Retail customers are strange animals. They say one thing but usually mean something entirely different. I’ve never been any good at discerning if people are telling me the truth or speaking in hyperboles, kind of like when a woman says “fine.” Fine does not mean fine!
One of the most common lies in my store is, “No hurry, take your time.” Hah! What they really mean to say is, “I want it right now and I’m not going to quit bugging you 3 times a day until I get it back.”
We do a lot of watch repair around here. As you well know, there are not a lot of watchmakers left in the world, which means I’m at my watchmaker’s mercy and schedule. I had a customer bring in his dad’s watch that he had just inherited, which was a solid gold Lord Elgin from the ‘50s. It was a really nice watch with a broken something or the other inside rattling around when I shook it against my ear.
I told him I would have my watchmaker come by and pick it up and we’d get him an estimate. Then, because I’ve done this whole thing one or twice, I went over my complete watch repair policy especially the part about I can’t speed it up. It takes as long as it takes. He told me he completely understood that it was an old watch and parts could be hard to find. He also said he understood that there was only one watchmaker in the city, and there was no way for me to know how many watches were ahead of his for an estimate. Then he left happy. And, you guessed it, he called later that afternoon to find out if I’d found out anything on his watch. Uh, no. It’s still sitting right where I left it two hours ago.
Another thing that always surprises me is the number of people that are dumbfounded when they suddenly discover that you sent their precious bauble off to Gotham City to be repaired. Breaking news people, Mayberry doesn’t have a world class diamond cutting center in the back of Floyd’s Barber Shop. Sometimes things have to be sent to a faraway specialist in a faraway city.
Any time I have to send something off for repair, be it through the mail or one of my subcontractors stops by and picks it up, I let my customer know explicitly that their piece will be serviced off-site. They always say that’s fine – till they find out that you actually sent it out for repair. Geez.
I had a customer bring in a watch for service a few years ago. I did my regular dog and pony show about it and he was very happy to finally find someone who could fix it. Then a week or so later, when the estimate came in, he was shocked that it would cost exactly what I told him it would cost. He said that was way too expensive and he’d be by in an hour to just pick it up. Ruh Roe! You already know what’s about to go down because his watch is not here.
He showed up and hour later and was shocked that it had left my premises because I told him that I did all the work on-site. He asked me to tell him where his watch was and he was going to just drive over there and pick it up. I told him no. Then he asked for my watchmaker’s phone number and he would just call him directly. I told him no. Then he asked for my watchmakers name so he could look him up on his own. I told him no. He then asked me why I wouldn’t give him that information. I told him my watchmaker doesn’t have a retail operation specifically because he doesn’t want to deal with people like you.
Of course, one of my all-time favorites was the lady who came in the first week of December with an antique ring that needed the old, scratched up sapphire re-polished. I told her that we could take care of it but it would be well after Christmas before it came back from my lapidary shop in Texas. She told me that wasn’t a problem because this wasn’t a Christmas gift. She said that she’d been wanting to do this for over a year and she was in no hurry. This kind of thing is just another day at the office around here, so I wrote it up, and wrote ‘After Christmas’ on the job envelope, had her sign it, and she left happy. Then something happened between then and December 12th when all hell broke loose.
She came in to pick it up and freaked out when I told her it wasn’t in the store and it wasn’t ready. She then told me it was a Christmas present and I promised her it would be ready on the 12th. I asked her for her copy of the repair ticket and she said she’d lost it. No problem, I had my copy and showed it to her. Then she called me a liar and told me I’d never said any of the things I was saying right now and she demanded I produce her ring right that moment. I had the empty mounting, which I pulled out of the job envelope. She told me I was not to touch her ring again and demanded that I have her sapphire shipped back immediately.
Anyone that knows me knows that somewhere in the middle of all of this I ran plum out of nice and told her to get out of my store. Then came my favorite part, she pointed at me and said, “I can make a lot of trouble for you mister.” I just looked her right in the eye and said, “No you can’t.”
I told her that I would have the sapphire shipped back but she was not allowed back in my store. I told the poor guy that was standing beside her, who I assumed was her husband, that I would let him pick it up. A day or so later the unpolished stone came back and I called him and told him I had the sapphire and how much cash he needed to bring to cover the postage. A couple of hours later he shows up and I handed him the mounting in one hand and the unpolished stone in the other. He asked me about resetting it. I reminded him that she had forbid me from working on it and she was on her own. He just shook his head and said, “I was here when you told her it would be after Christmas.” Hah! Told you so.
Fortunately this doesn’t happen very often, but every time it does happen, it just makes me shake my head and wonder; what is wrong with people?
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 email@example.com.