Reprinted from April 1998
Over the years, we have had some of the best employees in the United States. There seems to be a common bond or thread woven through almost every employee, and an equally common bond or thread woven through employers, so that employees will tend to think more link employees. But if they were to suddenly come to own a jewelry store, it would probably be very different.
For instance, I have no problem in thinking and feeling a specific way when it comes to making decisions or reacting to problems. Employees think differently. Every store owner must have must lived through these experiences. If an employee is going to furnish a box for a ring or jewelry item which a customer is buying, they will automatically select the most expensive box in the drawer for the most insignificant ring. This is a given. I have found myself flying to the counter to substitute a less expensive box for something so often I have ceased to count. If the customer gets a look at a nice box though, you are sunk. If they don’t get that box, there is going to be hell to pay.
How is it that it’s perfectly clear to me, and almost every other store owner, that a ring costing retail about $100 can not be delivered in a box costing $10, but employees don’t understand this concept?
Once we get the item into a box, which is suitable, we are faced with getting it wrapped if the customer desires. This is another thing. We don’t charge for gift wrapping, so we sort of like for the item to cost just a little more than $50 to make it worthwhile.
I can remember running after Suzi, a little part time girl I had a few years back. Not only did Suzi explain to me the better box made the ring look nicer, the gift wrapping was sure to please the recipient. I just sighed and took a deep breath.
Do you think Suzi used the old wrapping paper? The ordinary plain stuff that didn’t cost very much? Heck no, she homed in on the best foil paper we had in the store and she laced it down with enough ribbon to make it a serious feat to get it unwrapped.
Employees seem to have a knack of setting up a display which is made to accommodate narrow rings and shoving the biggest, thickest, shank they can find into it, thereby assuring every ring you put into the tray will later fall out. I have seem them shove and pinch and pull and thrust to get the ring into the narrow slot. And almost by design they will pick the newest display you have to accomplish this.
I have problems in other areas too. For example, whey they sweep in the back and leave their little piles of lint to sift for diamonds, etc. I carefully pluck out paper clips and pins. I don’t think I’ve ever had an employee who did this. They sweep it up and rummage through looking for watch parts, stones or gold, and then they dump it with a thud into the trash. My heart comes up in my throat to think of all the great paper clips and pins I could have salvaged from such places.
I come along after someone has wrapped a package and I salvage little bits of wrapping paper, especially that nice gold stuff, and save it for a smaller package. Somehow I want to cry out when I see the employees take a perfectly good section of gift-wrap and toss it in the trash without even looking sad. My gosh, how much could these things save us? Maybe it was my early training where we saved ribbon and ironed it for re-use or carefully patted the creases out of gift-wrapping paper to use another day. Part of the expertise of receiving a gift had been to see how much of the gift-wrap we could salvage.
One day, I asked someone to go through the drawers and throw out badly worn watch and display boxes which could not be used for hardly anything. I walked past the garbage and was instantly plucking out all these great boxes that only had a little scuff on them. My idea of ‘old and used’ certainly did not match that of my employee.
I don’t think I am cheap, I like to think of myself as thrifty. I save bits of paper for telephone notes. If you buy these they cost $.30 a hundred. This is really quite a savings.
These days it seems like I am spending more and more of my time rummaging through the trash. I find perfectly good ballpoint pens in there someone felt didn’t write well enough and pitched them out. Bad copies off the copy machine can be turned over and used for something else and old faxes can be used like this too.
I have tried to point out to employees if they set the fax machine for after hours we can save on the phone bill, but I hear that thing humming all day long. I also try to point out that if they set the copy machine for contrast before they run a copy, they won’t have to run another copy.
This strategy does not work. There is another rule of thumb I find common among employees. If you have thirty rings and you get five new ones in, it is a given that the average employee will snatch up one of those five rings to show to the next customer that walks in the door.
No one is ever going to believe I was ever this naïve, but once we got in seven new items. We had a policy employees could buy at a percentage above cost. Three employees gathered around the items and the next thing I knew, they were buying these very items. What’s more they wrapped them with gold foil wrap and showered them with ribbon. One bright spot however, I did save the scraps for the next important customers.