Did I get ripped off?

February 26, 2017 at 04:08 AM · About two years ago, I started renting a student violin from Music and Arts and after about a year, I bought the rental. It cost $700 without the additional fees that I paid for renting it. They had a policy where you can use the money that you spent to rent the violin towards your final payment. In total, the violin was around $900-1000. After looking to buy another violin for my brother, we realized that many student violins were nowhere near that amount. My violin is a Strobel ml 85. http://www.strobelstrings.com/instruments/strobel-violin-ml-85/

That is the link to the model. I feel like I paid too much for my violin since I am looking to get an upgrade from this student violin. Please tell me if this was a bad deal or not.

Replies (29)

February 26, 2017 at 04:59 AM · I'm confused. Are you adding in your total rental payments to come up with your cost? I'm not aware of any shop that applies 100% of rental payments to a purchase; usually it is around 50% of the rental payments that go into a store credit for a purchase.

At any rate, Music and Arts is not a stringed instrument shop. You will find a better selection (and a higher quality) of student instruments at a dedicated violin shop.

February 26, 2017 at 07:52 AM · $700 for a student violin is not a total rip-off. It's a dilemma because you did what everyone suggests (rent for a year) and shops have to make a living, so if they set up the instrument well and helped you get started, it was probably money reasonably spent. But, yes, you can buy the same violin used on ebay for $100-200. There's probably not a consensus here, but in general anything under $300 is almost definitely a VSO and then at around your price point there's a great deal of variation in the student market. Is it a decent violin? Do the pegs turn well? How's the bow? Violin is a pricey hobby, so don't fret too much about a sunk cost.

February 26, 2017 at 08:18 AM · I think the deal was OK. You bought it new and after setup. Not to say it has served you well.

The violin is just worth as much as you are willing to pay for it. Unless you bought a counterfeit, you paid what it was worth for you.

February 26, 2017 at 09:03 AM · Violin is a pricey hobby

For sure!

February 26, 2017 at 12:09 PM · Correction : the violin CAN be a pricey hobby :)

Jessica : you may have spent a bit too much on your first violin but most of us probably did the same....I know I did. Put it down to a lesson learned so the money was not totally wasted.

February 26, 2017 at 02:00 PM · I teach part of the time at a Music and Arts store, so I am very familiar with the Strobel violins. (As a teacher I am an independent contractor rather than an employee, so this is an unbiased opinion). I would say that while you most likely can get something better for your money at a dedicated violin shop, Strobels are priced generally in the correct range for their quality. So while I would say that you may have overpaid compared to many violin shops, you were not "ripped-off." If you replace the Glasser bow (some of the newer ones have carbon fiber bows that are decent) and cheap strings (and maybe have the bridge adjusted/replaced by a luthier) you will have a solid beginner/intermediate level violin set-up that will take your average student through about Suzuki bk. 4 ish level, before needing an upgrade (not to say you might not want to upgrade sooner, but you shouldn't be limited by your violin until about that stage as long as you get a decent bow).

Keep in mind that especially in the under $3,000 or so range, you will almost never get back what you paid for a violin on an upgrade except occasionally from the same shop/maker you bought it from. When I bought my first professional level viola, I traded in my $3000 student viola and got $2000 for it. I consider that I got a good deal because I got 3 years of playing a good advanced student instrument for $1000 (about $27 a month) and I think that was on the higher side of an out of shop trade-in because I was buying an instrument worth several times the trade-in.

February 26, 2017 at 02:30 PM · Re rent to own: Where I live, the local music store has a humidified room for their string instruments. They apply 100% of rental fees to purchase, for as long as you need. Shop policies vary; if there is competition in town, you should try to negotiate.

February 26, 2017 at 06:16 PM · Mary: When I upgrade my violin, I will definitely go to a luthier or specialized violin shop.

J Seitz: The violin is pretty good but the one that my brother bought online by Kennedy Violins was almost the same as my Strobel one, in my opinion.

Bruno: It was another rental that a person or multiple people have already rented before. I could by the scratches and chipped parts of the body. The violin plays well so the slight damage is not important.

Brian: Definitely a lesson learned.

Ingrid: Would a brazilwood bow be a good replacement for the Glasser bow?

Erin: That is exactly what my music store does too. Ah, your advice was somewhat late but thanks for the input!

February 26, 2017 at 06:16 PM ·

February 26, 2017 at 09:35 PM · "... you may have spent a bit too much on your first violin but most of us probably did the same...." - And even if, learning this the hard way with your first violin is still better than learning it with your third one? (Comparing the "loss" of a few hundred bucks max. to several thousands?)

I'd go with Ingrids advice. First, try with a bow upgrade, and look what a good luthier might be able to optimize with the setup. Stick with your current violin as long as possible, and in the meantime try as many violins (and bows) as possible in various price ranges, and if you get the chance to try some instruments which will forever be completely out of reach - just go for it! It's just about learning and developing your own taste, and then chances are higher that your next violin which you maybe will purchase in the future will be a lifetime companion. (With every single upgrade you will definitely loose money, for shops and luthiers have to make their livings, too... So minimizing the number of upgrade cycles will definitely save you more money than anything else.)

A brazilwood bow is not necessarily an upgrade, many of them are just too weak and soft, but there are also some which are far better than the minor pernambuco bows. So as often "it depends", its like the needle in a haystack. In my region you might get a decent brazilwood bow which technically will bring you through several years for around €350. But usually in this price range it's much easier to find a good carbon fiber bow. And later it's still there as a backup bow for dangerous situations...

February 27, 2017 at 01:49 PM · I'm in what may be a bit of a tricky situation. Currently I do some of my teaching at a Music&Arts. One of my students, an 11 year old girl, is looking to upgrade from a 7/8 to a full-size. The length of her arms and the size of her hands are such that she's ready for a full-size and her mother is tired of renting from M&A and wants to trade it in to M&A for one of their full-size violins. The mother made the decision so suddenly that she took bit M&A and me by surprise. They weren't sure what she wanted to do but they showed her one of their full-size violins. The full-size that they showed her did not favorably impress me at all, nor did a couple of others that they had on hand.

I called the mother and offered to sell her one of mine - the same one that I usually brought to the lessons, a very decent Chinese that I've used for some outdoor playing as well as teaching. It is also very well set-up, unlike what I've seen from the M&A offerings. I am offering the violin to them at a very decent price and will include a bow and case. I explained to the mother that her out-of-pocket cost for mine would be higher but they would be getting a better violin. Meanwhile, the last few lessons I've brought 2 violins with me in a double case and letting the girl play on my Chinese violin to get used to it while I demonstrated on the other. The girl loves it but her parents have been dragging their feet about stepping up to the plate and paying for it.

At the last lesson, the girl told me that her mother said yes. I consider this hopeful at this point, but not a done deal. But meanwhile, I'm wondering if I have to kind of try to do this under the radar of M&A. According to their regulations, they offer a 5% cut to a teacher who helps sell an M&A instrument to a student but there's nothing prohibiting selling a violin of one's own to a student. Still...

I'm especially interested in Ingrid's take, since she also teaches at a M&A.

BTW, I don't mean to imply that all the instruments at M&A are no good. In my particular experience at one branch with violins I've seen a curious inconsistentcy: I have another student there who just turned 9 and whose mother is renting a 1/2 size violin from M&A. The sound, appearance and set-up is better on this 1/2 size than the full-size ones I've checked out.

February 27, 2017 at 10:58 PM · I offer my own rental program for this reason. The "rent-to-buy" wouldn't make any sense for shops to offer unless they were significantly profiting off of it. I prefer for rentals to be very up-front about what you're getting for the price you pay.

I believe many of the shops in my area offer a 100% rent-to-purchase ratio, but this is coercing you into paying full retail, brand-name price if you decide to buy.

They're not REALLY rentals: they're usually monthly payments on an over-priced product.

They're taking advantage of human psychology which says "I've already put X amount into this, so I might as well buy it." And since brand names are often artificially inflated, the student could have gone out and bought a nice Chinese violin of similar quality for 1/4 of the price.

Not only that, but if something happens to the rental, they're going to say the violin costs "___" to replace, but their actual cost is most likely much lower. So then you have to get insurance because you don't want to risk it.

In my humble opinion, rentals should just be rentals. There shouldn't be any extra complication added to the mind of the consumer.

Raphael: I get the struggle. Working out of someone else's shop definitely has drawbacks. Perhaps you could offer M&A a cut of the profit you will make from the violin?

February 28, 2017 at 12:40 AM · As an employee of music and arts, I would like to chime in that, the proper procedure for paying off your rental is this formula. RC = Rental Credit (prior rent payments), MSRP is the full price of the instrument(in the case of strobel student violins $900).

(MSRP - Rental credit)x.30 = Your pay off amount. Music and Arts takes off that 30% because it's a student level instrument and it brings it down closer(not exactly) to the fair market value of the instrument. With the Strobel violins for example, if someone wants to buy one outright they pay $600.

What M&A does is for MOST of the string instrument brands in the store, you can use 100% of your RC applied to the purchase. Next is the process if you want to do this for a step up or intermediate level instrument. So if you want an instrument that cost 1200, and you've paid 600 in rental, you take the 1200-RC = how much you pay out of pocket.

February 28, 2017 at 03:57 AM · In other words, you paid for a lesson. Not bad, if you consider that one day you will use that knowledge while buying a more expensive instrument, where mistakes are exponentially more costly.

Depending on their return policy, you may still have time to go back and ask for money back.

Is it just me having strong feelings about violin (grocery) shops?

February 28, 2017 at 05:54 AM ·

February 28, 2017 at 12:31 PM · So Charles, what do you think of my situation? Believe me, I want the best for my students. If M&A or anyone else was offering my students a 'better mouse trap' in the same price range, I'd encourage them to take it. But they're not.

February 28, 2017 at 12:56 PM · Raphael, this may sound like a cop out response, but I would tell you to follow your heart (how cliche as well). My personal belief is that what's best for the student is what's best for the student. I would sell her the Chinese instrument under the radar of M&A. Tell the mother and the student to just return the instrument they're renting and say "we got an instrument from somewhere else." That has happened before to myself as an employee of the store. Granted the student didn't buy the instrument from one of the store teachers, but the student bought an instrument from a different shop and returned their rental. In my personal opinion, it's none of M&A's business and you should have nothing to fear.

February 28, 2017 at 01:10 PM · Raphael, you could sell your violin (which you've been trying to place for quite some time I believe based you various posts here)to your M&A student, but with the consent of M&A. That way, any conflict of interest (i.e., taking away business from M&A by doing business with a current student referred to you by M%A) claim would be defeated. Charles, as an employee of M&A, you might be acting in a disloyal manner towards your employer by encouraging others to take action in detriment of your employer, suggesting that it be done under the radar and proposing what to do and say to so and so. Under the laws of most states, the employer is entitled to demand the return of all monies and other compensation paid to the employee during the time that he was being disloyal to its employer. Nothing herein shall be deemed as legal advice. Contact your attorneys for proper advice regarding your cases.

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February 28, 2017 at 03:16 PM · Dexter,

I'd like you to be made aware that there is no driving away of business from M&A. With the return of the instrument being rented, M&A has another instrument that is in the rental circulation to be rented by another student thereby increasing their profits.

Thank you

February 28, 2017 at 03:43 PM · Thanks, Charles!

Dexter, you may be confusing the violin in question with another one. I only have 3 violins for sale right now. The other two are more money and bigger in size - both are 360 mm. For this student I am encouraging the least expensive one and the most standard in size (- it's just under 356mm). I really am thinking about what's best for this student, not my pocket book. In fact with these 3, whichever 2 sell first, I'll probably keep the 3rd one.

February 28, 2017 at 04:37 PM · Ok, sorry about the confusion

February 28, 2017 at 11:20 PM · Well, as it turns out it is all a moot point now in my situation. I just had a talk with the girl's Mom who now says in no uncertain terms that with $800 now already invested in the rental so far, she doesn't want to lose that and only wants to put no more than a couple of hundred dollars more into a purchase to M&A of a full-size violin. From what I've seen so far at M&A $1,000 will get then something not much better than a "VSO". I told her to at least be open to taking it to a shop to get a better bridge, etc. Anyway, I'll try to work with all concerned to get the best results within these constraints.

March 1, 2017 at 02:13 PM · Raphael, maybe you can talk them into renting for another year or so to save up a bit more rental credit? I've been reasonably impressed with the Otto Benjamins priced around $1300-$1500. I'm not sure of the price, but I have a viola student with an Eastman viola as a "step-up" rental that is a pretty solid instrument (and would be quite nice with a better bridge). I haven't played any of the step-up violin rentals yet, but maybe that could be an option?

March 2, 2017 at 04:29 AM · Thanks, Ingrid but my sense from my last conversation with the mother is that she finally decided what she wanted to do and didn't want to talk about it anymore.

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