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What To Do When You’ve Underquoted a Custom Job, Things to Look Out for When Taking on an Intern, and More of Your Questions Answered

Plus, Is there anything you can do to make yourself less of a smash-and-grab target?

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There’s been a rash of smash and grabs in my state recently. What can I do to prevent such an attack and protect my staff?

A buzzer on the door or an armed off-duty police officer standing guard will generally deter such criminal acts, but they aren’t feasible for everyone for either financial or operational reasons. Still, there are other things you can do to make yourself less of a target. The Jewelers’ Security Alliance recommends installing showcases with burglary-resistant, laminated glass and special frames, which can withstand many hammer blows and thus prevent or reduce large losses (a discreet sign in your front window advertising these security features will let any would-be robbers know you’re no easy mark). “JSA has not seen robbers take retaliatory action when laminated glass is used, and robbers are unable to enter a showcase or are able to take only a small amount of merchandise from a small hole,” the Alliance said in a recent bulletin. It also noted that an audible glass breakage alarm on your showcases will hurry a smash-and-grab robber on his way. Final bit of advice: Spread your high-end watch and loose diamond merchandise among several showcases. This will not only make you a less appealing target but help lower any losses. As with all robberies, your priority should be to minimize the chance of someone getting hurt or worse, so do not resist. In addition to sledgehammers and other dangerous tools, the suspects may be armed with guns.

When a customer comes into your store with an item to sell, do you quote them a price or wait for them to tell you what they want first?

The conventional view has always been the first person to mention a dollar figure loses. But in situations where the gap between bid and offer is likely to be huge, it can help to get in first to anchor the range of the negotiations. That is especially the case with estate jewelry, where you may be paying only 15 or 20 percent of the face value. In this most delicate part of the business, your educational and explanatory talents are as important as your appraisal skills.

What do you do when you under-quote someone when taking in an order, because you were harried or busy or just misdiagnosed the job?

Most of the time, you’re just going to have to suck it up, especially if it’s a good customer (although let her know the favor you’ve done her and write if off as a marketing cost). If the material costs mean you’re going to lose money, then you will need to call the customer back and try to renegotiate. If the customer won’t agree to a new fee, there’s not much you can do. Custom jeweler Joel McFadden notes a lot of this hassle can be avoided by systemizing the way you make the sale, adding that CAD technology has made the process much easier, even when it comes to a custom-design job. “We charge a design fee and then give an exact price. Usually we have knocked the price around enough that we know their ballpark. We use Geller’s Blue Book and the metal weights, which Matrix calculates.” Bottom line: Take your time with quotes.

My jeweler has asked me if I’ll take on his 16-year-old son as an unpaid intern this summer to give him some experience. What are the legal ramifications of this?

The Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division has specific criteria governing unpaid intern programs. Among them:

  • The internship is for the benefit of the student.
  • The employer derives no immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.
  • The intern cannot be guaranteed a job at the conclusion of the training period.

If those conditions are not met, the intern is considered an employee and is entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay.

What should I charge to cut off a customer’s ring?

Nothing. Most people who need to have a ring cut off are in a state of mild panic, in no small part because they know that if they have it done in the ER, it will cost a fortune. Have the customer sign a release and explain the process before you pull out your cutter (yes, things can go wrong). Most people are very appreciative and will respond positively to any subsequent offer to get the ring repaired and sized to fit correctly.

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