My Mom, who happens to work part time for me, watched me wait on three customers in a row the other day. After the last person left the store she remarked, “Did I drop you on your head one too many times when you were a baby or what?” You just waited on three customers that entailed fixing this, adjusting that, a solder here, then you checked and polished the last customer’s wedding set and bangle bracelets, and after all that you did not ring up a single nickel in the register. Are you telling me there was no charge to all three customers?”
“Uhh, Ma…they were no charge situations.” She shook her head.
Some businessman I am. Warren Buffet would probably have me tarred and feathered and hung by my heels if I was a manager in any of his enterprises.
One day last season a gentleman needed a simple spring pin for his watch. The store was really busy, it took me a couple of seconds and my cost for the pin was five cents. I handed the watch back to him. He asked what he owed me. “Don’t worry about it, no charge.” I moved on to the next customer.
He looked at me confused and said. “How the heck do you make a living? This is the third time I have been in here and you have yet to charge me!”
I laughed and said. “Bring in something I can sink my teeth into and I will charge you!” He threw a twenty on the counter and left. He has become my newest V.I.C. (Very Important Customer)
I’m no Billionaire business–mogul, and I don’t have a any sure fire plans on how to stay alive in this economy, but when I see jewelry stores open on this island and close months or a year later and low and behold, I’m still standing, it sort of tells me I might be doing something right.
Many so called “experts” may think offering complimentary services creates a bad business formula, resulting in loss of revenue and time, only to me, it is the right thing to do. It’s simple. There are certain things I do for my customers I don’t feel justified charging them for. It’s what I consider a free service kind of thing, especially after the sale. I consider it still my jewelry even after it leaves the store. It becomes the customer’s when she is completely satisfied. My favors surprise a lot of people, and understandably so. Who’s gotten used to getting anything for nothing nowadays?
In some cases, it’s like an unwritten bartering service, like when the owners of my favorite island restaurants always seem to find my wife and me a table without a reservation in season or offers an appetizer or dessert on the house. First and foremost, I take care of my favorite island bartenders, (every one of us has his priorities in life!)
It could be free watch batteries to our mechanic’s family members, for it is he who miraculously keeps my kids cars and trucks running and most of all safe. Take my screen guy, Chet, he and I have rarely exchanged money for services back and forth over the seventeen years I’ve known him.
I could be in a good mood and quote a ridiculously low price for a piece of jewelry to a young guy trying to hack out a living in a tough economy and he needs a break on a little something for the apple of his eye. One must have respect for senior customers who, many times, have lost a helpful spouse, or lack the dexterity to work tiny catches. They may have trouble with dumbfounding clasps and earring backs; sometimes a simple adjustment or alteration does the trick. I can’t see charging for it or if I do charge, it’s minimal. This courtesy is, of course, extended to members of our armed services, local police and fire departments.
The shop has been checking and cleaning customers’ jewelry for decades. It’s a free service we provide to customers new or current. Don’t expect to dump a pile of jewelry purchased from my competitors when I have a store full of my loyal customers to tend to and expect me to spend an hour checking, cleaning and polishing while you wait. I said I can be nice, I’m not stupid. There will certainly be a charge for that service and you may have to leave the pieces until we are not busy, become a V.I.C. and the staff and I will have a different attitude.
Also, we try to accommodate my V.I.C.’s (Very Important Customers) with as many perks as possible. This can include free watch batteries, jewelry cleaner, polishing cloths and complimentary insurance appraisals or go the extra mile to locate a certain piece. These customers are the folks I truly appreciate for without them I could not pay the bills and my Mom, the staff and I still have money left over to gallivant off to Europe every summer!
Many times I offer freebies because I want to. Being the boss has its advantages. I admit I come across a bit cynical at times… all right, maybe most of the time… So sue me. I CAN be cordial sometimes.
You try working with the public for forty plus years and stay sane & cynical-free. But now and again the supreme higher authority will sometimes produce individuals who wander in my shop and they are like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day and for the time being, restore my faith in the human race and I become complimentary.
A jeweler has to be careful using the free word around here; that shop could be subjected to a stampede of demanding zombie-like bargain hunters from counties 500 miles away expecting to walk away with free everything.
So if you happen to stop by the shop and ask me to check & clean a couple of your rings for free… I will gladly, regardless of where you purchased them.
But if you ask me if I will take a hundred dollars for a piece of jewelry in my showcase that has a tag that reads three hundred, my answer to that will be…“Why would I do that? What have you done for me lately?”
Now back to a happy place, I’m trying to imagine what my life will be like in the soon to be near future… my semi-retired state of mind. Notice I said state of mind, so far the powers that be, namely my wife, the bank and my friends at the I.R.S., have informed me that is in fact a dream that I can only fantasize in my head for the time being. Soon grasshopper you can relax… soon!
Richard Alan is a designer /goldsmith and owner of the Harbor Goldsmith at The Island Plaza and welcomes your questions about All that Glitters. Richard has also been informed by those close to him to abandon any hope of semi-retiring anytime soon. 239-394-9275 or firstname.lastname@example.org