Reprinted from October 1997
Some years ago RB and I had worked the store as a couple and business was becoming such a success that we were having problems handling everything. We discussed the situation. RB said that I should have a girl or woman to assist me in dusting figurines and running errands. I said he should have a watchmaker to take some of the load off him and send some jewelry repairs out. In those days there was no such thing as antidiscrimination laws. If you wanted a man you could ask for a man and vice versa.
We reasoned this approach would give us much needed rest and time to interact more with the children. We hired a girl who appeared to be just what we needed. I showed her how to polish silver, dust figurines, and check on inventory. I introduced her to the washroom and I told her that she need not worry about tidying up as an ordinary maid would because we all clean up after ourselves. Evidently that part of the training session did not infiltrate her mind. RB on the other hand, called a couple of trade shops and made arrangements to send some of his watch repairs out to be done.
As the time went by, I noticed in the checkbook that we were writing checks to pay for labor which we had been accustomed to doing ourselves.
I said to RB, “Did you know what they charged you to repair that chronograph watch you took in?” He didn’t.
“Well, you charged the customer $33.50 and they charged you $29.95.”
RB frowned. “Well they over charged us.” I had to respond that it was my understanding most stores were charging around $60 to do that kind of work.
The first month between the part time girl and the watch/jewelry repair we paid out over $600.
RB mumbled and groaned. “We could have bought a new Watch Master with that.”
I moaned and groaned, “We could have bought a beautiful display of neck chains to have in inventory.”
One evening I happened to think that even though we had all this help, we were not getting out any earlier. I said to RB, “Why is it you are still working on watches at 7 p.m.?”
RB muttered and mumbled, “I have to readjust the timing on these watches coming back and there is never any oil in the lower balance. They put a crown on here that is way too big.”
I acknowledged his predicament. Of course the work could not go out in a shoddy manner.
One particular night, RB was wanting to watch a special television show and I was busy polishing silver. He demanded to know why I was doing this when we’d hired someone specifically for the job.
I explained: “Suzi says she doesn’t like to do the silver, because it tears up her fingernails and gets her dirty.”
RB scoffed, “That’s why we hired someone, so you could leave early and have dinner on the table by a decent hour. The kids are growing up thinking normal families eat at 8 p.m. And what about the errands she was supposed to do?”
“Well…” I stammered, “It is a lot of responsibility to take the bank deposit two blocks and to walk four blocks to the office supply store. She says she doesn’t like to carry canned drinks back from the Jiffy store because they are too heavy. I can’t make her unhappy or she will quit, and then what?”
I noticed we were starting to leave work later than we had before the changes. Then one morning RB wanted to go in about 30 minutes earlier so he asked me to notify the security company. I asked him why this was necessary, and he explained he had to get the watches ready for the trade shop, because they didn’t polish the cases correctly and he was going to take care of it. I figured that going in earlier would also give me a chance to dust the figurines because last time Suzi dusted, she chipped two.
While we were working, the phone rang and it was Suzi. She wouldn’t be able to work any longer because she was changing her school schedule. What short notice! I had to think back for a moment. When I went to school, I had to adjust my schooling to a job because I really needed the income. This meant I had to be at school by 7 a.m. RB had bussed tables in high school and jerked sodas. I shrugged and wondered how Suzi was going to get by without spending money that semester. As things would have it, the very same day the trade shop notified RB they were going up on their repairs. He just snorted.
That evening as he helped me pull the merchandise, we discussed that day’s events. We decided the only people we could count on were each other.
We did not replace Suzi and RB did his own work filtering out some of the more time consuming jobs. We went on like that for many years.
People seemed to accept the fact that if they wanted RB to fix something, it might take a few days longer than other places. No one said anything about the dust settling on the figurines. The silver became overcast with a dark film and I’d apologize if I had to show it to a picky customer. I can’t say it ever stopped a sale.
Who says happiness is gauged by the time you spend off work? Sometimes happiness is right where you find it, in your own store with the simple functions of daily life.