Columnists Chuck Koehler Do you do appraisals?

Do you do appraisals?

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What a lovely day, 85 degrees, low humidity, slight breeze out of the north, (my store is south of the Krispy Kreme) a squirrel has a nut in it's mouth digging a hole. I'm sitting on the bench in front of my store taking a break when an old car pulls up and something told me my bliss was about to end.

The driver gets out of the car wearing a 20 year old shirt with a 19 year old food stain on it, and he was looking right at me kinda funny. Maybe he thought I was goofier looking than him with my optivisor, my store phone, my cell phone, my pager, my blue tooth, my 7 pairs of tweezers, my 6 pens and 2 pencils all clipped to my ears or my apron. Wait... maybe I was goofier looking than him?

Anyway, he comes walking up and asked if I was the jeweler. Now, normally I'd be thinking, "what do you think?" But since I'm next door to a gun store, most people think I'm a gunsmith so I had to give him a break on that one. I told him I was and asked him how I could help... like maybe buying him a new shirt or something.

I know. I've heard the same story about the old guy that walked into a jewelry store in old coveralls and no one would help him because of how he was dressed so he drove to the competition and pulled $10,000 in cash out and bought something on the spot. Yeah right. That didn't happen. If it did, someone needs to give me solid proof because in my 30 years experience if they look like this guy, they don't have $10,000... or a wife to spend it on.

The guy asked me if I did appraisals. I told him I did. He stuck his hand in front of my face and showed me a diamond nugget ring that was dirtier than his shirt. YUCK!

"Is that a Diamond?"

I realized now that I was going to have to get up from my comfy resting spot if only to try and get away from that smelly thing under my nose. We walked in the store and I didn't see any big round bulges in his pockets (the kind that $10,000 in cash makes) so I'm back to my original theory by now. I asked him why he needed an appraisal and he told me someone wanted to sell him that ring and he wanted to know if it was real. (I wanted to know what the guy looked like that he was buying that nasty thing from) I told him that a written appraisal was $75, but it wouldn't help him much unless he was going to insure it which didn't seem likely.

"I don't need nuthin' written down, just tell me what it's worth."

Okay class, here's your lesson for the day. When people started buying diamonds off of the Internet, they would bring them to a jewelry store to validate their purchase. They wanted to know if the bright shiny rock in their left hand matched the overwhelming amount of paperwork in their right hand. In the beginning, most of us didn't think anything about it and would spend 60-90 seconds looking at it and say yes or no. Then, the inevitable happened.

Someone bought an expensive diamond off the Internet and took it to their local jeweler who verified it was what the paperwork said it was. The guy buying the diamond decided to keep it and got married. A few years later the marriage didn't work out and one of them went to sell the ring only to find out after all that it wasn't what the paperwork said.

Uh Oh! That Internet company is in big trouble now. Nope. Out of business. Gone. Vanished.

The only person in the entire chain of events that was still approachable was the home town jeweler and he got sued by the guy who bought the diamond off the Internet. Why you ask? Because the guy claimed that he made his buying decision based upon the professional opinion of the home town jeweler... even though the jeweler didn't charge him a dime and only spent about 60 seconds looking at it. I don't remember the outcome of the case, but I do know one thing. It forever changed the way I approach appraisals.

I, like many thousands of you out there, carry appraisal liability insurance. I made a decision that I will never again do a verbal appraisal as long as I live (or until my policy is no longer in force, whichever comes first). I can glance at a cert paper and a diamond and in 2 seconds tell you if they match with about a 75% certainty. But I'm not willing to get sued just because someone "didn't need nuthin' written down." If you want my professional opinion, you'll have to pay for it. If I'm charging you $75 - $100 then I'm doing due diligence to the situation and signing my name to a legal document that is covered under my appraisal liability policy. If I'm wrong, I've got insurance to protect myself. Me saying, "Yep, it's a diamond" is not covered in most instances and leaves me wide open legally. Why would I do that when I pay a lot of money to be protected legally?

As a matter of fact, if a person is not going to hire me to do a full blown written appraisal, I won't even so much as hold the object in my hand. Because it starts that game of: "Just look at it, I won't sue you or nuthin'. Just look at it and tell me if it's real." If I'm not holding it, I can't see it and I can't render a professional opinion on it. I know a lot of people think I carry that a little too far (and I probably do), but when I explain the situation to my customer, they understand. They don't always like it, but they understand... even though they would never sue me.

A lot of people I've found are more than willing to spend the money to find out if they got what they paid for while they're still in that ‘30 day refund window,' so it's not all bad. Selling appraisal services is one of my profit centers so why would I give it away? But today it worked out better than I could have ever imagined.

Old dirty shirt guy with the nastiest ring I think I've ever seen (made nasty by someone else mind you) decided he was going to hand it to me anyway and make me take a look. The ring was way too small for his finger and when he tried to take it off it wouldn't budge. He tugged once. He tugged twice. And everyone knows what happened next. He started licking the ring like it was an ice cream cone and I thought I was gonna throw up. Through my gags I told him not to bother... cough cough... I'm not going... cough cough... to look at it.

So... what do you think of my policy now?

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. You can contact him 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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