Note: Background images in December 2002 and January 2003 journal entries are selected from Frances Ku's collection of her original watercolours.
Of piano tuners and market rates
My last tuner charged me 40 pounds for a poor job. The piano tuner at the nearby piano store charges between 40 and 45 pounds for a tuning. It's no wonder I became a bit suspicious when I got a quote of 21 pounds from a tuner listed in the yellow pages.
Is he a student? Why is he charging less than everyone else?
He showed up today, 10 minutes before our appointment. He was not a young chap by any means. Within less than an hour, he had the piano tuned.
As he proceeded to write out my receipt, I asked him why he was charging less than my previous tuner.
He informed me that the market rate is about 35 pounds an hour. But he says it takes about half an hour to tune a piano. He doesn't think it's worth 35 pounds. So he charges 21 pounds for a job, regardless of the amount of time.
I was amazed at his logic. Surely it's not rational. Why would anyone charge less than the maximum you can get?
After paying him, I said that I would tell two, no, three people I know about his services. Then I asked him if his clients ask him about piano teachers. Yes, he said. So I told him that I'm looking for more students. He asked me if I'd like my piano tuned regularly. I said, maybe in a year's time. He asked if I'd like him to remind me. I said yes.
Had he charged 40 or 45 pounds for tuning my piano, the ensuing conversation wouldn't have taken place. Indeed, I never called my last tuner again. While you can get away with high rates for a first time customer, you won't be able to get that customer to be a return customer.
Similarly, rates for one-off performances are much higher than regular "residencies." The piano tuner was not stupid for charging below market rates.
19 December 2002 Thursday
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