The Bone Yard
Could my child's Band Director be getting a "kickback" for recommending a particular music store to the Band Parents?
I am only including this topic because my wife recently told me she had overheard parents speculating about this. It's a touchy topic I suppose. In my experience, stores have tried to sell themselves to me only in legitimate and professional ways; promoting the quality of their merchandise, their repair services, willingness to visit the school regularly, and reasonable prices. NEVER have I been told that I'll be rewarded in any personal way if my students buy a quota of instruments. In all honesty, and to the best of my recollection, here's what various local music stores have done for me personally and as a school band director:
1. I've had one complimentary repair done on my personal instrument. I was pulling out my wallet and the owner said there was no charge. The bill calculated by the repair tech was $10.00. WHY? Perhaps I was a good customer. For numerous more expensive repairs I was charged full price.
2. One store I know will throw an annual party for all music teachers in the region regardless of what business is sent their way. Many of these teachers work in rural areas and get precious little contact with their own kind, so this is great opportunity to share ideas and experiences that only another music teacher can appreciate. This even includes Choral Directors who (obviously) don't have their students buy instruments at all. This store has also brought in specialists to conduct workshops for teachers and sponsors bus trips to Music Education Conventions in a neighboring state, promoting our professional development. WHY? I believe the store owner sees it as an investment in his community. Happy and well-trained teachers will mean more successful music programs, and that means more kids will be looking for instruments.
3. Following rental meetings (where various stores are invited to the school for an evening so students can get instruments) I am sometimes invited out for a drink or dinner. This has happened even when I have 4 or 5 stores present at the school, (clearly not showing favoritism) and on one occasion they even invited a competitor along! WHY? I have to admit, it's hard to see this one as anything other than a thank you for remembering them at rental time and for putting them in a room with some potential customers. You may think I'm crossing the line when I fill a glass from that pitcher of Bud-Light and help myself to a slice of Meat-Lovers Supreme, but my wife knows the truth of it; I just want to stay out an extra hour so I won't be back in time to help with the laundry, check the homework, pick up the toys, fix the lunches...
4. There is a promotion I've heard of but never participated in, in which a certain number of instruments must be sold to students of the same school then the school will receive a free clarinet or something to that effect. This sort of promotion is announced publicly to all customers, not just the teacher.
Here's my bottom line on this topic. If a store is recommended by your Band Director, most likely it's because they are selling quality instruments at a good price and they have good service. Imagine a class full of kids playing on bargain basement, bad sounding, and unreliable instruments. What kind of kickback is worth that?
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