Across The Counter
By Martha Williams, El Paso, Texas
Reprinted from February 1990
To the finely tuned ears of a jeweler, little phrases set the hairs on his neck into vibration. The most irritating phrase to me is “Say, I want to ask you a little favor.” This of course means, “I want you to do this for nothing and I want it quickly, immediately if not sooner and with a smile on your face.” Another phrase is, “ I have a little job here, I could do it my myself if I had the proper tools.” This of course means, “I have a complicated job, I want it done now and free and if I had all the tools you have I could not possibly do it myself.” Another is, “Just hook this back together.”
It has been my observation that jobs the customers call “little”, aren’t. There are variations to these phrases too. “I wonder if you’d mind putting a little spot of glue on this?” “I wonder if you’d put a spot of solder on this?” “Would you file this just a smidgen?” And finally, “Would you mind taking a couple links out of this?” All these jobs likely require great dexterity and the use of your tools. The very person standing before you has likely bought the item down the street that day or week and if he’s been in your store previously it is not unlikely he was asking for a freebee or cussing you out.
Another phrase that gets to me is “Could you just give me some idea what this is worth?” When you ask, “What did you pay for it?” The answer is inevitable. “I got it as a gift.”
In a society where Mom goes unappreciated, Dad goes unnoticed, and the wife is lucky to receive a mother’s ring or a $60 chain there are more people who receive items as “gifts” than could possibly be sold. We have started telling people “Use your sales receipt for the value.” Often this produces a flurry of , “My insurance company wants an appraisal,” to which we say, “Find another insurance company. If you have a current receipt from a reputable store why do you need an appraisal?”
Truth is that you don’t need an appraisal but the owner certainly wants her curiosity satisfied. The price of such curiosity should be in line with the work done. We do not give “Off hand appraisals.” If they want their curiosity settled it will cost them a minimum of $35. If they want to know what a stone is or if it is really gold, it is at least $12.50. Sometimes we are very sweet and tell them, “Well it is stamped 14K so if your friend bought it at a reputable store it is likely gold.” Often this settles it, but often it does not and interestingly we do see a lot of items testing low karat gold or 10K gold or less that are stamped 14k. We are on a border so we cannot be sure of the source even though the customers often claim they bought it in a mall. Customers are not to always be trusted to tell the truth!
Another habit of customers is to lie to you about what the competition said or did. While a customer is telling you what an awful person your competitor is and filling your mind with suspicions and doubt remember this time tomorrow he will be out talking to others about you.
In one case we sold a fine watch which was not new. It was sold for a fair price and correctly represented. The customer took it to a competitor whom he said knocked it. We were furious and called the man about it. In his reiteration there is no doubt he did not knock the item. He may not have done handsprings to make him feel he got a bargain, but he also did not tell him he got stuck.
While you are seething inside about what a competitor said think about the fact that this same customer is one who would say to you “I got this as a gift” or “You just fixed this and I never wore it and look at it now.” While your customer is speaking, think about what he means as opposed to what he does! You will be ahead.
The day when anyone does something for nothing has virtually gone. Customers are not always acclimated to this fact yet. Doing nice little things for customers does not produce nice little sales any longer! I would like to write a longer article on this but RB has just asked me to do a little favor for him! It will likely be a two hour venture.