Last updateWed, 19 Feb 2020 12am

The Retailer’s Perspective: It wouldn’t be retail without them

There are some things that defy logic. Why can airplanes fly? How the heck does a ship float? Why do the dumbest people always get interviewed on TV? And why does everyone believe, jewelry stores mark-up their jewelry 100%?

Other things that seem to befuddle many of us are what some people feel is acceptable behavior in public. More to the point, why they think it’s acceptable to act the way they do in our retail stores. Something I think we can all agree on is the approach some people take when bringing their young, rowdy children into our stores. Yes, I know that most parents don’t have an option when it comes to whether or not to bring their kids, but my store is not a Chucky Cheese game room designed for that kind of activity.

You know what I’m talking about. You spot those 6 sticky hands all struggling to push your front door open until their mother pulls it open for them. You zero in on the suckers in the mouths, the suckers suddenly not in the mouths, and now in your carpet. Fifteen minutes later, after what seemed like a whole herd of children, you see about 250 hand prints on your showcases.  

So, do you want to know what I do about it? Yep, the same thing you do. You smile and you hope nothing gets broken, and you quickly help the mom or dad who’s probably at their wit’s end. You do your job as fast as you can, and you hustle them out the door, and on their merry way. Then you grab the Windex, the carpet cleaner and a whole roll of paper towels and do that thing we do thousands of times a year and clean up after them.

You know what else defies logic? People that are not your best customers that demand discounts because - well, just because. Maybe it’s because their mamma shopped there once in the late ‘70s. Maybe they bought a watch from you on-sale in 1997 and they think the sale is still going on. Maybe they know you from church, but you don’t recognize them and you’ve been a member of the same congregation your whole life. They’re probably the Easter and Christmas Eve ‘extras’ that always seem to swell the ranks those two services a year.

In any case, what makes some people think they are entitled to a special ‘friend of the family’ price for no good reason? This seems to happen to me the most often when someone brings in 12 watches for batteries.

“Do I get a discount since I have a dozen?”

I tell them I usually charge more when I have to do that many at one time. But just for them, I’ll just do it for my regular price and not charge the add-on fee. You know, since we go to the same church and all.

The thing is, most of us offer a little something something to our regular and loyal customers to keep them coming back year after year; and they don’t even have to ask. To all of those others, I usually just say, “Sorry, the designer doesn’t allow us to discount their pieces.” Of course, the designer is probably a computer in a far-away land, hooked up to a 3D printer in a big factory, knocking out about a 100,000 of these pieces a month and they couldn’t care less whether you discount or not.

At my store, the worst way to start a conversation with me is to say; “Hey buddy, remember me?” Okay, let’s face it, you already know the answer is no. If we actually knew each other, you’d say something like; “Hey Chuck, how are you?” And I’d say; “Hey you, I’m good.” If they actually know my name, they probably looked me up online to make sure I was still in business, and my name is right there on the website. The customer on the other hand, hasn’t been in the store in about 5 years, but yes, they do look somewhat familiar.

It’s what comes next that matters the most though. If the next words are, “I need a present for my anniversary next week,” then we’re friends for life. But I think we all know that that’s usually not what happens next. No, sadly, it’s usually, “I need you to do me a favor.” Ugh. Seriously?  

Why is it that, hey buddy, do you remember me, and, I want you to do something for free, always go hand in hand? Always! Obviously they’ve never worked in retail before. If they did, they would have said something like, “Hello. I’m Bill Johnson. I haven’t been here in a couple of years, but I’d like to hire you to help me out with a problem.”

Now that I come to think about it, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard those words, in that order, in my professional life. Probably just wishful thinking on my behalf.

I wish people would understand that if you’re window shopping, out on the sidewalk, everything is free. But once you walk through the front door, into the air conditioning, the showroom with the security systems, the lighted showcases, the expensive merchandise in those lighted showcases, the employees, and the overhead, nothing is free. So don’t even think about it.

And let’s never let them know that the 100% mark-up is what we do for our family and friends. For everyone else, it’s 300% or more!

Who’s coming to the Atlanta Show? I’ll be there Saturday and Sunday in the Southern/Mid-America Jewelry News booth. We’re in the back left corner. Come stop by and say hi.

August 16 - 17, I’ll be at the Bench Jewelers Laser and Technology Conference in Nashville, TN. I look forward to meeting and seeing everyone.

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.