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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the Double Standard

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[dropcap cap=G]ary Bilton considered himself a very lucky man. He had a great job, a happy, loving family and, in his view, more good luck than anyone he knew. In fact, his friends often referred to him jokingly as a “rare earth magnet” for really nice gifts. That official designation started nearly six years ago, around his 40th birthday, when his wife bought him the fabulous (and fabulously expensive) high-tech watch he’d always wanted as a “milestone gift.” The watch was purchased from Colony Fine Jewelers, one of the town’s most prestigious jewelry stores, and Gary couldn’t have been more proud to wear it.[/dropcap]

After more than five years of every day wear and perfect timekeeping, the watch started running a bit erratically, so Gary took it back in to Colony for service. The watch had to be sent back to the factory for “routine maintenance and reconditioning,” the salesman said, “much like a finely tuned sports car.” The service was a bit pricey, but for as much wear and enjoyment as he got out of the watch, Gary felt it was money well spent.

Gary got the call that his watch was ready one Saturday afternoon, while he and his wife were in the middle of cleaning out their attic, emptying boxes that hadn’t been opened since the move to their new home nearly a year before. In the process, they came across an old wooden valet chest that Gary remembered his mother giving him around the time of his high school graduation. She said it was an inheritance – some old jewelry and a watch that had belonged to his Great Uncle Sid – an uncle he honestly didn’t even know he had. He thought the gold Rolex was a bit “fussy” at the time, so he’d packed it away when he left for college and forgotten about it. That day, he thought the timing was a bit fortuitous, though – and decided to take the watch with him to Colony when he went to pick up the one he’d left there. The holidays would soon be upon him, followed closely by his wife’s January birthday – and since it was the first of both to be spent with their newborn daughter, he really wanted to surprise her with the large diamond he wasn’t able to afford when they got married. Since Colony had a sign in the store inviting customers to bring in their old gold, he was pretty confident that Uncle Sid’s watch would go a long way toward helping to make that happen.

When Gary got to Colony, he was surprised to see a watch that looked identical to Uncle Sid’s on display in the store’s “Estate Jewelry” case, selling for $13,500. He asked about the watch and was told it was a great buy, as it would sell new for well over $25,000. He was excited as he brought out his inherited treasure, thinking his plan for a “show stopper” ring for his wife was coming together nicely. The salesman took the watch back to the store’s appraiser to have it checked out.

The appraiser came out after about 15 minutes and told Gary that the watch was not in the best shape mechanically. He said it would have to be sent to Rolex for a total factory reconditioning before it could be sold, and that because of that, it was only worth about $1,750. Noting the big difference between $1,750 and $13,500, and knowing that the factory reconditioning on his expensive, high-tech pilot’s watch was just under $500, Gary asked the obvious question: “How much will it cost to get the watch reconditioned?” The appraiser turned the question back to the salesman who told Gary that it would have to be sent in to Rolex for an estimate. More than a little suspicious, Gary asked what the charge would be for getting the estimate. The salesman consulted a chart and said, “The estimate is free. All you’ll pay for is the shipping and insurance – a total of $120”.

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As a national sales manager for a major shipping company, it took Gary only a few seconds to realize that the watch he was expected to sell for $1,750 was going to be insured for nearly $10,000 in transit. He decided at that point that he would find another way to buy his wife the diamond of her dreams – and he would most certainly have to find a company he could actually trust before he bought it. He vowed at that point that he would never set foot in Colony again – and that he would make sure his colleagues, friends and neighbors all knew about the way they tried to rip him off.

[h3][b]The BIG questions:[/h3]  With gold buying so much a part of many retailers’ survival these days, is there a limit on the “buy low – sell high” philosophy? Is there a way to measure customers lost versus profit gained? Could Colony have prevented the kind of disillusionment Gary experienced? How? [/b]

Editor’s note: Real Deal scenarios are inspired by true stories, but are changed to sharpen the dilemmas involved. The characters should not be confused with real people.

[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]

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