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Real Deal: The Case of the Vanishing Bracelet

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[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]

[dropcap cap=A]fter working through one of the toughest Christmas seasons he’d ever experienced, Larry Singer, a 25-year industry veteran, found himself driving to the store one late Wednesday morning in January feeling both grateful and troubled. ?He was grateful that his store had weathered the storm, exceeding sales and profit plans for the fourth quarter while keeping his talented team intact. But he was troubled by the behavior he’d begun to notice with some of his customers. He’d been the manager of the larger of two King Street Jewelers stores for the past eight years, and could hardly believe some of the antics he’d begun to see.[/dropcap]

To meet the needs of their value-conscious clientele, Jay Stuart, King Street’s owner, instituted several new payment options, including a liberal layaway policy. He also put a tight tracking and follow-up system in place to ensure that nothing fell through the cracks and that his sales associates had everything they needed to help make the program a real service enhancement for their customers.

This particular morning, Larry found himself thinking specifically about that day back in early October when Amy Kelly came into the store to pick up her watch repair. ?After delivering the finished job, Larry suggested Amy take a look at some of the new arrivals for the coming holiday season. While Amy said that her short gift list didn’t include jewelry, she asked to see a delicate diamond bracelet that had just come in, commenting that it would make a perfect gift to herself for her 25th birthday, coming up shortly after Christmas.

At Larry’s suggestion, Amy put the bracelet into layaway, making an initial down payment of $100 on the $750 total bill and agreeing to payments of $75 per week, enough to have the bracelet paid off in plenty of time for her birthday. ?Amy made her payments and finally took the bracelet home after paying for it in full that Monday.

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It was Larry’s day off but his assistant, Sandy Everet, was happy to help Amy complete the transaction. ?Amy asked to have the bracelet put in a nice box and gift-wrapped. Sandy took the bracelet to the gift wrap station, boxed and wrapped the item, then put it in a King Street bag along with the final receipt. Amy left the store happy.

The next day Amy returned to the store visibly upset. She approached Larry, handed him the still gift-wrapped box and told him that her mother didn’t think it appropriate that she should buy so expensive a gift for herself. ?She said that she needed to return the bracelet and get her money back. Larry took the box, and noting that the wrap job didn’t seem up to Sandy’s usual standards, carried it to the counter to process the return. He removed the gift wrapping and opened the box, but there was no bracelet inside.

Amy acted very surprised, and insisted that the box hadn’t been opened — that her mother saw the receipt and didn’t even want to know what was inside. With the owner away until the end of the month, Larry was uncertain about how to handle the situation. ?He wrote a brief description of the events on a sheet of paper, signed it, asked Amy to sign it and gave her a copy. Amy left the store after he promised to get back to her by the end of the week with information on the status of her refund. He’d sent an e-mail to Jay and was hoping to have a reply waiting when he got into the store.

[h3]THE BIG QUESTIONS: [/h3]

Should King Street refund Amy’s money? Sandy insisted that the bracelet was definitely in the box when it left the store, and Larry could not be sure that the wrapping hadn’t been tampered with. Amy is expecting Jay to refund her money — but both Larry and Sandy are convinced that they’re being conned and that Amy simply stole the bracelet. What should Jay do?

[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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[span class=note]This story is from the March 2010 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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