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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the Diamond Studs Quality Quandary

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Inflated diamond reports? Husbands do it too. How should the staff at Winter & Sons explain a price difference to a customer?

B Y   K A T E    P E T E R S O N

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 edition of INSTORE.

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real deal scenario diamond studs quality quandary

Ashley and Josh McHill are not big jewelry shoppers. In fact, Josh could remember buying only one piece of jewelry for his wife since choosing her engagement ring at the Army PX nearly 10 years ago. Seems there were always other, more “practical” items on Ashley’s wish list.

This was different, though. After years of hoping, the McHills were expecting their first child. To commemorate the occasion, Josh decided to buy a special pair of simple diamond stud earrings as a surprise for Ashley. Knowing that Ashley had admired the earrings her best friend, Jennifer, got last Christmas, Josh asked Jennifer for advice and information to help with his decision.

Jennifer told Josh that her husband bought her earrings from Winter & Sons, a well-known and highly respected jeweler in town. Though she was not with her husband when he picked up the earrings, Jennifer gave Josh the details she remembered about the diamonds they looked at together — including the color, clarity, carat weight and price she remembered seeing on their credit-card statement after Christmas.

Armed with all the right information, Josh visited Winter & Sons looking for a pair of 1-TCW diamond studs, SI1 in clarity and G in color.

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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.


Though Jennifer said her earrings were around $2,700, Josh expected to spend more since hers were set in yellow gold and he was certain Ashley would be happiest with platinum.

Josh told Matt, the Winter & Sons salesman, exactly what he was looking for. Matt was pleasant and professional, and was quick to show him a beautiful pair of platinum diamond studs that matched his size and quality specifications precisely.

Josh was quite surprised, however, to learn that the earrings were priced at $4,100 — considerably more than he’d expected to spend. He told Matt about his friend’s purchase and about her confident referral, and asked Matt how there could be so dramatic a difference in price. Matt asked Josh for a few days to do some research, to see if he could find something that might better suit both Josh’s quality standards and his budget.

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In search of a reasonable explanation, Matt decided to check the store’s client history for information on Jennifer’s earrings.

He was not surprised to find that the information in the record was not exactly what Jennifer had reported to Josh. The store file indicated that, while Jennifer and her husband looked at the better quality pair, he’d actually bought diamonds from the store’s next-tier program, J color and I1 clarity, (while still maintaining Winter & Son’s tight standards for cut quality), and he actually spent $2,500 for them before tax.

Matt had that same quality pair in stock and could easily re-set them in platinum for Josh to keeping the price under $3,000, as Josh requested. He was more than a little confused about how to handle the situation, though.

Winter & Sons had never run a sale in its 70-year history, and always been a “one-price, no-discount” shop, so the idea of Jennifer’s husband having caught a ‘special deal’ was not plausible.

Online research indicated that Winter & Sons’ pricing was similar to that of most other local stores, so it would be easy to for Josh to verify whatever Matt told him regarding price and quality. But it was not reasonable to think that Matt could supply the quality Jennifer thought she had for Ashley’s earrings while staying within Josh’s price range.

Matt wanted to satisfy Josh’s needs but was concerned about violating the confidentiality of his original customer and about embarrassing Jennifer or her husband.


The BIG questions

Should Matt betray his previous client’s confidence and reveal Jennifer’s earrings were lower color and clarity?

Should he discount the higher quality earrings to please Josh and make the sale?

How can Matt persuade Josh to find a compromise within his budget?


R E T A I L E R   R E S P O N S E S

Richard W.

Provo, Ut

Matt should explain that color is very important since Josh is setting the earrings in platinum. Jennifer’s earrings are yellow, and therefore she could get away with “G” color. To do this properly, and stay in budget, Matt should suggest to Josh that he go to E or F color and an I-1 (wholesale difference is about $250 from a J I-1). Explain that the lower clarity and higher color are a better use of his money, and the clarity lowers the price more than the color increases it. He could further squeeze the price by talking him out of platinum and into white gold. Voila! No confidences breached, budget is kept, happy customer.


Marcus M.

Midland, TX

This isn’t hard. Jennifer gave some false information and Matt and the store are not at fault. I’m sure if he explains the situation very simply and offers Josh the same kind of setup in platinum for under $3,000 then everything should be fine. This isn’t a tricky situation and should not be over-thought.


Steve M.

Marion, IL

I wouldn’t make things complicated. Simply state that you have a pair of comparable quality. Then show him the pair. Let the customer determine which pair he wants. Definitely avoid any direct discussion of the friend’s purchase. Sometimes you have to learn to “tiptoe” around the tulips.


Brian M.

Eatontown, NJ

Explaining to Josh about his friend’s earrings one might say, “Although we did go through different qualities of diamond studs with your friends, maybe there was confusion on her part as to which pair was actually purchased.” I would then explain the differences to Josh and let him make his own decision as to which pair he prefers.


Michael J.

San Diego, CA

I would show Josh the earrings that are in the same price range as the ones Jennifer received, explain the differences in price and let him make up his own mind. If Josh pressed the issue, I would simply have to tell him that there must be some confusion as to the details of Jennifer’s diamonds, making it clear that I could not discuss any client transactions.


Deric M.

Oceanside, CA

Explain to Josh the phenomenon of mis-remembrance, which happens when a client recalls different details about the item they purchased since they looked at so many to start with. It happens all the time. Show Josh that your prices are in line with current market values and that they will be getting the same exceptional service that made his wife’s friend so happy with her earrings, and the sale will close itself.


Stacey H.

Chicago, IL

I would tell Josh there may have been a misunderstanding between his friend and the friend’s wife about the color and clarity of her earrings as far as which color/clarity was applicable at which price, and that I was sorry he had gotten incomplete information from them, but that I was very glad he came in to get the facts firsthand. No one can sell dollar bills for 50 cents, right?

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