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How to Fend Off Those Casual Appraisal Requests … and More March Questions Answered

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APPRAISALS

Since the holidays I’ve had people coming in to ask me to check if their new jewelry “is the real thing.” Some of the items were from eBay, some were gifts. We charge $70 for an appraisal but that’s not what they want: they just want an “OK” from a jeweler. How do I deal with these people?

The fact these people came to you demonstrates they respect and value your professional skills. Now you need to open their eyes to the real world. Explain you provide appraisals and inspections as part of the full range of services you offer your customers but that you’d quickly be out of business if you spent your time working as de facto support staff for eBay. They’ll get it.

The other option is to follow David Geller’s advice and position an appropriately weighty sign on your counter declaring:

“If you need a value on something you’ve bought or been given, we can offer you two choices:

  • 1. Written, professional, certified appraisal … $85 (or whatever).
  • 2. Oral, non-binding evaluation with no guarantee of accuracy … $20.

Thank you.”

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MANAGEMENT

I pay what I believe are slightly better than market rates in terms of salary and commission for our area in the Northwest. But our employee turnover rate is still high — more than 50 percent. Do I need to do something about offering better perks and benefits?

Throwing more perks at your staff is not a good idea unless you know the real reason for the exodus. Remuneration isn’t usually the main reason people leave: In-store morale, feelings of appreciation, job responsibility, opportunities to learn — there’s a host of factors that drive workers out the door other than perceived bad pay. Exit interviews will give you an insight into the reasons for the outflow.

Having said that, there’s no denying the financial rewards are important. Check the stats kept by the Bureau of Labor Statistics or websites like Salary.com to see how you really stack up against the competition in your area. The next step is to improve your hiring. Try to recruit more through referrals. Be tough, be selective. It’s worth the investment in time. Rethink your training and try offering your people more of a say in their work and how the business is run. Engaged staff are happy, less likely to leave staff.

RELATIONSHIPS

My father died some years ago leaving the family store to me, my brother and sister. My brother, who is the oldest, assumed leadership of the business but I don’t feel he pulls his weight. What should I do?

The icky truth is you’re going to have to confront your brother. Leaving such matters to fester only makes them worse and imperils the business. Call a meeting with your sister and brother and consider using the DESC conflict-resolution method:

DESCRIBE: Outline the problem. Be careful to avoid using judgmental language.

EXPRESS: Let him know your concerns of what will happen if things don’t change.

SPECIFY: Tell your brother what you’d like him to do make things better. Be as specific as possible. Example: “It’s important you’re here on Saturdays…”

CONSEQUENCES: Cite the consequences that will occur when the behavior is changed — a better-run shop, more profit for everyone.

Through all this, remember to really listen to your brother’s side of things and stay clear of the question of who’s right and wrong.

INTERNET

I love e-mail but it eats up far too much of my day. How can I use it more efficiently?

As typical American employees who spend about a quarter of each working day grappling with the contents of our inbox, this one is close to our hearts. Here are our top five tips:

  • Turn off the auto-check and set aside a few chunks of time during the day to attend to your inbox.
  • Send all personal e-mails to a “My stuff” folder and don’t look at them until the morning’s work is done.
  • Keep it short. This is e-mail not literature. (Although go easy on the shorthand and watch your grammar. Bad English is like having toilet paper stuck to the bottom of your shoe: People notice.)
  • Be specific, especially in the subject line. Tell people exactly what you want or need done. That way you avoid endless rounds of e-mail tag.
  • Get tech savvy (sort of). Learn how to use templates, signatures and if you trust them, autoresponders, to avoid a lot of repetitive typing and sorting.
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PAYROLL

I’m thinking of moving to a biweekly payroll schedule from a weekly one. What are the pros and cons?

The big pro — as you’re no doubt anticipating — is you can save on some administrative costs over the long run. Before you get there though, there are quite a few cons to weigh up. The first is that the change may put you in violation of state law: Some states actually stipulate that hourly employees be paid every week. Your up-front costs may also be substantial. Most payroll firms charge for changing schedules because it involves manually inputting new data on benefits, overtime and taxes. Another thing to factor in is that accounting for overtime gets trickier. Companies on a weekly cycle can quickly tell if an employee topped 40 hours in seven days. Lastly, unless you prepare your employees well in advance and arrange for some bridge financing, you’re going to have unhappy staff in the store. Some may even leave because they can’t deal with the 14-day wait.

SALES

How do you deal with customers who ask why there’s such a big difference between the price of a diamond sitting in my case and what I’ll pay for a stone off the street?

It’s true you’re buying, but taking stuff off the street is actually a sales job that requires a lot of patience, reassurance and education. Work out and practice a pitch to explain that insurance appraisals are inflated (for a reason) and that there are difficulties involved in selling a pre-owned piece. Be frank about the costs of running a jewelry store and your overheads. Finally, urge them to shop around — they’ll soon find they can’t argue with the market. Some prospects may leave your store thinking they’ve been had, but others will appreciate your honesty. Either way, keep on trying to buy from the public. It’s a great way to lower your sourcing costs.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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