Columnists Chuck Koehler The Retailer’s Perspective: What’s your warranty on this?

The Retailer’s Perspective: What’s your warranty on this?

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That’s a question I have a hard time answering most times.  I know in a perfect world I’d have a laminated card in my wallet or a prominently displayed poster with my stated policy in plain sight.  But I don’t.  Warranties and guarantees are a sticky subject with me.  Here’s why.

Watch batteries are probably the item I get asked the most about how long I guarantee the product for.  My stock answer (I kid you not) to all customers is this:

“I know this is going to sound like a smart assed answer, but it’s not.  A watch battery lasts exactly from the time you put it in until the time it quits.  No more.  No less.  Every watch is different.”

But, I say it nicely and most people understand.

We all have our share of customers that bring in that horribly nasty gold nugget watch from the ‘80s that has a watch face held in by the remaining 3 out of 4 wires bent around the lugs of the watch.  You know, the kind of watch where you have to take an old toothbrush and scrub away years of filth just so you can stomach working on it.

I mean, really.  How can anyone expect me to guess how long a battery is going to last in a 25 year old watch?  If I put a battery in it and it starts working, I collect my $10 and move on.  If it comes back a day or so later, I take the battery out, wait a minute or two, then re-install the battery.  If it starts to work, I hand it back and say, “Here you go.  It’s working.”

But, what do you do if it doesn’t start?  I’ll tell you a little secret.  If you have a magnetic tumbler in your shop, take the bowl off of your tumbler and set the watch on it and turn it on.  You may have to move the watch around a little bit, but the magnetic tumbler will spin the hands of the watch.  Do that for 20-30 seconds and most watches will fire right up and save the sale.  If you don’t have a magnetic tumbler, take the battery out and look inside the watch and you’ll see the edge of some of the gears.  Use a straight pin and manually turn the gears a few turns.  Use caution because some of them are plastic, but that will usually start one too.  If they ask me if I put a new battery in it, I just say, yes, I did put in a new battery... yesterday.

But, in all reality, many watch movements today are just pieces of plastic that defy the very notion of a warranty.  I tell my customers that these watches are like VCRs.  You don’t repair them, you replace them.

Unfortunately warranty questions don’t stop at crappy watches.  Oh no, it comes up with crappy jewelry too.  And once again, how do you answer the “how long do you guarantee this sizing for?”  Of course, my usual answer is:

“Does it fit?”

“Yes.”

“Your warranty just expired.”

Of course that’s what’s going on in my head, but what’s coming out of my mouth is whatever I think I can say to make them stop thinking about such a ludicrous notion of me offering a warranty on a cheap ring they bought on a cruise for waaay too much money.  Just because they got ripped off doesn’t mean I have to own their problem for the rest of my life.  My only dog I had in this hunt was to cut and solder an already too thin shank.

The only thing I can guarantee is that the ring is going to fall apart in the near future.  And when it does, don’t bring it to me.  For the most part, I try to get as far away from any notion of a warranty as I can because I already know it’s going to fall apart.

Now, on the other hand, what do you do with the customer that comes in with a nice piece of jewelry for repair?  When they ask me how long I warrant my work I have a different answer every time.  If I recommend work to be done, and the customer agrees to do everything I say, then a warranty doesn’t matter.  They won’t need it.  The work will be done properly and should last for years and years.  By the time a properly executed repair fails or needs to be repaired again, we won’t even be in the same decade.  So I usually say I warrant my work for 6 months or a year.  Whatever I think they want to hear because it really doesn’t matter.

What about those lifetime warranties that some stores offer?  The only experience I have with them as a business owner is the fact I know they exist.  I don’t know what the stipulations are, but I’m assuming there are stipulations attached.  I’d love for a few people to write me about the positive side of those (of course a couple of horror stories are always welcome too).

Watch repair is about the only warranty I offer that has a drop dead “out of warranty” date... 6 months.  But even here, there are so many stipulations.

When a customer brings in their Seiko automatic for service, that they’ve been wearing for years, I have no problem making it run and keep time.  We just repair it, offer a 6 month warranty and don’t see it until it starts running goofy again.  But, when that customer comes in with the antique watch they bought at a garage sale for $1, it’s a different story.

The only thing we warrant is that we can make the watch run, we don’t guarantee accuracy.  We allow them to return it twice under warranty if it’s not running properly to have it looked at.

I explain, and most people understand, that all we are doing is a simple service on the watch, not a total overhaul.  The reason it was in the garage sale in the first place was there was probably something expensive wrong with it and someone elected not to repair it and just threw it in a drawer.  If my customer, after two attempts to repair, wants to proceed farther, then it’s just by the hour to tear it down and find the deeply hidden problem.  Then, and only then, do we warrant it will keep time... but only for 6 months.

I’ve always felt that warranties are nothing more than a marketing ploy by large faceless corporations to attract customers to their stores over their competitors.  Hell, the only reason they offer the warranty is because they already know it’s going to fall apart.

The warranty covers the repair when 6 out of 15 diamonds fall out in the first year... and the customer is happy.  I don’t have a problem with this.  They’re selling crap, and they guarantee to repair or replace the item when it falls apart.  I’ve often wondered if they do this just to keep the customers coming back in the store.  Probably.

But I honestly believe that most of us mom and pop shops across the country don’t need to offer an “iron clad” warranty because we just do it right the first time because our name is on the front door.  Write me and let me know what your warranty/guarantee policy is and we’ll share it with our readers.  Heck, I may actually find one that I can use in my business.

Official disclaimer:  This publication does not warrant any information contained in this column.

Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide.

If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
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