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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the High Society Hit and Run

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A nasty dent in an employee’s car seems to implicate one of Wilton’s Diamonds’ best customers. How should manager Drew Wilton handle the situation?

B Y   K A T E    P E T E R S O N

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

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real deal scenario high society hit and run

It was a typically quiet, late summer morning at Wilton’s Diamonds. The only blip on the door counter came in the form of Miriam LeFleur, one of the town’s more prominent citizens and one of Wilton’s top customers, in to pick out a birthday gift for her granddaughter. Drew Wilton, the store’s general manager, spent more than an hour with Mrs. LeFleur, until she finally settled on a pendant she felt was just right for her Emily’s 28th birthday.

Sara Beckwith watched Drew work the sale with a slight smile, knowing that Emily would return the gift, as she typically did, in exchange for something more contemporary.

Sara was often bemused by the store’s more affluent clients. She herself came from the “other side of town” — from a family that was happy but for whom fine jewelry gifts were an unreachable extravagance. Her involvement with Wilton’s had started with an interview for a part-time job the week after her high school graduation. Drew’s mom, store owner Peggy Wilton was impressed by Sara’s grades and volunteer activities, and her determination to work her way through college. Sara was both delighted and intimidated when she got the part-time job five years ago, and was very pleased when Drew offered her a full-time position after graduation. He said that he valued her proven sales ability and that her degree in business management and communications would be an asset to the store.

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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.

Sara’s years of training with Wilton’s came in handy in her new position, and the commissions she was able to earn lifted her income nicely. After just six months as a full-time employee, Sara fulfilled a long-held dream, she bought a new car: a fully loaded, cherry red Honda Civic. She could not have been more proud of herself!

Sara was meticulously careful with her car. She glanced over at it as she walked out of the store on her way to meet a friend for lunch, and was shocked by what she saw as she got closer. There was a serious dent and a long, nasty scrape in the driver’s door — damage she was certain was not there when she arrived that morning. Sara rushed into the store and called for Drew to come out to the parking lot.

While they looked at the car, Sara told Drew that it could only have been Mrs. LeFleur, as no one else had been in the store that day. Drew suggested she contact the police to file the report she would need for her insurance, but told her in no uncertain terms not to accuse Mrs. LeFleur of anything — not to even mention her name, as they had not seen the accident happen and had no way to prove she had anything to do with it. Drew even offered to cover Sara’s insurance deductible if necessary, rather than involve one of his best clients in something that could create a big problem for the store. Sara called the police, met with them outside the store and then went on to meet her friend for a delayed lunch.

Late that evening, while he was finishing up some paperwork, Drew took a call from an irate Mrs. LeFleur, telling him she’d just received a visit from the police. She told him she resented the ludicrous accusations of his employee, and even more, the lack of integrity he displayed in failing to come to her first before allowing Sara to send the police to her door. Despite Drew’s blind-sided apologies, she ended the conversation by telling him she would never shop at Wilton’s again — and that she would see to it that none of her friends or family members did either.

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The BIG questions

Is there anything Drew can do to make things right with Mrs. LeFleur?

What should he do about Sara? She flagrantly disobeyed Drew’s directive.

How could Drew have better handled the situation with Sara?


R E T A I L E R   R E S P O N S E S

Zoe H.

Overland Park, KS

First, shame on the owner for not having cameras. When the customer got called out on her behavior, and if red paint was on her car, I would have let her know she had committed a crime — a threat works both ways. Although I would fire the employee if she really ratted out the customer.


Ann C.

Mansfield, MA

Drew was wrong. He should have partnered with his employee to achieve a win-win for everyone. Perhaps the elderly customer did not know she hit the car, perhaps she did not hit it at all and some other accident occurred outside of work. Nonetheless, Drew should not get in the way of the law, and to place his loyalty with the customer over his employee is absurd.


Rejena C.

Richmond, VA

Sara did the right thing in telling the truth to the police. It is not Sara’s fault that Mrs. LeFleur broke the law and damaged her property. Money does not make one above the law. It is wrong to put a customer’s erroneous and arrogant actions before your employee’s legal rights.


Marcus M.

Midland, TX

What a tough predicament! I certainly wouldn’t fire Sara, but I would definitely do my best to right the wrong with Mrs. LeFleur. If she continues to act nasty about the situation then maybe you’re better off without her.


Stacey H.

Chicago, IL

Drew’s offer to cover the deductible was insufficient. Why should innocent Sara have to suffer the insult from the hit-and-run as well as the likely increase in premiums in exchange for just being reimbursed for her deductible? Drew should have asked Sara what it would take to get the car fixed quietly without a police report, and then he could decide whether it would make sense for the store to comply.


Hal J.

Las Cruces, NM

Fire Mrs. LeFleur! Thank Sara for being honest when answering questions from the police officer. If Drew is a wimp like many jewelers today he will probably try to keep the old lady. If he does, then Sara should resign. Or Sara could stay knowing that when Mrs. LeFleur or another “good customer” (the only one in the store that morning) is suspected of accidentally dropping a $30,000 diamond ring into her purse, remember that Drew does not want to implicate the customer.


Stuart T.

Bel Air, MD

Drew didn’t handle this well. He should fire Sara for disobeying his request not to include Mrs. LeFleur in the police report despite his offer to pay the deductible. I don’t think he will be able to mend fences with the customer, but he could try by first apologizing, telling her of his actions with Sara, and by refunding the cost of the jewelry she purchased for her granddaughter.


David O.

Gettysburg, PA

Sara should have listened to Drew. Period. Drew should have called Mrs. LeFleur. Sara never should have disclosed the client’s name. Other than sending something over to the client as a gesture of good faith, I think Sara blew it.

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