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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000591.txt from 1999/01

From: Ken Wolman <>
Subj: [kl] Caveat emptor
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 1999 14:56:46 -0500

For the Latin-impaired, that just means "Buyer beware!" This has more
to do directly with the New York people who know the store in question,
but for all I know it applies to other stores in other parts of the

I decided to try a new mouthpiece the other day, an Ignatius Gennusa.
Did I NEED it? No. Was I curious? Of course. The last thing the
salesman said to me was "We don't take returns on mouthpieces." I
suppose I looked at him rather blankly, or something didn't register.
As little as six months ago, they certainly DID take returns on
mouthpieces, because the guy who sold me a Hite Premiere told me to use
a rubber band as a ligature until I was sure the mouthpiece was what I
wanted. Scratch marks on the mouthpiece @-----. That makes

I got the Gennusa home, tried it out. Nice mouthpiece. Better than my
Selmer HS*? Not necessarily. Did I want to keep it? Not if I could
help it. However, it seemed that I was now stuck with this thing. So I
checked the sales slip. NOTHING on it said anything about
non-returnable products: Ash has a 15-day full refund policy that
applies to any product you can sterilize and resell. Of course it does
not apply to stuff like wood recorders or harmonicas, or reeds. Also,
computer software cannot be returned. This too makes sense.

So I called Ash the next morning and asked them again to spell out the
policy. The guy I talked to in Woodwinds said it was a NYC Health
Department regulation going back a year and a half.

I called the Health Department. They said they had no such regulation
and referred me to the Department of Consumer Affairs.

The man at Consumer Affairs said a store could set its own policy on
returns of merchandise, and it does not have to be on the sales slip.
BUT the returns policy had to be clearly posted (1) at the register and
(2) in the actual sales area.

I went back to Ash with the mouthpiece in its original packing and with
the sales slips. There was no sign about a returned merchandise policy
anywhere in the Woodwind department, nor was there one at the register.
I talked to the department manager. When she realized what I was doing
she remained well-behaved, even after I mentioned having called Consumer
Affairs for information: yes, there was an implicit threat, which is
what I intended. She said they've had to cut people off because they
are (to use her term) "equipment junkies" who come in, "borrow"
mouthpieces and instruments, then bring them back. I felt like asking
her what kind of business she thought she was in where you cannot try
stuff out. Practice rooms or not, why change a policy of returns
without posting it?

I don't object up front to knowing that's the store's policy. The
manager in Ash was probably right: some customers WILL abuse their
"borrowing privileges" and make everyone nuts. Roberto's two blocks
away is quite clear: you try it here, you buy it here, you don't bring
it back. That goes not only for reeds and mouthpieces but even for
stuff like ligatures and caps, where sterilization is not an issue.
Maybe they're overdoing it in the other direction, but the guys who work
in Roberto's--including Roberto himself--do not come with a built-in
Attitude. In fact, they are less expensive than Ash and it's pleasant
to do business with them. Ash I found secretive and defensive, like
they were there to "move merch" and not deal with a customer who might
have been prepared to spend real serious money there at some future
time. Would I spend $2200 on a clarinet there now if I get any kind of
bonus that allows such mad extravagance? Not really, not anymore, not
with them.

So I got my charge refunded. I am also, I suspect, about as popular in
Sam Ash right now as a pack of unfiltered Camels would be in a cancer

But I'll bet there's a sign up today.

Ken Wolman dbtrader Deutsche Bank, N.A.
1251 Sixth Avenue New York, NY 10019 212-469-6494

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