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INSTORE’S Latest Real Deal Scenario

The Case Of The Claim Check Criminal

A masked man presents a claim check and leaves with another customer’s repaired jewelry.

Oliver and Son was a respected, family-owned store in a high-end, suburban shopping center outside of Houston. James Oliver started the business more than 75 years ago as a small repair shop — a part of the business his son Joe and now his grandson David had taken great care to cultivate. The store now employed a full-time service manager who interfaced between the sales personnel (all of whom took in jewelry) and the repair shop, as well as four master jewelers. The store used a detailed take-in procedure that included careful inspection and diamond authenticity verification, accurate descriptions, value declarations and customer signatures indicating agreement with all information as well as standard disclaimers. Their POS-generated repair ticket included a bar code for in-store tracking and a copy that served as the customer’s claim check. At the time of delivery, the customer was offered a loupe and the opportunity to inspect the work carefully. Assuming the work had been completed to the customer’s satisfaction, the repair ticket would have to be signed by the customer acknowledging receipt of the merchandise.

The Saturday before Valentine’s Day, a young man came into the store asking to pick up his mother’s repair. The store had three people out that day (including the service manager). The two remaining salespeople and the sales manager were all with other customers, so the store’s bookkeeper was called to the counter to help. The man was well-mannered and appeared to pay careful attention to the store’s COVID-19 precautions, wearing a mask, staying a safe distance from other customers and respecting the floor markers indicating a required distance from the counter. He told the bookkeeper that his mom was recovering from minor surgery, so he was out taking care of her errands. He presented the claim check, and the finished job was located. The item was a 3-stone platinum diamond ring with 1.5-carat center diamond measuring 7.4 millimeters. The side diamonds each measured 5.3 millimeters and were estimated at 0.60 carats each. The value of the ring was listed at $19,000. The job had been to re-tip one prong on one of the side diamonds and to tighten all of the others for a price of $232. The man inspected the work, signed the repair ticket, paid cash for the job, and left with the ring in a store pouch and good wishes for his mom.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kate Peterson is president and CEO of Performance Concepts, a management consultancy for jewelers. Email her at [email protected]

Just before closing the following Tuesday, a customer named Jan Forde came into the store and asked to speak to Carol Bostick, the store’s longest tenured salesperson. She said she was there to pick up the ring she had left for repair two weeks before. She told Carol that she must have inadvertently left her claim check at home but would be happy to provide identification. Carol remembered Ms. Forde and their discussion about that visit being her first to the store and remembered taking in the job. She verified the picture and last name on the customer’s driver’s license anyway, per policy. She checked Ms. Forde’s file in the system to see that the job had been completed and went to get the job bag out of the safe. The job was not in the file as expected, nor was it anywhere else that Carol could see.

After 30 minutes of witnessing what grew to be a frantic search by several employees, the seemingly distressed Ms. Forde left, with Carol assuring her that since repairs never left the store, the ring was most likely just misfiled, and that she would get in touch the minute it was located. Carol and the store’s service manager continued the search the next morning and finally located the completed repair slip and claim check in a stack that was waiting to be processed as “delivered.” Carol noted that the job had been delivered by the bookkeeper, who explained what had transpired with the man on Saturday. She said that the scanner at the POS station was not working properly that day, so she had entered the job number manually when the transaction was processed. She reiterated that the man had the claim slip and that she had followed all delivery procedures, including getting a signature on the repair ticket.

Somewhat relieved, Carol called Ms. Forde to let her know that her ring had been picked up by her son on Saturday while she was recovering from her surgery. Ms. Forde said that someone had clearly made a mistake because she did not have a son, nor had she had any surgery in the past 10 years. Carol explained that the man who had picked up the ring had presented her claim ticket, paid and signed for the repair. Ms. Forde said she was sure the claim ticket had been in the console of her husband’s car and had no idea how the “mystery man” could have gotten it. Then, remaining uncharacteristically calm, she thanked Carol for the update and said that she would give the store one week to either get her ring back or provide an exact replacement.

Although the bookkeeper could describe the man, his mask had obscured his face, and she had no idea who he was. The signature on the repair ticket was illegible. No one else had noticed him in the store, and the store’s security camera footage was of little help in identifying him. David Oliver contacted his cousin — a detective with the local police department — who told him that since the man provided the claim check and paid for the repair, responsibility for filing a police report would fall on Mrs. Forde, from whom the claim check was apparently stolen. David’s stomach began to churn as he considered both the financial and potential public relations implications of the situation.

 

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

Is the store liable for replacing Mrs. Forde’s ring? Should policy require verifying identification even when a customer has a claim check? Might a policy of requiring customers to remove their mask long enough to get a security camera picture have deterred the “mystery man” in this case? Could the whole episode be a scam?


INSTORE’S Latest Real Deal Scenario

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