Last updateWed, 19 Feb 2020 12am

The Retailer’s Perspective: Well I’ll be damned!

It’s no secret that bench jewelers get frustrated with those people up front that take repairs in and send them to those of us in the back. We open the envelope, only to shake our heads at what we deem as mistakes or oversights. We constantly wonder why those folks up front don’t do a better job. Well, I think I know the answer why it happens now. And, it’s a pretty good bet that I may have been wrong about those people up front. You know, those people I used to think just played on their phones all day and talked with those pesky customers.

I was asked recently to speak at the Carolina Jewelers Alliance (formerly the NC and SC Jewelers Associations) annual meeting in Charlotte. One of the topics I was asked to speak about was tips, tricks, or suggestions for the sales staff up front to help out the shop staff in the back.

Sure, I could have shown them the way I like things done - which will never get done that way. Sure, I could have told them how I like a job written up - which will never get written up that way. And, I could have even shown them how to inspect a ring prior to sending it to me - which never seems to get inspected prior to sending it to me. Instead, I decided to take a different approach. I decided to just flat out ask them why they do the things the way they do, when there is clearly a better way. You know, like my way!

I started with a quick story about a defensive driving class I had to take recently. You know that defensive driving course that you take to get out of a speeding ticket. The instructor asked everyone in the room to grade their driving ability on a scale of one to ten, with ten being the best. Pretty much everyone was an 8 or a 9. Then he asked us to grade the other drivers around us. Pretty much everyone said the other drivers were a 1 or a 2. He then says; “This class is about keeping all you 8s and 9s away from all of those 1s and 2s.

Then I asked the bench jewelers in the room, on a scale of 1-10, how well they understood their job. Yep, you guessed it, all 10s. I then asked that same group how well the sales staff understood their job. Wait for it - you guessed it, 1s and 2s!

I posed the same question to the sales staff that were in the room and got the same answers. They were all 10s at their jobs, and felt the shop staff were all around a 1 or a 2 in their understanding of what really happens on the sales floor. In a nutshell, what we determined was this; while everyone was very good at their particular job, there is a big difference between working in the shop and working on the sales floor. This difference is so wide that almost all of these 10s don’t really understand what happens on the other side of the store on a daily basis.

I’ve spent the better part of two decades writing from the shop perspective. This is the first time I’m going to write from the sales floor perspective.

I asked the salespeople in the group: “Why do you people continually take in this crap and expect us to fix it?”

Their answer: “Because you guys are supermen and superwomen. You can fix anything.”

Okay, I’ll accept that. I think all of us shop peeps can agree with this point of view. We have the ability to fix what mortal human beings can’t. But, there’s another reason they take this crap in.

Turns out, the sales staff is not being paid to coddle the shop staff. They are not in the business, or the mind-set, of turning away a sale just because you don’t want to do it.

Their job is to generate revenue for the store. They have to take in the good and the bad. Why? Because payroll happens regardless of whether the store had a good week, or a bad week. Payroll doesn’t care if you like the work or not. Payroll happens regardless of your thoughts about the work sitting on your bench. Those people up front are in the business of making sales so you get a paycheck every Friday. Damn. Now I feel bad for ever questioning their motives.

I asked them why they didn’t look this stuff over better before sending it to us. Their answer: “That’s not our specialty.” We discussed how they are not trained as bench jewelers. They are trained as sales and management staff. A completely different discipline than what a bench jeweler is trained to do.

Well hell, I never really thought about that. If they don’t know how to retip a prong, they might not fully grasp the mechanical gripping pressure or the structural integrity of a prong. I mean, it’s so easy even a bench jeweler can do it.

In reality though, we had a frank discussion that the sales staff look at things from an entirely different point of view. They are trying to make a sale by trying to make a customer happy. Heck, I bet some of them even like listening to the stories about how the ring belonged to his great grandmother who smuggled it out of some foreign country in a body cavity and then handed it down to someone, who then gave it to her son, who gave it to that ungrateful harlot he married, and almost lost it forever when she pawned it, and a step-uncle had to buy it back from the pawnshop using money he borrowed against the family homestead. And yes, I had to listen to that story from a customer a couple weeks ago. Somebody please save me and let me get back to my bench in the back! This front of the house stuff is hard work!

As we were discussing how we can communicate better, we came up with this idea to test out. I’d like to have some of you try this out and let me know if it helps in your store. On every job envelope, let the shop know what was sold monetarily. For example, if a salesperson took in a sizing, and charged the customer $45 (based on a shop charge of $15), let the shop know that. Write a quick code on the envelope while it’s still in your hand for $15. Here’s the reason that works for me as a bench jeweler.

Giving an estimate on every.single.job is a pain in the butt for everyone involved. If it’s a simple sizing, tell your retail customer it’s gonna be approximately $45. Then, let your customer know that if it’s within $10 or $15 of that price, your jeweler will go ahead and do the work. If, for some reason, it’s going to be more than that, you’ll call them and let them know.

When the job gets to the shop, the bench jeweler can see that the store is expecting to be charged around $15 for the job. In about a millisecond, any jeweler can look at the job and know if $15 is cool or if its way out of line and you need to make a call. If it’s gonna be $25 or less, I won’t call because I know I have some flexibility built in. I’ll just do the job, charge accordingly, and move on with my life. When the customer gets charged slightly more, they are not surprised or upset.

And then we all lived happily ever after.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some jobs that an estimate is required. But most jobs that run through a shop can be priced right off of whatever pricing system you use. So, just let your jeweler know what you sold and what you are expecting to pay. If you’re within reason, we’ll proceed and never have to interact with one another. Or, to put it another way; I don’t have to show you my 1 or 2 side, and you don’t have to show me yours!

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.