ALL THAT GLITTERS
I heard the term “buyer’s remorse” the other day, and it is not a subject most care to discuss especially when they have experienced it first hand. Being an appraiser of diamonds and fine jewelry for more than 35 years, lets just say I can unleash the unpleasant emotion more often than I care to mention.
First of all, what exactly is “B.R.” — as I will now call this high level state of monetary emotional disappointment? Buyer’s remorse. I think it is many things: emotional, physical and, of course, monetary to name a few. We have all experienced B.R. at one time or another.
Emotion is one of the first symptoms. It begins with the realization of being duped and the loss of your hard earned money. Physically, you may break out in a hot or cold sweat. For those of you with high blood pressure, such as myself, the predominant blood vessel on your forehead appears as though it is about to burst, and you get really, really angry.
In rare occasions, some may awaken to the fact, and have the savvy to realize instead of getting a gold mine, you got the shaft. If the opportunity is still available to remedy the situation (like getting your money back), you race back to the origin of your dismal purchase (yes, you run). If you bought it from some street vender in Timbuktu, that person is now long gone, relishing his good fortune. You lose.
If you purchased the item from an actual land-based business, with any luck (and this is rare) you might get your money back, or chalk it up to one of life’s learning experiences.
I have been in many such situations. I purchase merchandise for my stores all over the U.S. and Europe, but many times, I was fortunate to smell deception was in the air before being stupid enough to lose my money.
It happened to me in Venice, Italy. My wife and I had made arrangements to visit a high-end glass factory on the island of Murano. They picked us up in an elegant teak water taxi, and offered us glasses of Prosecco in a plush private showroom. Little did these slick operators know that Andrea and I did our homework in the city of Venice first by comparing prices from the retail and wholesale shops.
The proposed “special wholesale prices” offered at the factory were outrageous — as much as three times more than a retail shop in Venice. When I called them on it, we were immediately dismissed as if we had a contagious disease, promptly whisked off and dumped off at the public water taxi stop. They were not happy with us. They were preparing to rip us off for thousands of Euros and failed. Years later a shop tried to sell us cheap Chinese glass as genuine Murano. Experience taught us to know better.
In many cases, especially the jewelry-orientated variety, the average Joe or Joan doesn’t experience B.R. until a schmuck like myself has to give them the bad news about their “fabulous purchase” when it is presented for a reassuring piece of mind appraisal.
Oh, what fun that is! I could just look at the purchase in question and say, “Oh, it’s very nice. What a great souvenir!” But he, she or they will always push it by asking, “What do you think it’s worth?” My first questions are where and how much did you pay for it? Most of the time their answer is: “You tell us, after all your the expert appraiser.” Now, I have to be a mind reader? They have stepped into my world…REALITY.
Now, my reputation as a professional appraiser and jeweler is at stake here. Here comes the brutal truth and a hot steaming bowl of buyer’s remorse: On first glance, the yellow gold diamond tennis bracelet in question is in fact a mass-produced Chinese gold-plated base metal piece of dreck. They insisted it was solid, “layered” gold. The diamonds are low-quality white sapphire, and the bracelet’s cheap a@! catch doesn’t work at all. Wholesale value…$100 a dozen. They paid $1,200 for one, and have all the documentation and certified appraisals to prove it’s value. I, of course, must be mistaken. Fine, don’t believe me. Bring it somewhere else for another opinion.
To add insult to injury, I am about to hand them a bill for $150 for my time and the two copies of the written insurance appraisal they insisted I sit down and do for them. If I lied about the bracelet to save hurting their feelings and avoid the huge heaping serving of B.R., I would compromise my integrity as an appraiser. That’s not going to happen.
More often than not, there is no reassurance; only remorse. So how did I become the bad guy here? Many times, it can be one of my regular customers. Sure, it hurts my feelings that they didn’t make the major purchase with me. Why now does the inferior piece of jewelry become my problem to make it right? Sorry folks, take it back to whoever pocketed your money. I can’t fix a bad choice or inferior quality.
Remember the emotions I described earlier? It occurs before me at my desk, in slow motion, it begins with, “That’s not possible we paid much more than that!”, or “You can’t be serious!” and “Are you sure your not mistaken?” My favorite is: “The jeweler store was approved and recommended by the cruise line.” Blah, blah, blah.
Bottom line…you got taken. Call the credit card company and cancel the transaction, return it if possible or you have to live with it.
Also, beware of so-called special drug lord confiscated merchandise auctions that pop up at all the major hotels. The value of the bargain-priced jewelry purchased never ever appraises anywhere near the money spent. Nevertheless, there are auctions on the island and in Naples almost every other weekend during season. Guess it has to do with the sucker born every minute thing.
I get inundated with requests for “free verbal appraisals” the day after the auction blows town with everyone’s money. I have gotten very tired of wasting my valuable time dispensing large doses of B.R. to the many suckers that fall for these deceptive purchases, nor do I want to appraise them anymore. The sobering fact is: if the price was too good to be true, it was. Salt and pepper with that bowl of B.R.?
I apologize to those of you who may be offended by my brutal honesty. I just find it very frustrating to be a witness to what has become almost epidemic. If only one couple heeds my warnings before spending their hard-earned money on near worthless jewelry here or abroad, I did a good thing.
Several things you should know before any major jewelry purchase:
1. Find a known and trusted jeweler or goldsmith. Things like quality of craftsmanship and fair prices are paramount. It’s simple. Ask around. Being in business for many years is a good sign. It’s no different than having a trusted dentist, lawyer or car mechanic. Are there any complaints about the jeweler with the Better Business Bureau? In my establishment, loyal clientele receive V.I.P. cards that reward their patronage with a lifetime of perks and special discounts on services and merchandise.
2. Do your homework on the item. I educate my customers on the piece before the purchase. For example, there are rubies, and there are beautiful rubies. I spend the time showing the difference between qualities and why they cost more or less. This holds true with large diamonds and any precious gemstones. Just because it is large, does not mean it is valuable. As a practicing goldsmith, I point out what to look for to ensure the jewelry is well made, and that adds to its wearability and thus its longevity.
3. Buying jewelry on impulse while vacationing and under the influence of three or four rum runners is probably not a good idea. Unscrupulous salespeople will note this and most surely rake you over the coals.
4. One can simply e-mail me with any questions about jewelry or gemstones.
With more than 40 years in the business, I have certainly learned more than a thing or two about things that glitter.