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Real Deal: The Case of the Quality Quandary



The Case of the Quality Quandary

Inflated diamond reports? Husbands do it too. How should the staff at Winter & Sons explain the price difference to a customer who wants basically the “same” earrings as those given to his wife’s best friend.

Ashley and Josh McHill are not big jewelry shoppers. In fact, Josh could remember only buying 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 finally 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. Though Jennifer said her earrings were around $2,700, Josh expected to spend a little more since hers were set in yellow gold he was certain Ashley would be happiest with platinum.

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.


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.

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



What should Matt do? It was not reasonable to think that he could supply the quality Jennifer thought she had for Ashley’s earrings while staying within Josh’s price range. Online research indicated that Winter & Sons’ pricing structure 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. Winter & Sons had never run a sale in their 70-year history, and always been a “one-price, no-discount” shop, the idea of Jennifer’s husband having caught a ‘special deal’ was not plausible.  






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