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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the Chain Store Challenge

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Real Deal: The Case of the Chain Store Challenge 

BY KATE PETERSON

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.

Ed Charles understands that mistakes happen. Heaven knows they’ve happened to him enough in the 35 years he’s owned Range and Charles Jewelers. Listening to the story told to him by the young couple in his office this May afternoon, however, he felt frustrated and angry – both for the couple and for the reputation of his industry in general.

Range and Charles is what Ed calls a “small store in a small town.” Their business is strong, and they’ve held their own even as the big chains moved into the new outdoor mall built in their Southwestern community. As a second-generation owner, Ed and his team have always taken great pride in providing impeccable service and in the high level of integrity on which their business was founded.

He remembered the day just over a year ago when he sold a solitaire engagement ring to Daniel Macon, whose parents had been customers of Range & Charles for many years. Daniel was a soldier who had met his fiancée, Michelle, while stationed at a base in the Midwest. He had just returned from overseas and was home on leave when he came into the store, and Ed was honored to help him find the perfect ring. When Ed asked Daniel about wedding bands, Daniel told him that both he and Michelle had family heirloom bands they planned to use as their own.

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Daniel and Michelle got married last December, in Michelle’s home town. Shortly after the wedding, they took their bands to a branch store of a large national chain in her local mall to get re-sized. As Daniel recounted the story, he said that the clerk in the store was very accommodating, and that she stressed the value of their many locations, as he and Michelle were planning to move back to his Southwest home when his term of service ended in February. He reminded Ed, “The rings were family heirlooms so they were very important to us and irreplaceable. Mine was my grandfather’s and hers was from her great-grandfather”.

The store associate took the rings in, gave Daniel and Michelle a receipt and told them they would be ready on Jan. 9. On Jan. 8, someone from the store called Michelle and left a message telling her that their shop was running a little behind and they the rings would be in “the following Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday” Daniel called them back that Monday and the manager said that the package was shipped and that it would be in in a few days. He was surprised, as he had not been told that the rings were going to be shipped – but rather, assumed that the work would be done in the store.

That Wednesday, the store manager called Michelle again and said that UPS was holding the box for an investigation but said that their rings were there with the box and everything was fine. The manager also said that they would need to provide proof that the rings were actual heirlooms, something Daniel knew would be difficult, since both rings were from the late 1940s. A week later, they were once again told that UPS was still holding the box and that they weren’t saying why or providing any other information. At that point, the store manager also told Michelle that the store was really not supposed to take heirlooms in the first place because there was a risk of them being lost, and that the associate who helped them initially had made a mistake when she took them in.

The following week – just 2 weeks before their scheduled cross-country move, Daniel and Michelle went to the store where the same manager told them that the rings were actually gone and asked what they felt a suitable replacement would be. Michelle tried to explain the unique engraving in the platinum and to ask about the availability of estate jewelry options, but the manager kept interrupting saying she couldn’t do that and that they would only replace the rings (up to $500) with pieces they had in the store. Since the manager refused to cooperate and essentially told them their choices were limited (no platinum and no estate jewelry), Daniel decided to call the company’s corporate office to see what else could be done.

The company’s customer service representative confirmed that the rings were, in fact, lost, and that per company policy, since he had not declared a higher insurance value when he left the rings, the company would only be held liable for up to $500 of in-stock replacements. Daniel then asked to see a copy of the UPS investigation report. The representative said that was not possible because the report also contained information regarding other people who lost property in the package, but he offered to find out what happened. He called Daniel back the next day, saying that the UPS report indicated that there was a hole in the box and everything inside had fallen out. Daniel asked if the rings were photographed before being sent out and was told that they were. When he asked for a copy of the pictures, Daniel was told that the pictures were not available – and that if he and Michelle wanted to do anything other than replace the rings with in-stock pieces up to $500 in value, they would have to get a lawyer.

Ed listened to the whole story, wondering what he could possibly do for this young couple who were now coming to him for advice. He always believed it served no useful purpose to speak negatively about a competitor, but in this case, he couldn’t help but feel that Daniel and Michelle had been treated very badly and had been taken advantage of in the worst possible way.

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The BIG questions:

How can Ed best help Daniel and Michelle? Should he get involved at all in helping them to recover the pictures – and the money they need from the national chain to have the lost rings replicated? Should he follow his heart and simply give Daniel and Michelle replacement rings, letting the chain off the hook entirely?

Comment below (please leave your name and store) or at [email protected]

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