily exploitable vulnerability. I wouldn't let the shortcomings of the salesperson get in the way of your purchase.

If you are worried about the scenario of someone else snatching up the item, consider offering a deposit to hold the item for a certain amount of time while you "reflect" and/or "arrange for the funds".

  • 12
    This is all true when you are also an experienced buyer. I may not be and I have had a situation recently where I walked out of the store upon excellent price as I didn't buy on the spot. Dealer possibly realized that he was selling it at too low of a price or realized he could get more money out of me, and actually upped the price a little bit upon my return. My option was either to walk out the door 2nd time & never buy it, or buy it at slightly higher price which was still an fairly excellent deal. – Dennis May 17 '17 at 14:00
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    I purchased item at higher price than the original excellent offer. I was also throwing tell-tales that I really wanted the item, which likely gave the dealer more ammunition to try a higher price. – Dennis May 17 '17 at 14:00
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    @Dennis - sorry to hear that. I too have paid more for items the next day (Amazon), but never when having dealt with an owner or a salesperson who makes a commission. I'm confident you could have gotten the original price if you persisted. I agree with you that buyer experience (and personality) will affect your results. Of course, if the new charge is negligible I may not even bother pestering them over it, as long as you still feel the price you're paying is fair. – TTT May 17 '17 at 16:07
  • True. .. my experience was in a pawn shop where the most excellent price was $500 for stuff that probably sells for upwards of $1000. The new price was $550, which I figured i might as well pay than try to chase same type of equipment elsewhere for likely at least $800. I think the dealer somehow knew I had access to $550 despite trying my best to convince him I only had $500. There was a sub-current where my friend had to bring the money, and when he did, he openly expressed his disdain for pawn shops, which could have triggered the dealer as well. – Dennis May 17 '17 at 19:02
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    to add, my friend thought showing disdain & distrust for pawn shops will help lower the cost. In my eyes, he opposite has happened. But my friend though thought dealer just realized the items are worth more than his earlier estimate. The dealer told me "I don't like your friend, so changing my mind about the price", which my friend thought was a line of BS. – Dennis May 17 '17 at 19:05
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There are few main reasons I can think of that the salesperson would do this:

  1. Time kills all deals is a cliche in sales. Once you leave the sale is much less likely.
  2. The owner is cash poor at the moment. Each of your dollars is worth more now than it will be tomorrow. For example, let's say they have a 10% 15, Net 30 financing deal with their supplier. If they get enough cash to pay it early, they can save more than the discount being offered and it's a win-win. If he misses that deadline, the opportunity is lost and your discount comes out of his bottom line.
  3. It's not really a good deal and they don't want you to figure that out.

A lot of people assume it's the 3rd option always. But if the person is reputable, it's most likely 1 or 2. You can't run a business doing option 3 for long without getting a reputation.

  • I'm not sure I follow #2. If the item is the only thing being sold, then that makes sense, but if there is other inventory, any sale "tomorrow" could be used to pay off other items that are better off sold "tomorrow" than "the day after tomorrow". – TTT May 16 '17 at 19:41
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    @TTT Pretend you're the high-end musical instrument seller. Not likely a high volume business. You owe your supplier $10K in a little more than two weeks. However, if you can have the money in hand by the end of today, you can get that 10% discount of $1000. You have had a pretty good run and you've got $8500. The OP comes just before closing time and is looking at a platinum-plated triangle that retails for $1000 and cost you $700. If you sell him the triangle for $500 you net $800. Tomorrow, selling at that price nets you -$200 and even selling it at full price won't cover your nut. – JimmyJames May 16 '17 at 20:48
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    I do understand the concept. That's a nice example. I was thinking that tomorrow, even after the deadline has passed, he would still be cash strapped for either the next "cliff" deadline, or another bill, and would still consider taking the same deal. But in your exact scenario I suppose that the owner could bet that he would make up the $1500 in the next 15 days without the massive discount, and would therefore pass on this price tomorrow. Thx. Have a +1 from me. – TTT May 16 '17 at 21:21
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    Sometimes they come back. I recently bought a sofa from a particular place after going away and thinking hard about it for 5 years... – Andrew Davie May 19 '17 at 13:30
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    @AndrewDavie Sure. That can happen. But did you end up with the same salesperson? Did he/she even work there anymore? – JimmyJames May 19 '17 at 15:00
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This is way too long for a comment, so I am posting this as an answer.

My bet is that you're buying a new piano. It is the only instrument that makes sense. The rest of this answer are going to assume this, but this should apply well if you're going after a violin or marimba for example.

For those readers that do not know, a piano is a very delicate and expensive music instrument. My piano is literally more expensive than my car. There are a lot of similarities in sales negotiation between buying a piano and buying a car.

You may be surprised to know that the cost for the dealer to acquire a piano is only around half the listed price. Therefore, the salesperson has a lot of room to negotiate a sale price to you. This explains why he was able to make a good offer for the model you are not intending to buy.

You are best by comparing the final sale price with other similar models in your region, or the exact model around your region, which you have already did. Those indicate the standard price in your negotiation.

You described the dealer had the exact model you desire, only in different appearance. I assume you want a black color while they have a white or wood-pattern one in their showroom. Note, every piano is different. Even with the exact same model, there will be very slight differences in the tune and touch, since some processes are hand finished. (If you're buying a Steinway, treat each of them as an individual hand crafted art.) Play the exact instrument you will be buying before closing the deal. If they do not have your desired model in the showroom, ask for a visit to their inventory facility. Again, play the exact instrument, not a showroom model. Some dishonest dealers will have their showroom pianos regulated and tuned differently than the "standard" pianos from shipping.

If you get an extremely good offer, proceed with caution. There may be defects in that particular instrument. Look for rust or oxidized layers on the strings. Look for groves in the hammers. Listen to clicking noises when playing the keys. These are signs that the instrument has been around for quite a while and they cannot sell it. You can also copy down the serial number and look up the manufacturing date online.

Before you close the deal, ask for after-sale services. How many free tunings will they provide? Will they polish your piano after delivery? These are bargain chips you can use for final adjustment of the price.

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I often spend weeks or months (and sometimes even years) deciding whether to buy something. Certainly the dealer should recognize you by now if you take a third opportunity to look at the same instrument. You could politely remind him that you've twice declined his excellent prices. From there you can assert that you will purchase only when you are ready.

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    The saleman's job is to sell stuff. If you keep visiting to look at the same item and make polite conversation, you will soon be given the label "time-waster," not "potential customer". – alephzero May 16 '17 at 22:38
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    @alephzero I imagine that's true if the store is constantly filled with other interested customers, but I imagine that salespeople in the market for high-end musical instruments are used to wooing some of their customers a little more. – NL - Apologize to Monica May 16 '17 at 23:47
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    Car salespeople usually seem to have plenty of time to waste, and that's a marketplace with plenty of buyers. There's just more salespeople than buyers. – stannius May 18 '17 at 18:52
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My advice is to quit worrying about the salesman's tactics. They are a distraction. What do you want? How much are you willing to pay for it. If you want the instrument, decide how much you want to pay for it. Round down to the next even hundred. Take that much in $100 bills. Put the money in his hand and say, "This is what I have, take it or leave it". You must be prepared to walk out of the store without the instrument.

4

I have a very simple rule. For anything other than trivial purchases (a small fraction of my monthly income), the only final decision I will make in the presence of a salesperson is "No".

After I have the terms nailed down, and still feel that I am likely to buy the item, I leave the store, car dealership etc., and think about it by myself. Often, I go to a mall coffee shop to do the thinking. If it is really big, I sleep on it and make my decision the next day.

Once I have made my decision, I inform the salesperson. If the decision is "No" I do not discuss my reasons - that gives them an overcome-the-objection lever. I just tell them I have decided not to buy the item, which is all they need to know.

2

From your question and how you have framed it, I get you find Agressive Sales tactics disturb the buying process for you. ;)

I understand because I also find the whole process of Research / Negotiating / Buying / Owning / Using is all on one continuum, so anything that ruins the process will likely lose the sale or enjoyment of the item, at the end of the day.

[Very long answer .... Sorry :) ]

The answer to this is to KNOW what you want before you have to deal with the Sales people. A good Sales person likes a customer who knows what they want.

I would suggest that you follow my 'Buying Process' (Much you have already done) :

Before you Buy:

  1. Identify the item you want and the max/min 'realistic' price you would buy at. [Stick to this price else 'Buyers Remorse' may bite later.]

  2. Write the questions you have down on paper before you visit the Dealer. Write the answers you want on the same list, if known.

  3. Decide which questions are most important and therefore must get the answer you want. These should be the questions you ask first. Mark these on the list.

Re-visit points 1-3 are they complete and to your satisfaction ?

Would you buy if all the answers & the price are right ?

If NO then re-visit point 1-3 else you are not ready to buy now !!!

If YES then Organise your visit to the Dealer. [Book appointment etc if needed.]

At Dealer:

Meet your Sales person and clearly state what you want (the item) and importantly when you intend to buy, if all your questions are answered to your satisfaction. There is no need to discuss price at this point as the 'haggling' is only possible IF the questions are answered to your satisfaction. Do not give information such as your maximum budget or similar requests, as they give the sales person the upper hand to maximise his/her pricing. If asked state that your budget is conditional on the answers you get.

As the questions are answered assess the answer and assign +/- to the question on your list.

If any of your most critical / important questions are answered in the negative, they are the reasons you have to call it a day and walk out. You can assess whether they are worth ignoring but you will need to factor this into your price and if you have identified your questions correctly there should be little room for debate.

Assuming you have got all your questions answered you should know what you are buying and have assessed what is a reasonable price for it, if you still want it as this point.

If you have lost interest, say so and let the Sales person go. Don't waste their time. They may make some sort of offer to you BUT don't forget that if you have doubts now they will not go away easily no matter what the 'great' price is.

If you want it then continue.

Buying your Item: [None of the following is really usefull if you have told the Sales person your Budget, as they will be aiming for the highest end of your budget. You will often find that the best price is very close to your maximum budget !!! :)]

Do not forget your realistic price range, this should limit your buying price no matter what tactics are used by the Sales person.

Only you know what you are prepared to pay and if an extra 1% or 50% is considered worth it to you, if you have to have the item :)

Regardless, you have to have some idea of your limit and be prepared to stick to it. You must be able to walk away if the price is silly and not worth it.

Assuming you have not been smitten by your item and funds are NOT unlimited, ask for the price and assess it against your price range.

At this point I can only offer pointers as there are no 'magic' rules to get what you want at the lowest price. The only advice I would offer is that you will be lucky to get something at your 1st offer price unless the seller really needs to sell, because of this your 1st offer should be less than your price range lowest band. You will need to assess how much less but be prepared to get a 'No' response.

If you get a 'Yes' and your research is good 'Buy It !!!'

If you get too enthusiastic a response, question your research & if not sure bail out [No Sale] :)

At this point you are likely to be 'Haggling' so you need to be ready for all the 'Must buy Now' tactics. If you have clearly stated your wants and timescales there is no reason to be pulled in by these tactics and they can be ignored until the price has reached the level you are happy with.

If the price is not moving where you want than clearly state you cannot 'buy at that price'. If you get a total stop and no movement than you need to assess your 'need' and if priced too high then you should walk out. Remember if you stated that you had a timescale to buy of 1/2/3 weeks you should act like you have 1/2/3 weeks to keep looking. Any eagerness on your part will tell the Sales person that you have lied !!! :) You can always come back and try again, reminding the Sales person that the 'item' is still there and perhaps it is priced too high to sell and make the same offer. !!! (A bit of cheek sometimes works.)

If the price is close and you still want it and the Sales person is not moving you need to try walking out while stating that you would love the 'item' if it was priced better, if no improved offer as you go, try an increased offer but again you need to assess how much and remember you can only go up, or walk out and come back another day.

If the price is at a level you are happy with then you should have no reason not to buy (if you have followed this process) but this does not mean that you should be forced into buying now if you do not want to. Regardless of any 'Must buy now' tactics if the price is right and you cannot buy now, tell the Sales person when you CAN buy and see if you can get an agreement with this.

It is unfair to expect a price to be held for an indeterminate time, so you do need to state when you could buy if not now when a price has been agreed.

This is a point where the deal may break down if the Sales person thinks they have a sale and trys to force the Sale now. Once again you have to assess your 'need' and whether buying now is better than walking out.

If the deal breaks down there is nothing stopping you from coming back and offering the same price when you can buy.

A final option is to agree if a deposit can be left to reserve the item until you can buy. This gives the Sales person some assurance that you will come back and is sometimes NON-Refundable unless you agree otherwise before you pay, so check this detail first. (This tends to be smaller Dealers but generally in the UK the large companies offer refundable deposits as part of their Customer Service, the advantage of using larger Stores/Dealers etc.)

Apologies for the epic reply, hope it helps.

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    I love your work with electricity, but this answer seems more complicated than it needs to be. Not at all like the beautiful simplicity of your electric coils. – Wildcard May 20 '17 at 3:40
2

He sounds like a very bad salesman and I should know, because I was a sales manager at a bike shop which sold bikes from $200 to $10k. Now I had a clear goal, which is to sell as many bikes at the highest price possible, but I didn't do that by making customers uncomfortable.

Each customer received different treatment depending on what they were looking for. For example, the $200 beach cruiser buyer was going to be told "You look great on that bike... can I ring you up?", whereas the racer interested in saving grams will receive a detailed discussion about his bike options. The $200 bike customer won't have very sophisticated questions (although I could give a lecture on cruisers), so giving out too much info complicates a likely quick impulse buy. On the other hand, we are building a relationship with the racer which will include detailed fitting sessions and time-consuming mechanical service. While I also want to close a high priced sale, it will take several visits to prove both I have the right bike and this is the best shop.

But no matter what you were buying, I was always pleasant and unhurried, and my customers left happy.

Specifically with this situation of high pressure tactics, the problem is the competition with internet sales. Often customers will have only 2 criteria, the model and the price, and if a shop does not meet both, the customer walks right out.

Possibly this sales guy is a bit cynical with his tactics, but the reality is that if you have no relationship with that shop, you fall into the category of internet buyer. One thing the sales guy could have done was not tell you we wasn't going to honor this price if you came back. Occasionally there would be an internet buyer, and I showed no unpleasantness even though internet sellers could crush our brick and mortar shop. I would mention a competitive price and if he bought it, great, and if not, that's just business.

As for the buyer, I would treat these tactics with a certain detachment. I would personally chuckle at his treatment and ask if I could kick the tires, an user car saying.

I suppose the bottom line is if you are ready to buy this specific model, and if the price is right (and the shop is ethical so you won't get ripped off with garbage), then you have to be ready to buy on the spot.

I will point out one horrible experience I had at a car dealership. I came in 15 minutes before closing and a sales person gave me a price almost a third cheaper than list. I wasn't ready to buy on my first visit ever to a dealership and of course, buying a car has all kinds of hidden fees. I asked will this be the price tomorrow, and he said absolutely not. I told him, "so if I come in tomorrow morning, your dealer clock has only gone 15 minutes" but that logic did not register with him.

Maybe he thought I was going to spend 15k on the spot and pressure tactics would work on me. I never came back, but I did go another dealership and bought a car after a reasonable negotiation.

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    "so if I come in tomorrow morning, your dealer clock has only going 15 minutes" — this isn't even an intelligible sentence. What? – Wildcard May 20 '17 at 3:39
  • Yes, that “logic” doesn't register with me, either. Can you explain? I suppose that’s saleman jargon. – JDługosz May 21 '17 at 1:24
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    @JDługosz After the business closes for the day, the "dealer clock" stops when all the employees go home. If a potential buyer shows up the next morning when they open, he doesn't have to worry about anything being sold in the interim. It is as though no time has elapsed for the dealership. -- Or at least, that's my take on it. – Joshua Shearer May 21 '17 at 23:33
  • @JoshuaShearer that makes sense, but it doesn't take into account circunstances like the 2nd point in this answer – xDaizu May 23 '17 at 10:15
  • I did reedit that line, but the point is that if I am given a deal 5 minutes before closing, coming back 10 minutes after opening is just 15 minutes in terms of the dealership. – sanjuro May 25 '17 at 17:58
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As described by the other answers, there are pretty harmless explanations for that behaviour. You could be slightly worried because he gave you exceptionally good deals for both instruments, but that's neither here nor there. Maybe he simply prices all items way up to be able to give a great discount on either sale. You can't ever know; the actual price you pay in the end is what counts.

What I would do:

If I expect in advance (or if I notice during the negotiation) that I am put under pressure in this way, I usually try to do exactly the same, in reverse. That is, I take a minute to explain up front that I will not, under any circumstance, buy right now, but that this is a purely informational event. I will make sure not to have my money/card with me.

Any high-end salesman worth his sale should have no problem with that at all. Money aside, you are shopping for something that will mean a lot to you. The salesman is not some peddler of arbitrary wares. Everybody understands that not only do you not want to pay too high a price, but also that you want to really get the item you want, and want to be happy with it for a long time. This is a tough decision, often, and if the salesman cannot, or does not want to respect that, then it would be a clear signal for me that dubious things are going on.

In fact, you would probably be unhappier if you got the wrong item for a great price than if you got a great item for a slightly too-high price. That is something you should probably not tell the salesman ;), but can keep in mind. So getting the greatest deal of all times is probably not so high on your priority list.

  • Actually, I would tell the salesperson this last part, although maybe not in those words. More specifically, I have found a particular defense against the sales tactic of trying to overcome your objections to buying an item is to simply state that you are not interested in it, and why. If you give them a good reason they can't overcome (for a silly example, "I want it in blue!" when you know good and well it will never come in blue, but you really do want blue) I have found they will often back off when they see you know exactly what you want and they don't have it. – Michael May 17 '17 at 20:53
  • Or to put it another way, if a high pressure salesperson thinks - or has hope - that they can make the sale, they are going to be doing whatever they can to make that sale. Take away that hope in no uncertain terms, and you make yourself less interesting to them. On the other hand, by telling them exactly what you want, maybe they can help you get what you really want and it will be a win-win. – Michael May 17 '17 at 20:54
1

Long Story Short

If something in any transaction in life—financial or otherwise—doesn’t make you feel comfortable and the choice is between saving money with one thing versus another, don’t sell your personal needs short. Pay more elsewhere that treats you the way you expect to be treated. In the long run the $$$ you “save” in a cheaper transaction might cost you more in the headaches and annoyance you have to swallow in dealing with this “bargain” in the future.

Longer Story Longer

Your question is this:

“Do his sales tactics indicate other underlying problems? How can I deal effectively with those tactics?”

And you state this as well:

“To make a long story short, the dealer's aggressive sales tactics have made me somewhat uncomfortable.”

And finally ask:

“How can I deal effectively with those tactics?”

Okay, first and foremost if you feel discomfort in anything in life—not just a financial situation—just walk away. You might have to say “No…” when doing this but it’s not always the case you will have to counter aggression with aggression.

And specifically in the case of a purchase like this, you need to also ask yourself: “Is this discount being offered me worth the headache I am getting?”

At the end of the day money is meaningless and has it’s main worth as an economic motivator/stimulator: Someone has a need and someone else has something that can solve that need. What would it take for the side of need to connect to the side of solution to that need? This is the basic concept surrounding all economics.

So that said, I have personally avoided buying things for less money and paid slightly more elsewhere for a service experience that made me feel comfortable. At the end of the day, if you feel happy in the transaction it helps in the long run more than—let’s say—the $20 to $40 you “save” by buying from someone else.

Also—on the side of customer service—this person’s sales techniques sound like something out of a very old fashioned sales playbook. Nowadays it’s all about relationships and service: The immediate sale is not as important for competent and reputable businesses because they know a better customer service experience will bring people back.

So it doesn’t matter how long this guy has been in business: It could be that he’s been in business a long time just because he has been in business a long time.

That said—and in the case of musical instruments—maybe this guy is really good at care and upkeep of instruments but has crappy sales techniques. Keep that in mind as well and just push back on their sales methods. For things like musical instruments, people might be jerks on the sales side but in the maintenance and repair side they are great. Will you need to go to them if/when your instrument needs repair? Or you don’t care?

At the end of the day, go with your gut. And if your gut says, “No…” then just go somewhere else and spend your money on an item you like from a place that treats you the way you need.

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