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Real Deal: The Case of the Bully Bride-to-Be

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The fiancée of one of Robin James’ best customers demands a replacement for a lost earring — or else! Should Robin even try to keep the customer happy?

[span class=alert]To be eligible for publication in INSTORE, responses must include your name, store name, and the city and state in which your store is located. [/span]

[dropcap cap=R]obin James was born and raised in Abingdon, a small New England town made larger by a major, private university campus. She loved the town and couldn’t remember a time when she’d regretted her decision to leave the world of corporate finance and buy Mendelsohn Jewelers from her retiring great uncle. Over 15 years, she slowly morphed the store into one of the finest for quality, service, selection and value in all of Abingdon and the surrounding areas. As she sat at her desk one bright, sunny January day, she remembered the three admonitions her uncle left with her the day she took the keys:[/dropcap]

1. Always let your passion drive your business

2. Protect your name and fine reputation at all cost

3. If you look hard enough, you’ll always find a way to make even the most difficult, most obnoxious customer happy

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Then, she looked again at the letter that had just come in with the day’s mail:

Dear Owner:

I am writing to request you remove my fiancé, Michael Todd, from your mailing list. I have requested he no longer purchase jewelry from your store, and instead do business with Farmington Jewelers in Westgate.

I am satisfied with the quality of your jewelry and with the selections he has made. I am extremely dissatisfied, however, with your customer service. Recently, one of my channel diamond earrings fell out of my ear and was lost. Rather than have me go without it, Mike insisted on replacing it so I would once again have a matching pair. I insisted he have it replaced “at cost”, considering how much business he does with Mendelsohns. Otherwise, it wasn’t worth it to me to replace it. Unfortunately, he was given a mere $50 discount on a $500 earring (he paid $1,000 for the original pair). I find it disconcerting to know that your establishment benefitted from our misfortune.

I have inquired about the practices of other local jewelers who all indicated they would have treated Mike with more respect and provided him a much better deal to encourage his future patronage. Because he wasn’t treated with this level of consideration, I insist he no longer shop at your store. He realizes how strongly I feel on this matter and has agreed to honor my wishes.

Hopefully, our circumstances will encourage you to reconsider your policy.

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Sincerely,

Callie M. Lawrence

After getting past her initial anger at the arrogant and manipulative tone of the letter, Robin found her way back to her typical, rational self. She pulled up Mike Todd’s file and found that he had indeed purchased a number of items over the past six years, including a strand of pearls, diamond stud earrings, the diamond hoops in question and an engagement ring. All told, he’d spent over $15,000 with the store. She also noted that, per store policy, Mike had been given an insurance valuation document with every item on which he spent $500 or more. She clearly remembered taking care of Mike when he came in for the earring replacement as well. While he asked if there might be some sort of a “break” on the price, he did not demand a cost replacement, and did not object to the 10 percent discount. Robin assumed that, as a regular customer, he was familiar with the store’s “one price” policy, and trusted the quality and value he always got. She believed that he appreciated the $50 “break,” and recalled that he even commented on her willingness to sell him just half of a pair.

As angry as she was with Callie’s letter, Robin hated the thought of losing even one customer — especially one who had been a loyal buyer for more than six years. She picked up the phone to call Mike, but put it back down as she realized that she had no clue what she would tell him. Her first instinct was to apologize for putting him in so difficult a spot and to offer to refund part of the price of the earring. Good sense told her, though that doing so would bring the value of everything else Mike had purchased into question, and would also demonstrate that Callie’s brand of extortion was a viable strategy.

[h3][b]The BIG questions:[/h3]  Should Robin even acknowledge the letter at all? If so, should she deal with Mike, or with Callie? Short of questioning Mike’s good sense in even considering a lifetime with a woman so demanding, what should Robin do? Is there any strategy that might help save Mike as a customer and repair the situation?[/b]

[span class=alert]To be eligible for publication in INSTORE, responses must include your name, store name, and the city and state in which your store is located. [/span]

[span class=note]This story is from the May 2010 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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