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A 72-Year-Old Jewelry Store’s Farewell Letter to the Millennials Who Just Don’t Understand

It’s a plea for patience, humility and a bit of appreciation for the old ways.

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Growing up in the store: Eddie Guerboian holds his son, Avedis Guerboian, at the family’s jewelry store.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published at INSTORE Online on June 27, 2016. We are highlighting it again because it was one of our most popular articles ever.

The following is a letter from Avedis Guerboian of Readers Fine Jewelry in Santa Monica, CA, posted on social media and on the store’s website. The 72-year-old store closed its doors for the last time on Saturday, June 25, 2016.

Us: Welcome to Readers Fine Jewelers!

Millennial: “Hi, I heard the news, we are so sad to see you go ….”

Us: “Thank you, we appreciate that, How can we assist you?”

Millennial: “Well, I bought this engagement ring online, and I’ve read lots of great things about you. Can you please verify this diamond for me and would you be able to adjust the finger size?”

This is the new norm — every day, at least five times a day, people walking in or calling the store after buying jewelry online and asking for our trustworthy service. Clearly, they are wary of purchasing online, but they don’t want to spend the extra money to buy from a reputable long-time family business.

Who is to blame for this? Is it a bad thing? What’s the bright side to all of this?

Well, I blame the millennials for what is inevitably the end of an era of “mom and pop/brick and mortar” style stores. Apparently, at 33 years old, I am a member of this generation and I have mixed feelings about it. Before I continue, I believe everyone needs to work a retail, food or customer service job at least at some point in their lives. If they did so, the world would be a better place.

Now, moving on to my point.

Personally, I have worked all aspects of retail, except food service (and I can only imagine how much patience is needed for that industry). I have even worked in “big box” retail stores. Working for my family business has its ups and downs and the grass is always greener on the other side. But the biggest difference is the reward. America started out with family businesses. Kids working with their parents, learning the trade, learning work ethic, learning how to be a decent person, learning the value of a dollar. This has become a rarity nowadays and something very underappreciated.

The challenging part about working for your family is seeing how hard your parents work to keep a business thriving. Having to rely on yourself to pay the bills. Having to manage staff and cashflow and keeping customers happy. Having to always put your best foot forward, because one simple Yelp review from an uptight hipster millennial could affect your reputation. Seeing your parents working harder than any millennial will ever work in their entire lives, all because they have passion for what they do and truly care about the customer.

Especially immigrant parents.

This is where I get angry when I see the next generation — my generation — not understand the value of what our parents built. There seems to be a sense of entitlement by the millennials that is absolutely unearned. Who the heck are you to believe you are entitled to anything?

You’re probably thinking, I’m being too harsh on millennials. No, I’m not. I’m speaking from my perspective of dealing with millennials, of being a millennial.

We are the smartest and laziest generation to date. We’ve been able to invent and use technology that could have only been dreamed of few years ago. Yet, with this technology, it has made us completely lazy and impatient towards the generation before us, the generation that busted their ass to allow us this luxury.

Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit and the internet bring us access to everything in seconds. Amazon brings you the cheapest prices for retail, Reddit brings you instant news and Facebook keeps you “connected”.

But, like my dad says, “it’s all bulls**t”. All of this social media, all of this instant gratification and cheap online prices are bulls**t.

Business back in my parents’ day was done based on trust, relationships and true customer service. Having to actually speak to another human being to purchase something. Building a relationship with an expert in that industry.

Now, it’s all about how fast, cheap and better can you get it for. Feeling like because you Googled it or watched a YouTube video on it, you know better than the business owner. I keep hearing that the internet “democratized” this industry, and gave power to the consumer. Well, the consumer isn’t always right. The internet isn’t always right. You didn’t put 10,000 hours in a business to know the craft. You’re not suddenly an expert on diamonds because you saw a certificate online and read about it on Wikipedia.

The world is changing so fast that before you can adjust to a change, you’re already too late. Hundreds of our customers have been pouring into our store, expressing how sad they are to see us go. Sharing all their stories of how connected they felt with my family business and my dad because they’ve purchased a gift from us for a special occasion. It truly is heartwarming and bittersweet to know that so many people care. People who have never purchased anything are walking in to say goodbye. Who does that?

Readers Fine Jewelers was established in Santa Monica 72 years ago. My dad came to America at 17 years old, just after his father passed away. He ended up in Santa Monica and worked for Readers Fine Jewelers before becoming the owner of it for 40 years. To think about the longevity of doing business and owning a retail store for 40 years is pretty phenomenal. It’s proof that he has withstood all the challenges to be a successful business. It’s proof that giving back to your community pays off. Donating your time and money for all the service organizations is priceless. Knowing that he built a business that brought joy to so many people is rewarding.

Now, we face an evolution in how retail business is being conducted. Especially in the jewelry world, millennials are buying products in a new way. The internet has changed everything. It has essentially put the consumer in control and there is no way to fight it. We spent months, almost a full year analyzing the direction of our business model before making this tough decision. It is time for us to evolve with the trend of how consumers purchase products.

Of course, there is a bright side to all of this. And that is the opportunity to reach many many more people. I’ve been fortunate enough to design some amazing and unique custom jewelry that is allowing me to follow my dream. This is not the end of our family business, but a passing of the torch, as we move onto a new chapter. It is a time for us to celebrate my parents and what many call a “legacy” in Santa Monica. My parents have done business here for so long, they’ve been able to see three generations of clients.\

Can you imagine owning a business and seeing your customers, their kids and their grandkids?

My point with this message is, I hope the millennials will start seeing what it’s like on the other side. Since I am an older member of this generation, I’ve been able to see what it’s like. We need to appreciate what the mom-and-pop, brick-and-mortar businesses did for us. We need to stop staring at our stupid phones for a minute and look up at people, smile and shake hands. Be patient when your parents ask you how to use Facebook. Understand that not every product you order needs to show up the next day and not every activity you engage in requires a photo to be posted about it immediately. We need to try and find a balance with all this amazing technology and bring a little patience back to our lives.\

I am excited for what the future holds, and I am beyond proud of my parents Eddie and Evelyn Guerboian.

As we are nearing that last days of Readers Fine Jewelers, I want to thank all of you for your kind notes, well wishes and final purchases. I want to thank my amazing wife Christina Guerboian for coming in on her days off to help, my sisters Natalie Guerboian and Nicole Guerboian for taking time off from their jobs, and our dear friends Rob Schwenker and Lisa Gumenick for the extra help on Saturdays. Thanks to my mamik, a.k.a. Grandma, a.k.a. Mrs. G, for all the baklava! I want to congratulate my parents on sustaining one of the longest family-owned businesses in Santa Monica and one of the oldest jewelry stores in America. I hope to create a legacy half as remarkable as theirs.

There are countless friends and colleagues that have given us support through all this and I am ever so grateful for them. This has been an amazing experience.

Our last day here is Saturday, June 25, 2016 and we hope to see you all one more time.

Thank you!

P.S. One final life tip: Don’t walk into any retail store three minutes before closing, say you’re “just looking” and keep them open late. Be kind to the staff. Everyone has had a rough day.

 

Avedis Guerboian is the sixth generation of his family to work in the family jewelry store. He was raised in the jewelry world, with a specialty in custom design. Formerly working with Iridesse (a subsidiary of Tiffany & Co.), he has a passion for designing and freehand sketching, specifically Batman. In his career, he has created custom pieces for celebrities, such as Hank Azaria, Bryan Cranston, Ben Affleck and Bob Iger.

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Eileen McClelland

2019 Big Survey: 10 Times When Jewelry Store Employees Left the Job in Dramatic Fashion

Results of the 2019 Big Survey have been rolling in. Here’s a sample.

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WE ASKED SURVEY respondents to share the most epic ways they’d seen someone quit or be fired. Dealing with employees on their way out can be touchy. Sometimes these unfortunate encounters even culminate in award-winning dramatic performances. Read on for the most memorable ways employees have parted ways with jewelry stores:

Top 10 Countdown

The award for best dramatic performance goes to the employees who:

10. Screamed at the top of their lungs, “I QUIT”

9. Showed up in pajamas, had a breakdown, then quit and walked out.

8. Threw rings at the boss while asking for a raise, then quit.

7. Threw a crystal piece through a showcase shelf.

6. Hit the jeweler in the head with a bag of bananas.

5. Threw his key at me.

4. Came in wielding a pipe wrench screaming that we were liars.

3. Ran out of the shop, arms raised in the air, saying “he’s trying to kill me.”

2. Got drunk at a charity event we were sponsoring, hit on one of the ladies and pulled her skirt up. Police were called.

And the No. 1 best dramatic performance goes to:

1. The employee who hired a marching band to quit.

The 2019 Big Survey was conducted in September and October and attracted responses from more than 800 North American jewelers. Look out for all the results in the November issue of INSTORE.

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Columns

Wow Your Customers with This Video Messaging App

Jewelers can make online experiences feel a lot more like in-person experiences.

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DO YOU REMEMBER the last time a business did something unexpected for you? Something you truly appreciated? Of course, you do. Those are the moments that imprint themselves on our memories. For me, it was with a video messaging app called Bonjoro.

My Wow Moment

When I signed up for their free trial, I expected to get a video message from them. That’s what they do. And they told me I would. What I didn’t expect was to get a video answer about a tech issue I was having minutes after I emailed them about it. That blew me away.

In the jewelry industry, we pride ourselves on our in-store service and fret about our online marketing. Gone are the glory days with greater foot traffic. Now everyone wants to kick the tires online before they commit to coming in. But what if you could bring your amazing customer service to customers before they ever stepped foot in the store?

Bonjoro to the Rescue

That’s exactly what Bonjoro allows you to do. Bonjoro is an easy to use video to email messaging app for businesses. They make recording and emailing a personalized video to customers almost effortless. And you can even send these videos when they’ll have the biggest impact, like right after they fill out a contact form on your site.

Imagine a prospective customer visits your site. They fill out a contact form with some details about the type of engagement ring they’re looking for. After they press submit, someone on your sales team gets a notification. Once they have a free minute, they pull out their phone and record and send a video in less time than it would take them to respond to the email.

“Hi, Jim! I know exactly the style that you’re looking for, and we have some great options for you. You can see a few of them in the case behind me, but I have a few more that I’d like to pull out and show you. You mentioned that you have a lunch break at noon. Why don’t you stop by tomorrow, and I’ll have them all ready for you? In the meantime, there’s a link to our website’s engagement ring gallery in this window. If you see anything else you like, you can write me a quick message, and I’ll be sure to add it. See you soon!”

An Experience Like No Other

This is an experience most jewelers aren’t going to offer. The enthusiasm and confidence communicated in a video are hard to match in an email response. And the customer has likely never received a response like this from a jewelry store. Just the thought that someone took the time to personally address them with a video will make them more likely to stop in. Plus, they already feel like they know you.

Almost Face-to-Face

Bonjoro is a way to send quick, personalized videos to customers. They’re meant to be mixed into the daily routine and workflow of your sales team. This isn’t the time for high-quality video production or perfect angles. This is much more personal and organic than that.

People online aren’t used to being addressed personally by video. It gives them a personal touch that usually only happens in the store. When you use Bonjoro, the most important thing is to press the record button and talk to the customer like they’re right there in front of you. What a wonderful way to wow your customers!

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Commentary: The Business

Customer Fired for Cause

Her phone manners left something to be desired.

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Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery says her daughter Heidi, now 15, is not afraid to answer the phone despite what happened and calls it “a learning experience.”

WHILE VISITING A great friend and store owner, Laurelle Giesbrecht of French’s Jewellery in Alberta, Canada, we were commiserating over coffee. I have always loved hearing her stories about community involvement or win/win sales interactions. This time, she had a real doozy.

A customer had recently purchased a $300 ring for her daughter and had sent her back to the store for a free sizing. The young girl had decided it was not going to be on her third finger but the much larger first. That meant the ring needed to be sized from 5 to 10. For this, there would be a charge. The girl left the ring.

Laurelle’s daughter, Heidi, was answering phones as her mom finished closing the store. It was the last call before locking up. Heidi asked how she could re-direct the caller and then, holding the phone to her chest, asked her mom if she wanted to take the call. Mom assured her she was doing fine. It brought a smile to her face when she heard her daughter tell the caller that she would pass the message along to their HR manager.

But later at home, the true story emerged. The call had been from the original purchaser of the size 5 ring, and using a long string of vulgarities, she had demanded a full refund. The next day, typically affable Laurelle left a message requesting a return call. When the return call came, Laurelle informed the customer that the swearing she had done over the phone had been directed at her 13-year-old daughter. She added that she would not allow that treatment of any of her staff. After informing the customer that she would process a full refund, she asked for her mailing address so she could mail it. Laurelle calmly informed the customer that she was not to come back to her store.

But the story was not over. The customer ignored the request to not return to the store and instead brought a beautiful bouquet of flowers with a neatly written card. She wanted to personally deliver them to the 13-year-old child who had listened so intently to her vulgar language. This customer knew that the depth of her apology could only be appreciated by a face-to-face meeting between an embarrassed adult and precocious child!

If there are lessons here, they are written between the lines.

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