Last updateWed, 15 May 2019 3pm

Chuck Koehler

The Retailer’s Perspective: This really happened

“Do you make jewelry?” said the young couple that walked into a jewelry store a couple of months ago.

“We do,” the owner said.

Then we all know what happens next. Out comes the smart phone that’s full of pictures from websites you’ve never heard of before. There’s black rhodium, there’s champagne diamonds, there’s the ‘Stones I’ve Never Heard Of-ite’s’, there’s about a thousand micro pavé set yellow diamonds and a thousand micro pavé set blue diamonds. There are halos with split shanks and halos with cathedral shanks. But, none of them are “perfect.” And this couple insists on perfection, and here they are, right in front of you. Oh joy of joys. Let’s get this party started.

The Retailer’s Perspective: I’ve got answers

A couple of months ago I asked for advice on how to attract the customers of stores in my area that were going out of business. I learned quite a bit and would like to share my findings with everyone.

Just to recap the situation, a couple of jewelry stores in my immediate market area chose to run going out of business sales this last Christmas season. I was at a loss over how to go about attracting their customers without appearing greedy or desperate. We have all been operating in the same geographic region for decades together with our own dedicated customer bases. We were able to do this by being very different from each other. Since these two stores were no longer going to exist in the future, I had lots of questions about what I should do. Here are some ideas if you ever find yourself in the same situation.

The Retailer’s Perspective: Things that bug me... that probably shouldn’t

For starters, I’m not a crotchety old man - yet! I don’t want to take a switch to all of those young whipper snappers out there. No, I’m not that old! I think all of these things probably bugged me back when I was in my 30s as well. I really don’t know why they bug me, but they do. Let’s look at a few.

People who come in with their watch in pieces

Now I’m the first one to try to fix something by myself before I’ll pay someone to do it. But I’m the exception to the rule because I’m a ‘fix-it’ guy by nature. My ability to take something apart and put it back together successfully is embedded in my DNA. So, when someone without that DNA comes in with their watch in pieces, asking me to put it back together, well, it just gets under my skin and I don’t know why. We’ve all seen that sign that says something like: “Toaster repair $20. $50 if you tried to fix it first.”

When these jobs come in, they are always brought in by someone who had absolutely NO business taking their watch apart by themselves. But that leads to my next one.

People holding a loose battery in their hands

Yes, I still charge them $10 for a battery even if I don’t install it, but it still kind of bugs me. I mean even I know that a battery at Walmart costs $1.35, why don’t these people know that? I start every one of these interactions by asking them what the battery goes in. One guy said a laser gun sight, but the other 20,000 said it was for their watch. I just shake my head because if they would have just brought the watch with them I would have installed the battery and set the time. Yes, I know this shouldn’t bug me but it does. Somebody go cut me a switch.

People I’ve never met that come in and ask me to do them a favor

This is a major pet peeve for me. I’ve never had someone come into my place of business and ask me to do them a favor that was unrelated to my line of work, like helping them change a flat tire. Nope, it’s always something that is on my ‘services rendered’ price list. It’s always something that I do to earn a living, that for some reason, they think they should get for free today. And I swear, every.single.time they say, “I could do it myself if I had the tools.” But a lot of times it’s this next pet peeve.

People that try to change their own watch battery and can’t get the back on

“Hey buddy, can you do me a favor and pop the back on this watch?” Without flinching I say, “We charge $18 because it takes specialized equipment.”

That deer-in-the-headlights look in their eyes is priceless. That’s why this one doesn’t bug me as much because I get to see that look on their face. I mean seriously, why would I possibly charge them for a service that I charge everybody else for? And as usual, it’s a person that I’ve never seen before in my life. I just want to say something like, “I will if you’ll come over to my house this weekend and help me cut down a big tree.” And cut me a switch while you’re at it.

People that bought expensive jewelry on a cruise and want to know if they got ripped off

If one of my long-time, regular customers asked me this question, I probably wouldn’t care. But I don’t think that has ever happened to me. It’s, once again, someone I’ve never met that comes into my place of business, where I earn my living answering these types of questions…in writing…for a fee…wanting me to waive said fee and answer it for free, just for them, because, well, hell, I don’t know why they think I would want to do that? 

Yes, I know that’s a long, run-on sentence, but if you could hear me say it in person, in a sarcastic tone, it would make perfect sense! Go ahead, try it.

People that bought something off the internet and want to know if they got a good deal

Ugh. Everybody out there that owns or manages an expensive brick and mortar store hates this one. My standard answer is; “The only opinion my insurance company will only allow me to give you is a written opinion which will take a couple of days and cost $195.” There’s always some follow-up repartee about not needing anything in writing, followed by me saying it’s the insurance company not me…sorry.

People that want to follow you in your store as you’re opening up

This happened to me the other day. I’m not talking about someone scary. I’m talking about that customer that’s sitting in their car in the parking lot 20 minutes early and sees you getting out of your car and tries to follow you in since you’re here early too. They always say something about knowing they are early but just need you to change a watch battery real quick. No! A jewelry store takes time and security to open. My seamstress unlocks her door, turns on the lights and flips the open sign all at the same time. It doesn’t work that way in a jewelry store. And, I’ve probably got to pee so NO, you can’t come in until I’m open!

People banging on your door just because they can see you are there

I always pretend that my storefront is soundproof and we can’t hear each other. Using sign language, I’ll indicate that I won’t be open for another 10 minutes, just like my posted hours say. They’ll hold up a watch or something and start playing charades to try and describe their problem. At which point I’ll point to all of the stuff on top of the counter tops and flash them 10 fingers indicating 10 minutes, again…just like the sign says.  Then they just stand there and stare at me for 10 minutes.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not rude or mean to any of these people because, like I said, it’s ALWAYS someone I’ve never met before, and this is our first face to face meeting. I’m all sweet and nice and apologetic, blaming it on my insurance company or something, but I’m not going to budge on my security procedures, and I’m dang sure not going to budge on my; “I’m not doing it for free” policy either. Yes, I want them all to come back, but for the right reasons, not the freebies some people think they are entitled to.

But, the one thing that just blows me away is the person that works at some other business in the area and asks; “Do you mind if we set up a counter-top display and leave some cards on your counter?” I always say yes. Then when they’re gone, I throw their crap away. 

And remember, this is me before I’m old and crotchety. Wait till I want to take a switch to their backsides.

Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide. If you would like to contact Chuck or need a speaker or instructor for your next conference/event he can be reached at 615-354-6361, www.CMKcompany.com or send e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Retailer’s Perspective: When your competitors go out of business

Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s sad. Sometimes it was expected and sometimes it was out of the blue. What I’m talking about is how do you capitalize on your competitors going out of business? I had a lot of calls before the holidays about how to handle it. Turns out, the same thing was happening right here in my hometown and I didn’t have an answer.

The Retailer’s Perspective: So, where do we go from here?

It’s a new year and a new me? Hah! I’d like to think so, but since I’ve never changed with the changing of the calendar before, I’m going to just assume this new year will be no different. So what will this new year bring? Well, I’m no expert, but I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night, so here’s what I’m thinking.

The Retailer’s Perspective: Here we go again

It’s Christmas time once again and the media for the last month or so has been going on and on about how the major retailers are starting earlier with their Christmas sales and promotions this year than they did last year. Hah! The big box retailers start earlier every year. Heck, in a few years they are going to stop promoting this Christmas and start promoting next year already. And, as per the trend of the last 10 years or so, the experts say that most people are going to buy the majority of their Christmas gifts online this year. Those big box guys have huge dedicated staffs devoted to address and balance out the online vs. brick-and-mortar mix. These retailers spend millions and millions of dollars to research and reach their customer base. So, how does an independent retailer like you and me figure it all out? Beats me!