It’s only a few days after New Years, and already two of my resolutions are toast! So, once again I’ll be putting “eat healthier” and “get more exercise” on the top of the list for next year. And, the one resolution I do still have working - get chummy with Warren Buffet - isn’t looking too promising either.
The New Year also leads me to start wondering just who might be named the 2015 Jeweler of the Year. Each year, The 24 Karat Club awards its most prestigious honor, The Jeweler of the Year, to a deserving retailer. This is a jeweler who pours his or her heart and soul into their business, serves their customers with the highest levels of expertise and ethics, and gives back to the community and industry. And, while the announcement isn’t made until the summer, the process of identifying, nominating, and selecting the deserving jeweler begins with the new year.
I was able to spend a few days after Christmas out of town, and that gave me the opportunity to stop by my friend Dan’s store to see how he was doing, and thank him for the past year’s business. Driving up to his store I started to think that he might be a good candidate for Jeweler of the Year. He’s a third generation jeweler, active in a number of jewelry industry organizations, runs a fund-raiser every year for his favorite charity, and his customers and vendors love him. Yes, I thought, this is the type of guy we are looking for. That is, until I walked through his front door.
As I entered, a guy was rushing out, red in the face, and he almost knocked me over. He was visibly upset, and yelling and screaming at Dan. I closed the door behind him, looked at my friend and asked, “Another happy customer?”
Dan chuckled. “Don’t worry about him. He’ll be back.”
“Really?” I asked. “I’m no retailer, but that sure doesn’t look like a promising be-back to me. What did you guys do wrong this time?”
“I know he’ll be back because our wives are best friends and he’s in my golf group,” Dan said with what seemed like way too much confidence for me. “He blew up because he’s ordering a very expensive, custom-made, diamond wedding band, and I asked for a deposit to get started!”
“You’d let a good friend and customer walk out angry over a deposit?” I asked, showing that I at least knew a little something about retailing.
“Absolutely!” Dan replied. “It’s our strict policy on all custom work. My staff knows it as ‘No deposit, no return.’”
“No deposit, no return was a pretty big deal when I was a kid,” I said. “It meant we no longer had to bike to the candy store to return our empty soda bottles to get our nickel deposit back. But this is a fancy jewelry store, why the fuss?”
“A deposit does three things for us,” Dan began. “First, it confirms we actually have an order, not an inquiry. Years ago, when my Dad was running the store, he took what he thought was an order for a $25,000 custom piece. Three weeks later, when we called to say the band was ready, the customer said it wasn’t an order, he was just getting the information, and he wasn’t picking it up! Now, I think the stock market may have crashed in the interim to change his mind, but he never did pick it up, it sat in our case for years, and I think only recently did we finally break the piece up. If we had a deposit, I’m sure he would have picked up the ring, and if he didn’t, we would have cut our loss in half.
“Secondly, a deposit stops the customer from shopping any further. Once the customer gives us the deposit, he’s not going to stop at another store, or the mall, and continue his search or price comparisons. A deposit says, ‘OK, I’m done!’
“And finally, there is that psychological benefit of the customer walking away with a magnificent piece, and only having to pay the balance due. It’s not nearly as painful as it would be if he had to pay the full amount. I know it makes no financial sense, but the customer doesn’t feel the full impact of the purchase when he picks the piece up.
“So, for these three reasons, our rule on custom pieces is 50% down, no exceptions. My golfing buddy didn’t take our request or explanation very well and thought he was entitled to a special ‘friend’s exception.’”
Dan and I went for a quick lunch, and all the while I was thinking how lucky the jewelry industry is to have Dan and guys like him work in our business. If you know a guy like Dan who might be worthy of Jeweler of the Year consideration, please tell your favorite 24 Karat Club member. It’s a great honor, and those that deserve it should be recognized.
I walked Dan back to his store, and his sales manager was waiting for him at the door. “Your golfing buddy came back,” she said. “He wants a mulligan!” With that, she handed Dan an envelope with a note that said “sorry” and a check inside for the deposit.
From everyone here at The 24 Karat Club, we wish you all the best for a healthy and prosperous 2015!