La Jolla resident Lance Pelky has stepped forward to ask the public if other residents feel they have been unfairly dealt with by Peter Schroeder, owner of Schroeder Piano & Piano Rentals, Inc., located at
5680 La Jolla Blvd., after entrusting the company with their pianos set for consignment.
“About nine years ago I consigned a $10,000 piano with Schroeder on a 60-40 split,” Pelky said, adding Schroeder kept delaying him. “He would tell me, ‘I haven’t sold it yet,’ then he told me, ‘I’ve been contacted by someone interested,’ then said, ‘They’ve given me a deposit.’”
Finally, Pelky said, he stopped hearing from Schroeder at all.
After many months, Pelky took his case to TV consumer watchdog Michael Turko and “The Turko Files,” which subsequently profiled Schroeder and Schroeder’s alleged unfair business practices.
After that, Pelky claims Schroeder offered to pay him part of the money he was owed, which Pelky said he rejected, before both parties finally arrived at a mutually agreed-upon partial settlement.
“I have been contacted by several people since who’ve consigned pianos with Schroeder, had the same problems with him and have never been paid,” Pelky said. “I’ve tried to get some kind of resolution for them. I think he’s (Schroeder’s) a public nuisance at best.”
After unsuccessful attempts to speak with Peter Schroeder, La Jolla Village News spoke with Schroeder’s wife, Dolores, who chose to respond to allegations about their piano company’s business dealings.
Dolores Schroeder said her company has settled with Pelky and a handful of others who’ve come forward with allegations she maintains are unfounded.
“Pelky’s account was settled five years ago,” she emailed. “He was paid more than he deserved after threats that he would do more bad publicity. He required us to pay him at the Soledad Mountain Road Dog Park for the transaction. That was done.
“There are other mitigating circumstances with (other) accounts payable that are too lengthy to go into,” she said.
Turko said he’s done about five spots on Schroeder, two several years ago and three more recently. The TV journalist said he gets about 300 calls each week pitching prospective stories, 10 percent of which turn out to be more substantial, with about 1 percent of the pitches received actually being publicized on “The Turko Files.”
He talked about what intrigued him about the Schroeder case.
“People were claiming that their pianos went missing,” Turko said. “That, by itself, is pretty interesting. A piano is a big object.”
Turko said he was told repeatedly by interviewees, many of them elderly, that Mr. Schroeder “won’t or hadn’t given them a satisfactory explanation” as to where their pianos were.
As to the substance of allegations made about subjects of his TV spots, Turko said, “I’m not a cop. I’m not a law-enforcement agent. I’m not a judge. That’s not my call to make. That’s a call the DA has to make.”
The county District Attorney’s Office was then contacted for independent comment.
“All I can say is that a case is currently under review,” confirmed DA spokesman Paul Greenwood.
The Village News talked with a couple of other apparent customers who’ve had similar stories to tell about their business dealings with the Schroeders.
Thomas Hull, who is retired from UCSD and still lives near the university, said he placed his mother’s piano with Schroeder for consignment back in 2009.
“[Peter Schroeder] told me he was going to ask $35,000 for it,” Hull said. “When I called him back a few months later, he said he’d gotten a down payment. I never heard any more about it.”
Hull said he later told Schroeder he wanted his piano back.
“He said it was sold and sent me a check (said to be a partial payment) in the next few days,” Hull said. “But I never heard any more.”
Dolores Schroeder counterclaimed the money will be delivered, as promised.
“He has been paid 25 percent of monies owed to him and will be paid in full,” said Dolores Schroeder.
Piano restorer and technician Russell Berkley of North Pacific Beach said he, too, has a similar story.
“I bought and restored an old Steinway for about $18,000 and consigned it with Schroeder, who later called me and told me he’d gotten about $3,800 for it,” Berkley said, adding he ultimately settled with Schroeder — following legal action — who agreed to pay some cash upfront and then make payments.
“He finally ended up giving me an old Steinway he paid $6,000 for, and I restored it,” said Berkley. “We’re done.”
Dolores Schroeder maintains Berkley was fully compensated.
“We gave him a job with our company and he enjoyed referrals,” she said. “We sent him to technical school for a specialty learning to install Pianomation Units, which gave him a unique niche in the business, thus profiting him from our initial employment.
“We had his piano on consignment, we traded him for the amount due to him after the sale with a 'special' Steinway Piano,” she said. “He sold that piano for much more than we owed him and made a large profit.”
Pasadena resident George Ashikyan, who rebuilds pianos, said he’s dealt with the Schroeders for 15 years or more, adding the relationship was pretty positive until recent years.
“[Peter Schroeder] would send his pianos to me and I would rebuild them and send them back to him for consignment to sell,” Ashikyan said. “The last piano he sold, he just didn’t pay me. I had to hire an attorney and sue him. He paid the remainder of what he owed me.”
Ashikyan said Schroeder was good about paying him until four or five years ago, when Schroeder “got slower and slower with payments, and then the last time he didn’t pay.”
Dolores Schroeder takes issue with Ashikyan’s claim.
“We have a legal contract with our attorney and his, that we are to pay him 'whenever,’” she said.
The DA’s Office can be reach at (619) 531-3464, or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.