Last November Try It! mentioned a service called C&P Piano Matchmakers, a brokerage business which brings together piano sellers and piano buyers. Since then, a case history of one transaction with C&P Piano Matchmakers which was brought to our attention begs a caution: buyer beware.

Lise Vita agreed to buy, sight unseen and based on glowing endorsements from C&P, a Yamaha spinet piano for $1,500. She also paid an additional $20 "finder's fee." After Vita inquired about the company's "discounted moving service" (so described in its literature) she says she was told that it would cost $90. She did her own research and found a mover that would do the job for $60. C&P Piano Matchmakers, she says, then brought their price down to $50. Upon delivery of the piano, and after seeing that it did not have the type of bench she expected and that several of the keys were stuck, Vita telephoned the original owner of the Yamaha and discovered she had sold the piano to C&P for $795, the price she had asked in a classified ad in The Washington Post. The Post has obtained an appraisal of the piano from a Yamaha dealer, which gave its value as $800 to $1,000.

Peter Alan Simon, one of the partners in C&P, says his firm is a brokerage service, but that when they see a good deal, which the $795 Yamaha apparently was, they actually buy the piano and resell it, thus acting as used piano dealers, in this case for a mark-up nearly double the purchase price. Simon says he represented the transaction to Vita not as a deal between him, the seller, and Vita, the buyer. He did, however, admit charging her the $20 finder's fee, "simply for us getting the piano." Simon says, "We bought it [the piano] because it was very underpriced and we sold this instrument at market value." The name of their game, Simon says, it this: "You are allowed to buy at the cheapest and sell at the most you can."