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Real Deal

Real Deal: The Case of the Suspicious Sizing

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THE CASE OF THE

SUSPICIOUS SIZING

A salesman becomes leery of a customer
and decides to take matters to the police.

This article originally appeared in the July 2016 edition of INSTORE.

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Doing the right thing seemed to be a way of life for Chuck, and his efforts for the past 10 years at Steven Glenn Jewelers had paid handsome dividends, both for the store and for himself.

Bill now struggled to remind himself of that as Chuck sat nervously across from him, explaining what had transpired.
“It’s pretty simple,” Chuck said. “Three days ago, a guy came in first thing in the morning with two rings he wanted sized. The guy didn’t feel right to me, and I was suspicious from the moment I saw him. Anyway, he pulls out two rings and I see that one is a ladies’ diamond wedding band and one is a ladies’ high school class ring. He wants the band sized to fit his left-hand ring finger and the class ring sized to fit his right pinky.”
“What did the guy do that made you suspicious?” Bill asked.

“Nothing specific,” Chuck replied, “at least not until I looked at the class ring. I noticed it was from Northwoods High. When I asked if he went there, he had no idea what I was talking about. Second, the year on the ring is 1976. This guy looks to be about 30 or so. The ring is obviously not his, is probably too old to belong to a wife or girlfriend and is not old enough to belong to his mother. So now, I’m starting to feel like maybe my initial suspicious impression was legit.

“Then, I start to fill out the repair ticket. The man’s name is Andy Belcker. The initials engraved inside the ring are “D.F.S.” When I looked inside the wedding band, I saw that it, too was inscribed — ‘M.B.S. — D.F.S. 1-26-82.’”
“So, did you ask about the inscription?” Bill asked.

“No, I made a note of the inscriptions on the ticket, took the sizing instructions for both rings and told the guy he could pick them up in a week,” Chuck said.
“OK, so we’ve taken in a class ring for sizing. I really don’t see a major problem,” Bill said.

“Well, I did. As far as I could tell, the inscriptions made it pretty clear that the rings did not belong to Mr. Belcker. After he left, I felt I had an obligation to make sure we weren’t handling stolen property — so I called my friend Jack, a detective with the city police. I gave him a description of the class ring and asked him to see if it turned up on any of their stolen property records.”

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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.

“Now that’s the part I don’t understand,” Bill said. “What were you thinking getting the police involved in something like this?”

“I thought I was doing the right thing,” Chuck said. “When Jack called me back, he said they had a record of rings fitting the description of these reported as a loss. He said he called the woman who reported them missing and she was ecstatic to hear that they had been located. He told me to hold the rings till he got back to me.”

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Bill couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Do you have any idea the position you’ve put us in?” he asked. “We have no proof that Mr. Belcker stole the rings. He may very well have bought them legitimately from a second-hand dealer or even from a friend who needed money. As it is, we are obligated to return these rings to their owner as we know him — the person who holds the claim ticket. In the meantime, though, there’s an original owner out there who now probably knows that Steven Glenn Jewelers has her rings, and there’s a police detective who, if he’s doing his job, will end up in the middle of it all. No matter what we do at this point, we’re going to have a major problem with someone!”


THE BIG QUESTIONS

1. What should Bill do now?

2. Should he wait for Jack’s call or should he take the bull by the horns and call Jack himself to explain the store’s position?

3. What should he do
if Mr. Belcker comes back in to claim the rings?

4. What should Bill do with Chuck?


EXPANDED RETAILER RESPONSES

Vic H.

Marshalltown, IA

Involve the police, and let them handle it! Our similar story involved a wedding set we made especially for a customer. Many years later a young girl walked in to have her rings cleaned, and it was the same ring set. We took the rings to the shop to clean them and called the police. The officer came in our back door and we told him the story. He took the rings out to the girl and asked about them as they were listed as having been stolen. She was unaware but since her boyfriend had given them to her, he had been put in prison. When the officials interviewed the boyfriend in prison, they found him wearing the matching band to this set — even engraved inside. Our customer got their rings back. Case solved!


Margaret T.

Sedona, AZ

Chuck did the right thing! I would have been compelled to find the real owner and return the pieces. Not the best use of my time, but the best use of my soul! When good men do nothing, the world is a truly tragic place.


Todd T.

TInder’s Jewelry, Bowling Green, VA

Size them, charge him, and let him pick them up. You have name, phone number and address. If the police think something’s wrong, give them the information, and they can go get him. You got your money and did a good thing.


Catherine B.

Berea, OH

I would give Chuck a raise and commend him for being a valuable employee who after 10 years still is cautious about the repairs he takes in. Then I would call Mr. Belcker and inform him that your store has a list of stolen jewelry and that these two pieces appeared on the list and you are obligated to inform the police department. Chances are, if these items were stolen, you will never hear from him again. If he by chance has a legitimate excuse, hear him out and take it from there.


Bill S.

Las Vegas, NV

I would ask to see a police report first and foremost. If the rings were not reported to the police, then they should be returned to the customer who brought them in. It’s quite possible that he bought them second-hand.


Ed S.

Garwood, NJ

We have a strict policy against any kind of possible dealings with stolen items. However, even though he’s done the right thing as far as I’m concerned, his boss should have been notified before he took manners into his own hands.


Bruce A.

Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada

What stands out the most about this dilemma is that Chuck is an intelligent, thoughtful and responsible member of the Steven Glenn Jewelers team, something that Bill the store’s owner, does not have in common with him. The police will handle the issue as well they should. Even if the customer purchased them from a second hand store, the issue of them being stolen renders that purchase void. If I were Chuck, I would offer my services to another well established jeweler that can appreciate and respect his very high level of integrity!


Ira K.

Tallahasee, FL

Bill should call the police and ask their advice. I suspect they will contact Mr. Belcker. And if Bill isn’t happy with Chuck; send him to work for me.


Antonio S.

New London, CT

While the store IS responsible to the client who left the items for repair, I have to say I feel comfortable contacting the client and stating that I learned the items he left are stolen property and then look for his response to this. The store must remain clear and not get in the middle of this. Additionally, should the client become hostile, the store owner could contact the detective and let them do their work leaving the store clear of any legal ramifications. I have to applaud the store’s manger for remaining professional and doing what is good, safe investigative work.
Phew!!!!


Gordon L.

Santa Fe, NM

The salesman did the right thing and should be praised for his detective work. Instinct is a hugely important part of retail. Hang onto the rings, if the guy comes back, tell him they are not ready. In the meanwhile, turn this into a learning situation for the rest of the staff. If the detective is doing his work, they may catch a major pest. If this were you, wouldn’t you want to get back pieces that have such immense emotional value? Not only will you gain her as a customer, she will spread the word how honest you are. If this is the attitude of the boss, get yourself another job with somebody that has integrity.


Lauren S.

Saint Charles, IL

Honesty is the best policy! Let the claim-ticket holder know that the rings he brought into the store matched the description of two rings that were reported missing. Let him know that a detective may be calling him for more info regarding the rings. Then let the detective handle the rest. You were honest, the claim-ticket holder is aware of the situation, and if there is nothing to hide, then the detective will verify that while doing his job.


Denise O.

La Grange, IL

This is a momentary dilemma, but ultimately Chuck did the right thing. First, the rings need to be identified as the missing items from “Mrs. S”. If these are her rings, the police officer will handle it from here. Said customer may have purchased these second-hand but stolen merchandise is stolen merchandise. If these are indeed Mr. Blecker’s and he comes early, say they aren’t ready yet. He would be none the wiser! The gut instinct that we cultivate in this industry is often spot on! When Mr. Blecker didn’t pick up on the hints Chuck gave, I would have reacted similarly. What I am shocked about is the owner’s reaction. Wouldn’t you want it known in the community that you are an ethical and responsible citizen as well as a respectable business owner? I’d take a little heat and be the center of coffee-clutch gossip to do the right thing. I’d much rather be known as a reputable business than one who tolerates misconduct! Haven’t those done enough damage to our beloved industry?


Ralph H.

Richmond, IN

I believe that the original owner still has ownership rights to the rings. She would have to provide some form of proof, although it appears that this could be done. While the customer might have bought the rings legitimately, he still is in possession of stolen goods. A touchy issue, but if these are proved to be stolen, the obligation to return them to the customer is in question. Get the detective and the owner to identify the items as hers. Have the detective in the store to meet the customer, and let him handle it.


Daniel S.

Cambridge, MA

I don’t understand the problem here. Chuck did the right thing. If the guy who brought the rings in purchased them legitimately then he can tell the police that. Since he most likely didn’t, as soon as Chuck tells him he’ll have to talk to the police about it because there was a problem, he’ll leave the store and never come back again. We are in a business in which too many times our product has been stolen from someone. It’s important that we don’t aid and abet the criminals in any way, shape or form. Personally I’d give Chuck a raise.


Vic D.

Scranton, PA

If they are stolen, then the store may also be liable for trafficking in stolen goods, so Bill should be interested in learning the truth. If it were my store I would call Mr Belcker, set a time for him to come in and have the police there to gently interview him to learn of how the rings became his (not to make an accusation but to ask some questions). To my knowledge dealing in stolen merch, no matter how innocently one gets it, still means the merch gets returned to its rightful owner(s). (If the store had bought them and they were found out they would have to return them). No matter what he does, he should hold on to Chuck. That’s an employee who is obviously looking out for the store’s best interests regardless of how this turns out.


Marcus M.

Midland, TX

First, Bill needs to calm down and realize that Chuck did the right thing. Many red flags have been raised here. I would side with Chuck and let Jack get involved seeing that there is someone who has filed a missing claim on those exact pieces. Accusing someone of stealing isn’t exactly a good thing and can be risky, but this situation needed to be reported. Jack and I would have a conversation about the next step before I called Andy to tell him what’s going on. I know you have to think about the name on the claim ticket in your store but this is an unusual situation that I think the police need to handle. I wouldn’t want stolen property in my store and if Andy bought those pieces in a legitimate way then he should have no problem explaining. If he’s a crook, you’ll never hear from him again. My bet is he’s a crook. Bill should commend Chuck on being vigilant and let the police sort this out.


Sheri H.

New Brighton, MN

I think they should wait to see if the detective positively identifies them as the ones that were stolen. If that is the case, they should call the customer and tell him the rings he had brought in were on the police list of stolen property and a detective had come and confiscated the rings and would probably be in contact with him. If he wasn’t involved with stealing them, he shouldn’t be in any trouble. If he was, he deserves to be tried for it.


Darrell M.

Kona, HI

You always have to be honest, so he should bite the bullet and call the customer and tell him the truth! Owners of stores, good jewelers and salespeople are used to being in awkward situations and this is no different. Plain and simple, honesty is the best policy!!!


Len O.

West Mifflin, PA

In the words of the detective, the rings were “reported as a loss” meaning that they are legally stolen property according to the woman who filled out the report. I don’t believe that there is a single state in the US where you can have clear title to stolen property. Mr. Belker has some ‘splainin to do. There is a very slim chance that he and the woman who filled out the report committed insurance fraud, in which case they both have a legal problem. As far as Chuck goes, pat him on the back. I’ve done this a couple of times myself over the years with items I’ve purchased across the counter. I have no desire to make a living buying, selling, or repairing stolen jewelry.


Sid S.

Albany, OR

Bill is wrong. Chuck did the correct thing by getting the police involved. The police need to talk to Jack. Let the police decide if Andy is culpable or not.


Buddy B.

Merion, PA

Don’t size the rings. If you have already, advise the police of this. Call customer and arrange a specific time for pickup and ask the police to handle this. I don’t believe you have a burden of proof as to who owns the rings. But you have a burden to return the rings to whomever gave them to you. If your suspect and your suspicions turn out right then asking the police to intervene removes you from the position you’re in.


Richard G.

Birmingham, MI

I have a hard time understanding Bill’s reaction. Without any question, Chuck did the right thing, and will have earned the gratitude of the actual owner of the rings. To suggest that the stolen jewelry should not go back to its rightful owner makes no sense. The easiest way to handle the customer, who possibly was unaware that the jewelry was stolen, is simply to say that Chuck recognized the jewelry as fitting the description of jewelry that had been stolen. There is no need to accuse him of anything, but the fact is that he was in possession of stolen goods. We all know that buying stolen goods does not make you the rightful owner of them. The police should be involved; Chuck has helped them solve a case. Bill can tell Mr Belcker that he has to wait for the police to determine what to do with the rings-unfortunately they may wind up as evidence. And as to what Bill should do with Chuck? Give him a raise!


Don R.

Spotswood, NJ

The rings are obviously stolen as the rightful owner is happy they were found. This should now be a police matter handled by them as quickly as possible so that the customer does not catch on in the meantime. No sense causing a scene in the store.


Frank J.

Birmingham, AL

Chuck did the right thing. Turn the rings over to the police. Let the police get the original owner to describe the rings before they’re shown to make sure they are the real original owners. Call the customer who was having the sizing done and explain that the rings had been confiscated by the police because they had been reported stolen. Give him the police telephone number and a contact person and let him take it up with them. We had a similar thing happen in our store except a young man came in to sell a pendant for scrap. We bought it but we recognized the piece and we figured out who we sold it to. We called the police, they called our original customer and asked if she still had the piece. She thought she did but later found it missing. The police contacted the scrap seller, he explained he had found it in a parking lot. The police returned the piece to our customer and our scrap seller brought our money back.


Ryan W.

Syracuse, NY

If I were in Bill’s position, I would hold the rings until the detective finished his work. If the detective determines without a doubt that they are the stolen rings, then pat yourself on the back, good job.



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

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