Columnists Chuck Koehler The Retailer’s Perspective: Cha Cha Cha Changes...

The Retailer’s Perspective: Cha Cha Cha Changes...

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The old saying, “Times change, people don’t,” is so very true. I’m still the same person I was back in 1978 when I got into this business. But boy, the times and the business sure have changed. Some I like and some I don’t.  But, regardless of whether we like it or dislike it, it changed and we have to deal with it.  Let’s look at some of the changes…

Cell Phones

I can’t say that I love mine. Heck, saying that I even like it is probably pushing it, but I own one and I use it daily.  But, being in this business for two decades before cell phones, I remember what it was like when people walked into my store NOT ON THE PHONE! 

When cell phones came around, it used to really bug me when people walked in talking on their phone and showed me “the hand” when I started to ask them how I could help them. So now I’m just standing there staring at them while they’re finishing a 10 minute phone call about nothing! Usually, I just go back to whatever it was I was doing before I interrupted their phone call. When they finally hang up and are ready for me to drop whatever I’m doing - again - I usually make them wait a few minutes for me to get to a stopping point - again. And the funny thing is that I can’t remember more than one or two of these phone calls that couldn’t have waited until they finished their business with me.

Another funny thing about cell phones was that suddenly we all went from writing one number on a repair ticket to hearing, “Here, let me give you my cell phone number, too.” Then they could never remember their cell phone number saying, “I never call myself.” And, as a retail store, we now have to leave messages at two places, always saying, “I’ll leave a message on your home phone, too.” 

On the plus side though, cell phones made getting in touch with your customers for approvals and such much easier than the old way of leaving a message on their home answering machine that they only listened to after you were closed for the day.

Smart Phones

Just like cell phones, only 100x more annoying in a business environment. With cell phones, your customers would at least look at you while they were ignoring you. Now they can ignore me without even acknowledging that they’re standing in my store. We replace a lot of watch batteries which means we have a lot of customers that are in the showroom for about 5 minutes. They used to look in the cases and interact with me or my employees. Now they just sit there and stare like zombies at their phones until I’m finished, with almost no human interaction between us. Then they pay me and leave. I’m still working on figuring out how to combat this one. It might not have a fix.

Text Messaging

Honestly, I don’t think I have one bad thing to say against text messaging. I’m actually voting it as my favorite invention of the cell phone/smart phone era. That is, until it becomes a major distraction with employees, all day long! Texting is the one thing I have had to curb usage with employees throughout the years.  I have a policy at my store that I don’t want to hear your text message alerts going off while you’re at work.  I don’t mind if you check your texts occasionally and just respond with, “I’ll text you when I get off work at 6.”  Or, if it’s something that is really important and they need to deal with it, I’ll let it slide... I mean I’m not a monster. But usually it’s just a friend who’s NOT AT WORK and bored. My policy is that as one of my employees, it is your responsibility to inform your family and friends not to text you during work hours because it puts the boss in a bad mood.

And, just for the record, I hate it when people call me on my cell phone when I’m at work… just sayin’.  I’ve got a store phone and I’d rather people called me there. What can I say, it’s a pet peeve.

Shop Equipment

Although there have been thousands of technological advancements in our industry, I’ve noticed lately that, for the most part, I use the same shop tools all day long that I bought when I started my company in 1983.  With everything that has changed in the world in the last 20 years, the basic premise of jewelry repair has stayed largely the same. Of course the most significant advancement in the shop has been the introduction of the laser welder, but virtually all other shop equipment is about the same as it was 30 years ago. It’s still just hammers, pliers, saws, files, and talent that gets the job done. Whew, because I’m a creature of habit.

Certified Diamonds

I’ll just come right out and say it, I’m not a fan! I never have been. I received my gemological certification in 1983. That makes ME the expert, not someone else in a faraway lab in a faraway city, and oftentimes a faraway country. I’m the expert here! 

A couple of weeks ago here in Nashville, TN, one of the local TV stations decided to do a huge exposé on a jewelry store claiming they were selling diamonds with bad certificates and trying to prove that the store was ripping off its customers. The TV station failed miserably! If the diamond has a certification that states it’s this or that, then it has to be true. Right? 

Back in the old days, a 1.01 ct., VS1, G-color diamond cost a certain amount of money per carat across the industry based on the Rapaport guide, also known as the Rap Sheet. The Rap Sheet didn’t differentiate prices based on different lab grading reports. A VS1, G-color diamond was just that - a VS1, G-color! Now, depending on the cert, the cost per carat can fluctuate wildly - for no reason! It only proves to me that certs are worthless if no one can agree if it’s a VS2, or an SI1, or an I1, or a G, or an I, or a K. It rankles me!

Diamond certifications have been around for a long time, but they really exploded with the invention of the internet for one very simple reason. Prior to the internet, people bought their diamonds from jewelry stores and people who really knew diamonds. Now people buy their diamonds from anyplace but a jewelry store. I’ve sold thousands and thousands of diamonds in my life, before the internet. Now, not so much. And I know I’m not alone out there. 

As an industry, we have a diamond grading standard that we all know as the GIA grading scale. It’s a standard, but it’s open to interpretation and opinion. But the thing that kills me is there are absolutely no repercussions for fudging the scale as far as you want to fudge it. And I don’t see any change in sight for the foreseeable future. Just because most old school jewelers here in America adhere to GIA standards, not everyone plays by our rules, and they do it much differently overseas. And the world is getting smaller every day.

Here’s my analogy about certified diamonds, because customers seem to think a certified diamond (which costs about $150 to be certified) is somehow better than a diamond without a certification. I compare it to getting your car detailed (which also costs about $150) by a professional before you sell it.

You send your car to the detail shop and they actually do something to your car. When you get it back, it’s shinier, it’s prettier, it’s cleaner, it smells better, it looks better, it drives better, it shows better, and it is now probably worth more money than before you sent it off.

You send your diamond off to be certified, and it comes back EXACTLY the same as when you sent it. Nobody actually did anything to change your diamond. They looked at it and gave you a written opinion on a fancy piece of paper. But it isn’t bigger, it isn’t better, it might be cleaner, but it’s not shinier, prettier, or smell better. And it shows exactly the same as before you sent it. And nothing probably happened to change the value.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is a place for diamond certifications and there has been for years. But only if we’re trying to decide if it’s really a 4.07 ct., D-flawless, or really a 4.06 ct., VVS1, E-color. In my opinion, there’s just no real need to certify a .48 ct., SI2, I-color.

Real Newspapers

With so many trade publications going to e-readers and online subscriptions, who doesn’t like to hold a real newspaper in your hand to read a story? Even if it is this story!


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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