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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the Impatient Intended

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The Case of the Impatient Intended

A bride-to-be offers to make a “secret” $1,000 contribution
toward the payment of her ring. What should the jeweler do?

B Y   K A T E    P E T E R S O N

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real deal scenario impatient bride

It was the ring of her dreams. Dr. Jessica Matthis was finally getting engaged — assuming she could figure out a way to get her slow-moving boyfriend to make it official.

Jessica and Chris had been together since college — nearly 10 years. Their close friends often joked that they were so opposite, they couldn’t help but be attracted to each other. Jessica had always been the impulsive one. She believed in following her heart, and didn’t believe in regrets. Chris, a financial planner, simply did his best to avoid regret by thinking every decision to death.

A little over six months ago, Jess took a lunch break outside of her downtown dental clinic and stopped into Merrit Jewelers to get a new battery put into Chris’ watch. While she waited for the installation, Josh Merrit, the store’s general manager invited her to take a look at a new line of engagement rings in the store. Jessica was taken by surprise when one particular design caught her eye. And was even more surprised when it looked perfect on her finger. She was certain right then that the ring would be hers.

Jessica told Chris about the ring that night, and was thrilled when he suggested that they go look at it that weekend.

Chris liked the ring when he saw it although he had made it clear from the start that Jessica would not be wearing a ring home that afternoon. After nearly two hours of conversation, he shook Josh’s hand, and told him he would think about it.

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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.


Nearly two weeks went by before Chris called Josh and told him he liked the ring but wanted a bigger diamond than the 1-carat they had looked at. Josh contacted several suppliers and another two weeks later Chris and Jessica selected one of the diamonds he had found. The total price for the 2.02-carat cushion-cut diamond and for the re-designed ring to accommodate it was $19,235. Chris was happy with that and gave Josh a $5,000 deposit. It took four weeks for the designer to make the ring and another two weeks after that for Chris to bring Jessica in to look at it. She was thrilled. Chris left another $5,000 payment on the ring and told Josh he would be in touch regarding final pickup. Over the next three months, both Jessica and Chris made numerous trips to the store; Jessica to “visit” her ring and to show it to friends, and Chris to make payments — $500 at a time.

Josh was confused. He knew that Jessica wanted the ring, and that Chris was happy with it and with the price. When he suggested to Chris that maybe it was time to take the ring home, Chris told him that he wasn’t ready to give it to Jessica yet — that this was the biggest decision he’d ever made and that he still needed time to think through the process.

Three days after that conversation, Jessica stopped by to talk with Josh. She told him she was very anxious to get her ring, and that she was sure Chris would pick it up if Josh was able to offer him a little incentive. She proposed that she make a “secret” $1,000 payment on the ring, and that Josh tell Chris that he would offer him a $1,000 “discount” if he picked the ring up before the end of the month. Josh viewed the ring as a “joint project” for the couple. He didn’t want to lie to Chris, but he didn’t want to disappoint Jessica — and really — he was pretty anxious to get the nearly $20,000 sale on the books, especially if he could do it without giving up any margin dollars.

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The BIG questions

Is there a way to accommodate Jessica’s request without compromising his — and the store’s integrity?

How should Josh handle the transaction if he decides to follow Jessica’s lead?

How might he account for the extra 5 percent in the price on the diamond guarantee and value documentation?


R E T A I L E R   R E S P O N S E S

Don U.

Wethersfield, CT

Take the money and keep her secret.


Craig G.

Owensboro, KY

I would tell her to chill and that you really don’t want to be in the middle of their relationship.


Patti H.

Lake Oswego, OR

In my opinion and decades in this loved profession, I don’t think Josh handled the deposit correctly in the first place. He should have had the diamond paid in full and half down on the ‘customized’ mounting and the balance due when it was finished and at final inspection. He had the sale done and must have been shy about asking for money. If Chris wasn’t ready to ‘take’ the ring home, then offering to hold it safely in the store safe until Chris is ready is not unreasonable. Again my opinion, Josh didn’t head this off in the beginning and he accidentally created the situation of being caught in the middle. Now to get to the solution…. Josh needs to remember, it’s business and keep his emotions in his pocket for now and explain to Jessica that his business is transparent and her asking to be something other than that can’t be done. This is between her and her future husband (he’s not a couple’s councilor and by secretly accepting the 1000.00 could ruin the entire sale by getting in the couple’s business and what if they broke up over this?).


Ed S.

Overland Park, KS

Accept the $1K and have her to tell Chris that the store offered an incentive to pick up the ring by the end of the month. Let her tell the lie. We had a similar incident that involved the husband-to-be switching the selected diamond for a CZ. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!


Allison L.

Myerstown, PA

Honesty is the best policy, no matter the situation. If Jessica feels her payment should be kept secret from Chris, there must be a reason why, and the jeweler should not be in the middle. In the friendliest manner possible, Josh should explain to Jessica that she can gladly make payments on the ring, as she was part of the transaction, but he can’t keep the details secret from her boyfriend. Sometimes you have to think outside of the box for very persistent customers. Perhaps Jessica would opt for purchasing a gift certificate and presenting it to Chris as a gift.


Ray C.

Rocklin, CA

I would not take the payment. I would tell her that to this point they have both been involved in designing the ring and all the choices. I would suggest that she has a talk with her boyfriend first. I would go this route because it sounds to me that the boyfriend is not really ready to get married. I doubt he will ever finish paying for the ring. Might as well stop the bleeding sooner than later. This is one sale that will never be made.


Richard W.

Provo, UT

It will certainly come back to bite the jeweler if he lies to the customer. However, Josh could make both parties happy if he offers to let Chris pick up the ring with a $1,000 left owing, due within 2 or 3 months with no interest as a gentleman’s agreement, if he picks it up by month’s end. The worst case (unlikely) is that Chris never pays, so you sold the ring with a $1,000 discount. The best case is both parties LOVE you and you have lifelong customers. Good gamble.


Michel G.

Pine Bluff, AK

Integrity is everything. Suddenly discounting the diamond would devalue it in Chris’s eyes. He’d never trust Josh again, and he’d never really feel like he got the best price. Brutal honesty is Josh’s only option. In a friendly, respectful way, he needs to tell Jessica that he never lies to his customers. He’ll never lie to Chris, and he’ll never lie to Jessica. She might get upset at first, but she’ll respect him more for it in the long run.


Anne H.

Mechanicsburg, PA

Nope, nope, nope, nope, NOPE! This situation is fraught with potential disaster. We all want to make nice sales and happy clients, but flim-flammery is not the way to do it. Think of how Chris will feel when he finds out and you know he WILL find out at some point. Kiss his trust good-bye! You never regret taking the high road.


Roxanne P.

Stratton Mountain, VT

Don’t do it, Josh! We all want to close that endless sale, especially when the future groom is getting cold feet. It could be the demise of your relationship with Chris if you submit to Jessica’s urging. Yes, she started the process, and participated in selecting the stone and style, but is not and should not be a financial contributor unless invited by Chris. What a way to start a marriage – without trust. And once you sell a piece at a “discount” to a client, your credibility takes a hit and you will never sell at retail again.


Bruce A.

Sherwood Park, AB, Canada

The math is not exact because we do not know how many $500.00 payments Chris made however, if we assume he made four, the $19,235.00 sale has $12,00.00 already paid. Appreciating the sliding mark-up of setting a 2.00ct+ centre and the solid mark-up of providing a platinum .50ct “branded” semi-set, the cost on this item should be close to covered. There is no advantage for Josh to panic about the time as his perception that the sale is joint, is incorrect. His bond is with Chris and not Jessica. She is the recipient, he is the client. Josh has much more to lose by accepting her offer and giving the appearance that there is this type of sizable discount for simply moving the final payment forward. The appearance to young Chris is going to certainly be, how much more money is on the counter that he can reduce what now will seem as an overpriced engagement ring? Colluding with Jessica on this well-meaning but bent business deal, will cost him Chris’ business in future. Where goes Chris, goes Jessica. Josh loses all down the line!


Margy C.

Chester, VA

If I were the store owner in this situation, I would invite the two “engaging” parties out for a dinner to remember! This would be only the start of a fantastic union as an engaged couple planning to be married. That would also be a great time to suggest they move forward and get the gorgeous diamond engagement ring, in order that they can then begin to choose wedding bands for the near future! I’d take them to dinner again once they were ready to pick up the matching or unmatched bands they’d selected and made payments for, also. I’d ask if I was allowed to take lots of photos of these times together, and possibly frame and show them on the store wall closest to our engagement/wedding rings selection offered in our showroom. Therefore, the shared experiences would make everybody happy and create a relationship that lasts for years in the future. That is why I’m in the jewelry business! I love a love story!


Donna C.

Chicago, IL

Take the payment. Note on the paperwork it was received from her. When he comes in to pay the balance simply show him the paperwork and the balance due. Tell her she can tell him whatever she wants.


Elva V.

Dallas, PA

I would tell Jess that I was willing to hide the payment source but that I would agree to tell Chris that he had a ‘secret Santa’ who wanted to help with payment on the ring. Let them figure it out.


Lee

Reno, NV

I would suggest to Jessica, that she put something on layaway in the store and put a $1,000 deposit towards it. It would now be Jessica’s place to mention to her fiancé that she did have a layaway that she has plans to cancel at the jewelry store and very much would like to apply her deposit to her ring as she is so excited to have it on her finger that putting her deposit towards her ring would not only make her happy but would help on getting it on her finger sooner. If Jessica’s, fiancé does not feel good about that – then Jessica, could tell him he could at some time in the future pay her back either with the $1,000 or piece of jewelry of her choosing at the store where they are getting her ring.


Susan O.

Kirkland, WA

The diamond sale is often the result of trust and Chris is the customer, not his girlfriend. I would never compromise our integrity by lying to my customer. She may be willing to start out her relationship with deceit and trying to involve the jewelry store to do the same. Chris will get the ring when he is ready and the store is secure with the amount of money they have already collected.


Brett W.

Fernandina Beach, FL

Josh needs to resist getting caught up in this web of deceit! Sympathize with Jessica, but convince her that there should be no secret deals, not now, nor in their future. Give Chris the opportunity to “play the man” and handle it in his own time and way.


Christine

Green Bay, WI

No way. He’s not going to give it to her until he is ready anyhow. If he’d get wind of it you’ve lost him as a customer. And over a lifetime that is a lot of business you’d be throwing away. Gently thank her for the nice offer and remind her that she needs to be patient with him.


Barbra K.

Cochrane, Alberta

This is a tricky situation, but I would be uncomfortable going behind Chris’ back and taking a secret payment from Jessica, even if it appears to be for all the right reasons. I would suggest to Jessica that she talk to Chris about it and tell him she wants to make a payment on the ring to get it sooner. I don’t know why Chris is taking so long to complete the transaction but I must respect my client’s wishes. Maybe their situation or plans have changed since the initial purchase, or they may no longer be a couple. Either way, it would be up to Chris to let me know as he has been paying for the ring so far and it technically belongs to him.


Jim G.

Champaign, IL

I had a very similar sale just recently —only, the mom made a big payment towards the ring with the clause that I not tell! I told my customer that I had purchased quite a few nice diamonds from a large broker and that he had given me a rebate because of being such a good customer,and that I applied part of my rebate to his purchase so that he could pick it up sooner. It worked. Everyone happy.


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

A different version of this article originally appeared in the November 2014 edition of INSTORE.

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