Reprinted from August 1997
Some years ago, RB was standing at the counter with his head visor on, looking at something when a customer walked in and walked up to him and said, “Are you a jeweler?” RB was taken back. I think he responded rationally, but he said he felt like saying something equally as stupid such as, “No I am a dog groomer. I am grooming a dog right now,” or, “Why do you ask?”
As many years as I have been in business, I have been addressed in almost every manner and asked almost every question imaginable. If I had to select the most requested “freebee” in our store today, it likely would be, “Would you mind snapping the back back on my watch?”
This question implies there will be no charge. Never mind it takes the jeweler’s time and talent, plus tools to do this. When we respond it will be $5, they are taken aback. This comes from years of jewelers just like RB who did little things free.
Things apparently changed for the service stations who charge for air and water, and yet no one questions them. I have people point to the watchmaking bench and say, “Hand me one of those little screwdrivers so I can make an adjustment on my glasses” (or whatever). Somehow, I cannot picture anyone going into a service station and asking to use their screwdriver, pliers or wrenches for a minute to adjust their car. It is not unusual for a customer to become ruffled if you refuse, I just say, “Sorry, no, we don’t loan tools.” Their eyes stare back in disbelief.
I was looking through a yarn catalog the other day, and it listed charges for various swatches. I well recall that this used to be a courtesy. Somewhere along the line, I figured anyone asking you to set a watch they bought elsewhere, put a back they have managed to get off back onto the watch, have a battery that they bought somewhere else put in the watch and borrow tools for their own use is not a customer at all. Look under M in the dictionary – it is called Mooch.
There is a certain wisdom which evidently comes with experience and age. It is not unusual for someone to come in and ask about a custom made item that they are very excited about. The jeweler or the clerks catch the customer’s excitement, and they start dashing about trying to find something to please the customer. Some idea! I’ll watch this on the monitor, where my sore feet can rest with reasonable ease, up to a point, and then I’ll get up and go up front and say, “When did you intend to get this ring made up? It is really going to be beautiful.”
The customer will look up and say, “Maybe in a year or two.”
I have become somewhat of an annoying expert at casting glances at my employees who are taking perhaps an hour of their time entertaining another form of a mooch. This sort of service is fine if you have employees on the payroll, but if they have other customers or things to do they need to shoo the “lookieloo” out the door until he or she is more prepared to buy. When he or she has the mind-set to put something down or set something aside.
Sometimes I become annoyed that one of the watchmakers will be asked for an estimate at the counter when the customer does not even own the watch or has no intention of repairing it. The watchmaker is dashing about trying to get a price, and the possibility of the part being available, and I’ll say in a weary voice, “If you can find the part, is the customer going to be willing or able to pay whatever price it is going to be?”
Many times, the employee is dashing about doing all this free service when the customer has absolutely no idea what it costs or any intention of paying much of anything. I guess I see this because I have been through it a few thousand times, and I am old and weary.
I sort of figure to take a person’s time with either no way or no intention to buy is a form of stealing. I do recall the good old days when people bought regularly and could expect a little freebie every now and then.
One of the biggest requests for freebies is a box. The customer has bought something from a seedy jeweler or QVC, and they want to give it as a gift. They either have no box, or the box is shoddy. I guess I get a request a week or more for a free box.
A while back, I decided if a customer had a repair done and asked for a box, at least they’d spent money. I decided to save old boxes, which I had accumulated with generic markings, other jewelers’ names or our name, which had obviously been used previously. One customer asked for a box, and I tried a new approach.
“Sure, I think I have an old box up here that I might let you have to help you out.” I pulled out a useable ring box, but it was obviously used.
He shoved it back across the counter and said, “That box looks shabby, give me another one. I’d like a black one.”
I dropped it back in the drawer, and said, “Sorry, that’s all I have right now.” I sent him across the street to a competitor and told him they’d probably give him a better one.
We have what we call the Saturday afternoon shopper. This is the young couple, so much in love and looking for wedding sets. They have been at the mall since ten, when they opened, and they probably tired on every set in every jewelry department and every store in the mall. Now, right at our closing time, when we want to leave in time to pick up the cleaning or drop by the grocery store to prepare for our big weekend celebration of a TV movie and hot dogs, in comes this couple, and they want to swoon around romantically trying on every ring we have.
When we start with the process we get through about 3 sets then whoever is handling this is trained to ask, “When are you planning to get married?” The answer? Every jeweler knows. They either have no idea, haven’t set a date, don’t know if ever, or five years away. If you ask when they are going to be putting the ring in layaway or buy it, the response is normally the same.
Every Sunday, I look at the society section and count the couples and wonder how on earth some lucky jewelers sold them the rings. Five would get you ten, most of them were sold on credit. Ah, for the good old days.
The other day, we went out to eat, and there were packages of those yummy Lance crackers served, and I picked up an extra package to take with me. My nephew frowned and said, “Mooch!” I put it back. There is no way I am going to be in that category!