The Retailer’s Perspective: To size or not to size, this is the dilemma

Remember when someone would walk in your store and they didn’t know a darned thing about your business and were willing solely to rely on your years of experience, education, training and work experience? Yeah, me neither. It’s been too long since that’s happened.

With the advent of the internet, the world has become collectively dumber than it’s ever been before. I get more terminal diseases now than I ever did before the internet came along. Before Google, I would go to the doctor and say, “I feel like crap, doc.” He’d touch me places that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with and make me turn my head and cough. Then he’d make me turn my head the other way and cough again. Then he’d tell me I had a cold and have his nurse give me a shot in the butt. A day or so later I’d start feeling better. Of course, he probably knew I had a cold as soon as I walked in and he saw me, but figured he may as well check a few other things while I was there… cough, cough! I just wish he would have checked my knee reflexes or something.

My doctor and I have talked about how common it’s become for his patients to call and request a prescription for a malady that they self-diagnosed on the internet. A malady they didn’t actually have when he made them come in so he could make his own diagnosis. The thing is this, my doctor has to see me in person to diagnose me. My doctor can’t diagnose me over the phone and he requires me to make an appointment and come see him face to face, at least for the first part of the appointment… cough, cough.

In our business as well, it’s far too commonplace these days for our customers to come in to the store and already know all the answers. I sometimes wonder why they’re coming in at all. Usually it’s to pick my brain and get my professional opinion about an online purchase they are about to make. And that is a minefield all on its own. On one hand, there’s no way I’m inserting myself into that scenario. On the other hand, how do you get that person to stop this lunacy and just buy it from you? But, here lately, I’m noticing a whole new trend involving the internet; finger sizing!

I had someone write to me recently asking how I handle it when a customer just wants me to tell them what their finger size is. I’ll tell you my policy in a second, but first let me tell you my horror story.

About 12 years ago, a middle aged woman with fiery red hair came into my store for the very first time. I asked her how I could help her and she said she needed me to tell her what size her finger was. No big deal. I sized her finger, with my ring sizers, and told her she was a 7. She thanked me and left…for about 4 months.

When she came back in, I recognized the red hair immediately. Her face was equally red, as was the custom, red-enameled, 18K wedding band from Italy. A non-returnable, 18K, custom wedding band from Italy. And you guessed it - it didn’t fit! And guess whose fault it was? According to her, it was my fault.

She walked into a jewelry store in America and had her finger sized. Then she ordered a ring from another country that uses a different sizing system and didn’t mention to the American jeweler (me) what she was doing. Now, all of a sudden, I’m the bad guy. Long story short, I had to let it be her problem. Her finger, on my sizer, was a 7. I don’t know how they do it in Italy, but it’s different from the way we do it in Tennessee I found out.

Nowadays, I have a whole new approach to this situation, which happens several times a month. I explain to these people that my insurance company will not allow me to tell them their ring size, but I am more than happy to hand them my ring sizers and let them make that decision on their own. Here’s why I do that.

If you give professional advice to someone, even if they don’t pay for that advice, you can be held liable if that advice causes them harm (aka, they buy a ring from Italy that’s non-returnable).

If someone comes in to your store to ‘have their finger sized’, it usually means that they are buying a ring from someone that’s not you. When they come into my store because, “I was told to come to a jewelry store to get my finger sized,” I have no idea what kind of ring they’re ordering. More importantly, I don’t care what kind of ring they are ordering on the internet. What I do care about is this - can it come back to bite me on the butt?

When I hand them my ring sizers, I explain that because everybody does it differently, they really need to get their finger sized by whomever they are buying the ring from because their sizers and my sizers might be different. While they’re trying my ring sizers on, without fail, they’ll ask me, “Do you think this one is good?” I’ll tell them it doesn’t matter what I think because my insurance company will not allow me to participate and they’re on their own in making that decision.

Now understand I’m not being mean, sarcastic, or condescending. I’m being very professional because I want them as a new customer when their online jeweler screws them over. But, I’m also very firm in the fact that I’m not a party to the ring purchase they are about to make. I’ll tell them, “I’m very sorry, but it’s an insurance thing.” Now, is some of that a half-truth? Probably, like the ‘I’m sorry’ part, but like I said earlier, I don’t want this to come back on me.

Another thing that seems to be a pretty regular occurrence here lately is the guy that just got the ring in the mail that he bought online, and needs to have it sized. And usually, he shows up with only the ring and not the finger it’s supposed to go on - because it’s a surprise!

They’ll say, “I need this sized to a 6.” I’ll ask them where they came up with that number. They’ll say that their girlfriend went to a jewelry store and had her finger sized, so he knows it’s a 6. I tell them that EVERYBODY gets it wrong and I need her finger here in front of me so I can size it myself. They say they are positive it’s a 6.

I tell them, “You’ll pay twice if she’s not a 6. I’ll do whatever you want, but I will charge you again to re-size it if she’s not a 6.” I really go out of my way here to try and talk somebody out of making a mistake because I do hate charging somebody twice for the same job when I tried to talk them out of it in the first place!

The next day or so, the guy shows back up with a woman I’ve never met and she’s complaining that I sized her ring to the wrong size. She tells me that she’s a 6 and this ring is way too small for her. And of course the guy has completely forgotten our whole conversation about how I’m going to charge him a second time when his girlfriend needs a size 8, and it started out as a size 8!

And the funny thing is, the girlfriend always says, “I’m a 6,” before I even size her finger. I’ll try my sizers on her, and when I find the one that fits, she’ll say; “Is that a 6?”

Uh, nope, not even close.

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, or send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.