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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Person to Person Service

I went into the bank this morning to make a deposit and, as usual, I actually went inside the bank to give my deposit to a teller instead of using the bank machine in the lobby.  In fact, I never use bank machines.  Seems kind of old fashioned these days to do that, but I do it because I choose to interact with the humans behind my transactions.  Now don't get me wrong. Those of you who know me know that I'm all for new technology (especially my iPad which is attached to me at all times of day and night). However there is a reason that I choose to interact personally with the tellers, and officers, in my bank on a routine basis. 

Let's say that I have a problem with one of my accounts. When I go in to talk to someone at the bank everyone there knows me.  They know I'm a regular customer. We chat on a weekly basis about the weather and world events. They know my business. They know how much business I give to their bank.  And because of that I am pretty much assured that if I'm having a problem they are going to be all over it for me.  Because they know who I am!  If I always banked with a machine and never set foot in the door, I'm sure they would try to help me if I have a problem, but they haven't got a clue who I really am. They would see me as just another account number.  Now mind you, I use my bank because it is a relatively small, local bank known for its personal service, but there is a big difference in how people will react to you if they actually KNOW you than if they don't.  When I sit down in front of an officer because I need something, they know me by my first name. They know the names my accounts are under.  They know I am another local merchant. We've joked around with each other. And they will always go out of their way for me because of this.

One of my grandmothers spent a good deal of time in hospitals when she was alive. My grandfather used to carry a seemingly never ending supply of candy, little tchotchkes (my Jewish roots are showing), and other inexpensive little gifts that he would hand out to all of the nurses that worked on whatever floor my grandmother was on.  They were very small tokens but he did it because the nurses always remembered him for it and that meant that they remembered my grandmother was in there and if there was a problem they would hustle just a little faster because he had made a PERSONAL connection with them. 

Okay so by now you're saying, oh my goodness what the heck does this have to do with jewelry and why is he writing about this on a JEWELRY blog??? So let me tell you.

Today you can go online and buy just about anything and jewelry is included in that.  You can buy diamonds, colored stones, finished jewelry, synthetic stones, simulated stones, you name it.  It's all out there (well except for MY jewelry which is only available in my store).  And admittedly a lot of it is pretty cheap (both because it's cheaper to do business online as opposed to a bricks and mortar store but also because a lot of it is just cheap junk).  But what happens when you have a problem with whatever you've bought online?  Who do you talk to? Sure you can go online and get involved in a chat with a company representative, or you can call them and talk to someone who may be located in the United States, but more likely will be in India or another country.  And when you talk to them you are nothing but someone they read a scripted response to in an attempt to mollify whatever problem you are having in the quickest and most cost effective (to them) manner.  In other words you're pretty much nothing at all to them. They don't know who you are and you haven't got a clue who they are, so you really have no RELATIONSHIP with them. 

Now mind you, I shop online. But I shop online for products that are pretty much the same no matter where you get them.  When I bought a new coffee machine for my wife this Christmas, I did it all online, but I also did it at Williams Sonoma where I know for a fact (because I've bought in their stores multiple times before) that if there is a problem with it, I can walk into any store with it and they will, more often than not, hand me a new piece (in some cases no matter how long I've owned it for) to replace it. I didn't price shop it because price wasn't the issue. I wanted to be assured I got what I wanted and that it came with extensive warranties.  I probably could have shopped around a lot and found some discount place selling the same machine for 10% less but I wouldn't have known anything about them.  

But getting back to jewelry.  When you come into my store I want (actually I expect) you to develop a relationship with me.  I want you to know me because by knowing me, you know what to expect when you get a piece from me.  If you have a problem with something from me, and you know me, you'll know that I will take care of the problem no matter what it is.   And you can come in and look me in the eye and talk to me about it.  While I do have a few firm policies (mostly regarding payment forms and return policies), everything else is up to me.  I don't quote rules and regulations to you.  I won't tell you that you're 1 day over your warranty period (well actually since I guarantee everything for life that would be pretty much impossible).  Also when you buy something from me you know that I'll be there the next time you come back in.  You won't ever have to talk to someone in India. 

Jewelry is a personal product, both in what it means and how it's worn.  Does it look good on you (not some model in a picture)?  Does it feel right on your hand?  Has it been lightened up to reduce the price and does it look and feel cheap because of that? Is the color right for you?  Is the color of the stone you see in a picture that's possibly been photo shopped the right one for you (or is it even what is being represented in the picture)?  These are all problems with shopping for jewelry on line.  Not all diamonds look the same.  Not all sapphires are the same color.  Not all gold is the same color as different alloys give different shades to the metals.  How can you possibly tell this on line?  And if it isn't what it is represented to be, who do you look in the eye and say: "This isn't what I expected"?

I can't tell you how many times I've gotten young gentlemen in here with diamond rings they purchased on line who ask me to look at the diamond and tell them if it is what they were told it was. Every single time I look at them and say how can you possibly buy something so important from someone you don't trust to give you what they say they are?  (Invariably they say, "Oh no, I trust them but could you please just tell me if it's what they said it was".)  So the best words of advice I can give to anyone who is looking for jewelry (especially those purchases that are so important and filled with meaning) is shop local.  Work with someone you can look in the eye when they tell you what they are selling you.  Work with someone you can stand in front of if there is a problem. Work with someone you have a relationship with and work with someone you actually like!

The earrings above are garnets in 18k gold with 22k gold rosebuds.  I sold these at Christmas but I could make you a pair for Valentine's Day, for which they would be perfect as they are both red and have roses!

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