Sunday , November 23 2014
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It’s Just Another Summer Day

ALL THAT GLITTERS
Richard Alan
harborgoldsmith@comcast.net

B8-CBN-8-8-14-8featureAh, the glamorous daily life of a goldsmith! It dawned on me after what should have been a slow month was in fact uncannily busy. A kind of nothing seems to get accomplished busy.

The day usually begins around 9 AM, when I usually encounter a single person or small crowd milling around the front door when I arrive. I then have to politely apologize for the fact I can’t let anyone in until 9:30 AM for security and insurance protocol — 9:30 is when I actually open. Try convincing your bank to let you in an hour earlier than the posted time on the door, and if they wouldn’t mind supplying the firearm, ski mask and two duffel bags.

My morning ritual before unlocking the door involves making coffee I never get to drink and feeding Toby, our shop dog. If I don’t feed him now I may not remember to after I open the door. My first hour or so will usually involve replacing powerless batteries in watches that stopped telling time the night before.

The fact that it is summer may require me to politely refuse to change batteries in non- jewelry orientated apparatuses, such as garage door openers, remote controls, keyless car keys, hearing aids and — my most unusual yet — a battery backup system to a pacemaker. (I dared not ask. What’s up with that?) I try to change watch batteries while the customer waits, but when one customer plunks down 10 or 12 dead watches in a freezer bag and there are more folks waiting in the wings, it’s not always possible.

It’s no secret we run with a skeleton crew in the summer. Most of my sales staff are classy ladies who sun themselves on Cape Cod or enjoy their cottages on Lake Winnipesaukee. What’s wrong with this picture? I’m here stuck on the rock! I may have to review the salaries of my sales entourage enjoying life like retired rock stars.

My point is I’m required to wear more than one hat at the shop in the summer while the majority of my “help” is summering. Yes, my mother helps out a couple of days a week, and then, there is my son, who is a valuable asset in the shop and Tom my accountant, who does his very best helping out on the showroom floor. Where’s my wife you might ask? She’s presently vacationing with friends in Long Island. This is right after she participated in a benefit tennis tournament in Martha’s Vineyard as I write this. I’m a self-proclaimed tennis widow. Let’s leave it at that.

It’s lonely at the top. Every year, I plan my summers to work on new designs, create new things, and also plan what merchandise I will be carrying for next season. I also hope to fish or motorcycle on my weekends. That hasn’t happened yet. This summer also involves (in theory) some new store fixtures, paint and reorganizing the shop for ultimate efficiency.

Only problem is the store is pretty darn busy, and there are some days I never even sit at my workbench. (My son never fails to remind me of this fact)

Want to see a slow day in the store fill up with people? Pull out a ladder, open a can of paint, and it’s a virtual Mardi Gras. Change 20 or 30 watch batteries, engrave this, design that, adjust those tight earring clips, tighten that diamond in a ring, verbally appraise six or seven pieces of jewelry, go through the motions of cleaning Mrs. So & So’s costume jewelry even though I just did it all two days ago. I just don’t have the heart to tell her.

There are some days my son and I won’t lay our hands on a real piece of quality jewelry all day, and then lose another 15 minutes explaining to Mrs. Smith (not her real name to protect the absentminded) that just because she cannot find her favorite neck chain and pendant at home does not necessarily mean I have it in my shop, especially if there was no reason for it to be here. (I save every used repair envelope for reasons such as this, sometimes to prove it was picked up already. If there is no used envelope in storage with Mrs. Smith’s name describing a chain repair, it was never here.) It’s my 20th summer on Marco Island, and I haven’t been committed yet!

Case in point: One summer week, we went on a wild goose chase “searching” for a customer’s repair. She could not produce a receipt and wasn’t sure when she left it, but insisted and berated every one of my staff on the phone and in person for days that we had her jewelry and that we had better find it or there would be legal consequences. Swell!

There was absolutely no paper trail on this customer’s repair. Now believe me, my staff and I went berserk searching for days and nights for this repair envelope to no avail. When my mom called the customer to regretfully inform her that in our 40-plus years in business we never “lost” a piece of anyone’s jewelry, there is just no trace of her repair in our store and you have to produce the original receipt, the “customer” replied, “Oh I found it; I left it at another jewelry store on the island, and I’m not happy with the quality of the repair. I’ll bring it to you next week!”

Needless to say, I had a few things to say to her negligence about not informing us that she found her repair. After I told her I was happy she found her “lost” article, I then told her it appears an apology is in order, as she caused needless drama and disruptions in my establishment in front of my real customers on at least two occasions while accusing my staff of negligence and thievery, not to mention the lost hours wasted searching for something that was not here in the first place.

She hung up on me! And, without an apology! I know, I know. Most of you proper business folk would say let it go. It’s all part of working with the public. Chock it up to experience. The customer is always right. Blah, Blah, Blah. Well, you don’t know me that well, do you? You can blame my Boston, inner city upbringing if you want to psychoanalyze my next reaction. It’s no surprise to those of you that know me…Yeah I lost it!

I immediately called her back; it’s not necessary for me to inform what words I exchanged with her, but let’s just say I don’t expect she will be in with the botched repair she left at that other jewelry store anytime soon.

Sorry mom, I’ll say at least 20 Hail Mary’s and 30 our fathers! I know, you taught me better.

Now, this summer, it seems every time the phone rings its nonsensical cold sales calls from telemarketers and what seems like every diamond dealer in the continental U.S. Apparently, the wholesale diamond business is very slow in the summer. No kidding? What’s next? No, I’m sorry sir; I don’t repair flashlights.

Is that Espana in the distance calling my name?

About The Author

Richard Alan is a designer/goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith at Island Plaza and welcomes your questions about all that glitters. Contact him at 239-394-9275 or harborgoldsmith@comcast.net


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