Reprinted from November 1996
RB used to hate negative people. He always said, “If you can’t say something good about someone, don’t say anything at all.” Well, RB had some strange ideas and he and I were not cut from the same mold either. I can think of a lot of unkind things to say about one or two competitors here.
There is a jeweler here who is just fizzing and bubbling with bad news about his competitors. He has articles about how stupid everyone else is and how talented, smart, handsome, ethical – did I say ethical? Oh, yes.
He touts he is very ethical and yet one day, lo and behold, there appeared on my caller ID this jeweler’s number, and posing as a customer, this person at this number asked me questions concerning the price of specific diamonds and so on. Then this happened again and again. It happened so frequently that I had my whole caller ID stuffed with his number still posing as a customer.
One day he called and asked how much a ladies diamond solitaire mounting would cost and I almost told him, “around a hundred dollars,” but that little niggle got into my head and I said, “thirty dollars.” He gasped and floundered and sputtered and asked how much again. I told him again, “thirty dollars.” The next time he called I said, “Look, aren’t you in the jewelry business?” and he became impatient and said, “no,” and hung up. I re-dialed and someone else came to the phone that time and I asked for the man I’d just talked to and finally he came to the phone and I asked, “not in the jewelry business, huh?” and he said, “absolutely not, I’m doing research for this jeweler.” So beware, a researcher calling more than a dozen times is not an employee.
I was visited in my store by ‘researchers’ who knew so much about my product I was put to shame. “How much is a .43 diamond, round, SI1, H color?” “How much is a model #11 Wittnauer watch?” “Do you carry X brand?”
One woman came in on the heels of a well dressed man I’d never seen who’d parked up the block on purpose. She went around to each showcase and couldn’t allow herself to be waited on and finally she said “Hrump!” everything is so expensive here, you are way too high!” I found I was busy writing down license plate numbers and taking note of people who were in there.
I’ve always heard emulation is the greatest form of flattery. I take it these checkers and shoppers being from a store which has a great deal of inventory and space admires me and my store so much he has to shop me thoroughly and possibly many other jewelers in town. Whoever this was shopping us, they should think about one thing; we are the kind of store that makes our living from old, tried and true customers. If a person is looking for a loud mouth and spectacular display of inventory, that isn’t us. We find that is annoying to have to pay property tax and insurance on vast amounts of inventory, so we do not stock heavily in many areas. We do, however, have an impressive inventory of merchandise purchased from Jack Gould, Ed Kurtz, Bill Katz, Sheffield from Louisiana, C&E Marshal, Schwartzchild, Hammond etc. Every night, I look at those priceless lovely items and carefully tuck them in the safe and the next morning I get them out and display them again. If they are lucky, they will get cleaned a couple times a year.
I think it is priceless that wannabe copycats go back to the inquiring jeweler with descriptions about some of our merchandise, and they are so young, they don’t recall when these items were popular. Now they are popular again, only they obviously cannot find the source, which gives me great pleasure.
I’m pretty sure I bought 9 new items last year and the year before, however, I have never shopped another jeweler. Perhaps it is because I do not envy anyone else or that I might be a poor business person. RB never shopped any other jewelers either and always said, “You can’t run your business when you are out looking at some competitor’s store.” RB used to say a lot of things. He always spoke kindly of any competitors we had to the customers, even though his insides might have been about to pop. This takes an iron will, I’ll tell you, to stand at the counter and quietly defend a diamond a customer has just purchased down the street and then finds his way into our store for our opinion.
People are expecting a dismal report and they are certainly asking for one, but like RB always said, “We have to be careful we are not guilty of sour grapes.” RB said some other things too and maybe this generosity towards competitors and running his own store the way he wanted to finally got to him. I just know if I decided to tell someone off who is shopping us or calling on the phone RB would be looking down taking a break from fixing the big hour glass timer in the sky and would smack me dead!
I think I did receive a reward, however. We had done some prong work on a ring which had numerous melee diamonds in it and apparently about three weeks later a tiny diamond fell out. I can’t say why, but the customer took the ring to a bad mouthed competitor who virtually destroyed our reputation by saying the work was shoddy and vastly overpriced. The customer said when the jeweler said this, she responded, “I’ll just take it back to the place who fixed it, they’ve always been good to me.” And the jeweler said, “Please don’t tell them I said that.”
Well, she did and what’s more, her husband worked with my son until he transferred out of town, so I knew her pretty well. I think she was embarrassed to admit she’d probably knocked the stone out, but we supplied another without charge as we would have done for most everyone. This is what some jewelers call ethical? Knowledgeable? Established? I have some better names, but I won’t be saying them to the customers! RB would send me a real troublemaker!! I just know it!