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Last updateTue, 09 Oct 2018 8pm

The Retailer’s Perspective: There is regular pain in the butt, and there is unprofitable pain in the butt

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In a perfect world, all customers would be a pleasure to deal with.  But alas, this is not the perfect world I thought I would inherit when I was a wee little boy. Hell, I’m lucky if the stars and moon line up for me once or twice a year. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems that customers are getting more and more difficult to deal with every year. I’m sure there are lots of reasons for this, but it’s probably just because I’m getting less and less tolerant with people as I get older.

I blame Pinterest and the internet for a lot of the problems that I see on a daily basis in my store. The unrealistic expectations that a 2 minute YouTube video can give our customers is a constant source of frustration. Heck, just punch my name into the YouTube search box and you’ll see countless 2-3 minute videos I’ve made over the years that each took a week to produce.

There are so many different scenarios that seem to rise to the top of ‘oh crap, not this again’ it’s hard to decide which ones deserve print space below. I think the one that seems to come up the most involves the comparison of your diamond (that they can actually see) to the other diamonds that they cannot see on the internet. This is where I apply the title of this column to the situation.

Take for example, an engineer that is looking to buy a diamond. He would never in a million years buy it off of the internet. But he will use the internet to over-read, over-analyze and over-think it. This is just a regular pain in the butt customer, but profitable! I don’t necessarily like dealing with these people, but I will.

Then there are those unprofitable customers that are going to use you for your professional knowledge, and then buy it online anyway, to get a better deal! I swear I can smell it on them.

As a long time diamond salesman, I’ve got a pretty good grasp on the ins-and-outs of the diamond industry. I know an I1 from a VS2. I can also tell the difference between a J color and a G color. I can even explain these differences to ‘potential diamond customers’ that are in my store.

But, it’s only profitable for me to spend my professional time explaining this to someone who might actually buy the diamond from me. If they smell like internet, I’m outta there. I just tell them that I couldn’t possibly compete with the diamonds they are looking at on the internet. But, whatever you do, don’t tell them to buy it. That could be misconstrued as offering them professional advice and it could come back and bite you, becoming an unprofitable pain in your butt.

Think about this; before the internet, your competition was the other stores in your market, like that lady across town that you don’t like. Since we all buy from the same sources, we all pay (give or take) about the same price per carat. If a diamond is costing me $5,000, it’s costing my competitor across town $5,000 as well. If she is selling it for $5,100, I get a warm fuzzy feeling knowing she is having cash flow problems and practically giving it away to raise cash. That exact same diamond, if sold on the internet, still costs the same $5,000. There is no magic button on the internet to actually make it cost less wholesale. Only on the internet it’s going to be 2-3 clarity and color grades better.

But, trying to explain that to someone that is intent on buying it online to save money is just unprofitable. And, if you try and correct any information that they are clearly getting wrong, you’re suddenly the one who doesn’t know what you’re talking about? I mean seriously, they’ve been studying this on the internet for 3 weeks and know way more than we do now.

When their internet purchase finally arrives, they’ll try to bring it in for me to confirm that they didn’t get ripped off. They might as well be trying to show some kryptonite to Superman. I’m not touching that damned thing with your tweezers! I won’t even let them get it out of the 12 layers of fancy looking packaging. I’ve never found it profitable to spend professional time conversing with someone about a diamond they just bought elsewhere - after using you for your professional advice two weeks ago.

The second most unprofitable pain in the butt situation is the unrealistic expectations about what can and cannot hold up to the rigors of wedding jewelry. I hate to say it, but I just cannot participate in most of what I’m asked to create nowadays. No, I will not sell you a 14K, 10mm black rhodium wedding band and guarantee that it will look like that forever.

“But, I saw on Pinterest that the plating lasts forever!”

Uh, breaking news - Pinterest is not real! I refuse to sell something - that is supposed to last a lifetime - that I know won’t last a year. I just refer them to the nearest jewelry store that floods the radio airwaves relentlessly. They will be more than happy to sell them a 1mm rose gold band with 50 .5mm micro pavé emeralds in the band with a 3 carat morganite center stone - and guarantee it forever.

I like making people happy. I don’t like people coming back 12x a year upset with me. That’s where bad reviews come from. If I’m going to get a bad review, I’m going to earn it the old fashioned way, by telling an unprofitable pain in the butt where they can go!

Probably third on the list is people asking if I can repair their $39 internet watch that they dropped and broke the hexagonal, domed crystal with the magic coating that changes colors in different lighting conditions. Followed by: “Oh, also see where the plating is coming off the band? Can you re-plate that too? I’ve only had it a week.”

Uh, let me think about this. In order to do a proper repair, and turn a profit, I’m probably going to need to charge somewhere between $3K-$4K to make this look new again and make them happy. So, since I see no clear path to happiness for this person, I see no reason to continue our unprofitable conversation that is now clearly a pain in the butt for me. They are complaining, unprofitably, about something they bought elsewhere, and are now mad at me because I can’t fix it for the clearly profitable price of $15. To these people, I say: “Get out of my store, you’re making my butt hurt!”

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

 

 


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