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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the Careless Courier

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THE CASE OF THE

CARELESS COURIER

A jeweler claims repairs being transported to an outside shop were stolen, but owner Olivia has her suspicions — as well as an angry client looking for answers.

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 edition of INSTORE.

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By the time Olivia Klein bought Klein’s Jewlers from her father two years ago, Nate Burton was the jeweler, the top salesperson and (at least in his own mind), the manager.

For Olivia, Nate was a major challenge. He was a competent bench jeweler, and Klein’s had provided him a fully equipped shop, but he insisted on outsourcing a good portion of their repairs, believing that his time on the sales floor was more valuable to the store. Once a week, he would hand-carry repairs to the outside shop in a nearby big city.

Olivia felt like she simply didn’t have the energy to do battle with Nate. The thought of finding another jeweler was appealing, but she also understood the difficulty attached. For the time being, she focused on the other elements of her growing business.

EDITOR’S NOTE

Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved. The names of the characters and stores have been changed and should not be confused with real people or places.

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Her approach was called into question one day last fall when Nate phoned her from the shop in the city. He had arrived as usual after taking a crowded metro train in and walking six blocks to the jeweler’s location, but he reported that when he reached into his messenger bag to retrieve the jobs he’d carried, the package was gone.

He said he had noticed nothing at all out of the ordinary and had no idea what could have happened.

The report was filed and the insurance company notified later that afternoon. The detective who came to the store to take the report was very thorough, and he didn’t hesitate to tell Olivia that while he had absolutely no evidence to support his feeling, he was not at all comfortable with Nate’s story. Unfortunately, after two months of investigation, the case was dispatched as a “mysterious disappearance” theft, and no one was accused or charged.

With the help of her insurance company, Olivia did whatever was necessary to take care of her clients.

She restricted the use of the outside shop and hired a bonded courier service to use when necessary. Olivia felt that she had put the incident behind her until she opened this email from a client:

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Dear Ms. Klein:

Now that my settlement is complete, I feel the need to express my feelings.

You and your dad always made me feel welcome and led me to believe that I, your customer, was your first priority. I felt like family and you won my trust.

I brought my grandmother’s ring to you for repair, and just three days later it was stolen. It was your duty to protect that ring while in your custody. You failed. You failed when you took it off the premises without my knowledge. You failed when you placed it in an ordinary messenger bag. You failed when you transported it by public transportation. There are so many concerns regarding your account, I have to wonder what really happened to my ring.

You were busy when I first came into the store the day after the disappearance, so I talked to Nate. He had the nerve to ask for my “discretion.” He said that telling others would not bring my ring or the sentiment it held back. He actually asked that Klein’s reputation be protected, as the store was absolutely going to replace my ring.

I find it reprehensible that, within 24 hours of delivering the news about my ring, the family heirloom I just lost, a representative of your company would ask me to protect your reputation. That is very telling. It is not your customers’ job to protect your reputation.


Olivia was appalled. In addition to the obvious issues, the client’s suspicions regarding the theft poked at her own concerns regarding Nate, but she had no idea how to handle them.


THE BIG QUESTIONS

1. How should Olivia respond to the client? Is there anything she can do to regain her trust?

2. Can Olivia fire Nate at this point without legal complication?

3. At what point does the challenge associated with an obstinate employee outweigh his contribution to the business?


EXPANDED RETAILER RESPONSES

Marc F.

Houston, TX

I had a similar situation. I can tell you that it gets very expensive very fast settling claims from clients. Accidents happen. I was incident-free for 20-plus years prior to the one event. Best advice: The owner(s) should handle any heirlooms or large diamonds (2-plus carats) from clients, have strict take-in procedures, have a good attorney and excellent insurance.


Ira K.

Tallahassee, FL

Olivia should realize that a store is like a family where we all have to get along. Since Nate is a “problem child,” just wait until he screws up again (likely soon), and let him go.


Amy C.

Tulsa, OK

Allowing such transport of goods was poor judgment on both their parts. As trusted jewelers, we should treat every customer’s precious memories with over-protection because money cannot fix everything.


Tim S.

Fairbanks, AK

I would have fired Nate. Nate is ultimately responsible for the loss as it was his responsibility to keep the jewelry safe. As far as repairs go, she has a repair company in the city and a courier in place now. She can continue sending all of it out and I am sure they would be willing to do the custom work. She should then reevaluate her need for a bench jeweler to see if it is an expense she is willing to continue. If he was nothing more than a salesperson, then hiring another qualified salesperson with the same skills as Nate is going to be easier than hiring another jeweler.


Tom N.

Spencer, IA

Apologize profusely. The customer should be addressed again. I would hope their being as devistated as her customer would come across in her tone during the phone call. (I would think a call or in person apology would be best) Beyond that I just don’t know there is much anyone can do when it comes to an heirloom being lost. It is very unfortunate he made those comments to her, this should not have been said. If the customer wants to rip you on social then so be it, never ask them not to. Ask really good customers for positives to drown out the bad one. Ask others that had a loss to feel free to share their satisfaction with you replacing the piece. As for Nate, there seems to have always been an issue with him and now an even bigger one, time to part ways, he is a cancer you don’t need. Either fire and pay the unemployment or keep him and watch for anything you can document to let him go ASAP.


Pamela R.

San Pedro, CA

All Olivia can do is to apologize and tell her customer what steps she has taken to keep this from ever happening again. It will not bring back her grandmother’s ring, but it might re-instill some confidence in her and in the store.


David I.

Portland, OR

Once the customer trust is broken there is little to no hope of regaining it. Olivia should keep her apologetic response short and sweet.


Robert S.

Southold, NY

Remind Nate of your expectations — maybe beyond what he wants to do — then let him quit. Hire a per-job person — on premises.


Megan C.

Poulsboro, WA

This owner is in a difficult position but it seems clear she has to be transparent & honest with the customer. I’d talk to the employee, reiterate his job description, give him a chance to respond to her views on the situation, then most likely let him go. He cannot represent her company the way he’s been doing. She shouldn’t have let it go on so long but now’s the time to rectify who’s in charge here. Use this situation to create new policies & procedures. I’d have the uncomfortable talk with the client and hope there is some way she can be responded to.


Daniel S.

MA

Olivia should fire Nate. Then she should let the customer know that he was fired because of what he said to her. This takes care of two issues: Her desire to get rid of Nate which she is obviously desperate to do and it might appease the customer. Obviously she has to check her local ordinances about the firing but it seems most employees are “at will” employees and they can be fired pretty much anytime. If they aren’t, or if there is a contract stating what has to happen to be fired, she should be working on making those things happen as soon as possible.


Erin H.

Lancaster, PA

The store owner has to own the screw-ups. Ms. Klein is completely correct. Olivia has lost a customer, and her sense of security is rightly shaken. Olivia has lost control of her business, and someone took advantage of the situation. Nate should be held accountable, generously offered “probationary” work at the bench, but nevershould he be allowed to deal directly with customers again. One screw-up and he’s gone. If he has a problem with the terms, that’s tough. He is lucky he isn’t in jail, frankly. The outsourcing should be stopped- one more place Olivia lost control through sheer laziness. Why isn’t she the best salesperson? She clearly isn’t the best anything, and needs to figure this business out — fast. New salesperson, a new accountant, new bench jeweler — any and all can take some of the weight off her shoulders while she gets her act together.


Marcus M.

Midland, TX

Contribution to the business? The only thing that shade ball Nate contributed to the business is pain and hardship. Get rid of that loser asap! And let me get this straight. You built him a full shop at your store, he’s a bench jeweler and yet you let him tell you, the owner, what to do with repairs? You’re at fault too for not owning up to your duties as the store owner and putting your foot down. You had a bad feeling about this guy and you should have acted on it and now it’s too late. And the method that these repairs were taken in to the city were reckless to begin with. I feel bad for Olivia but this situation could have been avoided with a little common sense. As for the customer, you should inform her that Nate is no longer with the company and that you have hired a legitimate bench jeweler who will carry out all repairs at your in-house shop and that you are very sorry.


Joel M.

Red Bank, NJ

Olivia needs to set standards and enforce them. A competitor of mine had a similar situation that hurt them badly. I would limit the jeweler to dealing with repairs and custom then hire a new salesperson, and stop sending work out. Why risk sending work out if you dont have too. If she is pricing things corectly then he is more valuable at the bench then selling.


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

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