What is a Grey Market Piano?

Grey Market Consumer Warning

A Number of “Grey Market” Yamaha pianos have been recently distributed in the United States by non-authorized wholesalers representing the pianos to be of a similar quality as regular Yamaha instruments. These pianos are used instruments that were never intended for distribution in the United States. Their specifications are different from pianos made for American distribution. Should the consumer have a problem with the instrument, no parts or service support is available from Yamaha Corporation of America.

Any representation made by a retail dealer as to the reliability, warranty or merchantability of these pianos carries no support or backing from Yamaha America Corporation. The following questions and answers are most frequently asked of Yamaha and will present a more complete picture of the concerns Yamaha has over these “Grey Market” instruments.

Where do these Grey Market Pianos come from?

These grand pianos are often sold by Yamaha to schools and institutional users in Japan. After years of use, the instruments are worn to a point where they must be replaced. The school systems then sell the pianos to private entrepreneurs who do enough repairs to make them look like new and export them to the United States. Yamaha Does Not rebuild or refurbish pianos for resale!

How are these pianos different from regular
Yamaha pianos sold in the United States?

These grey market pianos are almost always sold by dealers who do not qualify for an authorized Yamaha dealership. They have no warranty from Yamaha America Corporation, and no parts are available from Yamaha should repairs be required. These are:

  1. Moisture problems within the woods of the piano: Yamaha Corporation of Japan manufactures pianos for three major world markets: Asia, which is a relatively moist climate; Europe, which is fairly dry by comparison; and the United States, which is considered to be extremely dry. The critical wooden components in pianos built for the U.S.A. are dried to much lower moisture content than pianos built for any other country. Thus, when a piano that’s intended for a moist climate is placed in a very dry environment, there is likelihood that its structural integrity will be threatened as the wooden parts lose moisture. The results most commonly encountered include warping of case parts, cracks in the soundboard and loose tuning pins.
  2. Tuning instability resulting from Pin Block damage: As the pin blocks in grey market pianos lose moisture and dry in the customers home the block may no longer hold the tuning pins tight. Loose tuning pins will have a direct effect on the ability of the piano to hold its tuning. The only practical solution is to re-pin the piano with over-sized tuning pins. This procedure normally carries a fairly high price tag, especially since it often encompasses re-stringing the piano, as well.When Yamaha first began importing pianos to the Unites States, back in the early 1960’s our engineers were aware of the level of dryness that exists in U.S. homes. As a result, many of those pianos suffered loose tuning pins within the first couple of years. In response, Yamaha sent teams of factory personnel all over the U.S.A. repining literally thousands of pianos. We learned our lesson the hard way. The experience led us to the development of computer controlled drying kilns as well as other manufacturing procedures, so that pianos destined for the U.S. market would be better built to acclimate themselves to our environment. It is reasonable to suppose that the privately imported grey market pianos could exhibit problems similar to those models that were imported in the 1960’s.
  3. Cabinet stability: In addition to warping and drying problems, grey market pianos coming from Japan lack the special polymer barrier that goes between the actual wood and finish of the piano. This barrier provides special protection from cracks and lines forming in the finish should the moisture of the wood change after the finish process has been completed.
  4. Technology advances: Yamaha continues to develop and refine the production process and components in their pianos. The new piano you purchase today from an authorized Yamaha dealer is built to the latest and best specifications available in the industry. Grey market pianos are older used instruments that lack much of this refinement.

Why won’t Yamaha provide parts?
Or service for these pianos?

It’s not that we won’t, we simply can’t. Since Yamaha Corporation of America did not import these pianos, there is a lot about these instruments we simply don’t know. This can range from cabinet styles and finishes to internal components. These models and styles built for other areas of the world are quite different than what is sold in America. As a result, parts support can become a rather complicated affair for the piano owner, since we are normally unable to assist with such matters.

How can I tell if a Yamaha piano
Is a Grey Market piano or not?

The only way to be sure is to contact your local Yamaha dealer with the serial number of the piano in question. You may also go to Yamaha’s corporate website at www.yamaha.com

If you have further questions about Grey Market pianos, you can write to:

Senior Technical Service Representative
Piano Service Department
Yamaha Corporation of America
P.O Box 6600
Buena Park, CA 90622-6600